Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Local Ride: Luther Forest Trails, Malta, NY

I was able to once again take advantage of the warmer temps and get out for a ride this past Sunday. On the weekends I try and ride somewhere I don't normally go. Usually I have a bit more time so driving for 30 to 45 minutes there and back isn't a big deal. I've been thinking of heading back up to Luther with the Rocky since there are some trail features I wanted to try. The singlespeed is fun, but just not always the right tool for the job. I wasn't really sure f the trail conditions so I posted on the facebook page for the Luther Forest Mountain Bikers, a group of local riders who help maintain the trail network. I should have known that this "Trails are great! Frozen and wet, really tests your skills..." really means "Make sure you ride with studs!" But, I didn't really have the time to put on the studs so I took a chance.

More slippery than it looks, the steepest sections had to be walked.
When I got there I knew I was in trouble. The parking lot was a sheet of ice. And with the warmer temps, some of it was melting. Now ice is slippery, but wet ice is down right dangerous. Luckily, it seemed much of the ice was pitted and crumbling so there was some traction to be had. I started off and right away I was thinking this probably isn't a good idea. I was able to ride, and get traction but I was unsure of where and when the tires would break loose. The tires I have on the bike now are Bontrager Big Earl and are 26 x 2.5 but are the dry conditions version. Still I have had good luck with these in the past so I rode on. Soon after starting, the trail winds along a gully and much of the trail is a slight off camber. As I was approaching a downhill off camber section, I could just picture myself just touching the brakes, losing control and heading down the gully ass end first. Here it is, the pucker factor. This is about the time my sphincter tightens up and my life starts to flash before my eyes. And I stopped. I seriously thought about turning right around and going home. But after a second or two I came to my senses and said "fuck no...I am going to ride God dammit!". I let some air out of the tires. I think I started with somewhere around 36psi and took them down to about 28psi. Now these tires aren't tubeless so I knew I was taking a gamble but I would much rather change a flat tire than climb out of a gully with 36lbs of bike in tow.

Most of the newer trails looked like this.
I am so glad I continued because from that moment on, the trails were very manageable and I never lost control or had the ground come up to meet me. And not all of the trails were covered in ice, most of the newer trails had very little or no snow at all. In fact it was wet and muddy in some sections. I kept the pace slow to play it safe and only picked sped up where there was little or no snow. It was a real challenge to ride back here with no studs, especially the log crossings. It seemed to me none of them were perpendicular to the trail and there was always ice before and after each one. I felt certain the rear tire was going to slide out when I was at the highest point on the log and I was going down. Keeping off the brakes just before and right after the features as well as shifting my weight away from each tire as it crossed the log was what saved me.

Much of what I rode looked like this.
I rode for about 2 hours, I really needed it too. Another successful winter ride. But next time I come here I will definitely have studs...I can totally do without the pucker factor.