I was done a huge favor up here in CT. I was lucky enough (read had to) to spend the weekend in Hartford, CT in between two weeks earning entry fees (read work). Presented with nights that get dark at 5:30, questionable riding weather, and airline fees that approach a daily salary to bring the bike with me, the Dieringer stayed at home. All around good guy, but unfortunately too tall to share, Doug Jenne scrounged up a bike that "fit" from a buddy of his at work, and Sunday was the day to ride.
A quick examination the night before revealed a very very small bike. Do all taller folk look at us normal sized folks as midgets? The bike had the geometry of a 26" BMX bike. I felt like a magician doing the old scarf out of the sleeve trick as I pulled a healthy 5 inches of seat post out of the frame. Thank god for 410mm posts, but it looked a little odd. I never even checked to see how much post was left. It would have just scared me. Next was an adjustment of the stem height. Work buddy had a fairly rough adjustment scheme of spacers; three 1" carbon jobbies. All right...fine tuning would be out of the question, but he did have the stem placed below one of the spacers, allowing me to get anther 1" of height out of the already low feeling 26" front end. Next surprise; V brakes. And not those good but jingly XTR type either. Good ole Avid's. I'm not one to redo someone else's bike, and nor is Doug. I quick adjustment of pad angle and spacing, and I was able to choose between lever to the bar braking, or just lever to knuckles breaking with some wheel rub. The latter would have to do. Fork. lord knows. some 3.5 pounds that I should have left at home based on its hand rocking performance. The kicker...we had to run what was later coined "the magic gear." Work buddy had SS'd the bike without the use of EBB, sliding drops, or tensioner. We had, instead, a 32 x 18 that "just about made it" if you set the wheel, and used the crank to pedal the chain into place. All those fine choices bolted to a 26er. I haven't ridden little wheels for over a year. Haven't even sat on and pedaled one around the parking lot. It felt really weird, the analog of the first time I sat on my Sugar 292 in the parking lot and felt like Grave Digger. That's enough complaining. I made the best of it, and we actually had a great time at the expense of my knees for the next 3 days.
Connecticut, like my riding in Jersey, was a nice surprise. I don't know where I got my prejudged opinion of riding in other states, I'm from Ohio for Christ sake. Each time someone hooks me up with a rabbit in another state, I'm surprised. Jersey was great, and now Connecticut. Doug and I explored the northern regions of the West Hartford reservoir, a mere 15 minute ride from his house. The north side was essentially a long ridge ride out and back. The trails were soaked after Saturday's saturating rain, and the predominance of Oak trees led to a few traction shedding inches of oak leaves hiding a lot of rock. Some of the climbs turned into hikes (especially when the 'ole rockhound didn't let me stand to climb) but the ridge riding was beautiful. Lots of rock, both loose and embedded. Flowing elevation profiles once you gained the ridge, and lots of great views into the western valley. We made our turn around point somewhere in the James Property. I'm pretty sure the posted "map" was lacking a few of the things that separate a "map" from a "drawing," but we at least knew we were on an established trail, something the leaves were trying hard to obscure.
The ride back was a bit faster as we picked up a pack of Doug's friends, all geared, and all good riders. Some roadies with fitness, and a collection of CT semipros. We made it back to the parking lot, shed a rider, and went out for a loop on the southern side of the reservoir. More of the same, but obviously ridden more than our adventure to the north. The trails were even wetter, a lot of them contained standing water, and the handling started to get rough. Then the flats started. After two flats, and a lot of tense riding, I was starting to fade. Physically, I was re writing the book on biomechanics, and I've spent a few years writing that one. The new edition hurt my back, made my knees scream, and my wrists were ready to let go. Mentally, I had to listen to the chorus of tension tweaked BB, tire rubbing chain stay, and rims rubbing brakes., The trio from hell was getting to me, and i was getting really frustrated, something that doesn't happen to me in the woods. Time to go. Best not to ruin it.
A very cold road spin back through West Hartford for some much needed coffee and sugar, and then an even colder post coffee ride back to Doug's house. We were soaked, and very cold. The back porch was a welcome spot. Thanks to Doug for the ride, and the hospitality. We spent about 6.5 hours on the bikes that afternoon, 6 of it in the woods, and at least 5.5 hours of it I was smiling.