Yesterday the ride group hummed and hawed over exactly what to do. The snowstorm that was supposed to have befallen us didn't materialize into more than a barely perceivable dusting of snow. After much debate we chose to go with that which was know; Estabrook Woods. Cathy and I rode out the rail-trail to meet John and Alexis at the North Bridge parking lot. Cathy's plan was to break off and go meet a friend who was in town, for coffee at the Main Street Cafe, potentially a wiser choice. Off the bat I could feel the prior day's effort in the legs and lower back. For this ride I had mounted up my nearly ten year old Nokian Extreme studded tires on my Yeti 575. The Yeti is a great trail bike and excels in the bumps and technical stuff and is a Cadillac when you get it up to speed. For longer fast rides on non-technical terrain, it takes a little extra effort. Add the extra few pounds of studded tire and ooff, that hurts.
Out of the lot AA had a slight mechanical issue where by he needed to raise his saddle to compensate for the thicker soles on his Lake winter shoes. We finally got rolling and onto the trail without issue until the old cleats that AA mounted on his new shoes didn't match with the pedals upon which he had the tension set for new cleats on his old shoes. Some quick work with an allen wrench and were were moving again. Because Estabrook is a fairly small chuck of land, I decided to ride every trail in the place, even the nasty ones that we typically don't ride. This brought some variety to the ride and certainly kept it challenging with the variations in trail surface. John is still training for the Master's Cyclocross World Championships so was on a tear. It took all of the fortitude that I could muster to keep the pace moving at a level that would not totally bore him and force him to pass me and up the pace. Unfortunately, this pace coupled with the sloppy pedals was enough that AA appeared to be suffering some but still hanging tough. Add to that a broken spoke that lodged into his rear disc brake rotor locking up the rear wheel and it was clear that this was going to be a tough day for the big guy.
After looping around on trails that I had not been on in years, we proceeded out the dreaded Two Rod Road (a rod is a unit of measure and is 16.5'), a colonial era highway that is now a bumpy, rocky slightly uphill both ways trail that beats you into submission. Shortly onto the trail I noticed that my bike computer stopped registering. The issue turned out to be that the magnet on the spoke had slid down away from the sensor. The trails were so rough that the magnet slid. Never seen that happen before. Toward the end of the trail AA had another issue, this time the ferrule on his rear derailleur cable housing cracked and allowed the cable to flop around. This resulted in poor shifting and ultimately, the straw that broke the camel's back. Coming back into Estabrook on the Bee Sting Trail was sheer misery. Less foot traffic meant deep pockmarks that snatch most all of your forward momentum, forcing you to struggle mightily for all forward progress. Alexis finally the in the towel and told us not to wait. We decided to make our way directly up to Estabrook Road, the primary colonial era roadway through the land, such that he could limp back out, which he did.
John and I looped around a bit more and then finally called it quits and headed out. On the way back to the rail-trail, on the road, I noticed a hop in the rear wheel. My thought was that I'd probably tweaked it some but would check later. Shortly after John and I parted I stopped to change gloves and put a head covering back on under my helmet. I also took a look at the rear wheel. I quickly noticed what looked like the swat of a tiger's claws on the sidewall of my rear tire. Three identical tears with inner tube splaying out from them. I wanted no part of fixing this on the trail so rode the final five miles on what was possibly the worst of the trail, very gingerly, which was all my tired body could handle. I returned home cold and tired feeling wholly tenderized. Total time was 3.5 hours with just over 3 hours rolling and 30 miles. The rear tire is a throwaway. Bummed I only got 10 years out of it. Replacements have been ordered. I'm actually glad the tire is toast as it means that I don't have top go ride the bumpy ice again today. 10 hours of wrestling with bad road was enough for me last week. One thing is for sure though, riding in this stuff certainly builds skill and confidence as well as character. Good ride.