Monday, March 10, 2014

Rendezvous Ride

MG on the Rooster. So close to home I couldn't miss this!
My good friend, MG, lives a long haul away from me down in Nebraska. We keep in touch via different channels, but we don't get to see each other very often and usually when we do, we're in an event, (or I am running one), so even then the time we get to share is limited. (MG is a LOT faster than I am!)

So while we were chatting on the phone one day a while back, MG says he is going to visit relatives with his wife near the City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Hey! That's just a short drive away from me. So, plans were laid to have a rendezvous near the city of Cedar Rapids on a Saturday.

Much closer to the date, MG said he would be bringing along the Rooster, the Singular prototype 29+ model he is testing out. I thought I may as well bring the Singular Buzzard I am checking out to make it an all Singular Cycles affair. So it was that I loaded up the "Truck With No Name" Saturday to make the short trek Southward and meet up with MG and ride.

I had just started riding again after being pretty sick earlier in the week. Wednesday I had my first ride after being ill, and while Thursday was okay, Friday I awoke to symptoms akin to what I had when I was sick, only not as bad. I was going to ride Friday, but I cancelled so I could ride Saturday- hopefully- if I wasn't getting sick again!

The gravel was clear down there.
Fortunately I awoke to feeling just fine. The rest on Thursday and Friday must have worked. I was on my way to Fairfax, (a small city just Southwest of Cedar Rapids proper), to see my good friend and ride bikes. The weather was even cooperating with temperatures forecast to be in the 30's, which for me was almost balmy considering the single digit to low teen high temperatures we'd been having just previous to this trip.

Of course, I didn't know how well I would ride. I hadn't been in any sort of "good fitness" since the middle of January when I did Triple D. Since that time I had been mostly hiding from double digit below zero temperatures or stuck inside due to being ill. Contrasting this was the fact that MG had been enjoying warmer temperatures, almost no snow, and miles and miles of gravel riding under his belt. I wasn't sure he would even know how to go as slow as I was likely going to be going!

MG's Rooster prototype
Well, I found the residence of his relatives and we all sat down for a proper cup of coffee first and chatted. Then MG got kitted up and we headed out to the garage where I traded out some gear to ride in and MG checked out my Buzzard. After a bit of fooling around there, we were off. It was a nice, overcast sky at the beginning with little wind to be concerned about.

The ride started out, fittingly enough, on Cemetery Road. (Trans Iowa veterans will get the joke there.) We had in mind to go check out some local single track to see if perhaps the fat biking throngs had been in there to pack it down. So we cruised over on a combination of chip seal and wettish gravel until we were back in a neighborhood of Southwestern Cedar Rapids and there it was that we discovered a trail head.

Initially, the riding looked promising, but we were on the windward side of a hill where a snowmobile had tracked down a rideable path for us to take. The going was slow, but it was going at least! One thing about the Buzzard with the short chain stays it has is that it really digs in and gets traction with your weight right on that back tire. The On One Smorgasbord tires really dig in and get you propelled forward in loose conditions and seem to be a trick for snow riding as well. MG noted how I was climbing and digging through stuff that his 29 X 3" Knards were not doing well in.

The slack front end and long 140mm travel Rock Shox seemed to be a bad choice for this on paper, but the Buzzard in combination with that fork were really stable. I used a 70mm stem and wide aluminum PRO Tharsis bars which gave me a lot of leverage and made light of the steering challenges in the soft, unconsolidated snow.

MG scouting out a way to get through the deep snow.

On the leeward side of the hill the snow had drifted up deeper and the path was too mushy for us to really do any effective riding. MG thought it might be better in the woods so I followed him down the hillside and we checked it out. While the path was clear to see, as far as where it went, it turned out to be no better, and we were reduced to post holing and pushing our way through. MG decided we should cut over to a residential area where we popped out of the woods and into someone's back yard and then down between two houses with barking dogs till we reached the street.

Then it was some "urban assault" riding until we got stuck into a section with many truncated roads and were forced to do some cross country bush whacking until we reached a four lane road. We then decided to cut over a steep embankment up to what looked like a city park which abutted the back end of a trailer park.

Following MG as we pushed for a bit.
Then we hit on a blacktop road headed North and it seemed to be taking us out of the urban area. We continued to follow along this as we continued to chat while we rode along. This was turning out to be a great ride with a good friend.

My concerns about fitness were not forgotten. Early into the ride we hit a steeper pitch on a paved section and I had to let MG walk away from me a bit. I thought maybe I was toast, but I figured I would go along as far as I could go. My breathing was pretty taxed out, and I just kept plugging along, sometimes unable to respond to MG, sometimes with only a few words, but the main thing was, the pedals kept turning around!

Later on though I started to come around a bit. I was able to chat and ride at a decent pace, so maybe it was just another case of my slow warm up, or maybe I blew out some cobwebs! Not sure which, but as we reached the rural parts, I was feeling better and we saw a left hand turn onto gravel so we took it. I'm not sure where we were exactly either, but neither did MG. We were riding by "braille". Whatever felt like the right thing to do, we did it and then settled back into conversation. Direction to our starting point was a vague concern at this point in our riding.

I thought this battered sign was funny. Is it a verb or a noun or both!
We had peeled off a bunch of clothing and vented everything we could earlier in the ride as the clouds had parted and the air had gotten warmer. Now the Sun was in full stride as we headed Westward and came to a hill leading up to a "T" intersection where I asked MG to stop so I could have a "nature break" and rest a bit. We had been pounding pedals for quite awhile, and while I was feeling okay, my endurance still isn't what it could be just yet.

The rest was good and we also had a chance to consider which direction we should head in after we got going again. I thought the street sign showed a familiar number- 80 St NW- and we decided to go South. This road turned into pavement and we were entertained by some huge Red Tailed Hawks as we chatted along the way.

Eventually we got back to the house where it all started and I was really hungry. We switched out clothing and headed out in search of grub. We found a "strip mall Mexican place", which MG said had a "better than 50-50 chance of being good", and we sat down for what turned out to be some of the best grub I've had in this style in a long time.

We also had one of those deep, meaningful conversations that only great friends can have, which was awesome. Plans were made for the next visit MG would make to the area to get together again and ride some more. Hopefully I will be in better shape and the shape of the weather will improve to allow for more options.

Afterward we went back to the house where I got a brief tryout on the Rooster. It feels very different from a Krampus! I've ridden an ECR a bit, and in my view, the Rooster cuts a distinctive line between the two Surly 29+ bikes. You don't have the very "slack-ish, trail bike" feeling a Krampus has, but you also don't have the sedate, touring feel of the ECR either. The Rooster, (as MG has it set up, and in prototype form, obviously), has a very sure footed, planted feel, but stab the pedal and the front end leaps up, rather surprisingly easy. The chain stays are shorter than a Krampus' are and this maybe why I felt that. It's a super stable bike as well. I could track stand it and cut super sharp corners on it at slow speed with no trouble at all.

Maybe I'll get a right proper ride on it someday, but I like what the Rooster is showing so far. At any rate, the day was a huge success for me riding-wise, and very satisfying to me from a personal standpoint. It isn't often I get to spend time alone with a close friend like MG, and that was a day to cherish for sure. Thanks MG for making the time!

1 comment:

MG said...

What a great day! Thanks to our beautiful spouses for giving us the day to enjoy! I look forward to hitting that singletrack again with you later in the year. It's a lot of fun!

Cheers, Brother!

Thanks again,