Monday, July 20, 2009

Mid-Winter Ride Report: To Makara and back

Nevermind how I came to be in possession of the singlespeed I'm riding at the moment. Let's just say that it's the inevitable outcome of both my mountain bikes lying dormant and unused in our workshop for too long while I've been pretending to be a road cyclist, combined with my well-documented predisposition to endlessly swap parts on, modify, and excessively faff around with my bikes (which happens a great deal less when they're actually being used). Anyway, just before selling out and spending a solid month road riding I got in a few rides on a rigid steel singlespeed that the magazine was reviewing and had a really great time on it; I guess that got the ball rolling. And now that it's complete and has seen some use (it being my Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon hardtail with a Reba fork) I'm remembering all of the things that I loved about the ride of my old (2006/7) Stumpjumper singlespeed (alloy frame, set up with a Reba as well).

Today was its second outing. The first took place last Sunday, when I found myself mixed up in a Bushlove group ride. That ride was great - apart from finishing it without being violated by Ricky Pincott, the weather was awesome and the bike handled great. I attribute a lot of that to the fact that Stumpjumper frames generally ride well anyway, but the 710mm wide Salsa ProMoto bar that I fitted is one of the best things I've come across lately, and now believe you'd have to be mental to want to use a singlespeed with anything narrower than that. The only thing that got changed for today was lowering the gear slightly from 32x16 to 32x17; the trails were steep and greasy in places, and staying on top of the 2:1 gear was pretty tough at times.

Karl Ratahi met me at my place just after 8 for an early start. I almost pulled the pin after having an exceptionally shit night that was almost devoid of sleep, but figured a spin with Ratas while the weather was still good would beat the hell out of moping around at home trying to encourage some extra sleep that more than likely wouldn't come anyway. Karl turned up on his Avanti KISS 29er, a fully rigid steel beast that he picked up a few weeks ago. I figured that since this is maybe the first ever ride report on this blog where everyone involved was singlespeeding (Brett will no doubt correct me if I'm wrong), I should embellish it with photos. Unfortunately my photograpy skills are mediocre and aren't assisted at all by the fact that the camera used was the fail low-res one that is in my cellphone, so don't go expecting wonders.

First up was a ride up the goldmine s-bends, which is normally a pretty tricky exercise in steep switchback technique, and pretty much a nightmare on a singlespeed. Here's Karl finishing off the incomplete assembly job on his bike at the fenceline section, proving that Brett is possibly the last person on earth that you should ask to build your bike:

Here's mine, propped up nearby on the fence:

And here's where we were about to head:

Although fortunately we would be riding up a second set of switchbacks rather than straight up the monstrous fenceline climb. These were much more manageable than the goldmine ones, and though steep and awkward in parts I cleaned most of it - the lowered gearing definitely helped. This is the view from the top:

From here we rode across the top of Wright's Hill and on to Deliverance. This was in surprisingly good shape, and we both cleaned it top to bottom with the exception of the awkward, rooty step-up partway down. Here's an awful photo of Ratas entering the chute on his big wheeled bike:

Me refilling my drink bottle at the Makara car park:

And looking on while Karl rides round and round in circles, no doubt still coming to terms with the unnatural handling of 29ers:

From here it was decided that we should slog up to the summit and take a look at Ridgeline. Here's a pointless shot of the entrance to missing link:

It's impossible to tell from the low-quality photo, but a lot of the trails were in pretty dry condition given how wet everything was on the weekend. Sections of upper Ridgeline were a bit marginal, but were nothing compared to the filthy mudpit that Salvation has become. Having enjoyed an awesome descent back to the carpark, Salvation took us back up to the Wright's Hill carpark, and although in better shape than it was on Sunday, it still left our bikes covered in this by the time we reached the top:

We figured that a ride over Hawkins Hill would be a good way finish our legs off, since Karl had a midday deadline to meet. We rode past the parade ground and along the fenceline, then jumped the fence at the clearing to come out on the Long Gully access road. Here's Ratas smashing it up to the road...

...only to be faced with more climbing on the seal:

We decided on the Tip Track to get back down to Happy Valley road. Here's a shot of where we would be heading:

Karl preparing himself for the descent:

He claimed at some point around this time to be enjoying the ride a great deal, although that expression seems to tell another story.

The Tip Track descent was fast and sketchy at the top. I forgot how off-camber most of those top corners are, and narrowly missed some dodgy crashes. The bottom half is way better, with some huge berms on the corners that let you carry heaps of speed through them. At the bottom gate we parted company; Karl had to get going, and we were both feeling pretty rooted at this point anyway. We timed the ride well; at that point, the wind was rising but my ride back up Happy Valley rode wasn't the grovel into the northerly that I was expecting. As I type this the gusts are getting worse and are meant to hit gale force around this evening; fortunately for me, all riding for the day is done and dusted... and I'm too trashed to mess around with my bikes. A beer sounds like a much better idea.