Saturday, March 30, 2019

Biking the Battle Road

So I decided that it would be a good idea to combine a play date with some exercise, so I took Bug and one of her friends for a mountain biking ride on the Battle Road in Minute Man National Park. The Battle Road is a wide, smooth trail with sloping hills. It is nothing that a rider in moderate shape on a halfway decent mountain bike cannot handle.
All three of us have better than decent rides; our rides can eat the Battle Road for a light snack. The girls are both in great shape; I can manage to walk up a flight of stairs without being winded.... This should have been a good work out for me and a fun outing for the girls.
The girls did have fun, but I didn't get much exercise. Our pace was not what I had hoped. The girls wanted to stop at every sign along the way or take water breaks. It was nice to stop and see the sights and have a relaxed afternoon, but I was really hoping for some speed.
At one stop, we saw a family with three young boys peddle past us on 16" bikes. One was on two wheels and was moving; the other two were trying to keep up on training wheels. It was super cute. They peddled back a few minutes later.
We saw a lot of dogs and families out walking, which also slowed us down a bit. I was very impressed with the girl's bicycle etiquette. They remembered to ring their bells to give pedestrians plenty of warning and then also told them on which side they were passing. They were better than some of the adult riders on the trail.
On the way back to the car, we did manage to keep a decent pace. The girls thought they saw a bee and peddled like bandits to keep away from it. I wasn't about to tell them that it was just a fly and that a bee would have given up minutes into the chase.
I definitely recommend the Battle Road for a fun afternoon of riding. Just don't get your hopes up for a workout. During the summer, some of the houses and other stops have staff to give tours and stage mock battles. It is cool to see, but also slows things down.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

50 not 15

For X-Mass Bug got an awesome new mountain bike. It is a 24" trail shredder that my trusty TriCross has no chance of keeping up with off road. Fortunately, I got a super sized REI dividend that put a reasonably capable trail shredder within reach.
I got Ghost Lano 29er with an SRAM 1x11 drive train and some 100mm travel shocks. I didn't spring for air shocks or top of the line drive train components, but I didn't really like the feel of the air shocks on the bikes I tried and research shows that the whole SRAM 1x line is pretty robust. Besides, all I really want to do is keep up with my kid on the trails.
I did try some 27.5 and 27.5+ bikes. The 27.5 bikes didn't wow me. The plus tires were fun, but I really didn't need the extra-float or the need to think about how much pressure to run.
Anyway, the first ride out the bike got dropped on the drive side and bent the derailleur. While sad, the fact that I didn't go high end made the repair cheap.
For the second ride out, I decided to take a short spin on the trails by our house. They are easy trails. I do always miss one crucial turn at the beginning. So, after missing the turn, I ended up going down a hill and into a branch that I thought my giant 29" tire should just roll over before I thought to slow down a little more. Next thing I know my ass is sailing over my head and I am laying in the mud with a bike on top of me....
I did a quick body scan and aside from a few new aches I appeared conscious and mostly functional. Then I checked the bike to make sure I wouldn't be slinking back into REI needing a second derailleur in as many weeks. The bike was OK as well.
Naturally, I did the smart thing and continued the ride.
It turns out that mountain biking on muddy trails is much more demanding than riding on dry pavement. I am also way more out of shape than I thought. My initial concern about the 1x drivetrain not having enough range was unfounded, the big ring provides plenty of granny for steep climbs - even when every other peddle is just a wheel spin in the mud.
The one branch of flipping was the only obstacle that gave me trouble. The rest of the trail obstacles were eaten up by the big tires and plush fork. When I needed to dodge a tree or rock, I had plenty of maneuverability. The 27.5 tires may have a little more agility, but I didn't miss it. The riding was exhilarating and exhausting.
There were moments when I could feel the rear end hopping around or slipping about. It was a little disconcerting, but I eventually adjusted and learned to control things.
About half way through my planned ride there was a road crossing. As I came down the gentle slope onto the pavement, I realized that I was never going to make the rest of the loop. My legs were jelly and my heart rate was in the red zone. So, I locked out the fork - you've gotta love remote fork lock outs - and headed home on easy paved roads.
When I limped into the house with a big gash on my leg, H kindly reminded me that I was 50 and not 15. I am going to be sore for a few days, but it was worth it. I cannot wait to get the bike out again.
The NX drivetrain may be "low end", but it shifted smoothly and precisely. It seems perfect for my needs at the moment and makes repairs less painful. The other nice feature of the SRAM components is that they are all compatible, so if I ever get back in shape (or magically become 15 again) I can swap out for higher end stuff.