Sunday, December 18, 2011

Back in the saddle

That's right, back in the saddle - just in time for winter to assert itself.  Kind of unfortunate, but such is life.

I'm back at 100% by now, with just a little bit of soreness in my neck.  But with the front shock of my bike pretty much trashed I needed to get something into the shop.

I took a bike in to Thumm's earlier in the week to get the rear derailleur replaced.  Instead of replacing the whole derailleur, the guys managed to just put in a few spare parts and get it back on the road for only a third of what I'd expected.  I also talked to them about taking the front fork off of my old Trek 820 and put it on the 4300 to replace the broken fork.  The consensus is that it would probably work, but I'll have to bring both frames in for them to take a look and make sure.  It would be nice to get some more use out of the hulk of the old 820, but I'm not counting on it happening till it's done.

They have a nice Trek Marlin 29er at the shop.  Disc brakes.  Green & black (my favorite color combo).  Sweet.  Really makes me wish I was able to get a new bike about now.

After I got the bike back I went out for a quick 8 mile ride around town.  And I did wear a helmet - something I hardly ever used to do.  I was glad to see that my legs felt just fine, and that I felt like I could have gone on for a lot longer when I headed home.

But I'm really kind of over riding around town.  Getting the crap knocked out of my skull made me avidly never want to repeat the experience.  And riding on the rail trail is an experience of its own - nothing to distract your attention, mindless focus on the pedal stroke with no challenge on the surface - about as far from the mountain bike experience as you can get.  When I do ride on the rail trail I find myself focusing on just speed and keeping up the fastest pace that I can.

And then there's the seat thing.  When you're mountain biking you're hardly in the seat - dealing with terrain demands a reactionary, dynamic position in order to overcome the different obstacles.  With that much movement your rear end doesn't spend the whole time on the seat.  But road riding, especially on a very uniform surface like the rail trail, lets you climb on the bike and just pedal, with no need to ever lift out of the seat.  For me at least, that extended seat time is where the worst discomfort of bicycling stems from.  If I go out and spend a couple of hours riding on the rail trail, I have to remember to break it up and not just grind out the miles.  Sometimes I'll take it off the pavement and ride a section on the grass, to remind me to get out of the saddle for a while.  Or just put in a mile standing up every five miles - that seems to help.  But really the whole thing is just a series of compromises - what I really want is to be on singletrack.

Saturday I went and did a little bit of trail work early.  It had snowed a bit, but the ground wasn't frozen so the work was limited.  I did dig out a bunch of little stumps from the tread, and then cut a bit of brush to extend the new corridor out further. 

I could tell that there was no way that any singletrack in our area would be rideable - it was saturated and unfrozen.  I thought I'd head out to West Branch, park at the Antisocial Acess Area and ride down Cable Line through the trail area and out to the end of the reservoir.  But I hadn't counted on the sheer numbers of hunters out this weekend.  I started seeing them as soon as I passed the park office near the dam - trucks parked on the side of the road with camo & orange clad guys carrying guns.  On the short one mile section of dead end leading back to the A.A.A. there were 17 trucks parked.  I figured there was no way I was going to be riding anywhere near that many people with guns, even if it was out on the road.

That kind of put a damper on the day, since the other area I was thinking of riding was also in a hunting area.  So I decided to head in to Youngstown and ride the road in Mill Creek Park.  There are two roads that are great for biking - one that was closed in one lane, and one that was totally closed.  I went out to East Cohassett Drive (the closed one) and rode around for a while.

It was pretty nice back there. It wasn't long enough distance to really be a ride, though I did extend it by riding off into the neighborhoods in a couple of places (but it can be pretty shady back in some of those streets for sure).  You can tell that it doesn't get much use.  It would be an excellent place for a mountain bike club to come in and build some trails - a place only accessible by bike or foot where there isn't any other activity.  I may float another letter to the Park and see what they think.

The one place where the roads from the neighborhoods dead ended on Cohassett I rode up past a big beautiful abandoned old house. It was surrounded by old spruce trees that had to be a hundred feet tall.  On the way back past I noticed there was a flock of about a dozen turkeys in the back yard, slowly going through the tall grass in the lawn as they moved back towards the park.  Amazing that the neighborhood is that empty, but that seems to be Youngstown in the 21st century.

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