Jun 22 2009

Riding the Rough Stuff
Out My Back Door With My Long Haul Trucker

 
You don’t have to go far from home to have a good bike ride—just hop on and ride away from your back door. And you don’t really need a special bike to enjoy a spin, either. Just use the bike you have and follow your nose. I did that the other day, when on a whim I was drawn ever further down a utility service road which is gated and off-limits to unauthorized motor vehicles. Did I take my utility-mountain bike? Nope. I rode my road touring bike, a Surly Long Haul Trucker, outfitted with Schwalbe Marathon (26″ x 1.5″, or 40mm) tires inflated to about 80 psi for riding on pavement. Mountain bikers routinely ride this unimproved road, but I’ve never seen a roadie on it. No wonder. It has a reputation as a place only mountain bikers and horses would dare to go:

 

Horse Track

 
The tracks left by knobby tires alerted me to soft, deep sand before I hit it myself:

 

Deep Sand

 
Deep sand, sharp crushed stone, and steep hills characterized the first half of the road. I had to dismount in a couple places and hoof it when I misjudged the amount of power needed to maintain forward movement.

 

Hoofing It

 
The road conditions presented hazards even to mountain bikers, whose tracks told the tale in their skids, like this one on a steep grade:

 

Skids

 
And then there were road apples, which one cyclist narrowly missed:

 

Road Apples

 
But there were long stretches with fairly easy riding, even if it was necessary to always be alert for the odd grapefruit-sized cobble or sharp crushed stone over deep sand. If I’d deflated my tires to about 60-65 psi, I’d probably have coped a bit better with the sand, but as it was, riding was fairly comfortable, even if I couldn’t let my attention wander. My new Louis Garneau RR-16 rack trunk works a charm, by the way:

 

Fair Sailing

 
The air was sweetly scented from wildflowers, and the wind was strong enough to discourage horseflies and make me glad I wasn’t trying to buck it on the highway. Paying just enough attention to road conditions in order to avoid capsizing—I’d come to think of this kind of cycling as similar to whitewater paddling down through a rock garden—I enjoyed the surroundings. Then I saw something odd looming ahead and wasn’t sure at first what it was. I stopped when I drew near:

 

Butterflies

 
Butterflies savored fresh coyote dung. Not my meal of choice, but they loved it. I swung wide and rode on, and within the hour I was at the terminus of the service road. Before I lifted over the boulder blocking a pass-through, I shot this photo:

 

LHTs Welcome

 
Surely they don’t mean Surly Long Haul Truckers, do they? I thought not. Did you enjoy the vicarious rough ride? Want more? Send your mouse to our photo gallery.

 
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