Anyway, cyclocross season ended a little earlier than expected this year for some, but that doesn't mean riding the bike is any less of a focus. Nope, drop bars, cantilevers, tubular knobbies, and super-intense hour-efforts have been swapped-out for riser bars, disc brakes, bigger tyres, and one gear for the foreseeable future. Time for long, slow (read: you know, "tempo") rides that take up most of the waning daylight hours (and then some...bring a CamelBak).
Mile 21 - Looking upstream into the Cheat River canyon
For the past few weekends, I've been on the "solo ridge loop kick" as I like to call it. What this means is taking the singlespeed 29er out the front door and getting immersed in the local watersheds here in the good ol' Belgium of North America for 6 hours or so before putting the key in the lock again. I don't really like to ride by myself, but when everybody else is out racin' cross and you can't go - what else are you gonna do?
And now we're looking towards Cooper's Rock State Forest
Plus, we're lucky to have such great riding here, where we can ride from the lowland rivers to headwater streams, over and over again without missing a beat and with a minimum of pavement. So it's good public service to take advantage of it. Traffic isn't bad either. I've done a particular ride the past three weekends and have maybe been passed by 50 cars going in the same direction. 50 might sound like a lot, but seriously - getting passed by an average of 17 cars per 55 miles and 6000' of up and down sounds pretty good to me. Come on over to West Virginia and do some pedaling - there's plenty of miles to be had here off the all-too-beaten path. Get into that rhythm that only long rides can deliver.
Mile 26 - Looking downstream into the Big Sandy Gorge
The winter solstice is just a few days away. Hopefully the weather holds out for at least one more weekend, as the mountains are already getting covered with snow. During my last long ride, I ended up hiking a few miles of uphill singletrack due to this very phenomenon. Then I crashed hard on a steep gravel descent when the entire road surface turned to ice, which resulted in one very bruised elbow and a cracked helmet. The helmet I can replace, the elbow I'm not so sure...
Regardless, it was a great weekend to get out on two wheels before succombing to the skis and the dreaded indoor not-really-riding for the winter. The photos in this post are of the Cheat River Canyon, the Big Sandy Gorge, and the end of a trail that winds through a virgin eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) forest up to Chestnut Ridge. Now if only we'd get enough snow to traverse this loop on skis...better get another headlamp.
Up in the Little Laurel Run headwaters - Mile 37...
...and still a long way to go!
Happy holidays all and 'til next time - long live long rides!