||[Aug. 10th, 2016|10:18 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
My grandmother and mother both have houses in Leadville, which face Mount Elbert. It's the highest mountain in the state, about 4400 meters at the top. It looks like this:|
In the 1970's we used to drive our jeep up near the summit. Someone actually managed to get a jeep up there in the 1950's. The Department of Agriculture closed those roads and made them hiking trails in the 1980's and my dad and I used to talk about how hard it would be to ride to the top.
Sunday I decided to try it.
I started from mom's house and rode my mountain bike about 12 km to an initial viewpoint where I could decide how I felt about the cloud cover.
There's an abandoned settlement in the guts of this valley. The church, in the center, still has a bell in the steeple.
This part of the road is dirt, but still passable by passenger car. A couple km further I got onto an old jeep road (the one we used to drive up it many years ago) that is a lot hairier. That turns into a fairly nice hiking trail, and then the Mount Elbert trail takes a hard left and starts climbing. From that point to the top is 10km and the average grade is 20%: one meter of climbing for every five meters forwards. It's also mostly big rocks with some tree roots, lower down. Higher up it's all rocks.
Here's a shot from partway up.
My theory was that I could ride up maybe 20% of it, but that I could ride down about 70% of it, and that would make the whole trip really easy. That also allowed me to rationalize burning through about 80% of my water on the climb, since the descent was going to be so easy.
There were mountain goats near the top. I didn't get any pictures.
There were also marmots (Hey marm0t!)
and ptarmigan. (Super good camouflage on these: it's in the middle slightly above and left of center.)
There were also a ton of people, all heading down, insofar as I started about the same time most people wanted to be just approaching the top. Again, I figured I'd be descending really fast so I didn't have to worry about exposure on the top as much.
It was still basically a hike whilst carrying a bike.
Everyone coming down had something to say. Mostly they said I was a total badass. I wasn't feeling like it right then. I was feeling exhausted.
But I did get to the top.
The point I started the ride from is below the left (from the rider's perspective) handgrip of the bike.
Some other pics from the top.
This dog had a 12 week old puppy who looked just like her tagging along, but the puppy was busy digging around in someone's backpack when I was trying to take this.
The last shows a bit darker a chunk of cloud, and roughly two minutes after we got to the top, it spit out a lightning bolt down on top of Missouri or Belford, two 4300 meter mountains just to the south, with a loud crack.
That got the few of us on top all highly motivated, as we were standing on the highest point for 1500 km in any direction. We tore down from the peak, which is maybe 200 meters of pure unrelenting rock, to the mix of rock and soil below, and that's where I hopped on my bike and started riding down the hill.
and that's where everything went to pieces.
Descending down a huge pile of rocks at 20% is hard on a bike. My front rim started overheating so much from braking I would ride for three minutes and then walk for three minutes to let it cool down to the point where I could touch it. About the third or fourth iteration of that, the tire blew out. I pulled the tube out and found that the stem for inflating it had been torn out of the tube. I am guessing I was braking so hard that the tire was being dragged around the rim -- rotating more than the wheel as a whole was rotating -- and that trashed the tube.
Well, I have a spare tube. I put that in and pumped it up with quite a bit more pressure so the tire wouldn't slip on the rim.
And it blew out before I could even start riding.
I pulled the tire back apart, and found a split in the tube: it had parted along a molding line.
This was a big problem with cheap tubes from the 2010 era, and I must have missed this one when I was trying to cull my collection.
Well, I have a patch kit. I pulled it out. Brand new kit. I don't carry used ones along because they may have aged poorly: the adhesive for the patches dries out eventually. So, brand new adhesive container, never opened. I tore off the seal on the top.
It's completely dry. Like, there is _dust_ coming out of it.
Well, that's why I carry a SPARE patch kit. So I got that out and opened it up and the glue was okay and I patched the hole in the spare tube and put everything back together and pumped it up and rode about another 200 meters and it blew out again.
This time it was a huge long tear along a mold line that just couldn't be patched at all.
As a result I rode down the side of a mountain and 25km home on a completely flat tire, which was miserable. The bike rode like a jackhammer, if I turned even slightly the tire would fold under and the front wheel would slide sideways and fall over, any side-grade at all and it would similarly fold over and stop, and if I went more than about 20 km/h the tire would start oscillating on the rim and threatening to come off entirely.
Man that was a long ride.
This is what a tire looks like after being ridden flat down the side of a mountain and then on paved roads for 25km.
But I did get home, albeit by hitching a ride for the latter half of the 3 km dirt climb to the house.
And I even had the energy to take another picture of the top, post-ride.