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A settled nomad living on the edge of Appalachia. I love to listen to music, spend time with my family, and play sports. I'm lucky enough to write code for a living. I'm often accused of having no "filter" as I tend to overshare. I make beer on occasion and try to sample new beers whenever I can.$BillRawlinson

Biking Skills Demo

1 min read

So I thought I should show everyone how much better I've gotten at riding my Mountain Bike lately.

But, then I thought - "you wouldn't really enjoy watching me crash" - so I put this video of amazing Danny MacAskill doing his Trials riding in Scotland. He is bad ass. That tree-flip with a twist boggles my mind.


8 min read

When I started Mountain Biking about one year ago our favorite joke was that every good bike came with a hiker. Normally that's becuase you always encounter some obstacle or ascent you just can't ride and so you have to walk with your bike (or carry your bike) over the obstacle.

This past Saturday that line took on a whole new meaning.

For the first time in many months we decided to head out to Beach Fork State Park for our long ride. In general I like Beach Fork with the exception of all the roots and one big ass hill, The Mary Davis trail (a hill I always need to walk up at least part of).

It rained a little on Friday night so the trail was just a little wet but overall it was in great shape. The only downside to the trail being a little wet is the roots get super slippery. I'd like to say that wasn't a problem but then I'd be lying. However, they weren't my biggest problem so I guess that's a good thing.

The ride started off fairly well. I was navigating over some slick roots pretty well and I was feeling really good; then we started up the first incline of the day. It was only about 30 feet and it wasn't too steep yet, for some reason, my chain broke. Now, normally, losing all momentum wouldn't be that big of a deal but I started riding with these fancy clipless pedals last Wednesday. If you'll recall a bike isn't particuarly good at standing up alone if it isn't moving. When my chain broke my bike, understandably, stopped moving and I couldn't put my foot down instantly to catch myself so I toppled like a newly chopped tree. Fortunately the other 3 guys were still nearby so I was able to call them back for some help with chain repair.

Ed has a nice chain tool so I borrowed it and removed the damage links and then rerouted it through the derailleurs and struggled to close the chain up. Finally Ed stepped over and connected it just in time for me to realize I had wrapped the chain around the frame while I had fed it through the gear system. Embarassed I tried to deflect attention back to Ed and his mastery of the chain tool as he took the chain back apart and fixed my gaff. Within a minute or so the repair was complete and the bike was ready to go.

We all headed back out and about 3 minutes later Gilbert had a minor crash on a slick root so I rode past only to crash on another root about 100' later. I didn't think I hurt anything but later in the day I noticed my left hip was pretty tender. After this little spill I hopped back on my bike and continued on until i reached a bumpy little switchback that I had trouble navigating so I had to release my foot from the pedal to get control and turn around. While releasing my foot I slammed my knee into my handlebars which hurt like hell (this is a pretty bruised up knee already). Gilbert stopped and asked if I was alright and I assured him I was and that I'd be right behind him so he took off to catch up with Mike and Ed.

No more than 150' later I was on another incline and my chain broke again. I didn't crash this time but I also didn't have Ed's nifty tool or anyway to call the other guys back to me. They were all well past me at this point so I picked up my chain, tossed it in my backpack, and started hiking my bike.

Two or three miles later I caught up with others near the base of the Mary Davis hill. Ed quickly reassembled my chain and up we went. I actually managed to pedal about 80% of the hill (which was a nice surprise) but by the time we reached the top I was pretty gassed. After a too short break we headed out to go down a trail I'd never gone down before (that would bring us back to the bottom of the Mary Davis Hill). I actually did OK going down the hill and I managed to navigate over some obstacles the likes of which I've never ridden over before. The suspension on this new bike is amazing and it makes a lot of these obstacles far more manageable.

Unfortunately once we were at the bottom we had to go back up the Mary Davis hill. I started slowly and never really got any faster going up it. At one point my legs were getting really tired and I was on a fairly steep part of the hill. I tried to push through the section but eventually I lost all momentum. Remember my feet are attached to the pedals and I'm going up a very steep section of the hill. In fact I'm on the very far right edge of the trail - everything drops off on a really steep decline to the right of the trail. Because I'm stuck to the bike I tried to detach but couldn't so I tried to guide my fall to the back of the bike instead of to the right. However, I only half succeeded and I fell off the back right of the bike and tumbled off the path and down the hill about 15' until my lower back hit a tree and I stopped. I also managed to pull the muscle in my tricep just a little while I strained to stay on my bike as opposed to falling back down the trail. After a couple of seconds of climbing back up to my bike I resumed my ascent and eventually reached the top (where I fell over again).

Now, it may sound like I had a lot of trouble with the new pedals but, in actuality, I didn't. I successfully unclipped without incident a lot that day. It's just that when I didn't unclip successfully there is only one thing you can do and that's fall over.

Once we reached the top we rode a different trail (one I'm familiar with) until we reached the fork that took us to the "Lost Trail" I thought it was called that by Ed because almost nobody went on it but, in actuality, that's just the trails name as indicated by the sign at the bottom.

The trail was a lot of fun. It had some scary steep parts with bumpy drop offs but I rode over it all like I knew what I was doing. It was fantastic. I am really glad it came late in the ride because I always need the rest of the ride leading up to the tricky stuff to build up my confidence and this time it really paid off. I still had trouble with the uphill parts (my legs were wiped out) but I did really well on the downhill and it felt great. It was, I think, the trickiest downhill I've successfully ridden down and I didn't have any problems with it.

Once we were on the bottom of the lost trail we were actually back on the trail that we had started on so we had about 1.5 miles of slick roots to navigate before reaching the car. We headed up and within about 100' I had somehow broken the bead on my rear tire and flattened it. My rear tire is a tubeless tire. People run tubeless because it lets them ride at lower tire pressure without having to worry about pinch flats. The downside is it is pretty difficult to fix while you're on the trail unless you have a quick-inflate CO2 canister - I didn't. Thus, once again, I was walking my bike.

By this point my knee, my shoulder, my tricep, my lower back, and my ego were all pretty bruised and my bike had been broken three times! What a day. All in all it was the worst ride of my year (in terms of problems) and my best ride (in terms of downhill victory).

I'll be taking off next weekend to celebrate Lisa's birthday so hopefully my body can heal up a bit and I can get a new chain installed before our next trek!

My New Bike

7 min read

A couple of weeks ago Lisa came across a really nice bike on eBay that she thought I should bid on. I debated about it until the auction was almost closed becuase, quite frankly, I wasn't sure if I wanted to invest any serious money into a sport that I am so obviously bad at. Eventually the deal proved too tempting to pass up and I made an offer and won the auction. However, it seemed I was not going to get the bike becuase my offer was less than the sellers "reserve" price. Undeterred I emailed the seller directly and asked him to inform me if the bike was relisted as I would consider re-bidding. He responded and told me I could buy it for what my max bid was (well, that + $14 to round the numbers out). I accepted and within a week the bike was delivered to my office by our UPS driver.

The bike features an '08 Santa Cruz Superlight frame, an '08 Rock Shox Reba front fork, all sorts of Shimano XTR parts including hubs, shifters, Hyrdaulic disk brakes, and derailleurs, a Chris King headset, a Fox Float RP 23 rear shock, a Thomson seat post, Kenda navagel rear tire (running tubeless) and Mavic DT Swiss rims. Honestly, I barely know what all of that means so if, at this point, you are lost don't worry you aren't alone. The basics are this is all pretty high end stuff that passed the muster of my more knowledgeable and skilled friends.

my bike in my office

The bike arrived last Wednesday but we weren't going for our normal mid-week ride due to the bad weather so I had to wait until Saturday. Over the course of the next couple of days I managed to transfer my crappy nylon pedal's onto my highly tuned racing machine. It's was sort of like putting a Yugo Emblem on a Ferarr and I caught some nice crap from my friends for it - but I just don't have the necessary confidence for clip in peddals (more on those later).

On Saturday we hit up our normal trail but we went about it a little backwards and climbed the hill we normally ride down. Almost immediately I noticed some differences in the overall ride of the bike. The front shock, during the first 400 yards of the ride, saved me from going over my handle bars and the efficient shifters and gears that actually stay in gear made the climbs much, much, much easier. I also noticed I was able to make a turn I usually have trouble with thanks to the improved stopping power of my vastly superior brakes. I was feeling great. In fact I felt so great I was riding a bit more aggressively than I normally do which, when looking back with hindsight, may not have been the best idea.

One area I always walk through is a tricky rock garden and the surrounding trail that occurs about half way up to the top of the mountain. This time I decided I would try to ride through the surrounding trail and that I would just walk the garden. Unfortunately when going over a decently sized rock (about 12-18" tall) I steered poorly between the second two rocks and my front tire lodged into one of the neighboring large rocks. If you've ever ridden a bike or a skateboard before you can imagine what this did to me - I flew right over the handlebars. Fortunately I'm actually pretty adept at landing after that particular dismount so I didn't really get banged up at all and I was quickly back in the saddle and riding.

Later we approached a section of the trail that has been dubbed "Bills new Nemisis" becuase I typically won't even try to ride down it. I have ridden down it successfully once but most of the time I don't even bother. However, it was the first real bit of downhill for the day and I wanted to see what this full suspension bike was made of so I just dropped in and rode. Intially I did ok but I started to build up some speed which made me nervous so I used my rear brake to slow down. Then my back tire started to skid and I was hitting some big rocks kind of hard so I released the brake because, in my limited experience, it is easier to go over most of these things with a bit of speed. Unfortunately it can also be hard to steer when you're going over rocks and ruts while picking up speed and you don't have much confidence. One larger rock kicked my front tire to the left and started to point me off the trail towards a tree so I applied my back brake again so I could correct. Almost immediately the loose soil and my rear tire started to slide so I released and then tried to steer back to the right. However, the slipping I was already doing proved to be too much and my bike just slipped out from under me and I slid down the hill while still sitting in a normal riding position (just lying down).

My legs both hurt a little from the fall and slide but overall I felt OK considering I had avoided hitting the tree and I wasn't really hurt so I hopped back on the bike and finished the trail out to the road where we found Ed fixing a flat. When I passed up Ed to stop and help he noticed that my back tire looked a little funny so we investigated and quickly discovered that my rear rim was pretty badly bent. My ride for the day was officially over after 1.5 miles. It was pretty disheartening that I had just bought this expensive bike and immediately had to take it to the shop for repairs - I had never had to get my much cheaper bike fixed. My bike was still ride-able down the street to our car but not safe for trail riding so we headed to the car and then I went to the local bike shop to drop mine off for repairs. At this point I had been in possession of the bike for less than 3 days - that was on Saturday afternoon.

I just got the bike back from the shop (today is Friday). So, at this point, the repair shop has had nearly twice as much possession of my bike as I have. I can't afford to keep that trend alive so hopefully I don't break it again.

The only thing left to upgrade on the bike are the pedals. They really do suck. Even though they are textured because they are nylon they get pretty slick when they are muddy and I have a lot of trouble keeping my feet on the bike. Most mountain bikers use clip in pedals (STB, Egg-Beaters, or Time ATAC's) becuase they give you a better base on the bike, improve pedaling efficiency, and help you when you need to hop up the hill a bit. However, I'm a little nervous about the idea because you are locking your foot into the bike just like you do with your boots and ski bindings (practically the exact same mechanism really except it locks in at the ball of your foot instead of the heel and toe). I know that I need to overcome my fear on this issue so I have bought a pair of shoes and some Time ATAC Alium pedals that I will be installing on my old bike for a week so that I can practice getting started and locked in and, just as importantly, releasing when i need to. I figure after about a week I can transfer them to my new bike and I'll go out and try just the river trail and some other easy bits of up and down so that I can get comfortable enough with them that I can ride without being worried about my knee being destroyed when I crash.

I'll let you know how that goes.

Summer Fun - 2009 Edition

6 min read

The past few weeks have been fun-laden. So much so, in fact, it has been hard to find the time to even talk about all the stuff we have been doing. I think my last update had us returning from our Grand Canyon adventure and since then we've taken two more short trips and we've done a bunch of stuff right around the house.

Our first trip was to Johnson City Tennessee to visit some friends who used to live here in Huntington. Johnson City is about 4 hours drive to the south of us so we drove down there for the fourth of July weekend. We left here on Friday and then drove home on Sunday afternoon (the day Federer managed to pull of the huge Wimbledon win against Roddick). While we were down in Johnson City we visited a couple neighboring towns and, all-in-all, we really had a nice time. Lisa and Sarah went to a healthy food store and Lisa picked up a nice Rain Barrel at a pretty good price even after the exorbitant 9% sales tax.

We also managed to see two separate fireworks shows which the girls really enjoyed (plus a third on Sunday night after we got home). The first fireworks show was in a small neighboring town called Jonesborough Tenn. Jonesborough was really pretty cool for such a small little place. It was setup to be very friendly for people to walk around while at the same time they had really embraced their old architecture and have even become a bit of a tourist destination thanks to their Storytelling Festival each October. Main street Jonesborough was exactly what Disney is trying to capture with their "Main Street USA" but far more authentic. The whole town just had a really cool laid back vibe to it.

The second show was from the back yard of Sarah and Dean. They live pretty close to a school and the city puts on a big show from the schools football field so we could sit on the back deck and watch the fireworks go off. It was nice that the two shows we saw down there were scheduled for different nights so it was easy to see both of them. The kids had a great time not only watching fireworks but also playing with Sarah and Dean's two kids who are very similar in age to Shannon and Emily. Overall it was a really nice visit and, considering how close they are, I can't imagine it will be too long before we coordinate for another visit.

Our next trip was to Kings Island and we did that about 10 days ago. We drove up Friday night after work (to Cincinnati) and stayed in Blue Ash (near the park) and then spent all day Saturday at Kings Island. Shannon wasn't too willing to venture into any new rides but she had a blast on the rides she did go on. The one new ride we managed to get both girls to go on was the Scrambler which has always been one of my favorite rides. We were going to drive home Saturday night but we ended up staying at the park until 10+pm to watch fireworks again so we eneded up getting a room at the last minute at a Country Inns and Suites. Lisa and Shannon had a late nite dinner at the waffle house (which Shannon loved) while Emily and I hit the hay. The next morning before heading out Shannon and I used the hotels pool and whirlpool for a bit (which Shannon loved) and then we hit the road and made it back in time for our Kickball game.

Speaking of Kickball - my team is kicking ass right now. We finished the first half of the season at 2-2. We were beaten in one game and in the second loss we had to forfeit because not enough of our female players made it to the game that day (we have to have four present out of our 9). So far in the second half of the season we are 2-0 and we are in sole possession of first place. In that first game (after the Kings Island trip) we played pretty well and scored enough runs in the first inning to seal the victory (there are five innings in a game). This past weekend we had to play the other team that won in week 5; The Cabell Comprehensive Kickballers. They were considered by most to be the favorite going in even though we beat them in the first half of the season becuase they had been scoring so many runs. Well, we won again - this time 9-3. It was our best offensive performance of the season and we played fantastically. Joe kicked 2 homeruns, Ed booted in another, Mike had a triple, we had a few doubles - all in all it was great. I had a single and what should have been a triple but I was waved in on the triple and so I headed home. I had to dive to try and beat the throw but the guys throw was true and he got me in the stomach as I dove so I was thrown out at home. Fortunately, I at least drove in a run but had I scored we would have hit double digits which would have been cool. Only the Kickballers have scored double digits this season.

Along with kickball I've been mountain biking a bit and I've been doing pretty well; I think landing on my head has made me a better rider. While three weeks ago our entire ride kind of sucked (I was all out of sorts, Mike had 3 flats, and Sean had a flat) the past two weeks have been my best efforts yet. Two weeks ago Ed set a really stiff pace for us but I managed to keep up (sortof) and I didn't have to take any extra breaks to do so. Plus, my climbing and obstacle handling was much better than it had been in the past. Then, last week, while I started off a little shaky I picked it up a lot as the ride went by and I managed to navigate through some tricky parts I've not been able to ride before. Usually I end up hitting a root or a rock or something that causes me to stop and then i have to walk. Instead, this time, I managed to ride through it all. I was pretty stoked about it. Sadly, our friend Jason, who was on his first ride in quite a while, ended the ride off by crashing and hurting his ribs. Hopefully he heals up fairly quickly so he can get back out with us again.

I think, at this point, our busy summer is just about to finish and we can settle down and get some stuff done around the house. School starts pretty soon and Emily begins Kindergarten while Shannon enters third grade - it should be an exciting enough time without us going out any more. I know I have a ton of chores to take care of

Upside Down You're Turning Me

5 min read

This past weekend was a long planned Mountain Biking trip to Mount Wood State Park in northern West Virginia (near Parkersburgh). Typically we just ride some local trails so it was pretty exciting to be going about 2 hours out to hit some totally new single track. I woke up pretty early (7am) on Saturday because I couldn't remember what time I was picking Ed up at (9am). Since I was up so early I went to Walmart to get a spare tube and then came back home and had some oatmeal, loaded up the car, and then drove over to Eds. I was still there half an hour early.

At Eds house we filled up our water packs (my house was under a water boil advisory due to a water main break). And then we headed to route 2 to meet up with the other car for the drive up at around 9:30. The drive took 2 hours and then, once everyone was ready to go it was just about noon. At this point I really should have had a snack of some sort but I wasn't hungry and nor was I thinking about food. This was my first mistake of the day.

We started the ride from Mike's mom's house which is in an awesome location about 200 feet from the trail head. We jumped in and started a great ride of short descents and short climbs. The one constant of the days ride is there would be no time spent on flat terrain. Mike has a cool GPS unit and he uploaded the course we rode so you can see all the cool details. The bottom of the page has four tabs (they are really faded so its hard to tell they do anything) but the elevation tab does work and it will show you how the course bounced up and down. It was a ton of fun to ride though I'm not sure I was fully ready for 16 miles of it.

At about the seven mile marker we came out into a place called the Savannah and a really cool, but slightly overgrown, obstacle course was waiting for us. It had neat rails you could try to ride on, a teeter totter, and a long ramped jump. The approaches to many of the parts was really overgrown but we still managed to try a few of the things. I successfully rode onto one of the small rails but had to bail before reaching the second. Ed conquered the teeter-totter and then we each took a try at the jump.

Ed Jumping

This first photo is of Ed making the jump look pretty easy. None of us got very much air but I think Ed may have gotten the most. He also rode down the jump very slowly and amazed me by nothing flipping his bike in the process.

Mike Jumping

Mike made the jump too. He didn't get as much air as I expected but he still did a good job. He also rode slowly over the jump and surprised himself by not flipping his bike.

Gilbert followed and landed a nice jump as well.

Gilbert Jumping

This photo of Gilbert is great. I like this head on angle becuase it makes the jump look a bit more impressive. Though, honestly, I'm not sure anyone's jump was as impressive as mine.

Bill Crashing

I had neither sufficient speed to make the jump nor sufficient upper-body strength to save it at the last minute. Nor did I have the technical skills necessary to ride slowly over the jump without flipping so I flipped. Hard. I landed pretty squarely on my head and broke my helmet in three places. I also bruised my face, shoulder, and knee a bit. Thankfully, that was all. The rest of me was OK - my bike wasn't even damaged. Needless to say I think I'll leave off jumping for a while. (This was my second mistake of the day for those counting.)

After this tumble the other three played around a little more then we resumed our trek around the park.

At the 9 mile marker I was starting to feel pretty worn out and Mike offered me a chance to bail and return to his house. I declined (mistake #3) and kept on riding. By the 11 mile marker I was exhausted. My legs were like jelly and I was hiking my bike more and more often. Steering becomes pretty difficult as you fatigue but amazingly I didn't crash again that day but I sure did come close a few times. At one point I was going so slow I just told the others to keep riding and to put stick arrows at any intersection that I might need directions at.

Near the very end of the ride I was getting a bit of a twentieth wind and I managed to ride for the last mile or so without having to hike but boy was I tired at the end!

Once at Mike's house we all cleaned up and then headed out for some grub at Wendy's. I knocked back a half-pound burger and a chili and Dr. Pepper. I also finished off my big Gatorade bottle that I had started before the ride. My total dietary intake for the day was 2077 calories. It wasn't enough - not by a long shot. If you noticed on Mike's Garmin page his computer estimated we burned exactly 2077 calories during the ride. I was at a net of 0 by the time I had eaten at Wendy's - after the ride. Next time I will not only eat a small snack before we start but I'll bring some granola bars or something to eat on the trail.

Even with my crash and my exhaustion I had a great time. The trails were great and the other three guys were pretty patient with my slow pace. I'd definitely return to Mt Wood for another ride.

Mountain Biking With The Cows

5 min read

This past Saturday my buddy Mike and I hit the trails on three farms that are owned either by his uncle, his father in-law, or the father-in-law's uncle. Thus we had 100+ acres to explore though, obviously, they weren't all ridable. We started out crossing a cowpen that reeked of cow life and then we climbed a fence to begin our actual ride. The cows lined up in anxious excitement to see what the hell we were about to do on our two wheeled contraptions. One was so excited she jumped up on another and shoved her out of the way to get a better view. Once the cow frackus was settled down we began our first ascent.

It sucked.

That first hill was long and steep and very bumpy (from cow-hooves) and the soil was really loose. It was a real pain in the ass to ride up. I lost all momentum a couple times and getting restarted was no fun either. However, eventually I caught up with Mike at the top and we cross a bit of flat ground before having to go up again (and again, and again). All of our trails on his uncle's property are actually "cow-trails" that are used when the cows move from one pasture to another. Needless to say they weren't in the smoothest condition; a herd of cows, even a small one, can really tear up a trail. We were able to avoid riding where the cows walk at times but when we did we were hugging a tall barbed-wire fence on one side with trees looming in on the other. At one point I was ducking down to get under a branch, hit a rock and slammed my helmet up into an overhanging branch. It was, by far, a better alternate to losing control and getting caught up in the barbed-wire.

Eventually, as we rode, we encountered a second herd of cattle. They actually found us first when we had stopped to rest. Cows started popping their heads around some trees to see what the commotion was. Once they realized it was us they cautiously approached getting to within 50 feet of us before we were ready to start up again. They lined up timidly watching us mount our bikes and then, when we began to peddle in their direction, they freaked out, pivoted poorly, and tried to run for their lives. I felt like a cowboy on the range until my bike got bogged down in some thick mud forcing me to put a foot down and releasing a noxious cloud of cow urine scent from the earth. My shoe was coated in a questionable "mud" substance which was probably closer to a dirt, piss, and manure cocktail. It was nasty and we still had about an hour and a half of riding ahead of us and the temperature was rising.

After crossing through a few more gates as we switched property and finally finding some descents we reached Mike's father-in-laws farm which was timely because Mike was having some technical difficultlies with his bike so we rode down to their house and barn so he could see to repairs. While I waited I checked out their barn of death that was loaded with at least 20 sets of deer antlers and 2 stuffed deer that had not survived their post taxidermy experience very well. Once Mike was done with the repairs we saddled up and began the climb back up the hillside toward a different cow-trail which would connect us with the final pathway back to Mike's uncles farm. While riding on it, through the woods, we scouted out a few areas where we could clear for some new trails and a pump track. While we explored we also found a stockpile of cow skulls which we can only assume were dumped there after past cows had died on the farm.

Finally we began our final descent down a pretty steep (but not difficult) path that had some ruts carved out across them to help with drainage. Unfortuantely I misjudged one of them and my front tire sank down to the spoke level in one of them and I ended up doing a nose-wheelie that turned and then dumped me off so that I slammed downhill flat onto my back. It didn't hurt too badly but my left hip and right shoulder were both feeling pretty rough. Once I reached the bottom (back at the Uncle's farm) I tried to stretch out my hip but it caused a wicked cramp to develop so I decided to hold off on that. I was pretty sure I'd have a bad limp on Sunday but, amazingly, my hip wasn't bothering me at all the next day. Sadly, my right shoulder is still pretty tight though it is loosening up. I have all week to recover I think because it is going to be raining until Friday.

The worst part of the crash was that I had made it over some more difficult terrain during the day without incident and I could actually see my car from where I crashed. I was so close to finishing and I thought I was taking the best path through the ravine but it turned out to be extremely wet and soft. Oh well, lesson learned I guess.

For your amusement I figured I'd let you see what people who are good at Mt Biking do.

This isn't the best quality but the better quality version is at broad band sports but it has a commercial at the start.

Mountain Biking Blooper

2 min read

This past weekend we had a great ride on, what is for us, a new trail - the Kanawha Trace trail. Technically speaking I've ridden a small portion of it before but the vast majority of this trail was very new to me. Four of us went out: Ed, Mike, Gilbert and I. Ed acted as our guide and leader because not only is he better at this sport than we are but he has also ridden this trail a bunch of times already. There were some serious uphills on this trail that basically left us all hiking our bikes but, for the most part, I found the ride to be both exhilarating and exhausting. At points my legs were just wasted with fatigue but it felt great to push myself harder than I have in the past and to know that I'm getting stronger and that my endurance is improving.

At one point we encountered a small downhill that had a log (about 6-12" in diameter) across the path so Mike got out his camera to film us crossing it. I go first in the video and Mike is filming. Ed had already gone ahead. While I don't want to specifically name the other person in the video I'm sure you can do the math.

If you watch the movie again you'll notice I almost make the same mistake; my back tire pops up in the air and stays there for a moment as I ride away. Had my weight been shifted any further forward I would, undoubtedly, have crashed with less recovery. I did crash a few times on this ride mostly while going uphill and trying to navigate a switch back but, thankfully, mike didn't have the camera out for those. Here's a video of Mike crossing the same log.

Some day I hope to have a helmet mounted camera so I can show you what it's like on the trail. I have one on my wishlist but it is pretty pricey so I'm going to keep looking until I can find a more affordable option.

Mountain Biking Upgrade

3 min read

This past Wednesday my friends and I went riding. I had, I think, my strongest ride yet. My legs were feeling pretty good and I made it up all the tough climbs without having to walk. However, I had a series of problems that I think I am going to have to address sooner rather than later.

The first problem was my shoes. The conditions were a little damp and my soles got slick. Even though I've been riding in slush and ice and snow all winter this was the first week where I had a lot of problems keeping my feet on the pedals. This difficulty caused me to crash at one point while going down a particularly tricky descent (with some stairs dug into the side of the hill). I landed softly but the briers really cut me up. Thus, I'm considering buying some mountain biking shoes and new pedals. You may wonder why I haven't done this before and the answer is simple - freedom.

Mountain biking shoes and pedals means my feet will be locked into the bike when I'm riding. I'm a bit nervous about how that means I won't be able to throw my leg out real fast to save myself when necessary.

The second problem my bike has is that my chain has trouble staying in gear. When I pedaling hard uphill the bike slips in and out of gear and I lose a lot of momentum which makes me work a lot harder to climb. If I'm on a really tricky single track trail this slip usually causes my bike to come to a complete stop and I'm forced to hike my bike until the next bit of level ground. This also causes my feet to fall of the pedals and the pedal to swing wildly around and to slam, viciously, into my shin which hurts like hell.

On Monday I'm going to be taking my bike in to have the cables on it replaced which may help the bike with shifting problems. I also have to get a new crank assembly (the toothy gears near the pedals) because my center gear is pretty worn out and I can't replace just one with my setup because the three are riveted together. Whatever I replace it with will have a bolt system but it will cost at least $50.

The shoe/pedal upgrade is going to cost me at least $100. I think it is going to be closer to $150 since the shoes I found are well reviewed but cost $80 and the pedals are another $65.

As nervous as I am about the pedal idea I think, in the long run, it will be safer and far better for my rides in general just considering the better energy transfer I'll get while pedaling.

In the future my next big upgrade will be wheels and brakes - I'll be getting disc brakes so I'm probably looking a couple hundred dollars of expense when I make that move - so it may be many months away even though I'd really like the better brakes. I would get the brakes now but I have to buy different wheels that will actually work with the brakes and that inflates the expense.

The companies that sell this gear must make a mint - its a more expensive sport, in terms of gear, than golfing!

Hybrid Biking and a New Park

3 min read

Today Mike and I decided to try out the trails at Ritter park. We live about 4 miles from the park so we rode the streets up there, then found the trail, and dove right in. I'm not sure if we missed a big chunk of the available trails or not but we didn't see many there. The first one we found was behind the indoor tennis bubble. It was a fairly gradual climb to the top but then we basically just came right back down the same trail. There were a variety of small side trails that seemed to just run parallel to the one we were on so I'm not sure if that was all there was or if we were missing something.

After we got back down to the bubble we headed down the length of the park to a metal bridge than spanned the creek near west 2nd street. Once over the bridge we found a trail that ran along the bottom of the hill and that was quite muddy. We followed it a way, navigating through automobile tracks and dumped trash for a bit, until we came out near Safety Town on the far side of the west end.

The trail ended, specifically, on Harvey Road which, as we looked to the left, led you into Harveytown. Neither of us had ever heard of Harveytown so I suggested we ride in and see what it was. It turns out Harveytown is this oddly rural little section of Huntington. There wasn't a whole lot over there considering it was wedged between the huge hill in Ritter Park and the I-64 freeway. However, as we crested a small hill near a Radio Museum we found a great little park that was done in a barn yard theme. There was a nice new playground thing with 3 slides and plenty of poles and platforms to climb on. There we also normal swings, infant swings, and one huge swing that four people could sit on together. The final bit was a sand box that was designed like a pig pen. In fact, in the pen there were 4 or 5 sculpted pigs. There was also a nice pavilion with picnic tables. Overall it was a great little park.

After we checked out the park we kept on riding and then climbed a pretty step street over the big hill in Ritter Park and then enjoyed the coast back down into the city. The ride down the hill was great except that I was hit in my right eye by a chunk of mud that my front tire shed. Once we reached the city streets we navigated our way back to our homes and parted company. Total trip was about 15.7 miles.

We didn't do nearly as much hard riding as we normally due thanks to the streets but 15.7 was still my longest ride and, a bit later, while at the grocery store, my legs started to seize up a little bit. I took a few minutes to stretch them out and it helped a lot.

It's too bad we didn't see more trails at Ritter but at least we got out and rode; plus it was a nice change of pace from our typical rides in Barboursville.

Spring = More Mountain Biking

4 min read

Ahh, the fresh air, the warm weather, and - best of all - the increased day light after work adds up to an additional day each week where my friends and I will be riding. Until the waning hours of fall approach we will be riding on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Most of the time we are still riding at Barboursville park because we generally like the trails there. However, I think we will try a few other places as well - including, perhaps a weekend trip to some remote part of the state later in the year.

While I haven't been blogging about it I have still been riding these past few weeks and, this past weekend, the weather couldn't have been better. It was a nice and dry day, no humidity at all, and the thermometer was stuck in the mid 70's. It was gorgeous. Mike, Gilbert, and I headed out to the park but we were running late so we missed riding with Ed. Once we did start, however, we didn't take any prisoners and we attacked the mountain more aggressively than we have before. We went up our normal starting ascent and then circled down and around the mountain back to our starting point. From there we headed back up and followed the "trail of doom" down all the way to the bottom, through "green rocks" and over to the river trail.

At this point we haven't gone much further than we usually do before reaching the bottom but we have changed altitude a lot more thanks to the extra initial ascent and we have ridden much harder going down than normal. I'm not sure exactly what happened but I developed horrible, horrible, horrible heart burn on the way down so I decided that instead of taking the river trail with Mike and Gilber that I would just coast along on the road and meet them back at the top. As I peddled away from them I decided that instead I would follow the road to where they come out of the river trail and join them on the difficult "Devil's Hollow" ascent. Taking the road, it turns out, is a bit faster than the river trail and, undoubtedly, a bit shorter as well. I waited for a bit at the foot of the ascent and then decided to just push on without them. I took my time because every time I started to really push myself the heartburn kicked back in. After one of my many breaks I saw Mike and Gilbert had begun the climb so I finished up and waited for them. After we were all at the top we split up again as they wanted to go down a semi-difficult deer trail, follow the river again, and then go back up the road. I knew my chest wasn't having any of that so I decided to work my way back towards the car.

Of course, my plans change as I ride and I saw a hill that I have never managed to climb before so I made a go at it. I got a bit further but still couldn't complete the climb in the saddle and I had to walk my bike on the upper half. Once up there my heart burn was miserable so I just took it easy and rode on some flat ground until I saw a fun looking descent trail that I hadn't ridden before. It ended in a dead end as a huge tree covered the foot of the trail so I had to blaze my own path until i came across a grassy hill that I was able to ride down to reach a gravel access road. I then took the access road around a bit and up again until I reached the parking lot we started at.

Overall I think I rode about 9 miles. Mike and Gilbert rode about 12; Mike probably rode about 1/2 mile more than Gilbert because Gilbert ran out of water and wasn't feeling too good near the end of their second river trail ride.

One cool part of this ride was that Mike brought his camera and we took some pictures before a short, but very steep, descent. Even though the photos are cool I'm not sure they do justice to the apparent steepness when you are riding down. Hopefully we will continue to take photos and, as we do, I'll stick some more up in this album to share. For the meantime here are three of me as I progress down the descent.