Sunday, September 30, 2012

New Castle MT Ramble

Dave and I, with Timothy along, did a route that took in similar environs late last October. The boys are all winding up for another stab at Gravel Grovel this year- I'm out for family biz that weekend- but I thought I would try to support their efforts with a bit of gravelling today. A tropezones we began the morning with some lateness, lack of coffee, and an unfortunate decision to eat Krispy Kreme's for some reason. Oh, that's right. They had coffee before 7.00am.

We finallly pulled into New Castle a bit before 8.00. Standing in the town square directly to the west we found the remnants of the Harvest Moon. And 180 degrees to the east the morning sun welcomed us to great possibilities for a fine day in the saddle. If the lateness and donuts foretold of a black hand o'er us, the two great orbs did the converse.

If the ride was comprised of thirds, then the first included a morning warmup along the lumpy 573 along its serrated profile. What made it palatable was the morning fog, sunrise and pleasant landscapes opening up with the sun. The route turned left for a reasonable run along 22, mostly devoid of traffic this time of the morning. The highlight might have been the herd of very noisy hungry cows just across the road of the machinery below.

Still in our opening act, we took a left on Joe Branch Rd. ready for our gravel descent down to Lockport and the KY River. I think the pictures below tell the story. Those that love two wheels, crisp, clean air, and a bit of texture would have enjoyed themselves immensely.

A most interesting kickstand

Crossroads at Joe Branch and Six-Mile Creek Rd. We would meet this intersection later in the day.

Asher pulls ahead.

Dave bridging steadily

After the opening act of our descent, we meet our second with very few pics but lots and lots of grunting. Our turn onto 389 immediately brought us a 1m climb, with two more short-but-steeps thereafter before allowing us some ridge running along the 8m stretch. What can you say? A 4-mile run with two or miles of climbing is just plain tough. Dave fell back a bit while Asher and I marshaled forward before taking a breather after the half-mile grunter up to meet 421. A rest and bit after our turn onto Little Dixie set the stage for our third and final act, one with major gravel, new roads, sunshine, flow, and more clean air. Sound good?

Little Dixie was a new road for all of us. Going south to north, it provided us a 3-mile mellow downhill with lots of rideable gravel. Not just that, we came across a KStateU research center and then a blissful overlook of the valley below, a vantage which I'm pretty sure includes a vista of the KY River valley. Someone had cleared the land for a construction site. How about they sell it to me? Georgeous!

KSU Environmental Education Center on Little Dixie. Surprise.

Still in our gravel-bound third act, we made a turn onto Six-Mile Creek Rd., one Dave and I had done coming the other way the previous year. What began as smooth, "genteel" gravel later turned to a thick, rocky, muddy, pot-holed suffer fest, including a mud-puddle run that had my feet wet for the remainder of the day. It was all completely outstanding. Hard, but well-worth it. Dave on his Fargo barreled through, while Asher had very positive comments about how he handled things with his 'cross bike and 35s. I'm going to do a separate post for my day on the Rawland Sogn; it was outstanding.

We cleared the rocks of 6-Mile, and after a break, turned left and faced the 2.5-mile climb up Joe Branch and out of the river valley. Most of that climb was very doable at a reasonable tempo, graveled and somewhat rocky but often provided moderate pitches. Towards the top it hit double digits and finished us off with a nasty kick. We took a turn onto some paved rolling roads to link up to our last gravel of the day along this third act, the "not" road of Barton/Dennen/Flat Rock combo. Having surveyed this area last time, Dave and I had a little better idea of how to provide passage. First you survive the bomber gravel downhill along Dennen. If in one piece, you then choose to walk your bike down what really is a rocky ditch that once might have been a tractor trail. At the bottom of the hill you need to find a reasonable spot to cross the creek. If not lost, you then make your way up the creek and waterfall for .1m and find the remnants of Flat Rock "the road". Amazing stuff, really. Last year it was at freezing, so negotiating the water crossings proved a bit scary. This year, the sun was high and temps warm. We played a bit at the waterfall before find Flat Rock Rd proper. No one was ambitious at this point.

The topmost stretches of Flat Rock Rd. Really.

Native Americans or drunk/high teenagers. You decide.

The road portion of Flat Rock Rd. in the distance.

After the gravel-laden third act, the finale was the 1-mile and change roll back into town. Our ride closed with just short of 47 miles, with approx. 20 of them gravel in nature. As all agreed that this route provided some of the most interesting sections of gravel in our Louisville area, frankly all of the sections "must ride" at some point.

On a personal note, I haven't had a very successful 2012 on the bike. The 6 days of touring were fun, but outside of that my mileage has been moderate with far fewer adventure rides. And some of my efforts have been blocked by poor fitness, a lack of punch or spark. Today, though, I loved it all. Yes, the roller-coaster stretch along 389 weren't too much fun, but I weather those to fully drink up Little Dixie, 6-Mile and Joe Branch, much less a satisfied tiredness along Flat Rock. Finally, a good day on the bike, on a beautiful day in some absurdly nice country. Well done.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Los 3 Amigos ventured yon for a S15O last night. We planned it such that the dads (with childrens at home) could do the family thing, which for me meant a nice date to El Mundo with 2 absurdly fine margaritas to start the evening. Perhaps that's why I was so giddy for much of the night.

Our 7.00pm meetup at the Loop became more like 7.20 with Patricia running late. In our usual fashion of always stopping, we first stopped by Dave's house so I could better air up my rear tire. 35lbs on the 650b wasn't ideal with a rear load. Our route had us roaming through Old Louisville and down 4th street in a bit of a round-about way to better avoid an athletic contest I won't name. We made another stop at the gas station to pick up more crap, you know, Gatorade, cookies, snack crackers, Tums, etc. Instead of running out Manslick, the usual hook-up to the SWJeff area, we three fatly took our lane on 4-lane New Cut and cut straight into Fairdale, again stopping by the office dropbox to get the permit, and then on to the Holsclaw climb, where I kept out of the big ring so as to not embarrass Patricia. Dave walked, as expected.

The events, so far gay and sprightly, took an interesting turn when we arrived at our campsite, which I had paid for and reserved previously. We first saw a car and then a tent tucked back deep at the site. "Okay, here we go!" We had paperwork and numbers so we didn't think it would be too much of a problem. It became more complicated when we learned that the squatter in question was a deaf-mute guy. He found some paper and a pen and an awkward conversation ensued, the end result being that he moved his tent down by his car, still a perfectly agreeable spot. Tears were shed. By him. Really. At the time I personally felt guilty to cast out the poor handicapped guy. Further reflection says that he's a mobile adult who is capable enough to drive there and squat. If that's the case, he's capable enough to unsquat. Strange.

Once that weirdness was resolved the remainder of the evening ensued: good beer, good fire, good fellowship.

In August I slept pretty well in the tent set-up, but last night was rough. Either via user error or damage my pad lost air, so at around 6.00 I awoke suffering from: hard cold ground, gas, headache, cold with mostly unzipped sleeping bag, loud talking from neighboring mom, anything else? Oh, I had to pee too. After that I blew the pad back up, zipped up and fell asleep hard for another 40min until everyone started rustling about.

We had a quick cup of coffee and hit the road due to family obligations. I had a rough trip back but we were efficient enough that we had time for a full breakfast at Twig-n-Leaf where I celebrated our mini-adventure with biscuits and gravy. Apt.

And now I suffer.

Monday, September 24, 2012


A few days ago I entertained a bit of bicycle consumption philosophy as to the ideal number of bicycles. I  began the 'Menage a 3' with the obvious shout-out to the Road Bike as the machine which begins the stable.

Tonight, after one hard-ass hour of road biking, sometimes in the drops even, I can say that every cyclist needs a kick-ass, lightweight road bike, one unencumbered of luggage, trinkets, shiny extras or racks. No trunk. No knobbies. No extra antlers. A road bike, pure and simple.
Baggins Bag not presently mounted, no no "luggage".

I should ride mine more.

Nope, Yep

The plan was to do up a 50m gravel ride, partly in preparation for GravelGrovel- for them- and partly for mental sanity, for me. Instead, the wife had to take the good car out of town for a funeral so were left without back rack. Nope.

Dave came through with an alt route leaving from the 'hood at the same time, with Dave and Asher showing up bright and early at 6.00am for a planned 50m+. The very early morning Sunday streets were quite empty and pleasant to roll through, but shortly into the ride we stopped at a gas station 5 miles in to warm up and refuel a bit. As we reached the outskirts of J'town we noticed our discomfort rising, with my computer reading 38F, a temp none of us prepared for. The route now was following some rural/suburban roads that at 5pm on a weekday would be murderous but on this Sunday morning pleasant, misty and chilly. After a turn on Hopewell Rd., a new one for me, we turned right and barreled down 155 to our next gas station warm-up/fuel-up. Shortly thereafter, as I planned to put on a second layer of gloves, I came to find that poor Asher had only standard cycling gloves and whose digits were quite numb. Gloves for him!

At this point out of Fisherville we turned north onto Eastwood/Fisherville Rd., another new one for me. This section proved a bit lumpy but the sun was starting to do its trick. We turned westward back into towards town and picked up a relatively easy roll into Anchorage, E.P.Sawyer Park and our next gas station where I availed myself of some cheap chocomilk and Hostess calories. From there the decision was made that we were more interested in a warm breakfast than tagging on 10 extra miles, so via a shortcut through Sawyer, an extra loop through Boxwood and Blossom we hit the double-wide Westport and made our way through the park where I took a short turn on Dave's Fargo. It's a size L, too big for me officially, but I enjoyed its solid cockpit and predictable manners. I had been on the Sogn all day, of which I was very pleased, but the two bikes felt quite different regardless of "fat" tires. My 35c 650b tires looked like time-trial tires compared to the fatties on the Fargo. Too bad I can't afford a full-on new gravel tourer at the moment. But the Sogn performed well on its first longish ride for me. I'm not sure the Dirt Drops are the bar for distance, but I suffered no hand pain or numbness during the day, the only thing holding me back being the high bar position.  The DDs will stay on until compelled to remove them. Yeah Sogn!

After a slow crawl out of the park, exacerbated by Dave's bent chainlink, we stopped at Twig-n-Leaf where I more than ate my fill to compensate for the cold morning. The boys headed west, I to the house and the satisfaction of some bicycle camaraderie, some new empty roads on a Sunday morning, and at 46m one of my longer rides of 2012 not involving a tour. A good morning for sure.

Dave's map including their extra stint.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

TLC FS blog

I'm going to sell some stuff and didn't want to completely whore my normal blog out. What I'd love to do is liquidate this stuff- including my Surly Troll fram in a non-liquid kind of way- and rebuild a city LHT more or less as I had back in the day.

Very, very soon the following things will be for sale on the blog, Craig's List, and on the Surly and RBW forums/groups. If that doesn't work I'll throw them onto ebay, of which I have no experience selling. If that doesn't work, well, I guess I'll have to have a yardsale or stuff the stuff back into the back of the garage. 

Except for the Troll. I need that to sell.

  • Surly Troll 16"- used 3 months. Excellent condition.
  • Salsa Bell Lap handlebar
  • Nitto Rando handlebar
  • ITM handlebar
  • ControlTech stem (used in conjunction with ITM bar)
  • Nitto adjustable seatpost
  • Cannondale suspension seatpost

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Nueva bici

Thursday: 14m commute/Sogn

Not too much content here on ye ol' blogosphere. The latest 'X=n?' discussions have been entertaining, given that I am enjoying seeing my stable slowly-but-surely shrink. That said I recently upset that apple cart with the item below, a Rawland Sogn. I sold the Bleriot bones after deciding that it was too small; I kept some bits to do a new build, hopefully of the low-trail variety as a means of exploring that facet of the bike world. After some searching I happened upon an offer from an established national shop that has a used "rSogn" ready to roll for a reasonable price. Now I have extra bits to ponder.

I opened the box expecting the light blue of the low-trail rSogn and instead found the bright red of an early iteration (example write-up here). I was originally disappointed b/c there was a communication breakdown and righting the "wrong" was too complicated. So, I kept it and have spent a few weeks trying it out. So far, with a somewhat limited sample, I quite pleased. I immediately racked it up as my commuter and it has shown nicely in that usage: secure, solid, predictable, comfy. It seems a much more satisfactory loader than the NoodleTroll. This Sunday we should be hitting some gravel where I'll take take in its mixed-terrain capabilities; hopefully it passes muster. I think it will.

Today I had the shop check the headset to make sure I didn't eff it up at assembly. Derek added a thin ring and tightened things down, so it handles a little more stiffly, but also tracks straighter (not that it tracks poorly before). In a week or so we may also be pulling a S15O where the Sogn will get loaded duties. It should be an interesting comparison test from the Troll back in the summer.

More pics to come, I hope, perhaps with a more thorough write-up after testing its qualities. Two things: Dyno lights, in this case a Shimano/IQ CYO are amazing things for commuting. This came with it and I have no clue why all "real" bikes don't come pre-dyno'd. The second is that 650b ride feels much more like what I imagined 650b to be. Plush. Sogn>Bleriot at the moment.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


A recent google+ strand concerning the efficacy of wheelsets in concert with Pondero's recent minimalist meditation on the appropriate non-size of a bike stable has me also considering the degree to which the discussion, rumination and interchange of bicycle-shaped objects has superseded the two-wheeled experience itself.

How many is enough? too many? not enough? necessary? Unlike Pondero, I do not want to minimalistically whittle myself down to a magical ONE. While he lives out in the country away from the urban commuter blight and urban-park-rendered-mountain-bike trails I have to take advantage of, I live squarely in the metro area. He needs a country bike for his country. I at least need some kind of city commuter.

Specious ramblings aside, what is the optimum number in the stable? PJ has two bikes, nice ones, his AHH road bike and a Fargo, his fat-tire cum tourer. Those take care of two, or three, or what I consider the basic needs for an avid cyclist:

  • Road machine- obvious in a way, preferably something that can carry a bit of luggage for a 200k brevet. No slimmed-down crabon unless you have designs on slithering into the skinsuit. A la I/Grant, I'm a firm believer that 75% of the folks buying super-sleek road machines would be better off with something more generous, hearty and malleable.
  • Fat-tire- meaning mtbike or even modern fat tire bike. A trail bike. Something robust for trails. If you like to get your jams out, then the bouncier and fatter the better, i.e. suspension
  • City/Commuter- Can be a beater, a dandy, a tourer, a fixie, a something that you can grab and commute without reservations. For me, for a long time, that was my dyno-wheeled LHT. I've sold numerous bikes. This is the first one for which I have remorse. Shouldn't have sold it. And I mention dyno wheel b/c a city/commuter should have dynolights. No discussion. You grab it, you go. No limitations.
Things get interesting after this. The fundamental needs are met, IMHO. Road. Trail. Everything else and in between. Finished. 

Unless we're talking boutique. And there is always time to talk boutique.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bycke Nooz

I'm having a really hard time getting any content here on the blog, which I think accurately reflects my 2012. It's not been a bad year, at present closing in on 3000 miles. It's the simple reality that this year hasn't been replete with interesting rides- save the two mini-tours- that previous years have held. Far fewer gravel rides, centuries, long expeditions.  Really it's been a solid year of commutes, one to two-hour road rides, a few trails thrown in, and.....

The two tours, one in June and the other in August, have certainly been the apex of the cycling content, and I created adequate entries for those. Otherwise it's, well, sort of meh.

The big news in August has been a fiesta de bike sales. I sold the long-fallow Redline 925 to a young man headed off to college, a perfect union. I sold the Bleriot frame/fork/goodies to a nice guy named Bill. I haven't heard from him, but he got a nice bag of bones to work with. I took my Bleriot earnings and bought a used Sogn, which I thought was a rSogn as originally offered by the merchant. It turned out to be a red non-lowtrail Sogn, which created a bit of disappointment. Ergo, in my first few rides (a couple commutes and a 33m road ride) the Sogn has been nothing short of delightful. Full review to come, I guess. It's stable, soft, stout, comfy, and faster than the Bleriot was, or the LHT for that matter.

Again, I tend to be on my iPad upstairs next to the good wife, and I don't enjoy too much typing on the 'ol tablet, so there. Stories and reviews to come. Or not to come.

FS Bridgestone RB-1-DONATED

*Donated to a young bike-hungry friend. Good luck!* And to acquaint yourself with the Cult of the RB-1: