Battenkill—Sometimes you get to be part of something great

The road

We were going slowly. Seriously slowly. So slowly that folks that started long after us passed us before long. So slowly that The Sweep could’ve been our personal team car. Jenni was *not* feeling well, and it showed. Yes, she was happy to be there (as was I) but she could muster none of what I’ve come to know as Jenni’s riding style. Normally she has a unique blend of pushing her own limits and knowing when to enjoy her surroundings. It’s one of the things that makes it fun to ride with her. Today she had nothing; her heart was racing. We knew that going in (that she’d been struggling with her heart), but what we didn’t know is exactly how hard the course was, the other variables that go into a ride, and how she’d be feeling this day.

We loped along by ourselves enjoying the scenery—which is quite spectacular. Hills, rolling farm land, horses, cows (The Belted Galloway or the Dutch Belted, also known as “Panda cows”), goats, dogs, roosters, chickens, fields waking up from a winter’s sleep, coniferous forest, and lots of pleasant folks doing chores. We inched our way up the super steep inclines, bombed the downhills, and settled into our own, personal, groupetto.

The dirt

A huge part of what made the day possible was Wil. He came along and drove the course with us giving us the near equivalent of a team car. He didn’t literally drive right behind us, but he was never too far, and it made it easier to ditch bottles, have nourishment with us — in fact we never made to an “open” feed station. Wil, team car captain, map in handThey had essentially packed up each time before we got there. A special thank you to him for devoting his entire day (driving 3 hours up there, then the 62+ miles of the course, at bike speed essentially, and then driving back for 3 more hours).

My part in this little saga was that I pulled and pulled and pulled through a metric ton of headwind. As I said earlier, Jenni was not feeling well. So I got out in front, and stayed there, boring a hole in the wind. As a tickling annoyance Ivan said that when we hit that stretch there’d be a tailwind, complete with a “let’s see, the wind is coming from thataway, and you’ll be turning thisaway so it’ll be a tailwind, which is good because that stretch is flat and boring”. Yeah, OK. Whatever. Jenni commented later that she didn’t notice the headwinds. That put a proud smirk on my face. (As an added bonus, when you look at the elevation chart, find the flat section… I’m still looking for it). I did make a bad choice of saddle on the day, and from about mile 1.5 a saddle sore got more and more painful. All the seated climbing, the pace, etc. helped annoy it until at mile 40ish I decided I was not having fun anymore. I wasn’t cooked or anything, but every stroke hurt, and the pain had grown wearying. But that’s when it got interesting. (Further proof that I wasn’t cooked—I’m not sore today at all. No weak legs. None of the symptoms of “blasted” that I’ve experienced before.)

Lonely looking, ain't I?

Moi, passing the same farm

Jenni passing a farm

Jenni’s insides had started to awaken. She was feeling like she could finish the route. She had clawed her way up the first two steeps and there was one more left, and she was determined to finish now that she was feeling better. So while I drank chocolate milk and climbed into the car, she continued on. Naturally, the first thing she did was ride off the course. It was classic. So we turned around and made sure she was back, and then moved up the road a bit.

Jenni's epic

Considering how she had ridden all day, I kept telling Wil to stop and wait, which naturally annoyed Jenni, so after her “suggesting” otherwise we switched to 5 mile intervals… she climbed up and over the hill that most folks complained about which was a looser sort of gravel than the previous stuff. I was thinking about the road conditions as we drove it but my choco-delirium prevented me from acting. I should’ve gotten out and made sure she was riding this collection of marbles well. The Moots was sporting relatively fat 27c tires which would have made it easier for me, but the plan was to meet her just ahead. We pulled over shortly, I got out, climbed back on my bike and rolled back down a short section to meet her on the last section of the loose gravel.

She arrived shortly, cussing about the climb and the decent, picking her way carefully over the tumbling gravel. Once we reached the pavement I could tell that she had ridden herself back. She was tired and flushed looking, but she was riding like herself. And as we completed the last 5 or so miles together I realized how magnificent a ride I had witnessed.

Dead tractor farm

A lot is written about suffering on a bike, and there’s as many types of that as there are riders and roads. But this road was tough. As tough a ride as you could want. 18% grades on gravel roads (at least, that’s the number I saw swimming before my eyes), stair step climbs that mess with your head, and steep climbs with loose gravel combined with a unique relentlessness. And being so far off the back that the desk called wondering whether we had ‘forgotten to check in when we “left the course” since they were closing up’ gives you some idea of where we were at all day long. But it didn’t matter. She was determined to finish what she started that morning, and did so with no lesser glory for the empty lot that greeted us.

It was as magnificent a ride as any I’ve taken part in. My not finishing was not a big deal to me, those 17 miles didn’t represent my goal for the day except most peripherally. Jenni made the Battenkill Preview Ride 2010 a monument to the strength, beauty, and grace that makes cycling so incredible (and yet still a literal pain in my ass).

The ride is great, the volunteers, sweepers etc, were all genuine, concerned, and helpful. The course map sucked, and the placement of things like the first feed station was off by some significant mileage. I had hoped that more “folks” would be there for the ride, but it was really mostly racers who were previewing the course for the races, and so there was a lot of team kit, ass checking, bike checking and the like. Would I do it again? Sure. But I got what I wanted out of this ride and lots more, and there’s lots of other rides to take on… so who knows. But it would be fun to go again.

Check out Jenni’s ride report for more pictures and her own elation. Chapeau to the Cardiac Kid. That was brilliant!

Not shown: The home stretch 5 miles…

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Here’s the elevation of the first 40ish miles of the route.

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“You are my hero” said the cop

So I’ve got Battenkill in a week, and I have very few miles in my legs. Getting out today was imperative. The problem was the crazy huge rain storm we’ve been experiencing. High winds, pouring rain, lightning, thunder, flooding from both the rain on top of the snow melt and saturated ground. It’s quite biblical overall.

But there’s gonna be a lot of riding to do next week and taking two weeks off seemed like the wrong approach. I prepped last night, getting crud catcher and fender in place. I made sure there was a rear light and that headlamps were charged. I found clothes that seemed like they’d keep me warm and somewhat dry.

In what appeared to be a break in the weather I set out on the Moots. The break lasted about five minutes. But no matter, I was prepared (Ha! That was my attempt at foreshadowing). I headed off toward Harriman for the some climbing, and things were going well until the road turns toward the foothills. There’s a car parked on the side of the road, and someone standing in the middle of the road taking pictures. And the road was a mess of gravel based “sand bars” left from the flooding. I slowed and picked and my way through. And just when I thought things were cool I see the “river” that now has reclaimed the road. I looked for a shallow spot, and didn’t find much. I dismounted, found the best section I could and stepped. I got only half a boot full of water. I was thinking that I was under prepped for today’s ride at that point…

At least it wasn’t freezing out, so I shook it off and pedaled off to start the climbing. Things were good for a while and I enjoyed the lower gearing this bike provides. Some of the tributaries were class five rapids but they’re well drained and the mountain side is steep, so all was well with the roads at this point. I climbed up and over the hill, and felt like absolute crud. After cresting, things loosened up a tad, but not a lot. I start making my way around to turn for home and I’m heading down the first prolonged down grade. There’s a hiker or runner on the side of the road sittin’ on the guard rail talking to someone in a car. The car was naturally stopped in the middle of the road, and I soft pedaled to see whether this party was breaking up anytime soon. Naturally a second after I commit to going around the car they decide to move along. I grabbed two hands full of brake briefly forgetting that I have discs on the Moots. It kindly reminded me by locking up the rear wheel until I eased off… in the meantime my flashing and very bright headlamps caught the eye of the driver in his rear view, and he eased up before any real damage was done.

Out on Route 17 things were progressing apace, and I was trying to decide how hard The Transition would be. The Transition is where the cars peel off Route 17 onto I287. It’s often annoying and sometimes dangerous to continue going straight, when so many cars want to pass you on the left and then head off to the right.

Even as I was considering all this I see two marked cars with lights going. Uh oh. Sure ’nuff the road is closed. Folks are turning around or being shunted off into New Jersey. I pedaled up to the first cop, and asked “Wires down?” “Nah, road flooded, but you can ride through if you want. What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll get wet?” Which was somewhat ironic considering how wet I already was, never mind the damp right foot from the river crossing. So on I pedaled hoping it wouldn’t be too bad, and enjoying the rare opportunity to ride Route 17 free of cars.

It was bad. All four lanes covered in water. I tried to sneak through near the Jersey barriers, and when the water got high enough sort of pushed my way through with the pedals evened out, still both feet and the bike got a pretty good soaking. Further up the road I see the other closure, and another swimming pool. But this time the other side was clear. I lifted the bike over the Jersey Barrier and then vaulted over (Cross skills? Who knew). Back on the bike I ride the last closed section, chatting briefly with some folks who were looking for some fishing supplies from Davis Sports. They were walking up the road in the opposite direction. Sportsmen are an interesting breed, no matter the sport. (It occurs to me that I was kinda thinking, “These crazy guys are walking half a mile up the road in order to get some stuff, and then walk back here, get in their car and go fishing somewhere in this weather? Crazy” Of course, the irony that I was out riding 30 miles on a bike never crossed my mind. Such compartmentalization keeps me chugging in the right direction…)

As I wove my way past the road flare and cars blocking the road, the cop opens his window, leans out and exclaims “You are my hero!” with a big grin on his face. I smiled, accepted the “chapeau”, and pedaled off with a wave.

Other than a few more minor river crossings, where I got more wet from the cars who couldn’t manage not to splash me, by, oh, I dunno, waiting a second for me to pass, than the water I was passing through, the rest of the trip was uneventful. By now the common mix of rain, thunder, lightning and junk in the roads caused me no concern. The headwinds were as usual, annoying, and not helping me feel any better about my riding. But you can get used to anything it seems. Alas, I had nothing but heavy legs anyway… it is what it is.

But the ride was worth it. I feel like I worked out some of the kinks. I feel a bit more mentally prepped for next week. And there’s nothing like “suffering” for one’s art. I don’t recommend it, but there’s nothing like it.

Finally, the Moots has a build

I never think it’s going to take as long as it does. A warning sign for estimation of any sort. A while back I wrote about used frame and starting a build. That was back in January, and here it is March, and other than the parking lot shakedown, the bike is untested. It was finally completed late yesterday.

In the meantime, Mike is off to his latest adventure. You can follow along on his blog (guest blogging by Jill Homer).

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Anyway… so the idea of the build was to make this frame fill in between the full on fat tired mountain goat of my Jeff Jones and the commute/road bikes of the Casseroll and R3SL. I was looking for great versatility, a bit of the goat, but also the ability to crank it out on the road. I wanted it to feel comfortable on gravel or off road, but not feel upright and overmatched on the road. We’ll see if I managed all that. Compromise is a compromise all it’s own.

Things that went wrong. I made some assumptions about what would and not fit on the frame, Specifically the crankset. A compact road integrated spindle was not going to go, the stays are too wide. But I wanted to put drop bars (or alt drop bars) on this build. Makes the road thing work sooo much better. Offroad, I seem to like alt bars, like the h-bar on my Jones, or as I first expected, Midge bars on this bike. And I wanted to use integrated road shifters. If wasn’t going to get thedorp bars and integrated shifters on here, for the type of riding I have available to me, this frame was not going to work. I should add, that I need enough top end to keep up with my road bike riding friends, and enough bottom end to climb off road without wrecking my knees.

So looking at what would fit, and what I wanted we started making some hard choices. Short of playing around with spindle length and really experimenting (read costly in time and money) the simplest thing to do was to go with a triple. I looked at what was out there, found a crank I would have really loved to try (it seemed to fulfill the triple dream of light, strong, and inexpensive) but my LBS couldn’t get it, and I wasn’t going to spend any non-ebay money/credit. So I went with the classic XTR cranks, which if things didn’t work out, would at least provide excellent return when sold. We left the little 22 ring off, which gave me a 44 and 32 up front. The 44 top end concerned me a bit, but I rarely spin a 50×11 combo so it seemed that a 44×11 might hang in there. I can always get a 48 tooth ring on there, that’ll certainly cover me, but I’m going to try this first.

These cranks also gave me the chance to use a Chris King bottom bracket, which already has an great reputation. They are incredibly smooth. That much I can already feel. And they add a touch more color.

Next was what to use as a front der. Bill picked out on the new SRAM XX front der from the zillions of variations they make. He seemed confident. I trust him. It seems to have worked out just fine.

Out back I matched up the new Sram XX ten speed stuff. Works perfectly with their integrated shifters, and the 36/11 cassette back there gives some nice range to the gearing from a low of 32×36 to a high of 44×11.

Once the cranks and stuff were on I spent some time trying out the custom Moots stem and Midge bars vs. a Thomson stem and 3T road drop bars that were on the shelf. Both were comfortable so for this round I went with the road bars because of an upcoming ride. 4000ft. of climbing, 25% dirt, I’m hoping that this bike will split the difference nicely. We’ll see once I done some real riding on it, and it will partly depend on the weather (choice of tires and bike).

Everything else are routine choices. Avid BB7 160/140 discs, a Chris King Dreadset (nice! a few bucks to Wheels4Life and the bike needed a little color.) I have three sets of wheels for the frame, two built by Mike. One set needs different rotors, there’s some mismatch between the center locks on there and the BB7s. I’ll look in to that shortly. Then there are Zipp 505s laced to DT Swiss 240s. They’re road wheels in both the aero and rubber categories. Lastly are wheels that Billy built for me, Red CK hubs drilled 32, laced 3 cross to Mavic rims. They have 35c cross tires spun on. I’ll prolly change the rubber, but I’m not sure to what yet. In the meantime they’re just fine.

Gore Ride On cables, Red shifters, King Ti cages, Salsa QRs. Crank Brothers eggbeaters, Fizik Gobi saddle and Cyrano post complete the touch points. I have a seat pack from Carousel Designworks that’ll work fine, and I hope to order a frame bag for my own adventures.

I have no nice pics yet as the build was finished late yesterday.

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Yeah, there’s no question that this build from the frame and fork to the various components is a bit out of the box. But that’s OK. No need to fret. Everything’s gonna be just fine. And seems in character with the original owner, my own sense of adventure, and a willingness to learn what works and what doesn’t for me.