The Ox goes dirt-cycling

After a quick early-morning coffeeneuring trip on Saturday, we loaded up the rental car with some stuff, the dog, and the Ox and made the trip north to see the in-laws.

While K was hanging out with her family, I did what I usually do. I went riding. After a spring and summer of road rides and gravel road boondocking, it was finally time for some honest to goodness dirt-cycling.*

After spending a few hours in the car, I headed straight to the Washburn Lake Trails — which are only a couple of miles from the farm.

Washburn Lake

After a brief bit of really twisty single-track, I decided to warm up a bit on the double-track.

Getting warmer

It turns out that riding on long grass with a layer of wet leaves on top is remarkably like riding in certain snow conditions.

Then I hit the singletrack.

The easy singletrack

Washburn includes some easy, some moderate, and some rather difficult singletrack. I rode it all, but didn’t take many photos because I was busy knocking the substantial amount of rust from my long-unused mountain-biking skills.

One of the new trails leads to the other trailhead, at Perch Lake.

Perch Lake

After I rode all of the singletrack at least once, I did a few laps on the ski trails, just to make sure that I was completely worn out. Hills like this helped.

Steep enough

A bit of a break was required. And it was just too damned beautiful to not stop for a minute.

At rest

On Sunday, we had to be back on the road to Madison by about noon, so I went to ride some laps at one of my favorite ski trails: McNaughton Lake.  It’s also pretty close to the farm.

McNaughton Lake Trailhead

It’s all double-track. Most of it looks like this:

Leaves, trees, and sky

Except when it opens up near one of the lakes…

Rest at McNaughton

All in all, I rode for about 5.5 hours between the two days. Not sure of the mileage because I didn’t take the GPS — and because I really don’t care how far I rode. Saddle time and smiles, that’s all that this is about. And there was plenty of both.

Bike Tech

This is Ox the Pugsley’s first real off-road adventure, so it was something of a trial run for a number of things.

Tire pressure. On Saturday, I ran the rear at 11psi and the front at 10psi. This worked reasonably well: plenty of cush and only a couple of instances of lost traction, both on a steep incline with lots of wet leaves. On Sunday, I knocked the pressure down to 9psi and 8psi just to see what it felt like, even though I knew that the terrain didn’t really require it. As expected, it both felt a little slower and also a little smoother. Grip wasn’t an issue, because none of the hills are as steep at McNaughton as the steeper ones at Washburn.

Gearing. The Ox is still running 32×20. I was able to ride up all but three hills at Washburn (and I don’t think anyone can ride Herringbone Hill, geared or otherwise) and all of the smaller hills at McNaughton. There were several climbs that required a lot of body english and that maxed my heart rate, but this is less a factor of gearing than fitness — I just haven’t been riding SS much lately at all, on or off the road. If things continue to come around, I’ll stick with the current setup. If not, I’ll either switch to a 21t or 22t freewheel or go all-in on an Alfine or NuVinci IGH.

Cockpit. The Jones Loop bars continue to rock, though the 110mm stem still feels both too long and a little high. I’ll switch that to a 90mm and move it downward a centimeter and see if that feels better. I’m especially hoping it will help cure too-light feeling in the front end while climbing. Everything else is good.

Rider. The rider has allowed himself to get all rusty and crusty, both in terms of his dirt-cycling skills and his single-speeding legs. There were some dicey moments in both respects, but it feels like things are coming around. More strength training — especially core strength — and high-cadence single-speeding is required.

* Dirt cycling is like mountain-biking, except that we have no mountains. Also, I just like the way it sounds.

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