North by Northeast


Worst Ride Ever
14 June, 2007, 10:46 pm
Filed under: bike

Atteneded the Thursday night weekly GBNEMBA social ride at the Fells tonight, and everything that could go wrong did.

It really started several hours before the ride, had a touch of hayfever, had a tasty lunch, but it didn’t really agree with me, so I let it go early. So when I got to the ride, I had minimal fuel on board. Ironically, the gas light in my car was also lit up. I also wouldn’t have time to grab anything and still make it to the ride before it left

When we finally got riding (a bit later than usual – maybe I could have grabbed a power bar) the first big downhill I hit one of the abundant, wickedly sharp, dagger-shaped rocks I got a massive pinch flat on my rear tire. I had the generous help of James, the sweeper, and a nice guy I’ve met before (I’m awful with names) who was the second man drop, who helped me speed up the change process. It was a good thing, too. In my pack I had two tubes: both for my wife’s Shraeder-valve rims. Mine use prestas. Mr. Second-Man drop generously offered me one of his tubes.

A few minutes later, with the help of some other, super-patient second-man-drops we caught back near to the group. Just in time to roll through some of the more technical sections of the mountain bike loop. I let some of the other guys go by because technical in a ‘got to climb over lots of uneven rocks’ sense is not my forte. The section is complicated by some young trees that line the rocky trail… and my bar is too wide for me. It tends to catch on–WHAP!!! Yup caught another. Of course, it happened to be on the section where the trail was very off camber, left to right, and I fell to the right, landed on my elbow–on the funny bone section– and my hip, kept rolling, and the bike followed me. James managed to pull my bike off of me and I got up and repaired my pride.

I walked for a little bit and then hopped backed on and caught back up to the group. But then the lack of fuel in the system caught up to me, and I bonked. Felt dizzy, nauseous. I told James, the ever patient sweep, that I was packing it in. The pack started to pull away and I needed to sit down. I pulled off my gear, sat down, put my head between my legs and fought the urge to hurl.

Five minutes later I get my second wind, and pulled myself together. I actually felt pretty good. I hopped on the bike and started pedaling. I realized at this point that I was as far from my car as possible. No problem. I had plenty of time to get there, could ride my own pace and could enjoy the peaceful forest.

Ten minutes father down the trail I was descending down another rocky section, wider, but with lots of loose stone, baby heads, and a handful of those daggers. Then lightning struck twice. I feel one of those daggers (that I was desperately trying to avoid, but there aren’t many great lines there) bounce off my rim, through my tire and tube. I knew at that moment.

Approximately two minutes later, I had climbed that multiple switchback section by the green water tower and South Border Road, and by the time I hit the crest the front is completely flat. I decide it’s time to see if my rims are truly drilled for only presta.

A couple riders go by and ask if I’m OK. I should have begged for a tube or a patch, because I’m gonna kill whoever thought it would be a cool idea to have prestas and Schraeders be different diameters. You are on my shit list. Of course, once I’ve definitely concluded that my rims will only accept a Presta valve, I don’t see another rider the entire night. In fact I didn’t see anyone. It’s the longest I’d ever been in the Fells and not seen another human. Figures.

Lucky for me, my frame still resembles the traditional diamond shape, so I can portage over my shoulder, and I appreciate the light weight of my pretty affordable Cannondale. Of course, I’m not too happy with their choice to place their cable routing on the bottom of the top tube, and especially unhappy that one of the cable stops was brazed on right next to the seat post–right where my shoulder needed to be. Ouch.

My Camelbak did I decent job padding the issue, but only good enough to use occasionally, like an uphill. I started the long walk. The long, lonely walk.

I had a map with me, and I determined the fastest route back to Flynn Rink. Most of it I was plenty familiar with. Continue with the loop, switch off Middle Road fireroad, than on to Brooks Road, then onto Cross Fells, cross the road and you’re almost home. Cross Fells quickly becomes a no-bikes trail on the other side of the road, so I follow the route I’m familiar with: Pickerel Path. It’s getting pretty dim at this point but the map tells me that the Cross Fells, the non-bike section that I’ll meet at the end of Pickerel Path, will take me right to the lot. So I decide to take that.

When I get to the marker, I look up, straight up. This of course was not going to be easy. Time to portage. I am a pretty experienced hiker, so I had the advantage of good balance on uneven and rocky terrain, and it’s just that, up and down very technical.

Five minutes of this, up a big hill and down and I spot a street light. I gain a boost of confidence, I am going to get out of here still able to see my hand in front of my face! I bound down to the road… to find its the street I crossed 10+ minutes ago. I had taken the Cross Fells in the wrong direction. Shit.

I decide to head back down Pickerel Path again, and when I get to the end, if I don’t see an obvious marker for the Cross Fells in the opposite direction that I took last time, that I’ll take the long way on the fire road. The road had the advantage of being next to the reservoir, so it was easier to see and I had ridden it many times in the past. The downside is that it added significant distance to the trek, since it paralleled the road for some distance before cutting over. I never seen the other side of the Cross Fells. It’s too dark to see any blazes and the trails I see are small and rough. And really dark.

Once I passed the water supply building, I could see and here the road the lot is on. I am close. I know there are trails that cross between the fire road and the street, and I know there’s a long fishing hole, too, that separated them.

I notice what looks like a fire road-width road cutting towards the road. I break with my pledge to stick with the trails I know. Dumb. The road quickly narrows down, and runs into that fishing pond. The good news is that there is a little bit of a trail along the shore. Time to put the bike back on the shoulder. The trail quickly deteriorated. It was clear it only existed because people with fishing poles and been there before me. I was wondering if I was going to encounter any fishermen, or anyone else for that matter. As many of you know, the Fells are known to be a little sketchy in parts.

The one thing that worked out lucky for me tonight was that I didn’t run into any sketchy people. I guess there was an upside to be entirely by myself.

Several minutes of near-bushwacking and one stream crossing later the trail terminated at the lot. The entirely empty and dark lot. It was 9pm.

I loaded that bike fast and glided on fumes to the gas station nearby (which also punished me by being 10¢/gallong more than my usual place… which I probably couldn’t have reached).

So learn from my misadventure. Feel good before riding (maybe bring some backup food). Make sure you have the right tubes in your pack. Make sure you have a patch kit in case you go through your tubes (or if you don’t have the right ones to begin with). Know the name of the guy to whom you owe a tube. Have your map. Maybe a flashlight. Cell phone in case none of the other prep, or luck, works out. Luckily I didn’t have to fall back on this.

Was it the worst ride ever? For me, yes. But so much more could have gone wrong, though (broken bones, etc.), I’m pretty lucky. I’ll keep telling myself that tomorrow when this elbow feels worse than it does now…

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