Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sneakin' in one more before the end of the year...

My 60th ride of 2010.

23.1 miles, 2216' climbing, 1:43, 13.3avg, 32max. 26* 7:40AM start / light freezing rain 33* finish

Knowing that the forecast is for rain and otherwise nasty weather for the next few days I decided to get out on the roadbike this morning. I donned every piece of winter gear I have and was on the road right at 7:40AM. My plan was the classic two hour ride. Right away I realized the roads were in much worse shape than I had noticed from the safety of my automobile and had to employ more concentration than I had anticipated. Once I was in Biltmore Forest I was able to ease up the tension a bit but of course, that's right where the climbing begins.
I made it through Biltmore Forest in good time and turned North on the parkway. I was immediately greeted by the first of a series of barricades that I would see while up there.
It was pleasant riding alone on the carless strip of tarmac that is the closed Blue Ridge Parkway. I even popped the NPR piping headphone out of my ear to hear the hum of tires on asphalt, the swish of my windbreaker against itself, and the rhythmic breathing I was creating on my own.
When I crossed the Swannannoa River a golden retriever came out of nowhere and gave chase. What's up with the attack goldens lately? I attacked the hill in front of me and thought about a comment left after my last ride. If he was on my heals when I looked back he was getting a squirt of water. I didn't want to dismount and start chasing a dog again. Anyway, when I looked back he was standing in the middle of the road 100 yards back. Get out of the road Buddy! Go home!
Soon after I reached another barricade just past the Folk Art Center. Well, that was the end of that road for me, the parkway was covered with a LOT more ice and snow than before. I guess they had salted up to that point. Since I was by myself I decided it probably wasn't best to try to descend Town Mountain anyway and turned back. As if to reinforce my decision a gentle rain started just as I got onto US70 at the V.A. I then turned on to US81 and followed the river: past the Mall Wart, the commercial sprawl, on to Meadow, past AB Tech, and back to West Asheville.
That will probably be a wrap on 2010 riding for me.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

35 miles of gravel? Not enough!

One type of riding that intrigues me is the all day gravel grinder. if nothing else, because it's all about turning the gears over and over, not having to worry that much about the terrain, but having to definitely watch out just enough that it doesn't classify as a road ride... In my current state of lack of fitness a gravel day was exactly what I needed. Time to ramp up the cardio a bit and not worry about rock gardens. My route for the day: from Bent Creek Gap->5000->1206->to 276 then back. 35.6 miles, 4310' climbing.

I started at 9:15 after dropping baby Zoe off with the neighbors. I'd guess the temps were in the high 20's based on the ice on the road and the fact that my waterbottles were already freezing. I had to stop almost immediately to put on every bit of clothing I had with me. The descent to North Mills River was slow and sketchy because of more ice than I had anticipated. Every place I wanted to be had a quarter inch layer of ice covering it. However, by the time I was at Spencer the ice gave way to frozen gravel and I was able to let it go and hammer all the way to the campground. The temp was steadily falling as I descended into the valley so I started the climb up 1206 feeling freshly frozen to the core and my legs didn't want anything to do with climbing to Yellow Gap. I passed the gate and suddenly had reason to push, two dogs. At first I thought, how cute, let's get a photo of my new friends...

but then the bigger one bit my hand. Then nipped my calf. Not hard but.... enough to make me put it in high gear and stomp. 'Wake up legs it's time to GO!' I looked back and hadn't gained 5 feet on them. I did it again with more resolve. I WAS going to drop these dogs. Was a minute of full force sprint enough? No way. These two had me. If it was a more primitive scene I would have been eaten by the wolves. Luckily for me it's not primitive times. I am a human on a bicycle and I was dealing with golden mixes, not wild animals. When the bigger one bit my hand hard enough to be truly concerned (3rd bite? 1/4 mile?), I stopped. I dropped my bike. I scored a direct hit with the first rock I could pick up and started chasing them back down 1206 screaming and yelling and waving my arms. They decided that, you know, I didn't want to be friends, and went on their merry way down the hill.

more later.

OK, while I have a moment, the photo below may not be the most striking but it recalls a specific moment in time for me. I was at the halfway point and my hands were painfully cold, like, I-can-only-imagine-thumbtacks-being-nailed-into-my-fingertips-as-the-only-thing-more-painful cold. I made the decision then to retrace my steps rather than gain another 1000' or so by returning via the parkway.

Ok, another moment to reflect. Why then, if I have to deal with dogs, freezing fingers, and nearly bonking (more later) do I think this is fun? The droid has the best answer I can give. Somewhere along the way I reached 43.6mph on frozen gravel road under my own power. f'yeah.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Now THAT was a good shakedown ride.

I just got in from the first all pavement loop on the new 'all-road' bike. The pocket droid has some interesting stats: 19.5 miles, 1814' elevation gain, 38.4 mph max speed, 15.5 mph average moving speed. The new bike is settling in nicely. I only had to stop once for an adjustment, the rear brake cable slipped, which made for a pleasant ride.
I was able to concentrate on how the bike handles rather than on the mechanical nuances that come with new builds. How does it handle? Solid. I knew already it can go in a straight line without a fight but what about switchback turns? Well descending Elk Mountain Scenic Highway answered that. It corners very predictably and doesn't drift. I can also push into the corners without it feeling like I'm on the verge of oversteering but again, it doesn't fight. The front wheel doesn't drift or feel like it's about to flop. It goes where I ask it to. Thank you bike. That's very nice of you. Oh, one more thing, disc brakes on a road bike kicks serious ass. It's just like on a mountain bike, the more confidence you have in your ability to slow down directly correlates to how fast you're willing to take that corner. Knowing that the wet and grime that usually messing with rimbrakes is a non-issue... is very confidence inspiring.

Oh, the route: from West Asheville->Clingman->Hilliard->Charlotte->College->Town Mountain->Blue Ridge Parkway->Elk Mountain->Beaverdam->Lakeside(?)->through Woodfin down to the river->Riverside->Craven->Waynesville->back to West Asheville.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Sorry, I just can't get that song out of my head today. Today I also went on the first ride on the new 'road' bike. I started at Riverside park on 191 and had planned on riding Bent Creek Gap road all the way to the parkway then down to the Arboretum but was turned back on 479 right at South Boundary Road by snow and ice.

So I doubled back, turned onto Campground Connector->gravel road and rode that gravel/mud/slush all the way to the pavement at the Arboretum.
So how did she ride? Awesome. The new cockpit will take some getting used to but otherwise: Stable, even in the slush. Quick, as in, I could stand and hammer and, you know, it accelerates. Oh, and first impressions are that it fits me perfectly. I can hardly wait to get it onto the switchbacks on Ox Creek or 276 to see if the stability translates into slow steering. I also can hardly wait for the chance to hammer 1206 from end to end. Then I'll really have a grasp on how this thing handles. For now I give it the post 90 minute less than usual ride two thumbs up.