Sunday, December 01, 2019

Wheaton Farm (Norton, MA)

Since I bought the new bike, I've been expanding my routes to include more challenging and scenic off-road terrain. It can be difficult finding the right balance between road and trail, especially in southeastern Massachusetts. Wider trails tend to be short and muddy, while more technical terrain requires a beefy mountain bike. However, there have been a few spots that have been fun to explore. Wheaton Farm in Easton Massachusetts is of them.


There seem to be a lot of rules, but I broke them all! Not really though...actually, people leave their dog waste everywhere so be careful. 

This photo was taken on the northern part of the park near Bay Road. Be advised: there are a lot of overgrown trails and dead ends, so proceed with caution. There are also no trail maps in the park. I did find a few colored trail markers, but they're not very reliable. 


This was also taken on the northern edge of the park near Bay Road. Basically, the good trails are along the back edge. If you go straight across the bridge and then go straight again through the next intersection, you'll find some good riding. If you take an immediate left or right at the very beginning it will be very bumpy. On a cross bike it's a bit much, but on a full suspension XC bike it wouldn't be bad. Lastly, beware of overgrowth and fallen trees. This property is very slow going in the spring for that reason.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

There and There Some More: 90 Miles on the Southern New England Trunkline Trail and the Airline State Park Trail

Well, I finally did it. After two separate attempts in the past, I finally rode the infamous Southern New England Trunkline Trail (SNETT) from start to finish aboard my trusty new stead. In addition, I rode about 20 miles of Connecticut's Airline State Park Trail. In total, I rode about 90 miles of dirt, trail, pavement, singletrack, doubletrack, no track, mud, sand, and stone. It was an all day epic 10 hour journey that I meticulously documented like a tourist with my Panasonic digital camera.

Enjoy the show.


I rolled out at 7:30 AM on a bright sunny August morning. I started from the parking lot on Grove Street in Franklin, MA. From here, I pedaled west into the unknown.


The initial trail conditions were good along the SNETT. Although the gravel was soft in some parts, my fearless stallion and her 42c tires handled the loose stuff with ease.


Around Bellingham, the trail becomes nicely packed and well groomed. While it only lasted for a few miles, it was really the ideal surface for my Cannondale Slate.

After this, the trail crosses the street and takes a turn for the worst. It picks up again at the entrance to a subdivision and the conditions are rough at best. It's not maintained except, evidently, by local dirt bikes that plow through the sandy gravel and engrave whoop-de-doops along the way. The vegetation spills into the trail quite a bit from here to Blackstone, MA.


The coolest thing between Bellingham and Blackstone is probably this newly renovated underpass that looks like it could still fit a train. Obviously, the trail going through it is overgrown and unmaintained.


After the underpass, the trail gets very rocky and very loose until it ends in Blackstone at the corner of a small multi-unit subdivision.


At this point, the trail disappears through Blackstone center, but when it picks up again (off Canal street I believe) it blossoms into a mighty paved bike path that will supposedly connect with the Blackstone River Bikeway in Rhode Island someday.


As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. When the Blackstone bike path ends, the SNETT simply disappears. I had to ride underneath the highway overpass (146 I think) and then take an immediate right down a dead end street. From here, it was a tight rocky singletrack climb up a hill for about 1/2 mile. After that, the SNETT reappears next to the highway and it's a swampy, rocky, buggy, mess. This is probably the worst section of the entire SNETT



After a few miles, the trail becomes somewhat recognizable again as it heads into Millville and Uxbridge. The surface is loose, but at least it's somewhat clear of vegetation.











As the SNETT heads into Douglas State Forest, it becomes a lot wider, but rather sandy. Going out was a lot better than coming back (especially since there was still some shade cover for me).











I know I've snapped this photo before, but this is probably the most impressive landmark along the route. It really speaks to the former glory of this bygone railroad.


In Douglas State Forest, there are some interesting ponds and lakes with a few native residents.




Also located in Douglas State Forest is the Tristate maker which I've actually visited before in one of my previous forays along the SNETT.












At the end of the SNETT, the Air Line Trail picks up immediately. In my opinion, the Air Line Trail is much better than the SNETT, especially when it gets into more rural Connecticut, where I had to unfortunately end my journey and turn around.



Like the SNETT, the Air Line Trail was great for the first few miles. However, it didn't take long for me get into some rough patches. Again, my bike was great, since it was designed for these surfaces, but if it weren't for kids on ATVs, theses trails wouldn't get any love.


Eventually the trail surface got a lot better and a lot wider, especially as I headed towards Putnam, Connecticut which turns out to be a nice little town along the Quinebaug river.



In Putnam, the trail ends and it becomes impossible to follow. Luckily, I found someone to help me and I brought a map anyway. The roads between the the two ends of the trail are really hilly, but the scenery is fantastic.

The trail picks up again at Wright's Crossing Road and is really a mess. It's under construction, which I didn't realize until I was headed back again. This was definitely the roughest section in Connecticut along the Air Line Trail.










Once I made it through though, I came across this old train station in Pomfret, CT. Again, another cool historical landmark.












The Air Line Trail continued and even though it was getting hot, the ride was really nice. If I were going to revisit any part of the trail, I would definitely start in Pomfret, CT and work my way west.




My sojourn ended, or really just half of it, at Brooklyn road in Pomfret, CT. The trail surface was fantastic and the scenery was beautiful. From here, I could tell that there was a lot of open fields and farms heading west. I'll have to go back and ride some more of this wonderful section in the future.


The ride back was exhausting, especially since the sun was high and the temperature picked up. At one point, I ran out of water. Twice, I had to stop just to rest. The sections that were just a little rough on the way out were intolerable on the way back. At about 5:00 PM, I arrived back at my car.

Overall, I'm extremely pleased with how my bike handled the different terrain along the trail. I think the only other bike that would be as well suited along the SNETT or Air Line Trail is a fat bike. I saw a couple of riders on fatties in Douglas State Forest and it looked like they were having a blast.

As for me, I can't wait to ride some more of this trail again someday soon.


The End


Sunday, July 21, 2019

South Shore Hiking Trails

I found a great little blog with some very useful information for fellow hikers, bikers, and outdoors enthusiasts. As you've hopefully realized from this blog,  you don't have to travel far to get into the woods and enjoy nature.

South Shore Hiking Trails

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Cannondale Slate

I've always been on the lookout for that one perfect bike, or quiver killer as it's sometimes called. Essentially, this is a bike that could replace all the mountain, road, and cross bikes in my stable. Well, I'm happy to say this past winter I purchased a 2017 Cannondale Slate 105 and I couldn't be happier. This is truly the one bike to rule them all.

I'll avoid posting a lot of technical specs, only because you can simply find them on the Cannondale website. Instead, I'll add some photos and give a brief overview of my thoughts so far. The main point I want to make is that this bike is perfect for someone looking to only own one bike and still ride a variety of terrain. It truly is an all-terrain bike, even though most industry snobs would call it a gravel bike or alternative road bike.

Maintenance

So far, I've put about 700 miles on the bike and have had minimal maintenance issues. From a wear and tear perspective, the only thing that's happened is a scratch in the paint. Unfortunately, the matte green paint scuffs very easily. I've also adjusted the shifting once or twice, but that's to be expected on a new bike anyway. Other than that, no complaints.

Ride Quality

I've owned a couple of cross bikes over the years (Bianchi Volpe and Lemond Poprad) but the Slate handles far better than any of them. The acceleration is snappy and the stock wheelset rides just as well as my old Mavic Ksyrium Elites. The large 650x42 Panaracer tires smooth out the jagged New England roads up in my neck of the woods. They also do a remarkable job off road, which is surprising because they're really just slicks. It's the wide grip that seems to really help. Just be careful, they will slip out on wet rocks and roots.

Ride Report

Here are a few photos I took while out gallivanting in 90 degree heat on the Slate in the Easton/Sharon area of Massachusetts. I think they demonstrate some of the Slate's best qualities:

Pre-ride Portrait













She did well on a the mud and sand of this trail to the right. The Slate can sometimes slip in the mud, but it's more like a stall where the wheel spins out, if that makes sense. It's fairly predictable so if you have any mountain bike experience, it won't be an issues. In my opinion, it's better than getting stuck in the mud with overly knobby tires.







Bombin' through the suburbs. The Slate is great on the road, but don't expect to hang with the A Group on your club ride. Instead, impress the B Group with your lefty fork and prepare to field questions about whether it pulls to the left.










Loose rocks and sand are probably the least favorite terrain of the Slate. It gets through, but the rocks sometimes kick up and hit the frame.












The Slate loves a good bridge or two.














The most surprising feature of the Slate is that it handles rocky singletrack remarkably well, even with the stock slicks. I can't believe the things this bike can get over sometimes.










The best terrain, of course, for the Slate is gravel. The 42c tires fly over loose to hard gravel.













From the cockpit, grinding the gravel.













Taking a break.














Back at it, on the gravel.














Going uphill.














You know me, I love these shots.














Hanging out around Moose Hill (don't get lost, this place is big).












Heading back home after a fun (hot) day.














Summary

Like I said before, the Slate is an amazing bike and incredibly fun. Like all bikes, it does have some drawbacks. The biggest one for me is the saddle. The saddle feels great for about 20 miles, but after than it really loses its hold. It might fit better for other people, but for me it's very uncomfortable.

Some people complain about the gearing, but I've actually gotten used to it over the past couple of months. Pushing 42c tires with a 50 tooth chainring is tough. However, it makes switching from road to offroad riding better, in my opinion. Unless it's gravel, I almost always drop down to the small chainring when I'm offroad. If I were to change anything, it would probably be the top chainring and saddle.

Overall, this bike is amazing and I look forward to riding it for years to come. Oh yeah, and the fork. I have never figured out why bike companies didn't actively develop suspension forks for road or cross bikes. It's amazing. I no longer feel like I'm riding a jack hammer around town. Suspension forks on non-mountain bikes is the best idea and I'm glad that Cannondale developed the Lefty Oliver without a real weight penalty. I simply cannot say enough positive things about this bike and I hope that you seriously consider buying one and riding one too!