Thursday, January 14, 2021

Winter Views: Like A Dog Off The Leash

Escape route: Shaulis Road Bike Trail
 Wednesday was one of those unusual days in mid-January. First of all, it wasn't bone-chilling cold out. It was about 30°F when I left in the morning and rising. I needed to see if the gravel roads were rideable and by all accounts I had heard, they were. So due to the warmer weather, I was given a golden opportunity to find out for myself. But that wasn't all. There was more to it than that. 

There was no wind. Well, if there were any breezes, I couldn't feel them. It was a super-rare occasion. To have no wind in January on the barren plains is amazing to me. Coupled with the high temperatures for this month, it meant that the air would not deal me any issues due to wind chill. I mean, it can get warm in January, but it usually is accompanied by a monster Southern wind of some sort which drops the wind chills back into a "I'm not going out there in THAT" range.  So, I cannot overstate how awesome the weather was Wednesday. 

I was pretty stoked to get out there too. It had been a while since I was able to get out and ride gravel without being in 'survival mode', and Wednesday promised to be just a relaxing time on the bike out in the country. I had to do some checking on how the Spinergy GXX wheels were doing, but even more importantly, I had to check out those Challenge Tires Getaway treads I am reviewing now. I was hoping the roads would be good for doing both things. 

The plan was to embark from the Prairie Grove Park on the South side of Waterloo and to do about an hour-plus ride. I didn't want to over-do it since I haven't been out in about a month on 'country gravel'.  Being out on the open prairie is a bit different than riding in the urban area where I am sheltered from wind and cold. So, a shorter ride, not getting too taxed, and taking it easier was my plan. I loaded up the truck and headed out mid-morning and was off well before noon. 

The Sun shone a wan light and the roads were surprisingly clear of snow and ice.

At times it looked like some sort of precipitation was imminent, but nothing fell from the skies.
I headed south, then I figured I could grab some images for my reviews, then I headed off on the 'wheel test' route I came up with last Summer. It is short and loops right back to the truck. I figured if the roads were bad, I could manage at least that much. However; the roads weren't bad, in fact, they were excellent. As fast and smooth as you could hope for. Not 'hero' gravel, but fast. I was hoping for some decent chunk to test those Challenge Tires on but I had to go out of my way to find any loose, deep gravel. In fact, what loose gravel I found was frozen down and was more like 'coarse chip seal' than anything. I eventually did get into a bit of loose gravel later on, but it was hard to find! 

The turn-around point on Aker Road.

It was nice not to have to try to bag miles of gravel or to have to figure out a cohesive route to get all kinds of oddball roads into my route. I could just ride these roads I know so well already and enjoy them. So, I did just that and soaked it all in. 

The Sun eventually came out for a bit during my ride.

A couple of horses lounging in the January Sun
 Well, I probably rode a bit too fast. I hadn't been out for so long, I was riding like a dog off the leash for a bit. I had to dial it back and concentrate on shifting, breathing, and just riding for some enjoyment. Not pounding the pedals like I was on a single speed, going as fast as I could go in one gear. 

If I have a fault in my riding style, it is that I tend to default to single speed mode all the time. Shifting a bicycle drive train is something I typically have to think about doing, and it isn't a natural thing for me to do. Being a native single speeder means that sometimes I am committed to a gear on a grade, let's say, that is eventually going to blow me up. So, this joy in being out in the country again took my mind off what needed to be done and I was in default mode for a bit there.

I am glad I finally got around to being aware of myself and that I needed to be intentional about my riding. It made a rare day in January that much better.


Tomcat said...

Glad you were able to get out and get a country ride in, Mark! The roads are surprisingly nice and clear - even as much as dusty in a few areas. I also took a photo over by those gates on aker road just a few days ago. I think you can still see the icy footprints that I left in the snow :)

Guitar Ted said...

@Tomcat - Thanks! Yeah, I kinda figured that was you. That is a great place to stop though, isn't it?

Exhausted_Auk said...

I was out later in the day. A great day to ride! By then the gravel was a little soft here and there, but overall still smooth and fast.