Monday, December 19, 2022

Friends and bikes and snow

Last week was finals week at Penn State. The impending snowstorm caused my last final to be moved online, so I drove home to Pittsburgh a day early to beat the storm. With finals out of the way, it was on to bigger and better things. Namely: a weekend full of riding bikes with friends.

For Saturday, I talked to my friend Simon and we got a group together for a big suffer fest on gravel roads out near his house. The route was about 66 miles with nearly 9,000 feet of climbing, including plenty of gravel, mud, closed roads, powerline cuts, and steep climbs. Exactly my kind of stuff. Plus, a few of us were extra stupid and we took our singlespeeds on the ride. My bike was my Salsa Stormchaser with 38x19 gearing.

I brought donuts to Simon's house for the ride, where me, Zach, Simon, Cinderbloch, Litz, and Stick messed around with a pogo stick for a little bit before setting out on the route. It's worth noting that Simon is really good at pogo sticks, and even though he's a great rider, Litz is not very good.

We also checked out Simon's new man-cave, which is a pretty pimped-out bike workshop. The bike frame that Simon is holding is his old Spot Ralleye, which is a gravel bike frame that he cracked while getting a little too rowdy on singletrack. Also note Stick testing out the blowing capacity of Simon's leaf blower. I think there were some dirty jokes about that, but I can't remember them.

Out on the ride, the word of the day was "climb". Early on we hit Gums Run, a brutally steep gravel climb, followed by Service Creek, a paved climb that's extremely steep and extremely intimidating. After a few hard climbs, Stick pulled out his metal container of pumpkin bread for a little snack. Stick was riding 34x16 gearing, which is really hard, so he needed all the fuel he could get.

Litz is famous for not liking mud, so there was a little complaining when we rolled through Nichol Road and numerous mud puddles. Mostly joking, of course, but Litz does go to extreme measures to avoid mud. Some of the chunky and nearly-singletrack descents on Nichol "road" were pretty rough for my drop bar Salsa Stormchaser, but the 50mm Rambler tires handled the terrain well. 

Halfway though Nichol Road, we met up with Dave J., who rode with us for the rest of the route. With his geared bike, Dave broke the tie and (sadly) geared bikes were now the majority on the ride. Dave is a strong rider and a great guy, and we used to be be on the same team together.

It really was a good day of riding with below-freezing temps the whole time. Somehow, I stayed warm even with blowing wind and snow. We finished up the day with a gas-line cut through, where Jim broke his strap-on. We were all dirty from the mud, but not that dirty, by strap-on I mean strap-on fender. He snapped it off while trying to get back on his bike.

For Sunday, Simon got the green-light from his family to do a ride, so my brother and I headed out to do a snowy singletrack ride with him in Bavington. For those not from the area, Bavington is a trail system just west of Pittsburgh in some state gamelands. It's closed during hunting season, but there's no hunting on (most) Sundays, and it's a pretty unique place to ride.

Our friend Davey (different Dave from the day before) also met up with us on his fancy new Canyon full suspension shifty bike. But don't worry, Davey is a singlespeeder at heart, and all is forgiven on Sundays.

The conditions were surprisingly excellent, especially early on. The snow was pretty grippy (depending on who you ask) and there wasn't much mud. Davey showed off some bike pull-ups on a tree branch that was this close to snapping. We ripped it pretty hard, and eventually we met up with Stick and Suz (not by plan, but always a good thing) for a few miles. Everyone was riding really strong in the snow, and my legs were definitely feeling the day before a little bit.

Sometimes the winter can be rough in Pittsburgh, but despite below-freezing temperatures and snow on the ground, it was a pretty great weekend of riding with friends.

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