Baby It’s Cold Outside

The first time I tried Jeff’s Preserves ride, I broke my wrist about halfway through. That was a year and a half ago. The second time was a year ago, and the group wanted to ride faster than I had in me, so I bailed out after a few miles and explored new terrain on my own. Since then, I’ve ignored a dozen invitations to that ride. This time though, Jeff and Ben conspired to get me out. I wanted to go anyway, and so I let them talk me into it. In truth, I appreciate their efforts.

It was 16F and sunny. The trails were clear of leaves and frozen solid. Mostly. It’s been so wet we encountered more than a few sections of mud where there was running water. And there was some ice. But with the leaves off the trees, you could see the trail well ahead and just let the ride flow.

I still didn’t make it up the steeps, but I got closer. Some miles in, Jeff suggested I lower my chest toward the bars, rather than push my weight out over the front wheel, saying that would stop the front wheel float while preserving traction. That sounded like good advice, but when I tried it on the next insane grade, I pinched a nut on the saddle and had to stop for that moment all men are familiar with.

We came to the stream crossing where I’d broken my wrist. This was the first time I’d been back there, and it all made sense. The trail rises and turns sharply right immediately after the crossing. A couple of rocks jut out of the middle of the trail. Last time, I crossed the stream, saw the rocks, hit the brakes, fell over, and landed in the stream on my outstretched hand. I heard the bone crack.

This time, the line around the rocks on the high side was obvious. None of it was a big deal. I simply hadn’t been looking far enough ahead, and didn’t have a plan for after crossing the stream.

Now we were on trails that were new to me. Probably ten miles in, my quads were starting to ask my brain, “Dude, what the fuck?” But we kept the pedals turning, and I got through some gnarly stuff, and then we hit Moosehorn, and wow! Was that a fun descent! Clear trails, great sightlines, and speed!

But I had to bail. Most of us had to bail. We had family commitments, so we left Jeff and Jay to finish the ride, and headed down Sentry Hill Road. Almost immediately a bobcat crossed in front of us. I got a brain freeze chasing Monson down the hill. And I got home in plenty of time. I rode about 18 miles out of the potential 25, the longest mtb ride of my career. Muddy, snotty, with cold and wet feet, I felt terrific.

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About swampyankeecyclist

I'm Andy Engel, just a middle-aged, middle-class guy from Roxbury, Connecticut. I've been married to my best friend since 1988, and we have two grown sons. I like riding bikes, and my biggest accomplishment is the 180K D2R2. I own 5 bikes but my go-to rides are a 2016 GT Grade gravel and commuter bike and a 2016 Specialized 650b hardtail mountain bike. Additionally, I have a 2000-something carbon-fiber Orbea road bike, a 1990-something Specialized Sirrus that's my old dirt and commuter bike and which now serves as a spare and a trainer bike, and a 1985 Ross Mount Hood MTB. All but the 650b have Brooks saddles. I work from home now, but used to commute 32 miles round trip to work by bike year round. I was a carpenter and still love building things, but regular paychecks, insurance, and vacation time lured me into journalism. I've written a couple of books on carpentry, and I've been an editor at Fine Homebuilding, Fine Woodworking, and Professional Deck Builder magazines. Currently, I manage construction events at the JLC Live and Remodeling Show trade shows. Additionally, my wife and I run Transylvania Guest House, an Airbnb. Find us on Instagram. Come stay with us and I'll show you some great cycling.
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