Yesterday was only my second real extended mountain biking ride using clipless pedals (for more information on clipless pedals and my specific clipless setup, check out my August 2, 2011 blog). Compared to my first ride it was considerably more challenging. We’ve had a lot of rain over the past week, and much of the trail is wet. The wet leaves and pine needles are not a big deal, but the large, wet roots and rocks are very slippery.
The best way to deal with unavoidable obstacles is to hit them straight on; for example, if you hit a good-sized wet root with decent speed at a 90 degree angle you’ll go right over it. There are quite a few large roots on crazy angles, however, and so hitting those (especially when they are wet) can cause a pretty nasty fall.
Being physically clipped to the pedals for only the second time made navigating the wet roots I’ve been over a million times before extra challenging: the penalty for even a small error is coming down fast and hard with virtually no time to release my feet. I had to pick my lines carefully, keep my speed up and bunny hop quite a few of the roots that ran at dangerous angles. My familiarity with the trail was a huge benefit. I am happy to report that I made it though the entire 28 miles without a single fall, and I remained clipped in for the entire ride.
As you can see from the Bike on a Trail shot (above) they are still doing controlled burns out there. There are no active fires, but there are quite a few areas that are still smoldering. The smoke was fairly thick in places, and breathing was obviously very difficult in those sections. I can’t believe I used to inhale that crap into my lungs on purpose. 🙁
All the rain we’ve had lately definitely helped with the sugar sand, but the downside was the humidity. It was very hot, and the forest trapped the steamy humid air. I felt as if I was riding in a sauna. Seriously, I’ve never sweat so much in my life. When I finished the ride it was literally as if I’d jumped in a pool: I was soaked from head to toe.
The great thing about the rain is that the forest was alive with creatures, flowers and new growth! Some of the less-traveled trails that I take have completely overgrown just in the past week. It was really good to see everything out there thriving from the much-needed rain we’ve been getting lately.
Thank goodness I had bug spray on! The mosquitoes were worse than I’ve ever seen them, but they left me alone. I also have a small bug spray pen in my CamelBak HAWG so I can re-apply out on the trail (comes in real handy when you’re sweating heavily). I’ve not had a single tick bite since I started using the Repel bug spray. Good stuff.
Another exciting thing about yesterday’s ride is that it was my first ride using the Cotton Carrier DSLR camera carry rig. I’ll be posting a full review soon, but for now I’ll just say that I’m 100% thrilled with this system. It’s exactly what I was looking for, and the product allowed me to mountain bike and take pictures without one activity getting in the way of the other. I’ve got a lot more to say about the system, so look for the full review soon.
OK, so when I got home from the ride I was physically and mentally exhausted. The heat was physically draining, and mentally I was punch-drunk because I had to be extremely focused during most of the ride. Still, my routine when I get home from a ride is to wash, clean, inspect, adjust and lube my bike. I like to have that stuff out of the way so everything is all set to go for the next ride.
Everything checked out and I was almost done, but when I gave the front wheel a spin I heard a small amount of brake pad rub on the rotor. The rotor is fine (I just had my wheels trued and the rotors checked at the bike shop on Saturday), so this is a really basic repair that I’ve done many times: you simply loosen the two bolts that mount the brake caliper to the frame, squeeze the brake lever and re-tighten the caliper mount bolts. If your wheel and rotor are both straight, this little trick will fix rub most of the time.
The problem is that I was so tired that I inadvertently loosened the caliper body bolts instead of the caliper mount bolts. As soon as I loosened the wrong bolts hydraulic brake fluid began to drip out. I instantly knew what I did, but it was too late. Hydraulic brake systems are closed systems, and once that system is compromised it’s game over. What I mean by that is you simply can’t re-tighten the caliper and top off the fluid: you have to go through a complete brake fluid refilling and bleeding procedure that adds fresh hydraulic fluid and removes all the air from the system. So I’m out of action until my Avid hydraulic disc brake bleed kit arrives on Tuesday. Oh well, I’ll just consider this some added bike maintenance experience. I won’t make that mistake again, that’s for sure!