Saturday, November 5, 2011

Autumn in the valley ...

After a brief interruption from winter last week, autumn returned to Southeast Pennsylvania this weekend with a vengeance!

Got out this morning with Dr. Craig for a ride at Valley Green. It was actually really cold at the start - probably just about freezing. I had to stop within the first mile because my fingers froze up and I couldn't bend them around the handlebar. That kind of thing is why I don't much like winter. But it didn't last too long and while it never got all that warm, it eventually warmed up enough to be pretty much a perfect day to ride.

Early on, the sections covered in shadows were really cold!
I had planned all week to get a long ride in today, and originally had planned to do it on the road (since I still don't have my SS yet.) But when Craig texted me last night to meet up for a loop at Wissahickon at 7 a.m., I quickly changed my mind and prepped the OCLV. And I couldn't be happier that I did! A day like this one is why most of us love to ride our bikes.

It was the first time in a while Craig had ridden the southeast section of the loop, and it's changed a lot recently because of the wet August and September we had. I hadn't realized how much it changed until I heard his reaction. The section where the trail had washed away has continued to erode, and now you're taking your life in your hands when you try to ride it - one slip and you'll fall 20 feet onto rocks. And several sections are now almost comically technical.

The base of the climb just after the Indian statue on the northeast portion of the loop lets you know that you've got your work cut out for you to make it to the top.

And the reward if you get passed the first bend is more rocks and a fallen tree. This is the most technical section of trail I've ever ridden. It's just as difficult to descend as it is to climb. 

I did 16 miles with Craig (a full loop) and then once we finished up, I reloaded my bottles, ate a few Stinger waffles and headed back out for another round. My second lap was when the whole ride really came together - brilliant fall colors, cool but comfortable temps, not a cloud in the sky, and I was actually feeling pretty good on the OCLV for the first time in a while (it takes me forever to get used to 26 inch wheels after I've been riding only the Misfit for a while. I know some people can go back and forth really easily, but I'm not one of them!)

Shortly after finishing the first lap, it warmed up enough that I was able to lose my jacket

During my second lap, I ran into Mitchell, one of the guys from I've raced with him a few times - he's another Misfit guy, and back at Singlespeedapalooza, I sprinted with him for 6th place. I actually got lucky on that one - he had passed me a little while before because I was running down all the hills because I had no brakes at that point. Well, I was able to sneak up on him on the fire road because no one let him know I was coming.  Anyway, it was great to see another rider I knew out there! He and some of his buddies were hammering along and cleaning one of the more technical areas of the park like pros. Good job, Mitchell!

Overall, it was one of those rare days when I never even thought about how my body was feeling. I was just so caught up in a perfect ride on a perfect day, that before I knew it, I was 5 hours in and 40 miles down. I got to ride with the good doctor, ran into Miko and his crew from Abington Wheelwright out on their regular Saturday morning ride, meet up with some guys I've raced with, and fit in 40 miles in epic conditions. That's a day I wouldn't mind living over and over again!

There were tons of people in the valley today - runners, hikers, riders, horses - all enjoying the perfect weather
The Fall colors have exploded this week in the Wissahickon Valley!

A few samples of the vibrant leaves here and above ...

... and all that color covers the trail as well, giving an aura of excitement to a familiar trail

Coming through the field at the top of the Monster. Warm sun and a smooth ride -  I was close to the end of my ride but still felt great.

All 40 mile rides should feel like today!

Tons of riders took advantage of perfect conditions today ... were you one of them?

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