Saturday, May 8, 2010

Two hours over the back of Stromlo

Another perfect Autumn day... Started out pretty chilly, maybe around 3 degrees or so but no clouds, not a breath of wind. I got on the Jackson at about 1:30pm after spending the morning moving a bunch of music onto my phone, which I'd been meaning to do for ages. I loaded up some Queens of the Stone Age and rolled off. I was going solo today, which is good and bad... good that I can ride to my feeling, but bad that all the rad stuff that happens is pretty much just for me (a great reason to write about it!). So I went through Stromlo via cockatoo switchbacks and then some fireroad. I "caught" a guy on a dually 29er on the switchbacks, though I think both of us were just cruising... It was fun to go around him and the other couple of bunches that I saw during the ride, especially when I was getting stuck into it on smoother sections like the one shown above :)

I went straight through Stromlo and I guess left the end of it when I went through the gate that told me that I was near the "Space Weather" measurement something or other.... Space Weather! I can't be sure what it means, but I think the little shed that I went by should be on Canberra's list of top attractions... there can't be many of them in Aus.

Anyway, from there it was up to a ridge line and then a T intersection, and the road was sort of deteriorating. I've ridden it on the MTB before and I sort of knew what I was in for. A right at the top of the hill after following a few roads to quick dead ends and I was on my way down a valley and started to formulate my first important observation of riding softroads around Canberra. I guess it's sort of obvious, but here it is anyway: The steeper it gets, the deeper the fingers of water way across the road. This has its consequences both up and down hill, especially on a bike with 35mm slicks pumped to 80PSI. So the photo below is one of the bits that 'popped up' when I was getting excited about going fast down one of the first hills. I guess it was nearly two feet deep in parts. Coming up to this and almost stopping in time (that's not a typo) also made me realise the other few things that I learned today:
1. Drops are fantastic, especially descending. It was waaaaay too rough to rely on hanging onto the hoods, and down in the drops you get all that leverage on the brake levers...
2. Canti brakes are fantastically hopeless! At least mine are. People who know me well will know I'm stubborn about some things, and working on my cantis is one of them. They've always been underpowered but I won't let anyone else work on them for me. BUT that's not the point. The point is that they don't work that well, and that is perfect. If I had full on stopping power I wouldn't have had the same number of 'coin clamping' moments as I had.
3. Tires that are too narrow, and too bald are great fun. I was sliding, skidding, spinning and drifting all day :) I wouldn't have changed to grippier, bigger tires for anything. The hammering that I took was pretty epic, but as usual, I took a lot of pleasure in watching the fork flex like crazy, trying its best to isolate me.

By about an hour in I was ready for a snack, and all of the corrugations had taken it's toll on one of my lemon creams, but the silver lining of that non-cloud was that it emptied a little lemon cream onto the mint slices that it was sharing the container with.... lemon mint slices, worth trying, for sure! Nowhere near as bad as a choc-banana big M

I saw heaps, and heaps and heaps of kangaroos and even a herd of nice fat looking cattle, and managed to snap a pic of a kanga, which I was desperate to do for the hundreds of international followers of this blog. The kanga is the darker spot on the left of the road. With ears... like a stand-up rabbit.

I was lucky enough to turn for home down a road that sort of went in the right direction, and in a half hour or so I was back among the MTBers on Stromlo (which is only 2km or so from my house). I did a little more singletracking, this time hunting out groups of people to try to catch, and the difference between my skills at the start and end of the ride on the singletrack was night and day. Without blowing my own horn too much, I really didn't suck at the end of the ride. There's a pic of some lovely Stromlo singletrack above

I found a lot of love for old man Jackson out there today, but was a little disappointed by the tiny deposit of dust around the fork crown that was all that hinted at what had just happened.

I finished up putting on the "Stars and Water Carriers" DVD that I found when I was looking for tunes this morning... Eddy was looking strong as usual, and the Talisker in my glass topped a good few hours nicely. Pepper!

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