Thursday, March 8, 2018

Bikepacking the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail - Trek 1120 Shakedown ride number 2

For my second ride on the new Trek my mission was to test out the rear rack and bag holder system. I made a few changes to the bike based on what I learned from the first ride. That ride was only 4 hours, but near the end my shoulder was getting irritated, so I swapped out the stock handlebars for my favorite Hussafelt ones. I’ve used these bars on several mountain bikes and they have always felt perfect. I was curious if they would be more comfortable for my shoulder. I also added a pair of Ergon GS2 Team Series Carbon grips. I figured that the extensions would be good for climbing and providing an alternative hand position. 

I also fabricated a temporary rear fender for the rack out of an old tire. I cut a section of the tire, punched some holes in it and then zip tied it to the rack. Ugly, but effective. My final modification was to add a little mountain bike fender on the front fork. At first, I couldn’t figure out how to mount it because it is meant to be used on a suspension fork, but after realizing that I could zip tie the front of it to the rack it lined up perfectly.

I wanted to load all the racks up but realized that I didn’t have the correct sized drybags yet. I need to get another one for the front, so I just strapped on my OR Bivy directly to the rack. Again, I used the frame bag to hold all the stuff that I usually carry in a backpack. For the rear racks, I loaded up two bags with all kinds of stuff. At first I couldn’t figure out why the bags didn’t mount in a very stable way, then I realized that I hadn’t used all the hooks. The holders attach to the racks with two simple pieces of Velcro, but there are two loops on top and two on bottom that are used for the hooks to grab. That allows the bags to be snugged up extremely well. Once I figured that out I was extremely impressed at how little they moved. It’s an awesome system.

I wanted to ride for at least 4 hours so I could see if the bars were better. Since moving to St. Johnsbury I have been itching to check out the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail section from St.J to Danville. I plotted out a 32 mile loop from my house that would incorporate the rail trail and some back roads I hadn’t ridden. To plot routes I have been using It allows you to plot a route and then easily export it in .gpx format and then easily export it.  On my phone I use the Gaia GPS app.  I’ve used it for many adventures, including navigating the Tahoe 200 running race. Unfortunately I DNF’d that race, but the app worked perfectly.
screenshot from the Gaia GPS app on my phone.

When I left the house it was 20 degrees and the ground was nice and frozen, but I knew that later in the day I would be riding in soupy mud as the temp rose above freezing. The first thing I noticed is that the bike handled really strangely. The grooves in the dirt roads were throwing the bike side to side. It kept throwing the bike off balance and I wondered if I had the weight distribution wrong. The tires felt really soft and squishy, unlike last ride. I hadn’t touched the tire pressure from the time, which I set it at 10. It must have bled some more pressure off as the tires were pretty soft. So I pumped them up to 12-15ish pounds, not sure exactly because the gauge on my little pump isn’t very accurate. Adding more pressure helped the handling a lot. The only downside was that I lost some of the suspension quality. 

The morning was sunny and it was a perfect day to spend a few hours on the bike. The rail trail was completely snow covered, frozen and full of frozen footsteps. But the surface was nice and firm and the Trek ate it up. The first 9 or 10 miles are completely uphill, but at a pretty gentle rate. There is something about rail trails that I just love. It’s like riding a hidden highway in the middle of the woods. It feels like stepping back in time and I can almost see and hear the ghosts of the badasses who broke their backs constructing them. The people that built these trails were hard mother fuckers. 

After leaving the rail trail I traveled back home through North Danville on some beautiful dirt roads.  Vermont never seems to disappoint, it really is a perfect place to do these types of rides.  And son of a bitch, do we have some hills!!  You will get in shape if you ride here.

The ride was amazing, and the bike performed perfectly again. I like the bars much better, so they will stay on for now. The rear rack and bag holding system is the bomb.  Nothing moved and I never had to re-tighten anything. The only thing I need to get used to is how much slower it is to ride than my slate. I need to check my ego and just enjoy that I’m on a bike that can go anywhere. The next test will be a longer day or an overnight fully loaded. 

This is the route.