Sunday, March 31, 2013

3GR: Dodging The Rain Drops: Solo Style

Saturday I was sure I was going to awake to the pitter-patter of rain drops on the roof, but when I did crawl out of the sack, it was just quiet and gray outside. Hmm.....maybe I could make this work after all....

So I had to wait for the stinkin' phone to charge, ya know......just in case, (I shoulda went out 80's style!), and that pushed the depart time back to 9am, or almost to then. I didn't get too persnickety about the exact timing of the ride's start. When I did get going, the radar didn't show a lick of rain near us, so I thought I may get away with a dry ride after all. First thing- I had to get out of town. That means a fair bit of urban riding- about five miles worth- just to reach the outskirts of the city in any direction I go. This time I was heading North.

The debris from Winter's passing is everywhere, and one needs to be careful when cornering, and watch where they are riding a bit more closely now due to that crap on the road. Cornering hard is generally not advised due to all the salt and sand residue, and trash is about a foot to a foot and a half off every gutter, making punctures a very real possibility.

The maintainers have left fresh gravel already.
Once out of the clutches of the grimy city, I passed into the climbing hills North of town and found that the rumors of fresh laid gravel were true enough. I ran across a lot of it, but it was only a slight nuisance since it was a finer limestone which the Challenge Almanzos were okay with for the most part.

There was a slight tail wind, but otherwise it was quiet and gray out in the country. I decided to head over on Mount Vernon Road to catch the return leg of the "normal" 3GR route and ride it backwards. I didn't think anyone else would ride this day, but it was looking decent enough, and I wasn't cold and I didn't mind the slight windy conditions, so I was pleased with my attempt at that time. However; I hadn't gone up Mount Vernon Road very far before I felt moisture on my face.

Okay, okay! Maybe this ride would have to be cut short. Well, I wasn't about to decide to stop and go home, and a very pressing matter was at hand before I went any further up the road. I needed to stop for a Nature Break. Too much coffee! A nice fence row along a low spot in the road away from most farms in the surrounding area would suffice.

Once that was taken care of I headed back up Mount Vernon to the West and I was still getting "misted" by this drizzly moisture. It wasn't even enough to get me wet, it was just annoying. I found Streeter Road, the return road for a typical 3GR, and turned North up it.

Barns for Jason
Along about this time I thought about how doing a regular route in the reverse direction gives the route a totally new and different feel. I saw things I really had not noticed before, even though I had been down Streeter Road Southward a bunch of times before. I had a different experience on the bike as well, since down hills were now uphills and vice versa.

I actually saw things right near the roadway that I had missed all along. Quite shocking, actually, but when I thought about it, I could fathom how I was missing these obvious sights.

Then I noticed another thing- that was the rain which was gone. I didn't miss it, and I also noticed a definite lightening up of the atmosphere as well, telling me that the lower clouds that were producing the precipitation were departing and I was hopeful once again that I would escape getting drenched out far from home.

The roads continued to be dry, dusty, and maintained in many spots now with a deeper layer of fresh- but still finer- gravel which made the Almanzos bump and twist as I went down the road. I knew I was working harder due to the skinny tires, but they are far more capable shoes than one might think for a 31mm wide bicycle tire.

Time for another Nature Break!
However; I think I found the limits of the Almanzo Open 30 on this particular ride- more than once-  and that was more than I wanted to find out! I got into the hillier portion of the 3GR route and the downhill runs see some speeds from 25mph to 30mph easily. I was sketched out a couple of times when the bike would jump and skitter on the gravel at those speeds. Then, a bit later on over by the Scout Camp, I was making a lazy right hander and the front end stepped out on me. The Almanzo chattered but I was barely able to ride it out. That was a close one!

Further up the road I experienced more stepping out, this time it was the rear wheel, and this was in what I would term as "normal" gravel conditions for around here. Nothing unusual. I tell ya, I wanted wider rubber with its stability more than I wanted the ultra-fast, lightweight, narrow tires I had on. One time I thought the rear wheel was going to swap ends on me. There is a reason you really don't want skinny tires in certain conditions, and this just cemented the reasons why for me.  But these tires are awesome on finer gravel and smoother, worn in sectors of gravel. That isn't what we have around here for the most part. Those conditions are rare for around here. I certainly understand that others may have the "right" conditions for these tires though, so I do take that into consideration here.


I turned to the South and saw that the sky wasn't looking very friendly. I was also bucking a headwind of about 10-12mph. Now the drizzle kicked back in, and I had it for the rest of the ride.

Although this part of the 3GR route is pretty flat, it runs in the Cedar River Valley flood plain, which is predominantly sandy soil. The gravel roads here reflect this and are typically looser and drier when the sun has been out. While the sun wasn't out this day, the roadway was worked over by frost that had come out and the recent grading. The Almanzo tires were cutting into this, making headway into the wind even harder. There just were no real firm tracks to follow until I was well on to Leversee Road, and then it was much better going.

I ended up coming in on the bike path around the lake but it was punctuated with a couple stretches of icy, snowy pack, which forced me off the bike. I imagine that will clear up within a few days. I then headed off to down town Cedar Falls, made my way along the back streets, and then about a mile from home, the drizzle turned into an outright rain. I stopped and got my windbreaker, which is mildly rain resistant, out and threw it on for the last run up to the house.

All in all, it was a good 3.5hr ride and I feel pretty good about doing the Renegade Gents Race next weekend. Which, if the weather forecast is correct, will be run in similar conditions as today!


Ari said...

I have a small nitto rack that I used as a basket support on my first T.I. I always wondered how well those front bags, like the one you show in your photo, would work. What can you fit in it and where is it available?

Guitar Ted said...

@AriL That's the bag I used late last year and wrote a review on here:

It's got all the info and specs on the review there on Gravel Grinder News.