Saturday, December 01, 2018

Gravel Bike Suspension

It's hard to believe this came out a year ago and I missed it. I'm definitely on board...just not for $800.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Alternative Road is the Best Thing for the Cycling Industry Right Now

Well, the best thing might be a slight hyperbole, but seriously, hear me out.

From an early point in my (amateur) cycling career, I noticed a strange peculiarity about the road bike market segment. No matter which major bicycle brand I looked at, there seemed to be the same trickle down formula for innovation. First, a product or item was featured on the pro tour. Then, after a couple of years, the product was available in various tiers of over priced quality. This strategy of product development has been in effect for about thirty years and people are finally starting to realize that the best cycling ideas don’t always come from the top down, but the ground up. In this case, from the gravel up.

The demand for capable all road bikes has created some of the best product innovation for bicycles in a long time. The demand for all terrain wheels and tires alone is long overdue. Also, the advent of 650b wheels on road and gravel bikes is huge. For so many people, 700c wheels just don’t provide the best ride. The toe overlap alone is enough to interest me in exploring other options, especially for mixed terrain riding. After the past few winters, some New England roads aren’t much better than gravel anyway, so a 650b wheel with a little bite makes perfect sense.

If the mountain bike boom of the 90s taught us anything, it’s that mountain bikes are sluggish. I would know because from 2011-2013 I completed the D2R2 on a Raleigh M80 and it wasn’t pretty. Boutique cyclocross bikes certainly dominated the scene, but when it came to climbing, they just didn’t have the right gearing. They also had a tendency to slip out on steep dirt roads. Overall, a mountain bike was too slow and a cyclocross bike was too twitchy. Gravel bikes are awesome because they offer the best of both worlds: speed and stability.

Suspension on road bikes was close to happening back in the 90s. Bianchi even created some well photographed prototypes for the Paris-Roubaix. However, the mountain bike boom isolated the development of capable suspension to only off road bikes. The road bike market was then cornered by the racer (or pseudo racer). This created a huge division in not only the industry, but in the way people rode their bikes. Really, gravel roads don’t differ wildly than some single track. Of course, there are many trails that are beyond the capability of a dedicated all road bike, but for many consumers, looking to ride paved and dirt roads, the prospect of needing two separate bikes is absurd. After all, who hasn’t been on a road ride and just wondered where that trail leads...

The last great thing about the emerging all road market is that there’s finally a sensible cycling segment that focuses on the rider and not the bike. Carbon fiber is great if you need speed, but if you just need to ride for thirty miles after work on rough roads, than carbon fiber is not a realistic frame material. The salt on the roads in the spring is enough to ruin most carbon finishes. The spirit of cycling has always been one of adventure. Whether that adventure leads you to the top of a mountain, or down, at breakneck speeds, the idea is still there. For many roadies like myself, the alternative road bike is something that speaks to our inner explorer and asks us to push the limits and boundaries of our ride.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Mishoon Trail (Lakeville, MA)

While looking at some of my site traffic, I noticed someone searched for "Mishoon Trail" in Lakeville, MA. When I Google searched the trail this little map appeared. While I haven't visited these trails for some years, it might still be helpful for some folks. I can't wait to head down that way again soon--hopefully before it gets too cold. Happy trails!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New Hampshire Trails

I didn't really get into the woods that much this summer since I mostly stuck to the road bike. However, I've been making some trail explorations into New Hampshire. I found this cool trail online. This spring, I'd really like to try some longer rides on car free trails.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hockomock Swamp (Raynham, MA)

This journey was probably my fourth or fifth foray into the infamous epicenter of the Bridgewater Triangle. I thought with the cold weather that the swamp might be frozen, however, I was mistaken. The pictures I have posted here do not accurately depict how dense the cedars and pines are in this area. They simply engulf what little "trail" there is leading into the swamp from Prospect Hill Street in Raynham. I parked at the dirt lot and headed West on a trail that quickly descended into swampy thickets. It was near impossible to walk the trail, so I had to sneak around the thick undergrowth just to move forward. The small plants and tress were so thick that I almost had to crawl through them, hunched over.

This is the "trail head" leading into the swamp. 

As you can see, it quickly devolves into a wet mess. The insects are so bad here in the summer that it's impossible to even get out of the car and walk.

Things progressively get swampier and thicker.

Someone made it deeper into the woods than me with their faithful hound. I basically followed their steps until the snow faded and I couldn't seem them any more.

Then I saw this in the trees, flapping wildly.

Eventually, after about a mile or two, I had to turn around because the trail was lost.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Southern New England Trunkline Trail (Franklin, MA)

The Southern New England Trunkline Trail (or SNETT) is an allusive beast. It's nearly as amorphous as its fictional cousin: The Bay Circuit Trail. For two years now, I've attempted to ride this trail from start to finish. It seems like an easy task seeing as how it's a linear trail and only about twenty miles long. However, it's probably one of the worst marked trails I've ever seen. Yet, it's constantly touted as some great collaborative civic achievement. Well, I'm here to say it's not.

The first few miles of the trail are seemingly easy to navigate. Although the trail is unimproved, portions of the Franklin and Bellingham section are smooth gravel. The trail starts at Grove street in Franklin, MA.

Once the trail hits Blackstone it turns into a construction project. I guess it will be nice when finished, however, the project is going into its second year. Maybe they'll start having birthday parties for it?

In order to reconnect with the trail, I had to cross the road and take the nearest side street that eventually brought me to a sandy entrance. From here, the trail gets very narrow and very rough. It also gets somewhat confusing because local ATV riders have branched the trail into other areas.

At last, when the trail hits Blackstone it empties into a senior living community. I had to really guess where the trail picked up again, only to then find a series of bridges under construction.

Again, I think it's great that the state is investing money in recreational infrastructure. However, I wonder how many people realize it's taken them this long to complete the project? I rode to the end of the construction and then got lost where the trail goes under the highway. Again, there are no markings of any kind to indicate where the trail disappears too. Yet, the DCR site makes the trail out to be this great recreational crossroads.

Overall, I've had better luck riding the trail from the Douglas State Forest end of things. It's going to be a while before this trail is the monumental success that the state claims it is.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

West Bridgewater State Forest/West Meadows Pond (West Bridgewater, MA)

So this spot has been my local haunt for the past couple of years. Typically, the area is quite muddy and quite swampy. However, the recent drought has made the trails quite dry and quite enjoyable on the mountain bike. So today I took my trusty steed on a jaunt through the area. West Bridgewater State Forest and West Meadows Pond abut each other and form a rather large trail network. While many of the trails are overgrown and quite thorny, most riders can find something interesting in the relatively flat forests. Did I mention it's part of the Bridgewater Triangle? Bring your own holy water.

I usually include the West Bridgewater Rail Trail (only a mile, don't get excited) on my way towards the forest. Here are a couple photos of the nicely graded surface there:

Now here's a photo of the entrance to West Bridgewater State Forest off Stoney Road in West Bridgewater. The following photos were taken along the path entrance:

The last picture is of a stone damn/bridge. It looks as though it's typically underwater during a normal rain season. This year is obviously quite the exception.

The next couple of photos are from West Meadows Pond which is best accessed from Spring Street in West Bridgewater. Don't let the fluffy grass in the middle of the trail fool you--there's lots gnar underneath. It's very rideable, especially now that the ground is so dry.

The really technical aspects of these trails are the large craters with thick roots at the edges. These seemed to be formed by ATV use and erosion.

Really likin' these shots from the hub this summer if you couldn't tell. Below is what the pond looks like from the Spring Street parking area in West Bridgewater. Usually there's a lot more water!