Friday, January 29, 2010

Yetman - Robles Ride

With the local trails covered in semi-frozen slush, I headed to Tucson Mountain Park to thaw out. Enroute, I passed through gauzy fog between the Mustang and Whetstone Mountains. When I broke clear, near Sonoita, the mist over Mount Bruce was backlit by the rising sun:


I parked at the Camino de Oeste trailhead and pedaled south. No fog, no slush, no mud, just firm desert hardpack.

I had a GPS route derived from the "Rock n Road Challenge," but I still managed to get off course a few times. Fortunately, one of the other bikers I met on the trail gave me spot-on directions that took me to the Robles Pass trail system. Stopped to admire the view of my old friend, Cat Mountain.

Just as I was beginning to think that I might never find my way out of the rat maze of Robles trail, I met a couple more bikers who pointed the way. A short sojourn on Ajo and Kinney, then back onto the Yetman trail.


Yet again I got off-course, and was set straight by another pair of bikers. They pointed the way to the saddle that leads down to the parking lot at the base of Gates Pass. I gamely lurched my way up most of the rocky climb, but decided to take the easy way when I reached these steps.


When I hit pavement, the final obstacle was the steep climb over the pass. Here I lucked out; I had the road to myself all the way to the top. Once over, I was able to coast faster than the posted speed limit.

Trip stats: 21 miles, 2400' climbing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Playing Hooky in Brown Canyon

Snuck out of work this afternoon for a quick ride around Brown Canyon. The trail was sloppy, muddy and slushy, and I enjoyed every stolen second of it. Took an abysmal 8:34 from the mailboxes to the gate, but I was rendering a public service by moving half a ton of soil (in the form of mud caked on my knobbies) back uphill, thereby delaying the destruction by erosion of the Huachuca Mountains by a femtosecond of  geologic time.

Past the gate, I spotted bear tracks in the snow. I stopped to photograph them, then had a hell of a time getting going again. Slithered, slipped and slid more than rode the trail. Beyond the trough at the head of the canyon the slush gave way to mud, running water and trail subtly transformed by erosion. Embedded rocks stood out in relief. Loose rocks spalled from higher slopes dotted formerly smooth passages. I was forced to actually see my familiar trail; not necessarily a bad thing.

On the ride home I was plagued by weird noises, particularly a musical guitar-pick-in-the-spokes sound from the front wheel. Stopped a few times to fiddle until I found the problem: the front axle had shifted oh-so-slightly in the fork. Unclamping and reclamping the quick release eliminated the noise.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Morning Ride: Perimeter Practice Session

Returned to Perimeter trail this morning for some remedial work amongst the gardens of rock. I wasn't particularly systematic about it, just toiled up the rocky approach from the Carr Canyon trailhead and noodled around for a while, the idea being to dull my aversion to the nasty tire traps of the trail. I'm still experimenting with gearing. It's a dilemma: lower gears provide ready thrust for overcoming sticky spots, but higher gears let me steer with greater precision and confidence. It probably boils down to momentum. If I can pick a line far enough in advance to avoid slowing down on approach to an obstacle, I can stay in the higher gear that I prefer. Or I need to buy another bike, one with suspension. Nah. I'll figure this out.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Cooper Loop-de-Loop

Took another crack at the Cooper Loop today. Actually took two laps, trying to carve the details deep into my gray matter. Went pretty well. I posted Lap 1 on Everytrail:

Returning from my first lap on Perimeter Trail, I met a group of three women beginning their southward hike. On the second lap, I ran into them again; they were approaching Miller Canyon. When I returned to the Carr Canyon trailhead, there they were again. They had set up a shuttle, dropping a vehicle in Miller, then carpooling to Carr to begin the hike, and driving from Miller to Carr to close the loop. One of the hikers, Jan, got my email address to send me pix of my ride. Another hazard of mountain biking: Paparazzi! Jan kindly granted me permission to use her picture here, where no one will see it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Morning Ride: Not So Fast

7:47 on the Brown Canyon climb today, 34 seconds slower than last week. The difference? I switched from the slick Vulpines to the knobby Panaracers. Since both tires hook up well on the climb, the added weight and rolling resistance of the knobbies is all drag. Good to know.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Cooper Loop Ride

Reinstalled the knobbies and took the bike for a spin on the Cooper Loop, Sierra Vista's other famous trail. The rocky, 10-mile ride is more than I can knock out on Sunday morning between chores and lunch, so it has been on the back burner for far too long.

I plan to revisit the loop and avenge the various insults to my honor inflicted by Cooper's rock gardens. I took my time and tried to work through the obstacles, but I'll admit to dabbing early and often and sometimes coming to an awkward stop with one or both wheels chocked.

The unexpected highlight of the ride was the short trip down Miller Canyon from the end of Cooper trail to the head of Perimeter trail. South of trailhead parking is a path that at first appears to be a drainage but then becomes a fast, winding downhill  track through the woods alongside Miller Creek. I was having so much fun that I missed my exit--left at the water tank--and nearly ended up on the back porch of a ranch house.

On Perimeter trail, I passed a couple of other mountain bikers and their faithful German Sheperd, who, unlike the rest of us, was having no problem negotiating the obstacles. It's unworthy, but I was encouraged to hear the other guys cussing and grunting their way through the rocks. Maybe I'm only tied for the title of Most Inept on Mildly Technical Trails.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday Morning Ride: Slick Tires + Sticky Trail = Fast Climb

Best time yet on the Brown Canyon climb: 7:13, a ridiculous 32-second improvement. The snow and ice were gone, leaving the sandy trail surface hard as concrete, and I still had the Vulpine semi-slicks on the bike. They worked fine on the Pistol Hill segment of the AZ Trail, so I saw no reason to swap them out. I also decided to really pay attention to my gearing, and clicked back and forth between three and four throughout the climb. The combination of traction and tight power-matching made a huge difference.
  • Climb rate = 2826 feet/hour
  • Average speed = 7.48 mph