I woke up Saturday morning to the sound of raindrops on my tent. The weather forecast had said rain and thunderstorms so I was prepared for a nasty day. Since it was only sprinkling at the time I decided to get up and start getting ready. I shot a short “video diary” bit with my new camera:
The riders meeting was going to be at 8:00 and I wanted to be ready to go immediately after. I know I am not the fastest rider and I want to be sure I have plenty of time to do the full course. Around 7:30 I was putting my gear on in my tent when the thunder came. One nearby flash of lightning got me scurrying out of the tent and into the truck. Looking at the weather radar on my phone I could see that this was the tail end of the storm and it looked like it would clear up soon. There was still some drizzle during the riders meeting but the rest of the day actually ended up being very nice!
From this video you can see how the weather was starting to clear.
As soon as the meeting was over I was off and on the trail. I think I was the first one other than the pre-riders who had gone out earlier to check for any issues on the course. I could only see 2 tracks in the dirt. I had seen this first section of trail a couple months before when I was helping clear trails. It is an easy bit of trail with no real surprises but I still felt a little uneasy. With all the rain the trail was a little greasy which always takes me a few miles to get the feel of. I suppose that will come with practice. My goggles and glasses were fogging up pretty badly due to the dampness still in the air so I ended up riding most of the trails without the goggles and only used them on the road sections.
The first half of the route up until lunch was much easier trail than I had expected. This was nothing like the “Hoot Owl” ride that I did last month. It was actually quite a bit of fun and I was able to move along at good speed. Of course my “good speed” is relative. I still had a lot of riders pass me. I know I am not the fastest and it certainly isn’t a race so I always move over and let them by. As would be a trend for both days however I would usually find them taking a break at the next intersection and I would just keep going.
There were some rocky unmaintained roads (what we call class VI roads here in New Hampshrie) and a few had some tricky climbs and good sized ledges I needed to avoid. There were a couple of water crossings and on one the bike started to sputter a bit after. I pulled over and opend up the airbox and found it to be dry so I got back on and rode it for another half mile and the sputtering cleared up. I need to look closer but I am guessing that the vent line to the carb is picking up some water and needs to be routed to a higher spot. This is something that I MUST take care of before the Paris to Dacre as I am told there will be several long and deep water crossings.
I made it to the lunch stop by 10:30. I was really quite surprised at how quickly the ride was going but I had heard that it got a little trickier in the afternoon. There was one optional hero section just before the lunch stop but I skipped it as I wanted to save any hero sections for later in the day to make sure I had the time and energy to do the full course. I called Jane to let her know I was doing well. I had to brag a bit about how I had not crashed even once so far! On the Hoot Owl I had crashed 3 times and bent the bars in the first 5 miles so this most certainly was going better.
I had a quick lunch of a burger, hot dog, chips and a snickers bar, then cleaned my goggles and glasses and was off again. Since my long term goal is to do long distance endurance rallys like the Dakar I need to be efficient with my time so I should get used to doing that now. A few minutes saved on a lunch break can make up for a lot of speed (of course I need to get faster on the bike as well).
Mid afternoon things started to get more interesting. I was on a long twisty climb with some loose sand and felt I was doing fairly well when I lost traction on the rear and went down. This was 60 miles in or so and I had my first fall. I wanted to shoot a little video with my camera of the spot but I was kind of in the way of other riders and they of course were trying to keep momentum to get up the climb so I did the right thing and got going again. I then noticed that my mirror was swinging around loose, evidently the fall had loosened it up where it screws onto the handlebars. Sounds like another thing to check before the P2D, some locktite will help here. I got to a good stoppping point and just took it off. I was going to put it in my backpack but I hate having to take the backpack off with all my gear. Just about then another rider stopped and asked if I had a spare tube, he had been riding with a flat for the last several miles. I am always willing to help out another rider so I had him get the tube out of my backpack and put my loose mirror in the pack. He said he would bring me a new tube that evening. He had other buddies behind him on the climb and said he didn’t need help chaning the tire so I continued the climb.
At the top of the climb we were rewarded with an amazing view from the top of Caverly Mountain:
Several riders were taking a break there and I had planned on getting back on the bike right after the photo but just about then Austin (the guy with the flat) came up to me and said he thought one of his buddies had a pump to air up the tire but turns out they did not. Being the old boy scout I am I take the “Be Prepared” motto to heart and of course have a pump in my backpack. So, I hung out a little longer while Austin fixed his flat.
Once he had the tire aired up I said goodby and headed back down the mountain. He is a very fast rider (found out later that he does a lot of enduro and hare scramble races) and even with the head start I had while he was putting the wheel back on the bike he passed me well before I was down to the bottom again. As he told me later however a lot of that has to do with the fact that his bike is 100 pounds less than mine! I am seriously thinkin I need to get a lightweight KTM 2-stroke bike.
Just after Austin and his other KTM buddies passed me I started noticing a rattling from my bike and the exhaust was certainly louder than normal. I found a good spot to pull over and found the bolts holding the pipe to the head were way loose. Luckily I carry plenty of tools with me. I dug into my pack and found my handy Tusk multi-tool which has the allen wrenches I need for these bolts. Of course then I find that the short little tool won’t reach into where I need it. I tightened them as well as I could with the pliers on my leatherman and just decided I was probably going to have to re-tighten it again before the day was over. Surprisingly it was not a problem again for the whole weekend but this is still another thing I am going to have to double check before the P2D ride.
An hour later or so I hit what was probably the most difficult bit of the non-hero section of trail. It was a long climb with a lot of medium sized rocks. It is the kind of trail where you need momentum to get up the hill but going to fast you just get bounced around on all the rocks. It is exactly the kind of trail you DON”T want a heavy bike on! Shockingly I was actually catching up to a couple of riders on this climb. They were convinced they had accidentaly gone on the hero section (I didn’t want to dissapoint them with the news that this wasn’t a hero section). These guys were obviously tired from the long day and said they were probably going to bail and take the paved roads back. This was about 3/4 of the way through and I was still feeling pretty good.
The nasty climb reminded me once again that I wanted to shoot some video but as usualy on the good parts of the trail there was no good place to get out of the way and shoot. On the way back down (which wasn’t nearly as difficult) I found a good spot and figured I would shoot a bit.
At this point I was feeling a little smug that I had managed to go this far with only falling once. That of course was a mistake. I hit the section of trail that takes you to the start of the hero section of Whiteface Mountain. This was the ride I did with some of the other club member a couple months ago (see my earlier post Trail Ride with MVTR) and really wanted another shot at it. I was still on the easy ride up to where the trail starts and was feeling overly confident since I knew there was nothing tricky here. So, of course I speed up. Just then I managed to get cross rutted (front wheel and rear wheel in different ruts) and went down…. hard…. and tumbled. A quick mental check, anything hurting? No. Is it just shock hiding an actual injury? ….. no, don’t think so. I really am impresed at how well my gear protects me. It was well worth the money.
On the actual hero section up Whiteface I did drop the bike a couple more times but that was to be expected. I still dropped it much less than the first time I went up it and this time I didn’t do any damage to the bike. Most importantly I didn’t have any of those incidents where I came to a stop and just couldn’t find a place to put a foot down (that caused several drops last time). At the top of Whiteface I was rewarded with another excellent view.
I made it down safely with no more drops but this climb did take a lot out of me. I had a couple more drops on some of the non-hero trails before the end but I knew I was most of the way there at this point. It was about 3:00 so I knew I had plenty of time to get back to the start. In the last couple of miles there was a greasy muddy road wich felt exceptionally difficlut at the time but that was just me being tired. I just slowed down and took it easy.
Back at camp I surveyed the bike and found nothing broken, just muddy. Even the bolts on the exhaust were still in place and had not loosened again. I was tired but not injured.
I had heard that the Sunday route was much easier. Of course the weather might change that……
to be continued.