Archive for June, 2008

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Our First Mountain Bike Trail

June 30, 2008

So… we were searching for a trail to do on Sunday, and pondered a couple of different options on the Little Miami Scenic trail. However, something made me consider looking for a couple of off-road bike trails that were a bit more primitive so we could get some experience off of the paved trails. What we decided on was a “short” trail over at the Caesar Creek State Park next to the picturesque reservoir. Heck… if was only 5 miles… how hard could it be… RIGHT!!!! (I’ve really gotta stop saying that… when will I learn?!?)

View Interactive Map on MapMyRide.com

We took a 20 mile drive from home up to Caesar Creek Reservoir. After a couple of turns, we reached the end of Ward Road, and the trail goes off in a couple of directions. After a bit of scouting, the we took what looked to be an easier trail toward the Southwest (just to the left of the main info sign), which would put the Caesar Creek reservoir on our right.

Info Sign at Dead End of Ward Road

This trail starts off very easily. But before long the trail started narrowing a bit, and many tree roots started appearing in the trail, most easy to navigate at first. We enjoyed the view of the water and people in boats enjoying the weekend.

The trail had it’s easy ups and downs, but then there were switchbacks and other obstacles with increasing frequency. The space between trees became very narrow in spots, and we had to portage our bikes across small streams a couple of times when riding across wasn’t an option.

I think the second half of the trail was much more difficult. That, combined with our fatigue level had us making more mini-stops and munching energy bars, walking our bikes up certain hills, and making adjustments to our bikes. One of the big adjustments that I’m glad we made at the beginning, was lowering the air pressure from 65psi to between 40-45psi. We needed that give in the tires with all of the roots, rocks, and short stumps in the trail. Another adjustment that we played with along the way was seat height. On a paved trail, good leg extension on the pedals is needed. For these rough trails, a shorter seat allowed us to put our feet to the ground easier for navigation and to bounce around more as needed.

Just like last weekend, a thunderstorm found us for part of the trek. We stopped for a short bit under a dense cluster of leaves before the rain slowed and we continued on the trail as it wound a bit out in the open in some “lowland” boggy area.

There was a point where the beating we were taking, was taking it’s toll, and we questioned whether to turn back or carry on. After some discussion, we came to a consensus that neither of us had much brains when it come to turning around on trails, so we opted to continue on and I noted the time. Shortly, there was a particularly gnarly set of roots in the path that buffeted me around a bit as I powered over them. In few seconds I heard a resounding “SHHIIIITTTT” and a crash. Quickly jumping off my bike and throwing it down, I looked back and Penny’s bike was laying on the roots and Penny was crumpled in a hole/depression next to the trail. She was quickly shouting, “I’m alright! I’m alright!” It took a little bit to give her some leverage to get her out of her entanglement, but I could see if was damned lucky that she’d just let her self fall without sticking out arms or legs. There were some nice places to neatly snap or twist an ankle had she stepped or reached out to stop her fall. Damned lucky!!! … and grateful too. She assessed the gouges and bruises she’d gotten, everything seemed to be in working order, so we started back up. Quickly I remembered the ibuprofen in my pack and decided it would be a good idea to take some. After all… people our age aren’t designed to be taking this kind of abuse, especially on their first time out. We were both going to be sore, extra falls notwithstanding!!

We reached a fork in the road, and a round trail sign that was laying on the ground. We twirled it around a bit before making an educated guess which direction was the trail head…. pretty comical actually. If we had a compass with us, we could have aligned it with the top of the trail sign… D’oh!!!

Up the path of the anticipated trail head, the grass grew thick and the brush closely enclosed the trail. I wasn’t sure about this direction anymore as it looked like we were entering a bog. However through the trees, I spied a guard rail running along a road, and we soon reached pavement. This was 18 minutes after we’d weighed how many hours of daylight we had left, how many energy bars and water, and who could last the longest. Funny how one’s outlook can change so quickly. {grin}

We took a quick guess about what direction we should head on the pavement, and after a couple of miles arrived back at the vehicle.

There were a lot of good learning points today:

  • Maybe people in their mid-40’s shouldn’t be riding unknown trails for the first time… especially when they are more technical than we were really ready for, even after riding about 200 miles on pavement this month.
  • 30 miles on paved trails with a mountain bike is a heck of a lot easier than 5 miles on rough trails
  • Mountain bike trails are good for developing balance, reflexes, and working different muscles than flat paved trails.
  • There are some cool techniques for navigating through rough trails that we need to learn. I also found that I favor turning left better (than right) on switchbacks for some reason.
  • We were glad we had lot’s of water and energy bars… I guess you can’t have too much!!

We are looking forward to more rough trails to help keep the variety of rides mixed up some!

More Pictures including some over the Little Miami River Valley on the way there and on the way back home:
http://www.uwwonder.com/pics/080629CaesarCreek/index.html

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Kingsview Industrial Park to Morrow Veterans Park

June 28, 2008

Tonight we ran out between storms, after being washed out last night. We were trying different clothing and seat adjustments tonight to try and maximize some of the things we’ve read recently online (e.g. BikeForums, Local Cyclist). I normally keep my seat lower to minimize pressure from the front of the seat, but opted to keep the seat higher to get a better stroke going.

Yes, the power and cadence was better. But I gotta say, I’ve already got a sore spot and the seat hurt like hell tonight despite the padded shorts. I wasn’t happy, but not much I could do about it except ride.

Penny had a slight squeak/rub from her brake pad, but she rode it out until the half way point where we made some adjustments. I also noticed that lube I got the other day wasn’t applied very consistently. Not to mention, when I went into the cycling section of Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart, they didn’t have crap for lube, so I went to the auto section looking for something thicker than WD-40. I tried the white lithium spray grease, but wasn’t pleased with the thickness, or how unevenly it applied. I may need to clean all of it off, and get a more applicable lube. Gonna have to go find a bike shop I guess. Shame I can’t find something at a local store (if someone has a recommendation, I’m all ears!).

After stopping for a small ice cream to support a cyclist-friendly establishment in Morrow, we pushed harder on the return leg. I was to the point where I could feel some discomfort just above my knee, so I kept downshifting anytime the cadence slowed enough. It seems that when I have a higher RPM, this isn’t an issue.

We found ourselves discussing how effective/useful the clipless pedals might be. Penny’s feet fall asleep after a long spell without a break, so the push-pull of the clipless might help out a bit.

On the way back, I started out in the lead, and Penny got in line behind. About halfway back, Penny jumped to the front and kept a strong pace, pushing pretty good until we got to the Lebanon Trailhead and turned off. We took it a bit easier for the last mile to the vehicle to cool down a bit.

The skies were darkening as we loaded the vehicle up, so I’m glad we were able to sneak in a 15 mile ride on the Little Miami Trail tonight.

Temp: 85F
Distance: 15 miles
Time: 85 minutes

View Interactive Map on MapMyRide.com

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Tackling the Hill of Death

June 26, 2008

I’m made it my mission to try to get to the top of a local hill in one continuous climb. So after getting some more practice this week at climbing up on the pedals and using taller gears to go up hills, I decided to tackle my personal “hill of death”.

Base of the Hill

Half way up

Final Stop to the top

To date, it’s taken me three rest stops to get to the summit, but tonight I was determined to “own” this hill. I’ve only gone up this hill 3 times now, but it’s becoming an obsession and an obstacle. Until I can cleanly make it up this puppy, I don’t feel I can go past MM3.5 where there is a sharp descent, requiring another climb to return back to the vehicle.

Confident I had something for the hill, I loaded up and headed over to my usual parking spot in the company parking lot in the Kingsview Industrial Park. I also brought the camera along so that I could document the hill better.

I headed up the hill in 2-5, then 2-4, standing on the pedals, strong at first, but then feeling the burn set in pretty quickly. About 1/2 up the hill, I stopped. Using the time to catch my breath and rest the quads, I snapped a set of pics up and down the hill. Climbing back on the pedals, went down to 2-2, then 2-1 to make as much distance as I could, eventually had to sit down on the seat, then stop about 3/4’s the way up. After snapping more shots with the summit in sight, I was determined to make it the rest of the way up. I tried standing on the pedals, but my legs were much, and I had to tough it out on the seat, but made it the rest of the way up.

I took more pics at the summit before heading down the flat part of the trail, but didn’t feel all that great. It could be any combination of things, but I hadn’t drank much water today, may have attempted this too soon after eating a small meal, or still fatigued from last night’s ride. Not sure what, but it seemed the more water I drank from my camelback, the worse I felt, so I turned the ride sooner than normal on this stretch of trail.

My legs were still mush even heading back to the descent, so the climb may have wrung more from me than I realized. It felt good getting back to the vehicle!

Once again, the hill has kicked my ass …. ugh!

Here’s the trail/training log.
Hill of Death Climbing Training

Picture documentary of the ride.
Hill of Death Pictures

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Bike Ride from Kingsview Industrial Park to Loveland

June 25, 2008

Tonight we wanted to go for a ride. What I didn’t tell Penny was how far or where. After a quick dinner of steamed broccoli, carrots, and shredded chicken, we loaded up the bikes.

We decided to head over to the Kingsview Industrial Park. Only 3 miles from the condo, we like to park in one of the parking lots of a “out of business” company. Their lot sits right next to mile marker 1 of the Lebanon-YMCA trail, and is convenient parking and access for a bike connector to the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

Once onto the Little Miami trail, we headed toward Loveland, riding past the Kings Mill Powder Plant and the Foster’s crossing. We were cranking pretty good with me in the lead, and Penny drafting behind. Normally I don’t pull tall gears, especially at the beginning of a ride, since I like both high RPM’s and to conserve energy until I make the turnaround.

Just before we got to Loveland, we slowed our pace a bit to relax, and before we knew it we were entering town. Resting a bit and using the facilities at the park there, we then got back on the bikes and took a more relaxing pace back to the vehicle. Penny decided to go in front to keep me at bay. For some reason I was feeling a bit spunky tonight!! LOL

We say one deer that ducked off the trail, but stayed just inside the tree line so that we could get a good look. It’s the things like this that make it pretty cool to be riding on the trail. Other than that we saw one squirrel and a whole lot of nuts! LOL

The Training/Activity Log and route can be found in the link on the right.

Air Temp: 77F

Distance: 17.3 miles

Bottom Time: 80 minutes

Kingsview Industrial Park to Loveland Park

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Riding in the Rain: a 30 mile roundtrip from Morrow to Corwin!

June 21, 2008

Uncropped pics:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=28206&l=1f6e5&id=750695834

Today was quite the adventure! We decided to drive about 10 miles up to Morrow and from there bike 11 miles to the Caesar Creek Preserve on the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

I’d done a bit of bike maintenance today, mostly with gear shifter alignment and tweaking on both of the bikes. The changes worked out pretty smoothly!

We unloaded our bikes from a park in Morrow, and got our equipment on around 5pm. Looking up at the sky, there were some dark clouds looming, and I realized I hadn’t bothered to check out the evening forecast… That’s a story that will continue to evolve.

As we got underway, Princess was looking royally!

…but she soon let me know what she thought of me snapping pics of her!

About 4 miles down the trail, we come to the Jeremiah Morrow bridge span that carries Interstate 71 across the Little Miami River. This is the highest bridge span in Ohio.

Here you can also catch a glimpse of the Little Miami River that we enjoy riding next to. Today was especially nice because there were many kayaks and canoes with plenty of laughter floating down the river.

Pretty soon, the dark clouds that we “hoped” would blow over started rumbling and lightning was flashing around. One by one, the drops started descending upon us. I asked Pue if she was dressed warmly enough. “I’m okay!” she repeated each time I asked. She might be a Princess, but she’s a real trooper when it comes to adventure. She kept urging on, wondering what might be around the next turn.

We had to pull our sun glasses off at some point because they were so wet and smeared that it was fruitless to see through them. Especially important was “branch watch” as we dodged limbs on the trail, and watched the winds blow other branches to the ground. I couldn’t believe we were still heading outbound at this point, but it was like a sickness urging us on. We just ain’t right!!!

Before we knew it, we had reached Corwin and I thought… oops!!! Somewhere in the downpour I’d missed our turnaround point at Caesar’s Preserve and we ended up 3 miles past it. Penny was like… that’s okay… wanna keep going?? My response was Uh… NOOOO!!! What was she thinking????

We had to tuck the camera away in our packs to keep it dry, so couldn’t get anymore pics until the rain abated. By then we were drowned rats, but enjoying the hell out of ourselves!!


Penny was pretty proud of the dirt she’d accumulated on the trail.

In fact, she displayed it like a badge of honor.

It was pretty cool as we were on the last leg of our ride. The sun was breaking out through the clouds and turning the evening into a beautiful display.

We were joking that if we were home sitting on the couch and it was raining outside that we’d never dream of jumping on the bikes and going for a ride. However, since we were already out on the trail, we stayed out when the storm hit and even kept peddling outbound, unlike normal people that would have turned around and headed for the vehicle. What can I say!! We had a lot of fun!!!

Since we biked all the way to Corwin and back, our total distance ended up being 30 miles. She wants to do it again tomorrow, my butt and legs are telling me otherwise!

Air Temp: 75F to 63F
Distance: 30 miles
Bottom Time: 2hr 15min (not counting our 30 minutes of stops)

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Hill of Death

June 20, 2008

The Pics below are cropped, so here’s a link to them:
http://www.uwwonder.com/pics/080620/index.html

Most of the time when we get on the Lebanon-YMCA trail, we head for the Little Miami trail, which follows the old abandoned railway. Railway trails have nice easy slopes and are very flat. This has made up the bulk of our riding so far.

Tonight I opted to head the other way toward Lebanon. This trail is run along the side the existing hilly roads and cuts across various fields. Right after we transit across the industrial park, the hill immediately climbs quite steeply.

I’d told Penny prior to us arriving at the hill that we would each do the hill at our own pace and the person reaching the top first would just wait for the other. Penny normally uses higher gears than I do, since I like high RPM’s. Given that, I expected her to reach the top of the hill first. I can generate more power and greater speed than she can, but she has better endurance at her higher output levels than I do. My quads seem to blow out faster under the intense burn…. part of it may be mental.

I’d done this hill once before on an evening when Penny couldn’t go and had to stop 3 times up the hill to catch my breath. Tonight was no different. While we had some gear shifting issues, I still needed to stop 3 times, although recovery was faster. Part of it may have been psychological since I knew that Penny was on my heels most of the climb. At my last stop, I needed more time than she did to recover, so she cleanly beat me to the summit. Fortunately, the rest of the trail is relatively flat.

Here’s a pic right after summiting.


Yes… I’m wearing a DecoStop Forum T-shirt!

We continued down the trail a little ways after the summit until we arrived at a sign indicating a steep decline. While the decline sounded fun, I wasn’t ready for another climb back out to get to the vehicle, so we turned the ride.

On the way back, Pue had the camera.

…and I wondered if she was coming….

We rode past our vehicle, parked at the 1 mile mark on the Lebanon trail, and rode to the end of the trail where it meets the Little Miami Scenic Trail and snapped a few more pics.

I was on tilt after the hill.

…but got myself straightened out a bit…

Pue’s comment was “We’re going back now?” Well.. we did have quite a bit of energy left, but I knew we were going to try a longer ride tomorrow, so didn’t want to over do it tonight.

Gorgeous night for a ride and some pics!

Air Temp 77F
Distance 7 miles
Bottom Time 45 minutes

One of these days, I hope to get up the Hill of Death in one continuous climb… until then.. .it still has my number!!!

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Short and Sweet

June 19, 2008

Tonight we went out for Chinese, so it took a while for my food to digest… actually, I think it still is… Since a trail ride was out of the question, I opted for the 3.3 mile ride around the neighborhood, darting and dashing down each cul de sac.

The constant up and down hills, and all the cornering is much different than the straight trail riding I’m growing accustomed to, but still managed to do it in 15 minutes, a personal best so far.

My quads are still yelling at me… I know… I’m a wuss… but this is only my third week back on the bike and I was out of town most of last week.

Now… I think I need a glass of wine, and a place to finish digesting the Chinese food.