Bikepacking Trip

This past weekend was my first true backcounrty bike packing trip. Mike and I headed for the Sheltowee Trace Trail near Cave Run Lake. The Sheltowee runs for a nearly three hundred miles through Kentucky and Tennessee and is one of the few long distance trails in the area that allows mountain bikes. Mike and I had a plan to leave work early Friday, ride hard until dark, then wake up and ride all day Saturday. We weren't able to stick to that plan... but we still had a blast.
Shortly after we arrived, Mike's rear derailleur started stick a bit. We fiddled with it and got it feeling a little better. But you could tell something wasn't quite right.
We found this old iron furnace near the creek. It was huge... like the size-of-my-house- huge.
We had to do a ton of climbing. I've never done that much climbing off road with a loaded bike. I was never miserable. But there were points that I thought, "Why did we do this, again?"
The lake you see in the distance is the lake behind Mike in the beginning of this post. It's a good size lake that we rode an awesome trail all the way around before heading up for this climb. We were nearly at the top here. We could tell good riding was ahead.

But to our demise, Mike's derailleur had another plan. As soon as we hit the top of this hour and a half climb, his derailleur caught a stick or something and curled itself up into the frame. Unrepairable. We tried but one of the jockey wheels actually broke in half. No chain tension and no chain tool turned his bike into a giant kick scooter.
There was nothing left to do but set up camp. No more riding for the day meant that we were going to camp sooner than we thought. Not a big deal at all, really. We were tired, and with the cold weather coming at us, we could get an earlier start on the fire. The wind was coming pretty hard from one side. We had to drop down the side of the mountain to find some warmth. If you enlarge the photo above, you'll see Mike setting up camp down the side of the mountain.
Mike bought a little folding saw that was our saving grace. It was great for gathering firewood in a haste.

Snow in the forecast.
Hail on my hammock. Mike said it looked like Dippin Dots.

Mike made a huge fire for backcountry camping. When I'm out in the middle of nowhere, I usually just have enough fire to give me light. Not Mike. He went all out. It kept us warm into the wee hours of night.
This is a terrible shot. But I was trying to document the fact that I slept in the hammock again. It certainly makes things colder, but with a 15 degree bag, everything seemed to even out nicely.
The next morning we woke up, ate breakfast and laid around for a while before we headed back to the truck. Mike lucked out with our location. The previous day's climb meant that the entire ride back was downhill. We just moved his chain out of the way and coasted home.

Although we wanted to ride quite a bit more, it was still an awesome trip. We found a great area that allows us to camp, hike, bike and fish in as little as 24 hours. I will certainly be back.

I'll adjust my set-up next time, though. There are several sections that can't be biked. The climb is so steep and technical that you're forced to hop off and push. With that in mind, I might put a bit more weight on my back instead of in the panniers. The bike was hard to hold onto with all the weight back there. Ideally, I'd like to eventually get a full bag set-up from Porcelain Rocket. I think it would totally be worth it. Now that I've got a close spot to hit up, I could see myself doing this more. We were gone less that 24 hours.

Hopefully, we'll see more of this soon.

Get out there.



For various reasons, I took the Troll into work today. Although road riding on a mountain bike is slower, it does have it's advantages.  For instance, there's a small gravel road that I sometimes take on my way into work. It's fun to ride some gravel every once in a while. I figured I would take it today since I was on fat knobby tires.

Well, I guess it's been a while since I've ridden it because it's pretty overgrown. The photo above is me on a gravel road. Can you tell?

No biggie, of course, on the Troll. I just plowed right through all that. It made for some quasi-adventurous fun on the way in.

Get out there.


Pushing It

I woke up this morning feeling gross. Perhaps it was the Filet o' Fish I ate at Dirty Ron's yesterday. Perhaps it was because I didn't sleep well. But whatever it was, I tried to shed the feeling on this morning's commute. I took the Redline (which is for sale, by the way, if you're interested and local) and just hammered it all the way here.

No panniers, either. I somehow left them both at work. So with a backpack and a single gear, I beat that nasty feeling into submission. It felt great. I thought I had underdressed as I waited at the stoplight outside of my neighborhood. But I eventually pedaled hard enough to warm up.

It was awesome. I don't think I could have beat that nasty gut feeling with a car commute.

Get out there.


Wrong Bike

I chose the wrong bike for my commute this morning. The forecast said, "No Rain," but I neglected to actually look around outside. I opened my garage door, hopped on the fender less Cross Check and hit the road. After just a few minutes I realized I had made a bad choice. Although no rain was in the forecast, they were soaked from the last several hours of rain.

This weekend, there were threats of snow but no actual snow. That means the roads were covered in salt and chemicals and all that was being flung up on my shiny road bike.

This is the gross stuff that destroys a drive train. I wiped the bike down when I got to work and it was cruddy. There was a lot of crap all over it. One ride makes a huge mess. I seriously can't remember why I took the fenders off the Cross Check. I know exactly where they are hanging in my garage. I just need to put them on. Today was a good reminder.

Get out there.



One thing I love about winter is riding in the dark. This morning I had an early meeting at work and had the opportunity to ride in the peaceful cover of darkness and light rain. As I pedaled in the dawn of day I got to watch the sun rise to my right. It's a great way to start the day.

Get out there.


Ortlieb Warranty

Several months ago I ripped one of my Ortlieb bags on a camping trip. I knew they had a pretty good warranty (now I know it's actually a 5 year warranty), so I headed to the bike shop for some replacements shortly after my snafu. They gave me the thumbs up on replacing them, but I had to wait for the bags to come in from Germany.
It seems that Ortlieb gave priority to some other paying customers and after being bumped to the bottom of the list, I finally have some new panniers in hand. I'm not one to get grumpy over customer service. It really doesn't bother me that it took them 5 months to get the bags back to me. The bike shop was nice enough to let me hold on to the ripped bag (with a stellar tape job) while the new ones were in transit. So I still had two panniers. The only functionality that was lost was the water resistance.

At this point, I'm just happy to have them replaced. It'll be nice to run some new fancy bags. It's time to get these bad boys dirty!

Get out there.


Snowy Mid-Day Ride

You probably won't see any snow in these photos. Nothing had stuck to the ground while we were riding. But there was enough to really blur your vision on those fast technical descents.

Justin and I headed out over lunch today to get in a quick ride. It was cut short by him taking a little spill. Long story short, he went missing for about 25 minutes. When I finally turned back and found him he said, "I went over my handlebars, then I had this weird dream..." He continued by telling me how weird his dream was, only to be interrupted by me telling him it was, in fact, weird to be having a dream while riding a mountain bike. Yes, I think he knocked himself out. He was under the impression it had only been minutes. We ran through all the relevant do-you-have-a-concussion questions... most of which he failed. Then when we got to my car he promptly fell asleep. Hmmm. Seems pretty obvious to me.

Anyway, here's how it all went.
I found a Billy Ray Cyrus CD. Jealous?
And waiting...
Oh! There's Justin after his little nighty-night time in the woods.

All is well. He's taking all the necessary precautions. He seems a lot more normal after a couple hours of rest.

Get out there.


Checking In

I've been sick all week with strep throat. No riding for me. Hopefully I'll be back on the bike tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy this old school Danny MacAskill video...

Get out there.


Twice in One Day

Yesterday was a beautiful day. In the late afternoon I bumped into Mike, who happened to have his bike at work. After about ten seconds of cordial exchanges, we began to convince each other to do a ride after quittin' time. We put in a quick hour of trails in the bright, beautiful sunshine. I love Mike's attitude. He's not a heavy planner (much like me). No riding clothes, no helmet, no problem. He goes for it anyway.

It was awesome to begin the day with some non-ride bike time and end it with some hard trail pedal mashing.

Get out there.


Eno Hammock Time

Sometimes I'll randomly throw things into a backpack and go for a ride. Today, I threw my hammock in my backpack. The hammock is great when the weather is warm but cold weather, matched with thin nylon and a breeze blowing above and below you, makes it pretty unusable. And with my phone telling me it was 41 degrees out, I didn't plan on using it. Like I said, it was random. But when I rode up on the trails, this is what I saw...
Someone had taken logs and blocked the trail. Not just here, but  you can see more logs about 30 feet down the trail doing the same thing. And about every 30 feet or so, there were more and more logs. I'm not sure if the parks and recreation people are doing this. My guess is that when the trails are wet and muddy, they don't want people riding them and eroding them away. That's one theory. My other theory is that people are just being buttholes. If it is the parks department, I would suggest they invest in a sign or something. This didn't stop me from riding. It just annoyed me.

But after so long of dodging logs on the trail, I decided I had had enough. I was going to give the hammock a whirl. I busted out my coffee and my Kindle (two things I have on almost every ride) and set up mini-camp.
There was a perfect spot by the creek. To me, there's no better combo than coffee, bikes, reading and prayer. This morning was more therapeutic and needed than a fast and hard bike ride.
The view from the hammock isn't bad, either. I never got cold until I started packing up to leave. When the chill creeped in, I poured more coffee. I even set an alarm because I was so cozy. It never happened, but I did feel a small threat of dozing off. I didn't want to wake up at lunch time and be late for work :)
It feels great to have rested. I'm glad the mud kept me from riding hard for an hour and a half. My day is better for it.

Get out there.


Amazing Weather Fail

Yesterday's temps were in the 60s nearly the entire day. Mike and Jeff just got new (used) mountain bikes so the obvious choice was to hit up some dirt after work. Why wouldn't we take advantage of such great weather? Well, after staring out my office window at the bright sunshine all day, we loaded up our bikes and it began to rain. We had a blast, but it did cut the ride much shorter than I had hoped. I wasn't prepared for rain so I was pretty uncomfortable the entire time. The fellas did get a good handle on their new steeds, though.
This is Jeff on his new Haro Flightline Comp. He's walked away from his tried and true Trek Antelope of yesteryear. Now he's a big dog on his stealthy all black trail machine. I'm not at all familiar with Haro mountain bikes. But this thing looks to be well made.
Here's Mike on his Trek 3500. He got the deal of the century on this barely (if ever) used bike. He paid nearly nothing for it but he's now able to join us on trail rides and camping trips. I think it's a great entry level bike for what he paid. I love when someone can enter into the world of biking without investing much.

Sorry for the crappy pics. Like I said, it was raining and all I had was my iPhone... so I didn't want to keep it out of my pocket for long. Also, in the picture above, I was actually pedaling my bike behind Mike. Impressive, right? Now that I look at it, it doesn't seem like the best choice. That's a pretty good drop on sloppy mud with a hard left turn at the bottom. And if I hadn't made that turn with one hand, there's a creek right off that ledge that would have been bad. Things don't always seem as wise when you look back at the photo :)

And for the sake of full disclosure, I should confess that I went over my handlebars at the beginning of the ride. It was, literally, about 12 feet into the trail. My front wheel slid on a log and my instinct took over in a bad way. My left hand clinched the front brake lever and sent me flying. It didn't hurt and I got a great laugh. Jeff had a good laugh, too. He knows that I usually bite it early in a ride. My theory is that I have to establish my limits early on. After I wipeout, I know how far I can push it for the rest of the ride. It's been to long since I had an early wipeout. Yesterday brought me back to my roots.

Get out there.