Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Hope I'm Not Too Late With the Race Report

If I had raced as a Clydesdale (qualify by one pound) I would have come in third.  If I had trained I probably would have come in third instead of fourth in Single Speed where I did race.  In the Cat 2 my pace had me at 18th out of 20.  Again, training, age group, etc.
Admittedly the Cave Run Lake race of the 2016 Kentucky Point Series had a small field.  It was limited to 150 overall.  There were only four single speeders.  I came in fourth.  However, I managed a 9.2 mph average on the Simply Simple Bike and at Cave Run.  It warnt no Veterans Park.
Much like the Red River Gorge Cave Run Lake has a lot of potential.  It's similar topography between the two areas.  Cave Run seems to have more open drainage along the Escarpment where RRG has steeper, darker and more erosionally tortured watersheds.
Both areas together make up the bulk of the Cumberland Ranger District of the Daniel Boone National Forest.  And that’s why it makes sense for a new IMBA chapter to cover the Cumberland be formed.  The decision making landscape has changed somewhat within the Cumberland.  It’s an exciting time to be trying to get new trails built in the area.
Ty and I rode Big Limestone last summer after the IMBA trail day over in Morehead.  It was rough then.  When I rode it on Saturday as part of the race course I was pleased to see its been ridden in quite well and seems to be turning into a classic.  I’m excited to go back in the near future for a mere recreational ride.  Maybe I’ll ride the partially squishy bike on the rocky ridge fingers and preserve my inflamed joints.
Bean and her friend had a blast riding around and riding the 10 and Under course all day long.  When it came time to wheel up to the start my youngest looked tired.  We tried to warn her, but she just wouldn’t listen.  Seems like she had fun racing her single speed pink princess bike anyway.

That’s the report Dear Readers.  Other than standing at the finish waiting for Ty to come off of his first mountain bike race of ten miles while more and more people rolled in and he kept failing to appear…other than that it was a pretty stress free day.  But Ty did great.  He won his age group in Cat 3 Jr Men’s. 


Friday, March 25, 2016

Ramming Speed Friday: Too Many Choices Edition

I beat the rain.  I had been meaning to drag the Simply Simple Bike to LexVegas for a lunchtime ride for a while now.  Not sure what has been keeping me away.  I mean, I don’t love Veep, but it satisfies the urges better than not riding.
Yesterday I pointed the fully rigid front circular portion of the SSB down the trails at Veterans Park and slammed down on the Eggbeaters.  VP was in fine condition, well packed, and smooth as silk.  And that was a good thing because the SSB is completely unsquishy now. 
Yeah, so, it did beat me up a little bit.  That’s okay.  What I traded in joint health I gained in speed and agility.  I’ve never felt so confident in big berms before.  It’s a completely different experience riding a flow trail on a rigid bike versus a front suspension equipped model (I cannot speak firsthand about the full suspension experience).
I haven’t uploaded my Strava track yet, but I imagine (I daydream a lot) that it was a fast ride.
I’m not in love with VP.  It’s convenient.  I’d rather ride at Skullbuster or CVP.  That’s just my druthers.  But I had missed my lunchtime gurgles in the wilds of southern Lexington-Fayette Urban Government.  Speaking of…did you know that the new Brannon Road project is going to wipe out the back forty at VP?  It’s all good.  After the road project is complete LFUCG mountain bikers will have new acreage to play with so it all balances out.
Tomorrow is the first 2016 Kentucky Point Series race at Cave Run.  I will be riding the single speed division if they let me switch.  Otherwise I’ll be riding the Cat 2 thirty mile ride on a single speed.

In other mountain biking news…SRAM has released a new twelve speed drivetrain.  Yes, you heard me right.  Now you can equip your knobbly tired bike with a 1x12 setup.  What’s next? Fourteen speed because thirteen is unlucky?
A couple of years ago I switched from tires to tubeless and last year from 3x9 gearing to 1x10.  I fretted because my lowest cog was 36 tooth.  Y’know what?  It took about three rides before I was convince that 1x10 was superior to 3x9 and 36t was fine for 99% of my riding. 
If I were going to make any change at this point in my life I might go to 2x10 or 2x11 (only because 11 speed is becoming normal.  If the bike I’m riding wouldn’t bear the switch then I would stick with 2x10.  That’s why I didn’t go ahead and grab an 11 speed cassette when I stripped the derailer off the bike last summer at the Mohican.  I wasn’t sure if it would work on my bike frame.  But Dave and I were pretty sure a 10 speed cassette would and it did.
I’m happy with my 1x10 setup and feel plenty fast and strong on the bike when I’m not whining about tight hamstrings. And having moved into the single speed realm has further reshaped the synapses in my brain to favor simplicity and uncomplicated riding.  So what, I have to push a little harder on the pedals?  I ride to be healthier and maintain a semblance of youth and strength.  Why not eliminate some of the crutches of mechanical advantage from the mix?
In a few years some youngster will ponder why we don’t add a second chainring up front?  Then some entrepreneurial competitor will innovate and add a third.  Before you know it we’ll have 48 speed mountain bikes.  The mountain bikers of the future will have forgotten the mistakes of the past and the cycle will repeat itself.
Oh well…

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Reports of My Injurious Ruin Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Technology.  It sucks.  In ye olden days we just got by.  If you needed to talk to someone you talked to someone or gave them a call.  Maybe you wrote them a letter if they didn’t live in the same town as you and what you had to say wasn’t urgent (“Please return my cat, asap.”)
The past few weeks I’ve grumbled over my “smart” phone and strongly resisted the urge to smash it down to its constituent atoms.  Things that should be simple simply aren’t.  I can’t download apps.  I can’t access my work email.  I can’t do this and can’t do that.
Finally, yesterday I got into the office and thought I would be able to get things straightened out.  We had a cyber-attack.  Ransom and everything apparently.  I couldn’t get anything done in the office so I ran a couple of impromptu meetings.  In the end it was a productive day, but I’ve stalled out on things I need to push off my desktop.
I’ve sat down three different times since last week to compose a blog post and have been unable to get more than 300 words.  Today I am going off the cuff and just going to post what I manage to post.
My knee is fixed.  I had been having more and more trouble with it.  The pain and weakness in the joint had become debilitating.  And it was so gradual it took me a little while to realize how bad it had become.  I found myself strolling up and down stairs (I’m normally a three at a time kinda guy).  My heart and mind wanted bike rides but my body resisted all urges to get out.  Running was out of the question.  When I tried I was managing two miles and feeling “good” about the effort.  I was dreading sessions with the trainer (yeah, we hire a trainer now).  When he would have us do stuff on the floor I struggled to return to an ambulatory state.  In fact, I felt precariously ambulatory at best most of the time.
While I’m not back in full tilt mode I am back.
It was like magic.  If my turnaround had happened in church I would have been convinced it was a miracle.  It was much simpler than divine intervention however.  And silly that I ever got to the state I was in.
At a KYMBA board of directors meeting I was talking to a fellow board member and whining about my knee pain.  He asked where it hurt and I pointed to the spot(s).  He asked if I had been stretching my hamstrings.  I stared at him in dumb silence.  Of course I hadn’t been stretching my hamstrings.  I had picked up a slew of nifty stretches that felt oh-so-good but had dropped that stretch out of my routine for the sake of my impatient mind.  For months I had not been incorporating hamstring stretches into my post-workout routine.
That was the Sunday night before the conference in Knoxville.  I can’t remember if I stretched Sunday night after I checked into the hotel (I think I did), but I know I stretched a few times Monday.  By Monday evening the debilitating pain was gone.  G-O-N-E gone.
Now, it was not a miraculous cure in the sense that I have absolutely no knee pain.  I’m back to what was an expected and somewhat normal level of pain in both knees from before the decline.  But that pain is manageable to the point of being forgettable. 
The other incredible side effect is that my energy levels seemed to have skyrocketed, and I don’t feel as sluggish and stiff all the time in a general sense.  
Let me just say…getting old sucks.  Stuff like this never used to happen to me.  I could go full tilt for weeks on end and suffer no such maladies.  But these days the slightest hiccup in my routine shuts down the amusement park until I find the gremlin causing the sparks.
I shouldn’t complain too much.  I’m back on track.  While I’m not down to a reasonable fighting weight I am hopeful for the upcoming Kentucky Point Series race in Cave Run on Saturday.  It’ll be an exploratory ride back into the world of mountain bike racing.  We’ll see how it goes.
The weather is supposed to be nice today.  I brought the Simply Simple Bike to Lex with me and intend to subject it to laps at Veep. 
It’s good to be back into the land of the living.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Economy of Rock and Dirt

This past Saturday Dr. James Maples and Brian Clark of Eastern Kentucky University presented the results of the recent Economic Impact of Rock Climbing in the Red River Gorge, KY (study) to a small crowd at Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Slade, Kentucky.  In the crowd were tourism and economic development folks from Lee and Clark Counties.  The Powell County Judge-Executive sent a representative.  The new District Ranger for the Cumberland Ranger District of the Daniel Boone National Forest was there.  There were local landowners who are friendly to climbers present.  And of course there were quite a few climbers and climber/advocates. 
While I am employed by the Bluegrass Area Development District I was there for my personal interests as a long time climber, general Gorge-goer, and as a mountain bike advocate.  And in this article when I mention “climbers” outside the context of the study I also imply a wide range of outdoor recreationalists such as hikers, backpackers, boaters, and cyclists.   
Me, leading the first pitch of Good Tang, Red River Gorge, 2003
The six county study region includes Powell, Estill, Lee, Menifee, Wolfe, and Owsley Counties.  These six counties are within the EKU service region as well and all are Appalachian Regional Commission counties.   
The quick and dirty is that climbers spend a conservatively estimated $3.6 million in the regional economy each year.  They generate an estimated $2.7 million in total revenues for local business owners and support an estimated 39 full-time jobs in a region with high poverty rates.
The study also showed that climbers are generally highly educated which counters many local stereotypes of climber who historically have been seen as “dirtbags.”  Rightfully so, some of these rocket scientists (no really!) show up at the Stanton Kroger looking more like homeless people than professionals.  But the locals (present company included) even show up at Kroger looking the part themselves. 
I'm sure I beelined straight for DQ in Stanton after summiting Foxfire in 1994
At least one local outdoor business owner thinks the estimates are high.  He’s skeptical climbers put that much money into the economy.  I don’t disagree with him that the impact is small, but I think the numbers are probably valid, it’s just that $3.6 million sounds like a lot of money it’s really not that much spread out over a six county area in the course of a year.  That’s only $600,000 per county annually.  Compare that to other tourist groups or to other local industries and the amount really isn’t as impactive as it sounds at the outset.
Regardless, without rock climbing there would be significantly less value in the economy.  What is not reflected in the study are the many people (climbers or not) who have relocated to the area either part or full time, bought property, and/or built homes.  Infrastructure improvements in the form of climbing route development, trail construction, and other indirect recreational amenities added through volunteer effort has not been shown in the study either.  These numbers are quantifiable and should be included in future studies.  But again, even with greater numbers rock climbing is not going to show up as being the backbone of the local economy.  Though it could.
There is great potential for an economic boom if only the Eastern Kentucky communities that are adjacent to the Red River Gorge would capitalize on what Dr. Maples calls a “renewable resource.”  He reiterated that as long as we have access to crags climbers will be coming to the area.  He is 100% correct.  If the Red River Gorge communities catered more to rock climbers more instead of pretending like they don’t exist the climbers could make the area rich.
If the Red River Gorge community invested in outdoor related services and retailers there is no doubt that the visitors to the area would support those businesses.  The caveat is that those businesses would need to cater to the wants and needs of that outdoor crowd and not to the perceived wants and needs assumed by local entrepreneurs.  A solid market survey of Gorge users is needed and the results of such a study should guide future development and marketing for tourism and general land use in the area. 
My passion is mountain biking.  I’ve been a rock climber for over twenty years and once ran a modestly successful climbing guide service in Slade.  But in recent years I have come to love mountain biking and as my joints age find that it better suits my health needs than rock climbing. 
Oddly enough, the Red River Gorge area is not currently amenable to mountain biking.  There is one legal mountain bike trail in the Daniel Boone National Forest, and while there are ongoing efforts to improve that trail it is currently not enjoyable for the average mountain biker and is definitely not suitable for beginners. 
With possibilities like this why isn't the RRG a mountain biking destination?
Mountain bikers have no footprint in the area.  However, our terrain and soils are highly suitable for mountain bike trails.  While Lexington area mountain bikers moan and cry throughout the winter about muddy trails our hiking trails remain suitable (though not legal) for mountain biking.  The sandy soils drain quickly and are rideable for most of the winter allowing for a long active season.
Cycling in general, and more specifically mountain biking, are great winter activities because riding keeps your heartrate and core temperature higher than other activities.  While other activities tend to fall off in the colder months many mountain bikers ride year round.
According to a 2014 study by Nicholas Meltzer of the University of Oregon mountain biking shows that mountain biking contributes $2.3 to $4.9 million to the economy of Oakridge, Oregon (which is a rural community of only 3,200) which is 5% of the total local economy.
By building trails for another user group in the area we could easily double the economic impact of outdoor tourism in the Red River Gorge region and potentially grow the impact from users that already visit the area.  Many times I see cars in Slade with nice mountain bikes on their roof or rear racks.  I know those visitors probably leave disappointed having not been able to find good places to ride.  On their next trip will they go someplace else where they can enjoy their mountain bikes and do other things like hike and camp?
Trails can be built on junk land.  They can be placed in narrow corridors like utility easements and along common property boundaries.  They are compatible with most other uses as long as they are well designed and laid out.  Typically trails use land where they are not competing with other uses.  This means we can have trails anywhere and everywhere!

It's just that easy!
Rock climbing is limited to where suitable layers of exposed rock of at least a modest geologic quality occur.  There needs to be adequate access, and some enterprising climbers need to stumble onto the area in order to develop climbable routes.  The incredible sandstone of the Red River Gorge cannot be transferred to other counties nor can it be improved if the rock quality is poor.
Conversely, trails can be built in any part of the state.  And poor trails can be improved and made enjoyable and sustainable with easily adopted modern trail standards.  Compared to other recreational amenities trails are relatively cheap to build and maintain and can often be kept up simply with dedicated volunteers who take it upon themselves to keep the trails in good shape.
I’m continually disappointed by our state and region’s focus on increasing motorized recreation and trails for off-road vehicles.  Those uses are dependent upon cheap and abundant oil resulting low oil prices.  While high fuel costs affect all tourism, it doubly affects motorized uses because not only is the travel to recreational destination expensive, but the costs of participating in the activity also increase as fuel costs rise, whereas non-motorized recreational costs rise only negligibly and much slower.
And motorized recreational opportunities do not promote good health nor help mitigate our state’s obesity epidemic.  And in poor and unhealthy communities developing motorized off-road recreation can price out those who cannot afford the expensive toys needed to use the trails.  Therefore focusing on those activities doesn’t directly help the locals, nor does it provide long term resilience and sustainability when fuel costs become unstable. 
Non-motorized recreation is easier on the environment, the ears of local residents, and on the pocketbooks of local governments than motorized uses.   
In closing, I understand that there are some cultural divides between the local communities and those that visit Eastern Kentucky for recreation.  This is true even amongst the motorized recreationalists.  However, I firmly believe that this need not be the case, and that we can leverage our cultural assets, our proximity to valuable natural resources, and our proximity to the renewable resources of tourist dollars to change our economic landscape in the short term.

RIDE to Glory

I am a published short story author.  Recently Keith Snyder released RIDE 3: Short Fiction About Bicycles which includes my piece “All You Haters.”  The title is a reference to an oft quoted battle cry by the infamous Bike Snob.  The abbreviation of the phrase is AYHSMB.  I dropped the orb sucking portion for my title, but I feel it still retains the essence of the sentiment.
The story takes place over the course of a work day in the life of Brian.  The protagonist was written as a cross between Jim Halpert and…Jim Halpert as a bike commuter.  Brian is perpetually frustrated by his non-cycling coworkers and their snide and ignorant comments directed at him and his chosen mode of transportation. 
Brian has finally had enough.  He strikes back with his own brand of snark.  The story is both an exposé of commuter bike culture and a critique of modern cubicle life.
I wrote the story rather quickly, sitting in a cubicle, as a full time bike commuter in a major metropolitan area.  By the time the story is published I have moved to a small rural community and commute by car into a smaller metropolitan area.  I loathe my daily commute.  I drive in a single day now almost as much as I rode in a week when I lived in Denver.  At least I don’t have to put up with the droll diatribe from Cro-Magnon coworkers.
The other exciting thing about being included in this collection is that it also includes a story by Elden “Fat Cyclist” Nelson.  I’m hoping his name recognition gives more credence and success to the book and by default catapults me to fame and fortune.  Would I ride on Fatty’s coattails so shamelessly?  You bet I would!
I must admit, I have not read RIDE 3 cover to cover yet.  I’m working my way through it.  Though…my own story was the first one in the collection.  I am humbled and awed that I got the “top billing” so to speak.
I had considered doing a review of sorts of the book excepting my own story, but have decided not to go that route.  There’s probably some superstition in regards to that; so I’ll simply refrain.  Having said all that, please check it out.  The book is currently available in digital formats and will soon be in print as well. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Ramming Speed Friday: Knox Vegas Whirl-a-gig Edition

I was going to call this post “Flat Karma,” but I didn’t get it out yesterday and so it became a Ramming Speed Friday contender.  So I decided to post up a quick report on the rest of my extra-conference shenanigans with the intent to chronicle the confo part next Monday (unless something freakin’ awesome happens this weekend that bumps it).  Without further ado.
On Monday I rode the Knoxville Urban Wilderness loop which I have expounded upon elsewhere.  That was fun, and I wish I’d had the time to go back and do it all again.  But Knoxavul is pretty close in the whole global scheme of things.  There’s plenty there to draw me/us back.
Knoxvale is the town where I proposed to Mrs. Chainring.  We were there as guests of my parents at a convention.  One evening we went for a chilly walk around the CBD and ended up overlooking the river.  We had been talking about getting married but that was the moment when we made it…well, in modern parlance we’d call it “Facebook official.”  But that was 1999 and Facebook was still just a twinkle in the Winklevi’s eye.
Remind me some time to tell you the Infamous Raffle Ring story.  It’s a hum-dinger!
Anyway, I rode to Urban Outfitters on Monday.  At lunch on Tuesday I ran up to Sharp’s Ridge.  It was an easy ten minute drive north of downtown.  Monday after composing my previous post I did go to down to the garage and add some Stan’s to my rear tire.  That seemed to stop the air leak.  So I pumped it to the appropriate PSI and stowed everything back in the MBDV.  Tuesday morning before heading to the conference I checked and the tire was still holding full pressure.
Without putting too much thought into the matter when I arrived at the Sharp’s Ridge trailhead I simply pointed the front wheel of the One toward the trail and took off.  I made it half a mile down the trail.  Down.  The Trail.
The rear end went soft as I carved into some of the nice flowy curves of Sharp Shin.  It didn’t take long before I was confronted with the reality of fixing another flat.  I had the tools.  Or so I thought.
I had forgotten to grab the frame pump from the car.  But I set about putting a tube in the offending ring of rubber.  Then I put cartridge to valve stem.  I blew out the rubber gasket on the cartridge side.  I had forgotten to unscrew the valve stem needle. 
Listen, Linda, in my defense it has been a while since I’ve changed a flat.  I’m no gumby, but I just wasn’t thinking.  In the end I had to hike the half mile back to the car and use the floor pump to jack it back into service.  But in short order I was headed off at a determined pace back to Sharp Shin.
I had no more flatness on the trip, but I’ve not given the bike the going over it deserves after that showing.  It’s still sporting that tube.  I may need to put a new tire on it and replenish the Stan’s.  Oh well.
Looking down on Sharp Shin on the hike out
Sharp’s Ridge was great.  Sharp Shin was obviously a recent machine built flow trail.  And it flowed!  I had to keep checking my speed for fear of busting a curve.  I reached the west end only to find even newer trail that wasn’t reflected on MTB Project.  Because I wanted to get back to the hotel for the next session I opted to stick to the trail I “knew” versus the allure of the unknown.
I turned back toward the parking area on Lincoln Trail.  Right off the bat it was tighter and techier.  Oddly, it still seemed to have some machine built qualities, but it was definitely an intermediate trail compared to Sharp Shin’s easy designation.  And Lincoln rocked!  It challenged me a bit more than anything on the Urban Wilderness loop.  It might have been that I was sucked in to a high speed traverse of the trail and was riding high on having conquered my flat demon.
Lincoln Trail
Once back at the car I saw I still had some time so I toed up to Firebreak.  The description of Firebreak was that there were a lot of ups and downs.  The trail had originally been built as a…well, firebreak with a dozer.  Despite that Firebreak is actually a pretty fun trail.  It had some challenging short, severe climbs. I managed to ride it clean except one such wall that I couldn’t carry momentum over.  It was a fun ride though.
Firebreak deposits you above the jumpline of Knight Fall.  I’m no downhiller, and I’m too old to start as a soloist.  So I opted to connect back via Lincoln to return to Sharp Shin for my return to the car in the opposite direction I rode out.  Sharp Shin had felt backwards to me as I initial rode it.  And I was right: west to east was better than east to west. 
I was done with Knoxville trails for the trip, but I had a full day of conferencing ahead of me.  And it was a great conference.
On the way home I had to make the I-75 detour with all of the other Canadians and Buckeyes.  I took the opportunity for a quick skim around the Grand Gap Loop at Big South Fork (Bandy Creek area).  Grand Gap is 6.8 miles (my GPS showed a little less) and it is a stellar ride!
That little blue arrow is important.  See it?
On one level it was heartbreaking.  Grand Gap is the kind of trail my home stomping ground of the Red River Gorge could have.  It shows the potential that kind of landform and soil types bears.  And there was really little difference.  It was similar topography, flora and fauna, and it was just the kind of experience I’m working toward with my mountain biking efforts at home.
Angel Falls overlook, a short side hike

Ah, reminds me of home!
I can’t wait to go back and ride around Collier Ridge and some more of the John Muir Trail.  I wasn’t even bummed that the Sheltowee Trace was seemingly hiking only through the Bandy Creek area.  There are plenty of mountain biking alternatives.
Looking down on a shaved shin
I’m back home.  For now.  I’ve got another big conference coming up soon (which I’m not looking forward to) and then another in state conference a couple of months out.  After that I’m hoping to stay at home for a while.  I’m about conferenced out!
Stay tuned next week for that write up of the Professional Trail Builders Association Sustainable Trails Conference.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Namesake Report

THE Chainring Report?  The CHAINRING Report?  THE. CHAINRING. REPORT. …?

This week I had the good fortune to be able to attend the Professional Trailbuilders Association’s (PTBA) Sustainable Trails Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee.  I took my bike.  What?  Why wouldn’t I take my bike?  Haven’t you heard of Knoxvegas’ Urban Wilderness loop?  I hadn’t either.  It’s amazing what you can find (and flawlessly navigate) on MTB Project.

For most of the week anyway...

I’m calling this the Namesake Report because I am going to give you a trip report on…Chainring.  No shift!  But before I do that…

A Trail Named Flow

I was plumb tuckered out.  My Pete’s Coffee Shop breakfast was all used up.  And that was hard to believe.  I asked for a second biscuit to go with my biscuit and gravy and toward the end was pretty sure I was going to burst.  And to eat so much just before riding in a new and unknown (to me) area…what was I thinking?!

But I was pretty far into the Urban Outfitters loop.  Er, Wilderness. I just barely caught the turnoff for the quarry (forget which one right now) and stopped in the trailhead to add some air to my rear tire.  But the nozzle on the complimentary pump had been savaged, so I just continued on with the PSI I started out with.  I found Flow easily enough.  Csikszentmihályi would be proud.  I love flow.  But I really loved Flow. 

Much like some earlier trails I rode that day I ended up riding in the wrong direction.  AC/DC was disappointing because I first had to climb all the banked bridges before descending them.  And when I got back to the top I realized I had left my Garmin paused for the entire descent.  But I was GPSing hard as I started up Flow.  The character of the trail was vastly different than most of what I had ridden up to that point.  Until I found Flow most of the riding was reminiscent of Skullbuster.  Some of it reminded me of Cherokee Park in Louisville too.  And maybe a hint of Waverly.  Flow had a western flavor.  Like that first time you tried chorizo and realized sausage could be something so much better…

The Gateway to Flow

One thing I was certain of by the time I was wrestling with Flow on the lowest upslope of an impending bonk: “Very Difficult” in Knoxville isn’t as bad as I imagined.  Or I’m getting to be a better rider after all these few years.  I had ridden a couple of black trails and a whole slew of blue “More Difficult” trails on my quest for Flow.  Heck, I climbed Chicken Coop!  That was a thigh broiling affair up a water trough.  Maybe that was why I was delving into bonk territory.

Flow gave way to the doubletrack multiuse trail.  I knew I needed to jump onto Turnbuckle—a “Very Difficult” black trail—to avoid a long detour back to the car.  And as I climbed up Imery I glanced over and saw a horrowshow rock garden through the trees.  That was Turnbuckle!

I was going to die.

But I finally reached the split from Imery onto Turnbuckle and it didn’t look to bad.  So I veered left and plowed ahead with waning energy.  I was pretty sure I had about five miles to go with one big long climb between me and freedom from the Urban Wilderness.  I guess I could have peeked at Google Maps and figured out a bail out.  But why cave to wussitude?

Turnbuckle was a nice challenge but not fatal.  I rode some techy stuff despite the hollowness that was infused through my legs.  Then I was on the last significant trail, I forget which, and slogging up and up and up to gain a suburban ridge.  Somehow I kept riding. 

Just below the crest of the ridge as I approached an off bamboo thicket I noticed some extra squish in my back forty.  I hopped off the bike and gave my rear tire a slam and wouldn’t you know it…slow leak!  I knew I had forgotten my frame pump.  I had switched seat bags just before leaving home and the smaller bag wouldn’t hold my fat pump.  So I hoped I had at least stuck it in my daypack and brought it to Tennessee with me.  I’ll spoil the ending: nope.

I was going to shoot some CO2 into the tire to get me back to the car.   I was close enough I could almost smell it.  But unfortunately there was only a miniscule puff in the cartridge.  So I soldiered on with a loose rear end.

At the top of the ridge I crossed a street and sure enough I was back in Hastie park and on a trail I had seen at the beginning of the loop.  I knew I was less than a mile from the car.  I rode gingerly hoping to maximize my momentum.  But eventually, after turning onto View Park, I just had to get off the bike or risk mangling my rim.  So I walked the last half mile or so to the car.

Once there I added air to the offending ring of rubber and was rewarded with instant whooshing.  Looks like I either broke a bead or have a sidewall tear along the bead.  I haven’t looked at it yet.  My riding for the trip may be over.  Silly me, I didn’t bring an extra tire.

To Chainring

Imagine my surprise looking at MTB Project the night before when I discovered a trail called simply Chainring.  Well of course I had to ride it.  I started out in Hastie Nature Preserve (or something to that effect) and was riding pretty hard to get to Chainring.  And to get my heartrate up so I would stop shivering.  At 8am the temps were still hovering around 40F and I had left all of the cold weather gear at home since the forecast was for 60s and 70s for the week.  My bad!

But I saw Shadow Run before leaving Hastie and remembered reading that description and thinking it looked fun so I climbed up that moderate trail.  At the top I decided I needed to beat feet back down to get on track to Chainring so I descended my first “Very Difficult” trail of the day: Rock Ledge.  It wasn’t “Very Difficult” at all.  

Wooden features on Shadow Run

Once back on the gravel road I headed toward Redwood which would lead to a neighborhood connection and then to Lost Chromosome which would deposit me on the doorstep of Chainring.  Along Redwood I came upon a raccoon standing in the middle of the trail.  It looked injured, and after a failed attempt to call someone in the local parks and rec department to alert them of the potential hazard the fuzzy little guy/gal came trotting toward me seemingly cured.  It was a little unnerving so I hammered on down Redwood to escape a case of urban rabies.


The leaf logo they use for the Urban Wilderness is painted on the streets that connect the different areas along the 12+ mile loop.  I followed them to Lost Chromosome and found another great trail.  But it didn’t take long before I finally found Chainring. 

I had intended to ride the whole loop, but got sidetracked first on the Creek Trail and then on AC/DC and it’s enticing banked bridges section.  That was fun!  My nephew Ty would absolutely pee his pants looking down that gully.  Then I got sucked deeper into AC/DC which is a great trail aside from the wooden features.  But the clock was ticking.  I knew it was going to be tough making the loop if I didn’t get back on track A.S.A.P.

I'm a big fan of AC/DC

Finally I was trucking along Lost Chromosome again, and picked up Dozer which was a long section of pretty fun double track.  I made up some time there, but I could feel the energy draining from my thighs long before I reached the paved greenway trail which would lead me to Flow.  And when I finally found Flow I was out of gas.

The death march leg of my journey was about to begin, punctuated by the slow leak and an increasing sense of urgency to get off the trail and back to my hotel so I could get cleaned up for the conference.

I sit in my room composing this post thinking I should go down to the parking garage and get my bike out of the MBDV and fix the flat so I can ride again while I’m still in town.  I was wrong.  I forgot to bring my frame pump altogether.  At least I have a floor pump and spare tubes. 


I hope to have a full conference write up for Ramming Speed Friday or for your Monday blahs next week.  If I have any worthwhile riding adventures in the interim I may bump the confopo to Monday anyway. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Kentucky Kicks Its Own Ass

There's a popular merchandise marketing campaign these days.  The family friendly moniker is "Kentucky for Kentucky," but the risqué (here in the bald pate of the Bible Belt) foundational slogan for the brand is "Kentucky Kicks Ass."  Said quickly in many East Kentucky dialects this could sound like "Kentucky Kiss Ass" as well.

A friend of mine rails frequently on the whole movement.  He described KKA as "a weird amalgam of jingoism meets hipster kitsch."  It's saying "We're #1!" from behind aviator sunglasses wearing an ironic t-shirt.  But is it really that?  I'll reserve my own judgment for the end of the piece.

First, let’s look at the actual state of Kentucky. 

Standing proudly out from is that we rank the worst national for cancer deaths at 515 per 100,000 people.  Not incidence of cancer, but cancer deaths.  And I live in a county that ranks poorly in the state and the nation for this.  It is worrisome.

In overall health outcomes and health factors (per the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) Kentucky ranks 44th in the nation.  We clock in higher than the US median in Premature Death, Poor or fair health, Poor physical health days, Poor mental health days, Low birthweight, Adult smoking (26%), Adult obesity (32%), Physical inactivity (29%), Alcohol impaired driving deaths (29%), Sexually transmitted infections (394 per 100k), Teen births (48 per 1,000), Preventable hospital stays (94 per 1,000), Umemployment (8.3%), Children in poverty (26%), Children in single parent households (34%), Violent crimes (235 per 100k), Drinking water violations (9% exposed versus 1% nationally), and Driving alone to work (83%).

I believe that last one directly relates to the fact that we’re the 49th Bicycle Friendly State as ranked by the League of American Bicyclists.  The state bicycle pedestrian coordinator likes to dismiss this and touts that we’ve been ranking 7th in spending on bike-ped infrastructure nationally, but from a cultural and policy standpoint we simply suck.

In Kentucky the average weekly wage is $836 compared to the national average of $1,035.  You could say that is offset by a lower cost of living, but I would say that is negated by a lower standard of living as well.  The median household income in Kentucky is about $10,000 less than for the US as a whole.  And 18% of our population lives below the poverty line.

Not only as we ranked 45th in renewable energy production ( but our legislators continually babble on about the asinine “War on Coal” and pass laws to prevent our citizens from benefitting from renewables while pandering to an destructive extractive industry that represents only a few thousand workers but which generates billions in revenue each year while blatantly polluting and harming our environment.  We revere coal above human health and well-being and I don’t understand why.  Well, I know why.  It’s called “naked greed.”

And finally, CNBC ranks Kentucky the 10th worst state.  While I can question any and all such rankings based on subjective responses I think it points to the fact that our state has room to improve. 

Before I continue, let me point out that I love my home state.  I believe we have a lot to offer and that in many way it is a great place to live.  But I am continually frustrated with many things that could be better if we would simply have the will to think and act differently.

Kentucky for Kentucky…their mission is:


The first part I agree with.  We need more positive promotion.  The Commonwealth needs better press.  We need better dialogue.  We need to change perceptions.

Unfortunately I don’t think any kind of positive dialogue is going to happen as long as the national political circus is in full swing.  Too many narrow minded people are energized by the dangerous and destructive rhetoric that’s being flung about like poo on the debate stages of—particularly—the republican primary race.

But what does “kick ass for the Commonwealth” mean exactly?  Are they going to make sweeping social change?  Fight for equal rights for disadvantaged populations?  Promote economic and social justice?  Or just sell a lot of Colonel Sanders and Loretta Lynn inscribed souvenirs ringed about with references to bourbon and horse racing?   

Kentucky is more than horse racing, bourbon, and coal mining.  It is so much more.  And those things don’t represent the best of us.  They don’t represent the majority of us either.  We have other industries that contribute to our economy and culture.  And those three marquee industries inhibit the kind of change and growth we desperately need.  Horses foul our land use policies and demand our attention in ways that defy logic.  And coal mining has fouled the very soul of this state.  It has blackened the heart of government and the rot that continues to abide there promises an ugly future unless we try damn hard to reverse the effects of breathing in so much coal dust over the past century or so.

Coal does not keep the lights on. It darkens the night and dims the days ahead.  We must untangle ourselves from its insidious grip. 

Our culture is enigmatically tied up in southern exceptionalism.  There are many people in the Commonwealth who proudly wave the confederate battle flag and insist they are not racist.  This is something we need to distance ourselves from.  People in Eastern Kentucky talk romantically about living in and being from the mountains, but won't accept that those mountains are cultural and economic barriers to a brighter future.  

So when they say “Kentucky Kicks Ass” I have to respectfully disagree.  Kentucky has the potential to kick ass, but not in the form of fried chicken franchises, an artificially inflated alcoholic industry, and in the form of two hideously exploitative industries that the state is most well known for.  Our people are regarded as simply minded-hillbillies regardless of their geography, and the rest of the country hardly takes us seriously even after seeing our orthodontia up close and hearing us articulate ourselves on national issues.  They simply hear tones of Hee-Haw echoing off the hills.  We can kick all we want, no one is going to quail in fear of our clodhoppers.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Ramming Speed Friday: Compensation Package Edition

Oh. My. Lord. In. Heaven.
Donald Trump (DJ Drumpf) just assured the entire world that he has a big penis.  I would not be surprised if the man ended up sexting the nation the next time someone calls his manhood into question.  Is this really the frontrunner in the republican party?  Really?!
But I have to ponder…he’s built towering skyscrapers.  He constantly talks about how great he is, how strong he is, how smart he is…people who have to continually reaffirm their virility seem to the be the ones with the greatest shortfalls.  How Napoleonic…
Drumpf has been married three times.  He’s so virile...
Trevor Noah compared Drumpf to Mussolini.  It was easy considering The Donaldo has unapologetically been quoting the fascist dictator…NAY, the “Father of Fascism.”  But The Daily Show host outlined the fascist checklist:

1) Cult of action

2) Celebrating aggressive masculinity

3) Fear of outsiders

4) Nationalism

5) Intolerance of criticism

6) Resentment at national humiliation

Noah went on to show clips of Big Don checking off each line numerous times with his own words.  All the while Noah stood by laughing nervously.  As well he should.  DJ Drumpf hates the media.  And when he “comes to power” people like Trevor Noah will be the first up against the wall.

You don’t believe me?  How about Donny, Jr.’s statement about paying for celebrities to move to Canada if his father is elected?  How many steps is it from loathing the media and celebrities to exiling and then killing them?  Tell me, how many steps?  Even Drumpf with his fat legs could make that hop.

I can’t go on.  I have to stop.  I’ll be applying for that luxury Canadian relocation package before the terms change.  I am an ultra-famous blogger after all.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Where in the World is Chainring?

It's been awhile.  I know that.  I keep trying to come up with some fluff to throw at you, Dear Readers.  It's been hard to take the time to gather up fluff.  I've been busy.

The Truth is that I've been working up a last minute presidential campaign.  I'm running third party: The Bike Party.  I've decided it's time to stop complaining about poor government and become part of the problem myself.  I will become known as The Bike Dictator.

There's really been a lot going on I could write about.  SB 80 is salmoning through the House.  Yesterday was a banner day for roadway crashes in Lexington (five major ones!), and I'm as fat as ever, but running and trying once again to ride.

Mountain bike trails are snaking out through the woods.  Tonight is the Judy Creek Trail project public meeting before the grant application submission.

Estill County has been illegally dumped on with nuclear waste.  Right next to the middle and high school.  Which both sit just over the hill from a huge coal wash facility.  Sooooo much Chainring Report fodder and so little time!

We've scheduled interviews at work for my replacement and soon I'll be moving into an exciting new position where I'll hopefully be able to make some real positive changes.

And through it all I just want to be able to ride my bike more without all the hassle.  And so I am advocating for the lifestyle that I may never get to enjoy in Kentucky.  I've tasted it in other places that I've visited and lived, but never in my home state. 

That is the quick and dirty update.  Hang in there; I have more stuff coming.  The Crash Test Librarian has inspired me to do a post on a topic he and I have discussed for a long time, but I've never been able to put into a publishable format.  I've got that post about 75% finished.  I just have to get 'round the horn and put some of my work to bed.