Monday, September 26, 2011

BikeFest 2011

Yes, yes, I'm still here, lock up the messenger pigeons, and put away that cattle prod. I've been absorbed in, shall we say, "other stuff." Life stuff. You know -- what we do when not staring at a glowing screen? You do remember that, yes?

I've also been touched by the classic end-of-season malaise, but not as bad this year as previously. I'm still riding, still enjoying, but I have to double-check before I go out: Do I want to do intervals, or do I really want to cruise to the library and check out the latest Batman comics? More often than not, it's quirky rides, like 'splorin' new roads, riding to an event, or just slow-pedaling to the top of the hill by my house and checkin' out the sunset. Love it -- bikes were built for fun and transportation, back before the Victorian jocks got hold of them and decided they were one more way to prove their mustachioed manhood.

I did do a great little ride this past weekend, Northampton Cycling Club's annual BikeFest. Decided I was only in shape for the 43-miler, which turned out (of course) to be 48-miles-plus. Met up with a couple buddies, who promptly disappeared over the horizon about three miles from the start (no worries -- it's part of the unwritten group ride contract). Rode my own ride for about five miles -- as usual, floating in that no-man's land between the fast and the merely fit -- waiting patiently for a group of riders up ahead to realize that they'd let adrenaline get the better of them, and to start drifting back to a more humane pace. I saw them at the top of a hill and worked my way up to them; we finished together, more or less, and some of them were quite friendly and fun to ride with.

It was an ugly day, warm and soupy-humid, but the scenery -- distant, jagged peaks dressed in thick rolls of cotton-candy mist -- was fully up to par.

Back at the start/finish, we gathered for excellent jambalaya (speesy-spicy!) from the Lone Wolf in Amherst, and local hero Roger Salloom's excellent little combo doing rockin' Lonnie Smith and Chuck Berry covers, which added a little sunshine to a drab, wet day. Spirits were high, conversation was good, and I was glad I'd been talked into the day.

Here's to people getting together to do what they love!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What I Did for my Labor Day Weekend

Artifact of Tropical Storm Irene: Blocked trail in Monague on Saturday. Time for some hike-a-bike through the woods!

Cranberry Pond in Sunderland, on Labor Day. Dirty roads, dirty weather. I tried to climb the fire road up Mt. Toby (in the background) but didn't have low enough gears or fat enough tires (okay -- or strong enough legs).

When you have a bike that thrives on faux-roads, you have fun exploring under highway trestles.

And you find mysterious inscrptions on stone blocks by railroad tracks.

And you turn off trails or roads onto newly-discovered single-track networks. See that footbridge way at the bottom? Hike-a-bike, from there upward. Fun!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Pioneer Valley Three-Oh

Been well over a week since I stared at the blank screen with some kind of momentum building up behind my eyes. I've been in bike hibernation or something. Maybe it's the coming of September, all my young clients going back to school, sending me back into some kind of youthful transitional period. Just not thinking in terms of writing. Then, of course, tropical storm Irene was a bit distracting last weekend. No damage to house or property, I'm glad to report, unlike many towns close by, which are torn asunder. I'm sure I'll be finding washed out roads on my rides well into the fall.

Also, I've been writing up rides and tech and philosophy like a house afire since mid-February, and I think I'm feeling the psychic wear and tear, much as I feel the season wearing on my body. Mrs.V. has returned to her public school librarian job and needs some support. And we have other demanding stuff on the docket right now, too.

But don't worry, folks, I'm riding. Mostly on the Vaya, because both my road bikes are on the D.L. I've done what I can for them with my tech skills, and now have plans to haul them both in to a good local bike shop tomorrow and see what experienced hands can render.

I think that's one more reason for burnout: I haven't been able to take advantage of the diversity of riding because I've only had my gravel/dirt machine for the last few weeks or more. I had that brief fling with the 29er, but it didn't work out. (Flings rarely do.) I was hoping that would provide me a whole new angle on riding -- woods, mountains, trails. Turns out, I'm really only suited to a little of that, at least for now. The Vaya mostly scratches that itch pretty well.

I did three or four hours on hurricane day (Sunday) to plot out an extended dirt road ride here in the Valley. It turned out to be way more vertical than I was hoping; dirt roads in this part of New England generally lead upward. I haven't been able to find many of those lovely lo-o-ong, rolling roads they have out in Kansas and Iowa, where you could easily put together a century without ever riding pavement. So, we'll see if I'm up to what I have tentatively titled The Filthy Fifty. 4,000 feet of climbing, and composed of 75% dirt,gravel, and a smidgen of single track. Rigorous.

Aside from that, I'd like to go for a few long leaf-peeping rides this fall; I love kitting up with arm warmers and embrocation and rolling out in the chilly, clear weather. It's inspiring after a summer of sweat pooling incessantly under my helmet pads. I also find myself looking forward to the infamous cyclocross races at Look Park in early November; perhaps I'll attend on my Vaya and take a stab at the course in-between races, as many spectators do. 'Cross is coming, bundle up!

That's the three-oh from the Pioneer Valley today.