Sunday, December 19, 2004

Urban Epic

An epic ride in the middle of Northern VA suburbia? Yup, that's what happened when a group of seven brave explorers set out on a quest to connect Great Falls to the Pohick Stream Valley via the Cross County Trail (CCT).

The Fellowship of the (chain)Ring

The CCT is supposed to be a "commuter" trail, so I decide to ride my commuter bike, i.e., my Surly cross check set up fixie-cross style. To complete the commuter experience, I don my Chrome bag stuffed waaay too full of stuff that I don't really need. I figure this is a good way to test the bag (and my poor back). I drive to the Pohick Valley end of the trail and meet Randy (the MORE CCT trail liason). DT shows up soon after and shuttles us to the beginning of the ride at Great Falls. The idea is for Randy and I to shuttle everyone back to Great Falls at the end of the ride. As we pull into the parking lot the temperature reads a brisk 27F. Graham is already there waiting. One by one, the rest of the Fellowship arrives, Gary, Dan, then Lee. DT, true to form, is riding fixed with a cracked chain ring.

The first obstacle right out of the parking lot is a stream crossing. Not that deep, but slippery with a good current. Fall in and sub-freezing temperatures will ensure that the ride's over for you. A group of joggers stops to watch the potential catastrophe. Not wanting to chance it, most of us take off our shoes and carry our bikes through the freezing water. Gary and Lee put the rest of us to shame and ride through.

Gary, showin' how it's done

The whole first half of the ride is a good mix of fireroad and single track. Good singletrack at that. So good that I repeatedly question my choice of riding a fixed cross bike. I never knew there was this much in suburbian NOVA. The trick is finding and connnecting it all, and that's exactly what we were there to do. We have 2 or 3 GPS units going and stop often to take pictures at intersections. While this slows the pace down considerably, it's for a good cause.

Somewhere along the way, I complain to Lee that I've ruined 3 pairs of eggbeater pedals in the last 2 years. "Well, do you hit them on stuff a lot," he asks. "No," I say earnestly, priding myself on the finesse of my riding. Then within the next 10 minutes I proceed to smash my pedals on 4 or 5 consecutive log piles, slamming me to the ground each time. So much for finesse.

About a third of the way through the ride, we have our first real casualty: Gary throws in the towel after having mechanical issues with his drivetrain. As we emerge from the singletrack to attack our first extended pavement section, I sense more casualties coming. The trail is tougher than I expected. Dan and Graham call it quits somewhere on the pavement. About an hour later the remaining four of us ride into my stomping ground: Wakefield. Here, I lead the group up one of the fireroad climbs into the singletrack and then out towards the parking lots where, like an oasis in the desert, Gary and his truck are waiting. My legs are killing me. I call Gina, secretly hoping that she'll tell me to come home. The woman is merciless and gives me no honorable way out. Doesn't matter how fit you are, muscle cramps can hit anytime. And that's what happened to DT on one of the fireroad climbs. He calls it quits. Lee has a life outside of biking and has to bail because of other commitments. Now it's just me and Randy.

It's 3:30 in the afternoon as we head out of Wakefield to start the last 10 miles back to our cars. Somewhere along the way we wind up within two blocks of my house. My front tire is slowly leaking air. I think about heading home and letting Randy go on, but I can't let him have all the fun for himself. A few steep road climbs later, we enter Pohick Stream Valley. I push the pace through the last miles of rolling gravel paths. As we pull up to the cars I feel good. 33 miles on a fixed gear bike will do that to you. Randy is also looking in top form. My Chrome bag has worked perfectly. My back and shoulders feel as fresh as when I started. I call DT to tell him we're ok. He reminds me that there's a dozen beers in the back of my wagon. I pull out a Troeg's Mad Elf Ale and open it using one of my broken eggbeater pedals. I guess they're good for something after all.

Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia. ~H.G. Wells


Blogger Graham said...

Great write up! You forgot about the part when we went through Mirkwood know...that stretch of difficult run between route 7 and Browns Mill Road with all of the pine trees...a Mad Elf beer seems like the perfect choice to cap off this quest. Hats off to you and Randy for completing the quest!

6:48 AM

Blogger DT said...

Nice write up Joe! Think you can email me those photos?


10:31 AM

Blogger bob said...

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6:10 PM

Blogger Roberto Iza Vald├ęs said...

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1:20 PM


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