Today, I found myself with some time to ride on an ice free day so I hit the road on the 29" wheeled Superfly. I cruised up to Miller's Hardware and grabbed some hardware and stuff we needed at the shop.
Then it was down Southeast Blvd where I had to dodge icebergs in the bike lane and on to Rockwood. A quick run down Washington and on to newly paved 2nd Avenue and no bike lanes. I got stuck behind a woman in a Ford Escort who was so engrossed in a conversation on her cell that she was oblivious to the green light facing her. Finally, I was moving again so right on Cedar and then 1st Ave and Two Wheel Transit.
After dropping the supplies off, it was time to head south to the Hangman Valley. I thought, hmmm, the Bluff may not be in too bad of shape and I am riding a mountain bike, so.... Why not?
Weave my way south on Cedar, to 7th where the secret access to the train tracks and awaiting bluff is found. Down the hill and up the trail - dang, too tall a gear and I stall out. Get going again, hit the trail and start to climb. The ground to my right begins to disappear and I find myself grazing the uphill slope with my left pedal to my annoyance. Though I am no pro when it comes to riding, I wondered why I was making these mistakes when riding on dirt.
Next, comes a slightly technical uphill with rocks and mud - no problem. I pick a gear and a line and hit the gas. I miss the line completely and just about lose it on a slick rock. So it goes across the bluff - missing lines and not clearing sections that I flew over this last fall. I am flummoxed.
Then it occurs to me, I have either been riding road or trainer for the last 4 months. I have become off-road rusty - there now the world knows my secret shame. Picking gears, weight distribution, picking and holding lines, comfort with riding single-track with a big drop to my right - all gone. It is amazing the bike handling and judgement skills you take for granted when you are riding a lot during the season. Now I have something else to add to my spring training plans so as to not look completely lame when I ride off-road with anyone.
Bottom line is that the bluff is in pretty good shape for the end of January if you were thinking about a quick outing. There was not any snow or ice until the shaded areas past the golf course. Even then it was doable. The slope, sand and exposure to wind seem to make it passable long before you can ride elsewhere and I felt fortunate to be out riding in the dirt in late January. The sad part was I did not see anyone else out riding. Hopefully, that will change as more ride reports begin to filter-out.