Sunday, 23 August 2009

radical shift in bikestyle

My commute is about to change dramatically. We just got back from Cambridge, where we'll be moving in a few weeks, and the biking scene is noticeably different. There's not going to be much in the way of mountain biking, which is a little sad. It sounds like there are some nice country roads that are dirty and muddy and maybe a little scenic, but mostly it's flat flat flat. So time to get a taller gear for the bike.

Maybe more significant is the number of cyclists. So far I've encountered a grand total of zero other bikers on my commute, from the moment I cross the Tay bridge to when I get within a mile or so of St Andrews. Cambridge, by contrast, was a seething mass of people flying around on city bikes. I'm about to become an urban (well, sort of- it's still a small town) cyclist again.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

getting lost on a new trail system

On Sunday I headed to a forest sort-of-near to where we live, Pitmedden forest park. I had found vague descriptions on the internet of good riding there, but no maps. I got lost on the way there and forgot my biking shirt at home, but I remained upbeat. Living at sea level means I don't have to worry quite so much about Alpine Death Fabric and its dangers, so while I may have looked a bit odd in my ragged cotton v-neck (from the Gap, no less) I wasn't too worried about hypothermia.

I started riding up an uninspiring fire road* which continued for half a mile or so. Then I started noticing little trails shooting off the side. Eventually I just picked one and went for it, and what followed was some of the most enjoyable singletrack I've ever ridden. Really twisty sections led to smooth flowy sections, all of it narrow (like 6 inches or so), there were roots and rocks and even some ledges I didn't feel comfortable going down with my current mindset**. At one point there were some Pacific Northwest-style manmade features (they think of them as North Coast features here I think), bermed corners and at one point a huge drop that I walked down and then the trail ended. Apparently not a popular feature***.

This was really high quality trail, and the woods was just crisscrossed with offshoots. I have no idea where I went, how much of the system I covered, or what. When I came to an intersection I just picked the direction that looked best. I only ended up in a scary Blair-Witch woods once and got worried about finding my way back twice, so all in all this was a pretty awesome excursion.

I need to remember to bring my camelback with me when we return from our visit to the US in September. While I was thinking about that I came upon this, describing new Osprey hydration packs for biking. I love backpacks****. Researching them, buying them, using them... Osprey makes great stuff, and if I could rationalize buying something that I already have a functional version of I would snap one of these up.

* too many mountain bike rides start off with ascents up uninspiring fire roads. No warm up, just start climbing up ugliness. When I rule the world...
** my current mindset is probably best summarized by 'don't break your neck and saddle your wife with a newborn and a paraplegic husband'. I'm thinking about getting a road ID or something similar. Things I would have sailed over a year ago give me much greater pause now, and I think the expanded family has something to do with it.
*** every time I try a new trail in Scotland I end up thrashing through heather/woods/thorns and swearing.
**** my love of buying backpacks is matched only by jackets. The more technical the better.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

some biking, some sad

The biking- biking has been going pretty well- still haven't gotten into a twice-a-week commute yet, but I've been getting out in the hills once a week to keep up appearances of training. I've given up tracking my times since I've started adding bits and pieces of trail to the ride depending on how much of a hurry I'm in, how nice the weather is, how good I'm feeling...

Last time I went mountain biking I decided to do some exploring and took a left instead of a right. I cruised down a fun singletrack/fireroad descent for a long time, starting to think that maybe I should have thought this out a little better. I saw what I thought was a return trail off to my right, and when I hit a fence I thrashed through some spiky plants and thistles to get over to it, only to find a stream with no trail on the other side. I crossed over and poked around a little, but nothing. All I ended up with was wet feet. Since I had to go back the same way I came down, I was a little down, but it turned out to be great. It's a mile and a half of steady uphill with some steeper sections, and it's at the right gradient that I can sit and spin/grind up it for most of the way. This is great- most of the hills on my usual loop require standing, swearing, and finally stopping and walking on a singlespeed. This one I can get in a groove, and it should be really good training for the race in September.

The sad- I read today that Susan, the fat cyclist's wife, died last night. It's a testament to the writing on that blog that I'm so crushed about this. Reading about his journey over the last year or so since I discovered his blog has been inspirational, and I hope he and his family find some peace in a tragic time.