Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

DROVES - 2013 - Shamed into Riding

Maybe it's old age or maybe it's too many prior rides in the rain, but the Bike Barn was still quiet at 8AM. Well, I say quiet, but that's not really true. Rain continued to pound off the tin roof creating quite a racket. It was quiet in that there weren't any cyclists stirring about when I rose. Although to tell the full story, Cristine and Dominique were up well before any of us and had headed into St. Johnsbury for an indoor swim class. But everyone else was enjoying a rare lie-in on a Saturday morning. However the smell of coffee and omelets soon filled the barn, and not long after, the bike stand again was the center of attention, as mechanics-extraordinaire, David Wilcox and Matt Roy, set forth to swapping the lines of John's hydraulic brakes to his preferred orientation.

A few of us headed down to the general store for coffee and to pick up more food. East Burke was a ghost town. The place is normally packed with mountain bikers on this long holiday weekend, but there were almost none to be found. We saw a couple of friends who were taking shelter at the store, as they were camping up on the mountain and had grown tent-weary.

We returned to the barn to see Doctor Roy injecting some as yet unclassified PEDs into John's brake lines!

For the rest of the details on the bike build, I won't steal John's thunder, as it were. He will get his photos and all the details about the bike build posted soon. I will chain him to his computer until he finishes!

Rain continued to hammer off the roof. The temperature continued to fall. I had packed a lot of warm clothes, but even though I read the forecast for cold and and rain and saw the mention of snow, I just didn't believe it would snow on Memorial Day and neglected to pack my heavy-duty gloves. (I had brought medium gloves, and overshoes and rain jacket and helmet cover and wool headband and such, but I knew it would be my hands that would suffer, if I was out in 35F rain for 4 hours!)

So I just kept stalling. Then Constance came bounding down the stairs, all dressed and ready to go for a ride, saying she just couldn't take it any longer.

Given the late hour, we suggested the 30 mile Victory Loop. While I've done this ride many times on single speed, one should not take this route lightly. It's got a lot of hard climbing, and even some gnarly bits. One of those gnarly bits comes pretty late in the ride, and John suggested reversing the route, in case the road was washed out like it was after Hurricane Irene, when I had to walk down partway, due to 4 foot deep ruts down the middle! I quickly reversed the route in ridewithgps. When I saved the reverse route, I joked about naming it Defeat, the reverse of Victory!

So armed with this new route, Constance shamed us all, by heading out into the downpour. I started making noises about a nice outdoor shop in Lyndon, where I could go buy myself some nice clothes for my birthday, but just as Fear Rothar was starting to panic about our credit limit, the sound of rain on the tin roof began to lessen. And while the sun didn't break through, it did get a bit brighter. Ted and Emily started making more noises about riding, so being shamed by Constance and encouraged by the weather, we put on all our warm clothes, including for me, that winter jacket I never thought I'd be using at the end of May, and we headed out on the Defeated route.

As Constance pointed out in such colorful terms on her blog, the climbing began immediately and definitively. We all soon pulled off gloves and hats and unzipped jackets. We got up onto the ridge that normally has awesome views of Willoughby Gap, and saw nothing. A short descent was followed by the climb up to the real climb! I joked when we made the turn onto the Class IV road that NOW the climbing begins. Except, it was no joke. Everything prior to that was really just a prelude. The gradient pitched up even more and the road surface got rougher. I dropped down to my granny gear of 34X36. I was thankful for the low pressure in my fat tires and my fenders, as I rolled over rivulets and little washed out sections. It was nothing like the conditions after Irene, but it was clearly a challenging 4 wheel drive track that took some real effort and concentration for me to keep the front wheel in contact with the ground and aimed in the right direction. I also became convinced that it was steeper on this side, as I was sure there was no way I'd make it up this side in my 34X17 single speed setup! I stayed seated the whole way to maintain traction. I also was constantly looking for the bike tracks left by Constance. She had not returned before we left, so she must be en-route and ahead.

We regrouped at the top and Ted and Emily bombed down the road well in front of me. I decided to put my new disk brakes to the test as I crawled down the top section until we reached a better maintained part.

Next up we were riding along the flat and windy Victory Bog. While I can barely call myself a climber, I am most definitely not a rouleur, and I always struggle to keep up on the flats. Fortunately Ted and Emily took mercy and gave me a nice draft along the bog. It wasn't long before we turned to climb up to the Victory/Burke town line. This climb has a mix of dirt and pavement and went on for much longer than I had remembered. We spied Constance as we climbed. Luckily when we caught up, I didn't tell her she was almost at the top, as I believed, since it actually went on quite a bit longer.

And then little white ice balls started bouncing off my gloves! Ted and I chuckled at first until the snow got more intense, and then we just cackled insanely. We rolled over the summit and began the descent. I described the experience as facial acupuncture since the icy/snowy mix felt like needles piercing my face. Emily described it more like sandblasting, as she went blasting past me on the downhill. As we lost elevation, the precipitation turned back to rain, but the temps continued to fall, or so it seemed.

When we reached the barn, I was ready to sit in a warm fire. Well with no fireplace in he barn, next to a warm electric heater would have to do. Seeing my frozen state, Matt and John decided to go check on Constance and offer her a lift. When they reached her, she was incredulous. No way would she get in the car at that point!

The good news was the bike build was now complete, so everyone would get be able to get out for a ride on Sunday, with John giving those new brakes a pretty good break-in on the nearby descents.

Warm showers and dry clothes revived us all. Cristine and Domi had returned from swimming and shopping at the farmer's market and had gone out for a ride as well. And then they cooked up a fabulous risotto. Everyone chipped in to dinner with various dishes and desserts and the wine and beer continued to flow. Another great day cycling and hanging with friends.

As we prepared dinner, the snow line reached our elevation, and we all had a great time trying to document it with photos.  Despite the conditions at dinner time, the forecast was improving for Sunday. It would still be quite cool, but the amount of rain forecast suggested a gentle mist from noon onward. We decided to again go for the shorter option. I had a shorter version of the Craftsbury route that bypassed Craftsbury and the road up to the wind turbines, but still took in most of the climbs, so we decided to try that route, leaving at around 10AM on Sunday.

Given the planned late start the next morning, wine and beer and great conversation continued to flow late into the evening!

Apologies for the lack of photos. Between heavy gloves and trying to avoid soaking the camera, I didn't even carry it. No worries, Fear Rothar will make up for it with the bike build post!


  1. I hope the weather improves for you guys. Its suppose to be summer!
    My thoughts are somewhat selfish as Adi and I will be in Canada in a little over a week and a half and unless I'm mistaken isn't that higher than you so by definition colder? I can get snow here. With a 23kg weight limit I don't plan on packing woollies.