Monday, June 09, 2014


Yes- You'd better like the color green if you ride here in the woods!
June in Iowa- The height of vegetation growth is upon us now and that also brings with it the lush, green woodland carpet, the "green smells" that permeate the cooler air under the canopy of trees, and bugs. Bazillions and bazillions of bugs!

2014 has been noteworthy so far for the gnat infestation. We usually get a somewhat annoying amount of these pests for a brief period, then they are quickly forgotten. However; this year there appears to be a bumper crop of the pesky, tiny black and brown flying insects. Clouds of them pepper you as you pass through them in various places. I'm not sure that they bite you as much as they just get into everything and annoy the heck out of you, but Mrs. Guitar Ted says that they bite her. Your mileage may vary. The mosquitoes beginning to appear now, on the other hand.......

Weeds six feet tall line the single track in places.
Then there are the weeds that have sprung up over the height of an average man in places. These weeds are grasses, so they don't really cause any problems, except that you cannot see the trail sometimes, and the weeds get wrapped around your derailleur, and whip you in the arms and legs. But isn't a big deal! Oh yeah, the weeds harbor all those insects I mentioned as well too. That said, at least the stinging nettles haven't overrun the trail just yet!

I was in the Green Belt and the trails were in their highest state of variability. There were dry, fast, hard packed parts, sandy pits, muddy, greasy parts, and water and deep mud as well. Really, a bit of everything out there yesterday. It's fun, but it is challenging to keep your wheels underneath you. Go too fast in the wrong place, and you go down right away. However; if you are hip to these trails, and know when to go and when to stay slow, it can be a fun ride not possible anywhere else.

The rear tire can slide a bit, you counter steer and punch the pedals. Sand tries to slow you and swap your tires, but you grab the handle bars and wrench against it. Punch the pedals again and straighten it right out. You see the grease and you just float the bike upright through the corner at a nice, wide arc to keep the wheels underneath you. The mud hole just demands some pure power to slog through. It's all dirty fun. And you get really dirty out there!

The repaired bridge was a nice surprise.
That and the weeds really make riding single speeds out there your best choice. No derailleur to rip off, no weeds wrapped around cassette gears, and no mud clogging up shifter cables and derailleurs. It's nice to just concentrate on sussing out the last bit of traction without worrying about shifting or what might be trying to destroy your drive train.

I was pretty averse to stopping for any images, so I kept rolling most of the time so I wouldn't get eaten alive by bugs. I stopped at the turn around for about five minutes to get a few images, and when I did I spent most of the time running around in circles trying to lessen the clouds of pests. So, I had absolutely no plans to stop again but when I saw the new bridge work, I had to take an image. The bridge had been falling into disrepair the last year or so, and I was afraid that it wouldn't be maintained, so when I saw that it had been done and done well, I was pleased.

Then I figured one more quickie of the tall grasses would be okay, and actually, I found the bugs weren't as bad as I thought they were way back in the Southern part of the trail. Eventually, I heard something that gave me pause and I decided no more stopping was a great idea. It was a sort of "pfft-pfft" at revolutionary intervals. A flat happening? Sealant coming out? The tires felt fine, but there was no way I wanted to deal with a flat in these woods with these bugs around! I hightailed it to the lake, and out in a more open area, when I determined it was my wet shoes making a weird noise, and not my tires. Whew! But by then, I was out of the woods and decided to just pack it in on the bike trails and went back home.

A great ride, but with these bugs, I may not be going back in the woods for awhile!

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