Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dirty Sheets

My poor, neglected mountain bike...

The Sled

I'm relegated to the roads these days, and though I've put an ungodly number miles on my road bike, my mountain bike has been lying in a dismembered heap in the corner of the garage. It cries when I walk by. Or maybe it's me crying.

Either way, something had to be done.

Down south of Douglasville, in general vicinity of Chattahoochee Hills, there's this set of roads called the Silk Sheets. I've ridden there a lot. Now and again, I've noticed dirt roads leading off to the left or right, but being on the road bike, and especially being on roads so smooth and luxurious that they're called The Silk Sheets, I had no interest in said dirt until recently.

A few weeks back I drove out there, applied my superior mapping skills and found more than 35 miles of dirt roads. It probably cost me $60 in gas, but I had a route, and I named it the Dirty Sheets.

John and I rode part of it on the road bikes a few weeks ago, but yesterday he and I and Mark B. rode the whole route. John's mountain bike is completely disassembled, waiting for a fork rebuild and a new spoke in the rear wheel, so he just put 28's on his road bike. Me and Baldwin were rocking the full-on fat tires.

The beginning of the route is road-heavy.


There are little scraps of dirt, but it's mostly pavement.

Then, when you turn off on Garretts Ferry, it gets good and rough, and stays that way.


It reminded me a lot of the Madison Dirt Ride we did a few months back, and it was a bit like the Huracans and CFiTTs I've done in years past. It would be good training for those kinds of rides, at least.

The roads seemed rougher and looser than when John and I last rode out there. It's funny what you forget. Not having been in the mountain bike in a while, I forgot how much gravel and little holes shake you around and work your core. It didn't wear me out, but I definitely feel it today.

The hills out there are mostly short and steep or really long and really shallow. A few start off steep though, wind around a corner, get shallower, but still keep climbing. Not knowing which were which, I kept punching through the steep sections, assuming the road would level off. Ha! Nope. It reminded me of climbing Buchannan Hwy a few weeks ago. Ugh.

John wasn't in love with the 28's either. They were boat anchors and the rear tire kept rubbing his cadence meter too. Before we got riding, he was talking about how strange his road bike felt with the tires and the little bit of extra gear he was carrying. Before I started doing any bikepacking, I'd really optimized the gear that I carried during an average ride. It was really light, consistent and predictable. I'd gotten really comfortable with that. When I started doing longer rides that required varying amounts of gear, or ride-specific gear, it really threw me. Around that time, I was watching Ice Road Truckers on TV too and I learned about how completely different each load that a trucker hauls can be, and about what they do to stay consistent and manage each load. It inspired me to start working on being able to do the same kind of thing, though to a substantially lesser degree, on the bike. He'd done that same kind of thing on the mountain bike, but hadn't really translated it to the road bike yet. It's definitely strange.

Some of the roads out on the route feel remote and others feel quite residential.


Or at least residential by rural standards.

There was an equestrian event going on off of one of the side roads. Plenty of signs, but we didn't get to see it.

I think we only passed one two other guys on bikes. One was an older guy on a hybrid, and the other guy appeared to be riding a bike because maybe he couldn't afford a car. It's just as well though. We might have gotten some confused looks from real roadies.

We stopped twice for water. Once off of Sardis Road and again near Hwy 92. Mark was down to half a bottle each time. I had only consumed half a bottle each time. Hmm... I've always seemed to need less water than most, but perhaps I would perform a little better if I drank a little more.

At the second stop, a guy driving around asked us if we knew how to get to Serenbe. John gave him directions. It's funny. I know where it is, but even with all the driving around and mapping, I still don't have a super-good mental picture of the area.

A lot of the roads on the second half of the route are dirt in the sense that they were once blacktop, but nobody has bothered to repave them in 20 years. When I drove them in the car, I didn't notice, but it's apparent on the bike. You can see little bits of the yellow center-line here and there, still hanging on.

All-in-all the ride was kind of uneventful. It was fun, but nothing crazy happened. There were no knocked out bridges, deep ruts, fords, large animals... I did see a rabbit and a turkey, but that was all. I miss the crazy sometimes. I guess that's the difference between road and trail, or maybe between roads in more vs. less civilized areas.

Hey, what are you gonna do though? We still had a good time. The route was fun, especially for a semi-local route. I suspect it would be equally fun on a road, cross or mountain bike - different challenges on each. So, go ride it. You go ride it now!

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