Sunday, September 30, 2018

Joy Ride’s Intro to Bikepacking Overnight, Or...

...A Most Excellent Bikepacking Extravaganza With So Many Fun People!

A week ago, Derik held an Intro to Bikepacking Clinic at Joy Ride. This weekend 11 of us went out to the forest for a little overnight field trip. For some of us, this was a new experience riding fully loaded gravel bikes. The rest of us had varying degrees of experience. On the first day, a few went the long route, four went the shorter route, and four of us inadvertently went the medium route (more on that in a moment). All of us had fun.

Day One—The Magnetic Pull of the C-Line

We met at the Skep at 10:00. I got a 9.5 mile warmup by riding there from home, as did the majority of the group. We ended up rolling out about 10:30. Weather was looking pretty good (rain was forecasted for the evening). Tim had developed the route (this way, we couldn’t blame Derik if we didn’t like it). There were two route options, a shorter one at about 32 miles, and a longer one at around 45-50. I knew from the start I would do the shorter route. I didn’t even download the longer route to my phone. Derik planned to go longer, and Jason would stay with those of us wanting to go the shorter option.

Sly waiting to get rolling.

Riders and bikes at the ready.

Our destination for Day 1 was Porter Creek Campground on the South side of Capitol Forest. This was cool because I had never been there. There would be some new roads for me! There would also be a wee bit more than 3000ft of elevation gain, but that’s the Forest. To get to our planned entrance into the forest, we had a little bit of road riding to do first. Those of us with narrower gravel tires rolled a little easier on the pavement (but we sure wanted some fatter tires on the gravel!). Soon enough, we all convened at the one and only bit of singletrack for the two days. I’ve been on this singletrack several times. I was fully prepared to have to walk most of it with the bike being loaded, and much heavier. I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself able to ride as much of the section as I do without the load. One of the new riders questioned the awesomeness of the singletrack. Derik convinced her that was it, there would be no more.  

Jana completing the singletrack.

Singletrack is never a problem for the D-man!
The first climb on the gravel began right after the singletrack. I was certainly utilizing my easiest gear (ever so grateful for changing to a smaller chainring), but I managed it. A good down section, some more up, then more down, spit us out onto Sherman Valley Rd. We headed up the road to the C-Line. A couple of weeks ago we had started up the C-Line, but cut off at D4000. This time we continued the long long climb up the C-Line. Because this was touring, and not just your normal weekend gravel ride, we stopped midway up the climb, and pulled out a variety of lunch items. I had some little mini flour tortillas with peanut butter and honey. Jason had a squeeze pack of chocolate hazelnut spread that I added to one of the tortillas. It was a very enjoyable lunch break.

Back on the bikes, we continued up the C-Line.

A nice view

Derik photo bombing on his Bombtrack!

The last time I was all the way to the top of the C-Line was on a Team gravel ride. There was snow then. This time, instead of snow, there were motorcycles, and the intersection has been clear cut (we suspect there is going to be some logging starting soon). We headed on down. At the turn for D1000, Stephanie, Ken, and Derik turned for the long route. That last time when there was snow? Karen and I, moving much slower than the rest of the group rode right past the D1000 turn. Unfortunately, no one had waited for us at the turn (it is an expected practice that someone waits until everyone makes the turn). This time, on purpose, the rest of us continued down C-Line. Not far beyond the turn, the C-Line became a very scary experience with really heavy gravel. It was also quite steep. Even though my every instinct was to brake and go really slow, I found that to be harder. Keeping a bit more speed, and letting the bike move underneath me seemed to work better. Still, at the end, we all gave a definite hallelujah when the road returned to a normal surface (well, Seaweed, who was riding a fat bike, might have actually enjoyed it). 

Down down down we went. At one point, Rosemary was in the lead, followed by Seaweed and I. Lily had stopped when she thought something had fallen off her bike. As Seaweed and I were riding along, I asked if he knew how to get to the campground. He said he could get there. About that time, Lily came flying down the hill telling us we needed to turn around. We had missed the turn for C-1000. Seaweed and her took off after Rosemary to catch her, and tell her to turn around. I turned around and headed back up. As I was riding the couple of miles back up the hill, I was reminded of the last time I had missed a turn off C-Line (that time, Karen and I ended up all the way down to US 12). I realized that the C-Line must have some strong magnetic pull. It really doesn’t want me to depart from it!

Anyway, Seaweed, Lily, and Rosemary caught up to me, and we rode back to the turn for C-1000. Along the way, Jason met us, and we all rode the rest of the way to the campground on the B-Line. We arrived at our selected campsite at close to 4:30. It was a good day’s ride. 

We all set up our tents on Sites 9 and 11. It was very nice; right on the creek. It was also in good proximity to the potty shacks. Shortly, Derik, Ken, and Stephanie arrived, as did Amy, who had ridden the road because she hadn’t been able to leave town at 10:00 with the rest of us. Once camp was set up, we all took a break and enjoyed some beverages from a cooler that had been waiting for us (Derik had dropped it off the day before, and it was actually still there).

The view from Jana’s tent Taj Mahal.

More tents!

Jana relaxing and reading her book with her bike looking over her shoulder.

Once a number of beverages were consumed, everyone began to cook their dinners. At least half of us had done our grocery shopping at REI. I don’t think any of us had the same dinner. I had the Turkey Dinner Casserole. It was pretty decent. 

Amy and Derik started a campfire, and we all enjoyed the remainder of the evening sitting around it, laughing and telling stories. Around 9:30 it began to sprinkle (remember that forecast?). Before long we all retired to our humble abodes. The rain became heavier, and continued off and on throughout the night. As tired as I was, it took me awhile to fall asleep, but eventually I did.

Day 2–Back Up and Over With a Bit of Walking

The rain had stopped by the time we all rolled out of our tents. Breakfasts were fixed, tents were packed up, and everything was packed back on the bikes. Jana’s husband, Bill, had joined us the night before (he reaffirmed his dislike for camping, but it was nice of him to come). He graciously took the cooler and all of our trash. Jana herself had to return to town faster, so Bill took her bags while she took the road back. Our numbers were still at 11 as Amy would be riding the gravel back with us.

We departed the campground at almost 9:30 (personally, I think that’s pretty good for 11 people!). Right out of the campground we were climbing up the B-Line. The climb was long...very long. Layers came off. Eventually, we got to the top, and started some nice downhill.

Here comes Ken Z!

Followed by Amy and Derik

Group shot at B4000 (the speedies, Stephanie and Ken were ahead of us). Left to right: Lily, Seaweed, Derik, Ken Z, Rosemary, Jason, and Amy (that’s Sly laying down).

We made the turn onto B4000. This was very familiar territory for me, but I hadn’t ridden it in this direction. There is a really good reason for that. The next turn is on to the KC-Line. It goes sharply up, and the rocks are pretty loose. I gave it a valiant effort, but ended up having to walk. Those of us not on mountain bikes (or fat bike) all had to walk. I told Rosemary there is no shame in walking! 

At one point when we were back to riding, but still climbing, it decided to rain. Of course, as soon as I got my jacket on, it stopped (but, you know, if I hadn’t put my jacket on, it would have continued to rain...that’s weather karma for ya). 

The remainder of the ride on B6000 back to the B-Line was a glorious 7 miles of screamin’ downhill. It was the reward for all the climbing! 

At the Rock Candy Parking Lot, we saw the cars of the Gravelpalooza ride. We had missed them on the road though. We all had a snack, then proceeded across the hwy to head to the Green Diamond property for the last section of gravel. We climbed toward the quarry with a little break to allow Seaweed to do a little yoga.

Maybe we all should have done some yoga!

We returned to the pavement at the Kennedy Creek gate on Old Olympic Hwy. All that was left was to ride 101 to the Steamboat Island exit, then Madrona Beach to Mud Bay, and back to the Skep. We arrived close to 2:00. As is the usual finish for the gravel rides, we enjoyed some food from Wally’s and beverages at the Skep.

Back where we started.

After some food, drink, and chatting with the Gravelpalooza riders who came in, I headed for home. I think this “Intro to Bikepacking” overnight was a wild success. Everyone had a great time. With all the different setups, it was proven that you can be successful riding what you’ve got. Of course, Bikepacking bags work, but so do panniers, and generous use of straps. There were no major mechanicals, and no crashes. Most of all, everyone had a great time. I really hope we do it again!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Gravelpalooza #1–Something New, Something Blue

Yay! We are back to Gravel Season! Today was the first Joy Ride Bikes Shop Gravel Ride known as Gravelpalooza. It was almost like a bride at a wedding...something new, something borrowed (if you consider a borrowed rain jacket), and something blue. 

Let’s start with the something blue. That would be the sky. The weather forecast throughout the week had not looked good for today. It was looking like thunderstorms would accompany us along the gravel roads of Capitol Forest. As I was riding from my house to meet up with Bethany for the drive up to the “Y”, I did indeed get rained on pretty good. I had my rain jacket and my awesome Vaude bike gaiters, but the space between the bottom of my jacket, and the tops of my gaiters got pretty wet just riding the 6 miles to Bethany. At least it stopped raining by the time we got to the “Y” (Waddell and Sherman Valley Rds). Twenty one of us started up C-Line. By the time we got to D-4000, the jackets had come off (it’s a bit of a climb). There was actually a few pockets of blue sky!

However, as we were descending down, it started to rain, no, make that, hail. Jackets were back on in a flash! This trend of rain then sunshine would continue for most of the ride. At least there was some blue sky! I think I took off/put on my rain jacket 3 times.

For the “something new”, it was short to longish sections of SINGLETRACK! There were a number of us who were rather apprehensive about the idea of taking our drop bar gravel steeds on singletrack trails. I, for one, have steadfastly proclaimed I am NOT a mountain biker! To me, singletrack is mountain bike territory. Those with mountain bike backgrounds seemed to think it was no big deal (and, of course, there were some who were actually on mountain bikes). Well...we managed just fine. Maybe not the speediest, but we made it without any mishaps. Dare I say, it was even a little bit fun??? It helped that there was more flat and downhill, than uphill. Also, the trails are pretty well maintained (even though there was a fair amount of mud and puddles from the rain). It was also interesting to me because, while I have been on many of the gravel roads, I have zero experience with the trails...where they start, distance, and finish. I want to learn the trails so I can do some hiking training for my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2020.

It felt like the gravel road to singletrack ratio was about 1:1, but it was really probably more gravel road...but not by much! It was a good experience. As conditions become worse on the trails, some knobbier tires would be helpful, or maybe I should just bite the bullet, and get some 650b wheels so I can run a wider tire...which would be awesome on the gravel too...

Even with the rain, it was a successful first Gravelpalooza of the season. I’m looking forward to the next one!

A couple of new women...Lia and Machiko!