Saturday, May 3, 2008

Initial Mapping Drawing

This is an in-process image of a mapped drawing of rides taken for this project. I am considering the different ways one could use mapped travel as a representation of lines drawn on paper. For instance, this drawing represents (at the stage the image was shot) all of the rides I had taken since project inception. These are represented chronologically and organized according to a minimalist grid, though since the representations of the rides themselves are all drawn to the same scale they deviate from the rigid organization within which they have been placed. I foresee this project continuing to become a project about drawing, whereby each drawing I make can only utilize "lines" created by riding my bike across varying mapped terrain. Future drawings will have organizational limitations placed on them before beginning. The next drawing I'm working on organizes all drawings according to true north, but the scale of each location changes according to the maximum size I can draw that location and still have it fit on the paper.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rabbit Mountain Update

This photograph was taken just after the inaugural ride of the Niner Air 9 at Rabbit Mountain. The image was on my cell phone. I just realized how simple it is to send photos directly to my photobucket account.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


On Saturday I rode the Niner from the Chautauqua area in Boulder to Walker Ranch. Calling this ride "SuperWalker" designates that it started in Boulder rather than on the other side of Flagstaff Mountain at the trailhead. Flagstaff road isn't long but it gets up in a hurry. I managed to climb from the park sign at the bottom to the mailboxes at the top (not the amphitheater "false" summit) only 2 1/2 minutes slower than I did it on my road bike early in the week.

The day was beautiful, somewhere in the upper 70's at least. The wind was gusty at the trailhead but fine everywhere else. The trail had a few sections of melting snow and ice, but was otherwise in great shape. I rode fairly well, though some of the loose climbs put me on a foot since I lost traction. This is a great trail; some of those windy switchbacks are a blast. I got a big sluggish about halfway into it (probably after the hike-a-bike section) but picked the pace back up toward the end (and especially on the road back to Boulder). My ride time was 2:40.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Hall Ranch

Today I rode Hall Ranch for the second time this season. It is nice and dry minus one melting section of snow and a few puddles, so the trail can finally get a break from riders slogging it in the mud.

I started at the main trail head and rode Bitterbrush and the rock garden up to the Nelson Loop. I rode the loop once each direction, first clockwise (my preferred direction and a bit longer to ride) and then counter-clockwise (which most everyone else was doing). There were a fair amount of other riders up there since the day was so nice. Almost everyone rode sensibly and paused on their descents as I was coming up (common rider etiquette) save for one bonehead who was coming down the roller section a little hot and aired it out right in front of me on one of the jumps. I didn't say anything because he wouldn't have heard me anyway, but these are the kind of riders who make mountain bikers look like...boneheads, by taking unnecessary risks on the part of other riders around them.

After the loop section I rode down Bitterbrush to the Antelope trail out and back. At the bottom of Antelope I noticed more of the front end looseness I mentioned about the last ride. I looked at the disk brake in front and tightened it at the mount. I also worked on tightening the front wheel axle (the WTB hub operates differently than I've seen before: it doesn't look like there are cones in there or that the axle is a through-axle.) I also made sure the quick release wasn't loose. Still, the creaking sounds and back and forth rocking are still evident. Maybe it is the fork at the point where the stanchions meet the lower legs. I'd like to get it under control, because after a season of riding it like this something is going to be trashed.

After Antelope I descended the rock garden. That is always a fun one. At one point I was off the saddle, clipped in by my right foot only, and barely hanging on to the bar with my left hand with whatever part of my thumb happened to get caught up on it (I still had a hold on the right end of the bar). I thought I was going to dump it, but for whatever reason I managed to keep it under control while continuing down the trail and got back on to keep going.

In all I felt like I was riding fairly well technically (not flawless on the rock garden though) and my speed was decent both climbing and descending. There is still some twinge of pain behind my right knee on this bike. With the major adjustments to my cleat placement and all the other changes that came from being properly fit on this machine, I am still unsure if this is part of getting used to it or if I need to adjust the fore/aft cleat position. I can't remember which way to go when the back of the knee hurts. I guess I'll just wait until my knee blows and then I'll know what to do. Or I could investigate it further, that might even be better.

The thing that is still so fantastic about riding a mountain bike after seventeen or eighteen years is how big my stupid grin gets afterward. Sitting in a parking lot after a hard effort, it is great to reflect on the day's ride. Everything that went wrong usually disappears and overall elation takes over. It seems like I rediscover this sport after every ride.

Heil Valley Ranch

On Sunday, April 6 I rode Heil Valley Ranch, this time starting at the trail head instead of riding from home. It was deceptively nice looking that day; by the time I started riding there was a chill wind. I underestimated how many layers to bring with me and started a bit cold, but luckily it was nice in the trees so I was warm enough most of the way through. The ride took a litle longer than it might have because I stopped to take pictures for this post and to fiddle with my front shifting. I think the front shifter cable stretched out a bit more since its last adjustment causing the front derailleur to rub the chain in the big ring. I've also found there to be some sort of front end rocking going on. Initially I tried tightening the headset but it still seems problematic. It is difficult to find where noises come from when you hear them most clearly on the trail.

For this ride I took the usual trip up Wapiti from the trail head and a right turn on Ponderosa. Shortly after this turnoff comes the Wild Turkey Trail, which is really turning out to be a nice section. There is maybe only one small part that is poorly planned. When traveling southbound there is a fast section that leads up to a hard right turn with a rocky incline to navigate. Because there isn't much warning it looks like most riders are going off the trail and widening it out since they can't slow down in time for the rocky section. It isn't a hard enough turn to be dangerous, it just isn't conducive to putting riders in a position to ride the technical portion.

At the end of Wild Turkey I turned a hard left onto Ponderosa and rode it clockwise past the Wapiti connection and back to Wild Turkey. I like riding the Ponderosa loop after taking Wild Turkey because it allows a nice transition to WT southbound without having to go out and back. If I had more time I would have made these trails into some sort of figure-eight. I am thinking Wild Turkey northbound, Ponderosa clockwise, Wild Turkey southbound, Ponderosa counter-clockwise. Maybe I'll try it next time.

To finish up I returned on Wapiti, which in itself provides a fun downhill. It isn't too steep to ride in control, (especially with the big wheels) but it is fast and rocky enough to make it interesting. For a ride fairly close to Longmont, Heil is turning out to be a favorite.

The photos here were taken at the trail head in the parking lot, the homestead near Wapiti, Wild Turkey overlooking Hall Ranch at Highway 7 and Wild Turkey overlooking Longmont in the distance.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bobcat Ridge

On March 29 I took the Niner to Bobcat Ridge near Fort Collins. A new section of trail opened there in November 2007 which I have not ridden before (I have not ridden Bobcat Ridge regardless). The weather was sunny and forecast for the low 60's, but there was a bit of a chill in the morning air. I rode without arm or knee warmers but I had them with me. It was about right to wear double jerseys.

For a bit of a warm up I decided to ride the Valley Loop Trail ccw. I was just guessing on how to begin. At first it was looking like this was going to be utterly disappointing. The trail is accessible, which is great, but if it had continued on like that it would not have been much fun to ride. As the trail looped around from north to westbound it gained some elevation and started to look like a trail instead of a crushed rock pathway. The warm up proved to be a good one in this direction because it offers the longer part of the Valley Loop before arriving at the Ginny Trail.

When I started heading west on the Ginny Trail I could tell it was going to be excellent. It is interesting as a landscape to begin with because this is the site of the Bobcat Gulch fire in 2000. (I remember seeing the sun through the smoke of this fire back then. It was a hellish red, almost unreal.) There were piles of burned logs and some charred remains of still standing trees. The first part of the trail goes up a little valley. Because the only vegetation is grasses and flowers it is very exposed all along the Ginny Trail. This would be one to avoid at hot o'clock in the summer, but for this time of year all would be well. The one caveat to Saturday's ride was the wind that started picking up in this first valley; due to the exposure there was nothing holding the wind back. It rushed right down in bursts that were significantly more chilly than the air temperature, but so far not enough to warrant throwing on the warmers.

All along this trail there are some good little technical challenges. This is rocky terrain, and some of the problems would offer a rider quite a bit to work on over the course of time they ride there. I wasn't doing terribly, but there were definitely some sections I couldn't do. I was really impressed with the technical challenge of this trail. So often new trails are built for the lowest common denominator and offer little to no incentive to return. This is the kind of trail I could keep coming to and improving on. As I got higher up on the trail I had to stop and pull on the arm and knee warmers. I thought I could avoid it, but the wind was just getting too cold. As I continued to rise the wind gusted ever harder. It wasn't long before the wind was blowing me completely off the trail. Not only was I trying to hold a line through some tight rocky sections that were hard to navigate, I was also trying to hold my wheel from spinning completely off line. I was all over the place near the top. There were some riders coming down and they warned of strong winds. One guy told me, "It's really windy on top. Like, can't-stand-up windy.".

As I came to the top of the hill it was nearly treeless; a gentle curve went from one side of the mountain to the other and the wind blew up one side and down the other. I don't know where the wind was coming from. There were some clouds several miles away that socked in the distant mountain range (the Mummy Range or the Medicine Bow mountains I think). The wind had nothing holding it back as far as vegetation or terrain. I got to the sign warning downhill riders to yield to uphill riders and I had to hold onto it to keep from blowing off the mountain. I haven't experienced wind like that for a long, long time, if ever. It wasn't just gusting, it was a continuous blast of fast rushing cold air like I was on the prow of the fastest moving ship ever. I started laughing because I couldn't believe how ridiculously windy it was and that somehow I was riding my bike in it. This was the type of wind you could lean into and probably remain standing at a 45 degree angle.

I continued along this trail on the top of the mountain until it dropped into Mahoney Park. The only exit from this area by bike is the Ginny Trail, so I turned around and rode back on it. This was at about an hour and 35 minutes into my ride. The wind gusts were still a challenge, both for muscling through and for technical navigation. The descent proved much more tolerable though, and I was able to ride over some sections that were a mild triumph for my technical ability at this point in the season. Again, this is some excellent terrain.

To cool down I rode the Eden Valley Spur. That's about what the trail is good for; it is short and rolling with some berms and jumps to goof around on, but it is mild terrain and an out-and-back, so not much to it. Following this there was a short section of the Valley Loop Trail that took me back to the trailhead.

If I still lived in Fort Collins I would come back often. As it is I have a 45 minute drive to get here which means I will come infrequently. But I would say it is right up there with the best terrain in the northern Front Range. It is good that hikers, bikers and horses all have portions of this trail system to use. There are other trails in Larimer County that find a way to have horses and bikers on the same trails. I have never had a problem. People on their various modes of transportation can be very friendly and courteous, especially when you offer the same in return. (Boulder County could learn something from the mixed use trails in Larimer County, with the understanding that there are probably fewer users in Larimer and possibly fewer problems because of it). The only way Bobcat Ridge could be improved is if there was one more technical ascent/descent like the Ginny Trail that connected to Mahoney Park. That would offer the most variety and the best possible exploration of trails without too much repetition.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wild Turkey

Tuesday, March 25 marks my return to riding since taking almost two weeks off the bike due to being sick. My previous ride on March 11 was my first this season up Flagstaff Mountain. It was an incredible ride. I felt strong, the view astounded; it was invigorating. A few miles in another rider passed me and called out "Allez, Allez!". A minute or two later I was back on his wheel and ended up passing him on the hill just before Lost Gulch Overlook. He was clearly a stronger rider (as his pace up to this point would confirm). He grumbled and passed me again right before he turned off at the parking lot. I kept going since I wanted the summit. It began to get much colder and there were vestiges of snow on the shoulders and sand over the road. The wall loomed as it always does, but even though my slog up it was slow it was at least bearable. I've done worse. This time I could at least find some sort of rhythm.

Last week I had the Niner cables trimmed back, the crushed cone replaced on the front wheel and the bars and steer tube cut. For whatever reason these improvements have made a big difference in the way the bike looks and my excitement for riding it. Expect a photo later on in which this can be seen.

Today I managed a 3 1/2 hour effort from home to Heil Valley Ranch and the new Wild Turkey trail. I was surprised to arrive at the mouth of Lefthand canyon in 45 minutes, my usual time when riding the road bike. I definitely paid the price for this pace with slowness on the trail though. Wild Turkey however does not disappoint. Being a new trail and not totally broken in I think it still offers some of the best terrain near Longmont. At almost 2 1/2 miles it has enough variety to be interesting and works well as an out and back should one choose to ride it like that. I think I was on trails for around an hour and 50 minutes, taking Wapiti to Wild Turkey (out and back), Ponderosa ccw and a return on Wapiti. I was in bad form out there regarding my fitness (at least in terms of speed. I think I was riding technically proficient). I'm sure I could blame some of it on my time away and on illness. This was the third real mountain ride on the Niner and by far my best experience on this bike so far. With such rocky terrain I hoped this ride would demonstrate something of the capabilities of 29" wheels. They definitely rolled over the scrabble and smoothed out both climbs and the descents. The fork is a big improvement over the SID as well and that helped manage the rocks. I was surprised at how fast I could go on the rolling terrain and the downhills. On rides at Heil in the past my hands got so numb I could hardly grab the brakes. On this bike I always felt in control and I could push it over things I would have slowed for previously. The thought did cross my mind that 29er riders warn of this heightened confidence and the ultimate crashing betrayal, so I kept it within reason, but the differences between the 26" and the 29er are definite. Once again a decent ride puts so much of life in perspective. The adrenaline boost is fantastic, and despite and maybe because of nagging soreness in my legs I'm ecstatic about the day.