Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Ride: Stationary Bike (and Monkey Bars)

Cold, drizzly weather nixed my Sunday-morning bike ride, so I burned off breakfast on the stationary bike followed by a few sets on the monkey bars and dip station. Planning to post video of my monkey skills soon; in the meantime, a snap of my jungle gym:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bull Springs Trail (FR143) Recon

Just posted the tracklog of my bike recon of FR143 over at Everytrail. Parts of this trail are spectacularly fast, like the passage through Salero Ranch (pic), and parts are dismally slow, like the rocky stuff north of Alto. For purposes of the Santa Rita Showdown, north-to-south is probably the way to go.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Interesting Tracklog Site: Geoladders

Stumbled across this site: It combines the route/tour aspects of everytrail with an interesting virtual-race concept. Most of the content is in California, but there's a nice entry for Charouleau Gap.

Cool Tools for GPX files

I use GPSBabel for most GPS file conversion/downloading jobs, but I've recently started experimenting with a couple of web-hosted converters:
  • GPSVisualizer graphs data extracted from tracklogs; converts GPX, KML and text-format files; generates user-defined maps; generates coordinates from street addresses (and vice versa); and allows sketching directly on a map to generate GPX files of waypoints and routes. That last capability is way cool because it permits instant switching between USGS topos, Google terrain vectors, street maps, and aerial/satellite imagery. 
  • GPSies convert page accepts tracklogs (or lists of coordinates) and converts them to routes in a variety of formats. Its outstanding feature is the refined way it handles route simplification: Instead of just dropping waypoints, it apparently recalculates the shape of the path and sequentially numbers the newly generated points. GPSBabel's simplified routes have gaps in waypoint numbering (e.g., RPT046, RPT051, RPT053, RPT054, RPT060) that can be confusing on the trail.
Just this morning I dumped a tracklog from everytrail into the GPSies converter and created a much-simplified route, cutting a couple hundred trackpoints to just 30 route points. Superimposed 'em on the map and got a very satisfactory match. Nice. Just in time for my Bull Springs exploration.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Skill Session: Steep, Loose and Chunky

Took the mountain bike out to Brown Canyon to work on a section of the trail I usually avoid: the portion overlooking (SSW of) the old Barchas Ranch. Approaching from the trailhead, the trail divides into two paths that converge at the top, forming a squashed teardrop shape. Both are only medium-steep; it's the loose, rocky trail surface that makes them tough to climb. The usual full-suspension MTB technique would be to shift into a granny gear, stay on the seat and pedal smoothly. My D460 has neither suspension nor a granny ring, so that's out.

When I've previously attempted this kind of climb, I've usually stuck with my tried-and-true climbing method: middle gear, standing on the pedals. The problem is that even a momentary loss of traction kills my momentum and causes a stall. Once that happens, it's very difficult to get the bike moving again. I often just shrug and push it to the top.

Today, I experimented with lower gears and semi-seated pedaling. With the shifter at "1" (32T front, 33 rear) and a steady cadence I found I could clear the hill without much trouble. I experimented with various body positions and found a slightly out-of-the-seat crouch that suited me. Made about a dozen runs up the hill, tweaking my technique each time. After less than an hour, I felt I had gotten what I came for, so I quit while I was ahead--not tired, still improving. I'll return, maybe Sunday, for another round. If I can get really proficient at this, it'll cut considerable hike-a-bike off my longer explorations.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Morning Ride: Brown Canyon

Highlights: Despite a couple of minor bobbles, cut climbing time to 8:05, a 10-second improvement over last trip. Brought along the little Fuji F200EXR camera and shot a few pictures to add to the everytrail posting.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Carr Road to Reef Campground

Virus Watch. Maybe it's not as bad as the seasonal flu, but the H1N1 "swine" variety is nasty. Amy started showing symptoms on Tuesday and began taking Tamiflu on Wednesday morning. Despite the medication, which is supposed to ease/shorten the illness, she's had intermittent fever, joint aches, chills, shivers, painful swollen glands and wicked hangover-style headaches. Don't catch this bug.

With a wobbly patient at home, I put my original plan--a recon of the Bull Springs passage of the Santa Rita Showdown--on hold. Instead, I took a quick exercise ride on the D460 up the Carr Canyon road to the Reef campground. This ride is an almost-continuous climb of about 1900' in the space of less than 5 miles.

Early in the ride, I noticed that the Forest Service has already put up the 'icy road' signs, a reminder that the upper reaches of the road will soon be unfit to ride until spring.

The grade is fairly consistent, and most of the way I was standing on the pedals in 32x21 (fourth gear on the nine-speed drivetrain). If I'm careful not to get too frisky, I can maintain this pace all day long. My usual pattern is to take a quick breather and a drink of water at the John Cooper trailhead, which marks the halfway point in elevation gain. I felt strong enough this time to skip it, but I did hop off for a gulp of water after the final switchback, about the 4-mile mark. This shows on the everytrail graph as a dip in speed to 3mph, since I continued to push the bike while I drank.

I arrived at the Reef in 51 minutes and change--a 2-minute improvement over my previous best time. Not huge, but I'll take what I can get.

Got a kick out of this carving in a picnic table at the top:

Now, the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question is: Am I doomed to get the swine flu, too? If so, I suppose the picnic-table advice will come in handy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Morning Ride: Ramsey Intervals

Highlights: Cold morning, about 48° when I left the house around 9a.m. Took the road bike (D440, "City" tires) up to Ramsey Canyon to ride the rise from the Brown Canyon trailhead to the turnaround. Practiced standing climbs. Used middle gear (4) on steeper portions and went for a smooth, steady climb staying below aerobic threshold. Coasting back to the starting point is fun on the slick tires--hit 35+ mph without pedaling.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Picacho Geocache Maintenance

My previous best time up the Hunter Trail to the summit of Picacho Peak was 45 minutes, so I was pleased to see that I made it in 42 on today's hike. I had to haul a new ammo box up to replace Geocache GCC5D6, which had gone missing. Thought I might have really creamed the old record, because the GPS showed an elapsed time of 37 minutes, but I discovered I'd set the field to moving time rather than total. I squandered the extra five minutes in a futile effort to get a decent trail picture on a dreary day. E.g.:

While I was in the neighborhood, I dropped by my other Picacho cache, GCC5E1, which was intact but in need of a new logbook. I decided to repackage it in an ammo can, too. It's only a mile from the Sunset trailhead to the cache, but in contrast to the peak, it's slow going. Lots of slippery scree. There's a half-fast trail out that way, but it's not that much better than bushwhacking. At least I made the trip without pitching face-first into any of these guys:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sunday Morning Ride: Brown Canyon Trail

Sunday morning mountain bike ride:

Highlights: Ideal weather; decent climb (8:15) from the mailboxes to the gate at 5600'/0.8mi; rolled the rocky sections without once chocking the front wheel; and saw a man-woman pair of hunters carrying a small buck out of the woods.

Route Planning: "Santa Rita Showdown"

The Santa Rita Showdown mountain-bike challenge is intriguing: an 80-mile road/trail circumnavigation of the Santa Rita mountain range. The page displays a large-scale, low-detail map. I was able to fill in a small part of the course using the GPS tracklog from last week's ride on the AZ trail. Studying topos and scavenging tracklogs from, I've nailed down the rest. Starting in Patagonia and working counter-clockwise, the route looks like this:
  • Highway 82 northeast, leaving pavement at Hog Canyon
  • Hog Canyon northwest to Gardner Canyon
  • AZ Trail north to Box Canyon Road
  • West, then south to Madera Canyon
  • Elephant Head trail to Agua Caliente Canyon
  • Bull Springs trail to Patagonia
The original trio of riders completed the route in 13:18 total time, riding dark-to-dark on a cold January day. There don't appear to be any other takers. Hmm.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Gardner Canyon AZ Trail Loop

Best-laid plans. Enroute to Patagonia to ride the Harshaw loop, an oncoming gravel truck launched a rock into my windshield, spraying tiny shards of glass and startling the hell out of me. Rattled, I continued on to Sonoita, only to find that chip-sealing operations had narrowed highway 82 to alternating single-lane traffic (with a 20-minute delay), so I turned north to Gardner Canyon. Always wanted to ride the Arizona Trail north from Kentucky Camp anyhow.

Map your trip with EveryTrail

Route-finding was easy, thanks to the AZT stickers on the signs at every intersection. Still managed to miss the transition from Jeep trail to singletrack; the flub is visible as a little out-and-back excursion at the western end of my GPS track. 

Singletrack is not my specialty; I'm more of a dirt-roadie, but I did my best on the loose, rocky terrain. Dabbed a foot pretty often to avoid dabbing my head, and discovered a curious mechanism: the ass-kicking machine. On a steep descent I ended up stopped, straddling the bike. Front wheel was locked, but I was still slipping downhill. Every time I did so, the rear wheel would come off the ground, jabbing the nose of the seat into the small of my back. Happened about a dozen times in quick succession, forcing me to release the brakes, hop on and hope for the best. 

The last mile before Box Canyon Road was mostly smooth, punctuated with recently installed, nicely hoppable water bars. The short section of dirt road was badly corrugated, causing a dropped chain. Soon after, I was on pavement for a quick spin back to the Jeep. 

What I'm doing here. Geocaching has gotten me accustomed to keeping a diary of my weekly hikes and bike trips in the form of cache logs. As I've reduced my caching activity, I've started to miss the diarizing, so I've decided to mash together a blog with an everytrail account to take up the slack. Future entries will have more pictures!