A Bostonian's Guide to Fall Foliage

For Bostonians, there’s no need to travel far this fall to find the foliage. In fact, whether you’re looking to hike, climb, mountain bike, or paddle, the Greater Boston area has something to satisfy everybody’s cravings for yellows, oranges, and reds. To begin, start with these five great activities, all within an hour of the city, for a quintessentially fall experience.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

Boulder at Hammond Pond

It’s strange to find great bouldering, much less an idyllic fall getaway, behind a mall. But, somehow, Hammond Pond pulls it off. Tucked behind The Shops at Chestnut Hill, just minutes outside of Boston, the puddingstone walls, the pond’s gentle waves, and the rustling of hardwood leaves as they fall to the ground—and the occasional grunt of a boulderer working a problem—combine to make you forget just how close you actually are to civilization.

In addition to the wonderful setting, the season’s cool temperatures are perfect for climbing classic Hammond Pond boulder problems, such as Hammond Eggs (V1), Breakfast of Champions (V3), and Hermit Cave (V4). You’ll find the highest consistency and most classic problems in an area called the Alcove, a steep semi-circle of Roxbury Puddingstone. This type of conglomerate rock resembles pebbles thrown into a still-wet concrete wall and is only found in the Greater Boston area. The Alcove’s orientation protects climbers from cool autumn winds, while the rock receives a lot of sun, keeping it pleasant even on the crispest fall days.

Linking a combination of cobbles and cracks, the Alcove’s most difficult problems are found in the middle of the wall, where the angle is the steepest. The easier problems, meanwhile, are located along the outsides, which are angled more vertically. Because of the Alcove’s short height and limited amount of rock, however, make sure to check out traverses that increase the challenge and volume of climbing. Boulderers beware: Many of the problems here were established decades ago. Thus, given the close proximity to Boston, they possess an ego-deflating blend of old-school grading and slick holds.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

Climb Rattlesnake Rocks

Tucked just down the road from Quincy Quarries’ graffitied walls, Rattlesnake Rocks is a classic destination for fall foliage. Rather than the Quarries’ vibrantly colored walls, however, the forest surrounding Rattlesnake Rocks delivers a canopy of gold, auburn, and crimson, while cool autumn temperatures ensure the area’s short, coarse granite walls are at their best.

Consisting of smaller crags spread out over a cliffline, Rattlesnake is much quieter than its multi-use neighbor, giving you some freedom to make the most of your “Rocktober.” And, while moving from crag to crag may be an inconvenience, the autumn-hued forest is made for ambling amongst Rattlesnake Rocks’ various walls and routes.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Mountain Bike Around Vietnam

No, not that Vietnam.

For Boston-area mountain bikers who prefer to race through colorful fall forests rather than idly admire them, Vietnam—located in Milford, roughly an hour outside the city—is an ideal outing. Infamous in the mountain biking community, Vietnam holds the distinction of being the first land purchased by a bike association. The New England Mountain Bike Association, or NEMBA, bought a 47-acre parcel to protect it in 2003, and today, it contains notorious singletrack, drops, and jumps. Even better, NEMBA’s parcel connects with other conservation land in Milford, Hopkinton, and Holliston to create an approximately 800-acre area. Legendary for its technical riding, Vietnam’s trails are best known for their rock gardens and steep rollers, as well as their natural and manmade drops and jumps.

Fall is the perfect time for a trip to Vietnam. Its often-soggy, low-lying areas are finally dry, and brisk temperatures enhance traction on the area’s steepest lines. While the forest’s changing colors and the rustling of leaves under tires can produce a meditative calm, don’t let your guard down too much. Fallen leaves add another challenge to Vietnam’s already-taxing trails, as they may hide in-trail obstacles.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

Hike the Blue Hills

Hikers in Greater Boston anxious to explore brilliantly tinted fall forests need look no further than the Blue Hills Reservation. Just a short drive from the city, the Blue Hills deliver the perfect place for hiking, as the area’s rocky and once-lush prominences transform from dense grays and greens into a cornucopia of yellow, orange, and red shades.

Although the Blue Hills might not have the elevation found among its northern neighbors—the highest point, Great Blue Hill, stands at just 635 feet tall—the area boasts an impressive 125 miles of hiking trails and 22 named hills. All and all, it’s more than enough to keep even the most enthusiastic fall hikers busy. Proving you needn’t drive north, the various high points offer incredible views of everything from Boston’s skyline to the Atlantic Ocean. Of course, New England’s iconic fall foliage makes these views even more spectacular.

Hikers looking to get a quick foliage fix should head for the summit of Great Blue Hill, a roughly mile-long round-trip hike. On the summit, climb the Eliot Tower for an unrivaled view of the city’s skyline and Boston Harbor. On a clear day, hikers can see as far as New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock. So, take a minute to reflect on the leaf-peeping madness (and heavy traffic) you’re missing out on by staying close to home. Or, have a picnic on the open summit, or continue touring the park’s expansive network of trails.

Courtesy: LEONARDO DASILVA
Courtesy: LEONARDO DASILVA

Paddle the Charles

For taking in the foliage around Boston, don’t restrict yourself to land. Another option, the Charles River delivers a different perspective for viewing the season’s leafy spectacle. Whether from the comfort of a kayak or balanced on top of an SUP, you’ll find the river’s calm waters offer a multitude of trip options for leaf-peeping. Along with the awe-inspiring autumn colors, expect to encounter everything from old forests to city skylines, as the Charles snakes from Hopkinton to the Atlantic Ocean.

With ample put-ins and numerous places to stop for a picnic or to merely enjoy the scenery, the Charles River has an adventure for every level. And, while an out-and-back trip requires the least amount of logistics, it’s easy to stage a shuttle for a one-way trip with a little planning.

What’s even better than lazily floating on the calm waters to soak up New England’s stunning fall sights? Through the russet-colored forest, the occasional rumble of the highway lets you know others are fighting their way out of, or back into, the city to look for something you’ve already found.

 

Do you have a favorite fall trip around Boston? If so, we want to hear about it! Leave your favorite Boston-area fall trips in the comments.


Newsflash: Carrabassett Valley's Mountain Bike Trails Will Double By 2022

Big plans are in store for one of Maine’s top mountain biking destinations. By 2022, the 74-mile bike trail system in the town of Carrabassett Valley will expand by 50-percent, according to the Carrabassett Valley Trails Committee’s (CVTC) development plan released in March. Comprising the CVTC are representatives from the town of Carrabassett Valley, the Carrabassett Regional Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association, Maine Huts & Trails, and Sugarloaf ski resort.

The 12-page document outlines a long-term plan to grow and improve the already-popular mountain biking locale in western Maine. The CVTC seeks to double the size of the existing trail system within 10 years. As the first step, they’ll add 37 miles of new trails by 2022.

“The mountain bike trail system developed to date by the CVTC partners has already been a significant success,” the report states. “Nonetheless, the network and riding experience need additional development to solidify our position as a regional leader.”

Trails and Signs Coming Soon

Carrabassett Valley is roughly two-and-a-half hours north of Portland. But, the town of about 500 residents is best known as the home of Sugarloaf, the Northeast’s second-largest ski resort. When the snow melts, a vast network of rideable trails emerges. In fact, on singletracks.com, Carrabassett Valley is currently Maine’s top-rated mountain biking trail system. Singletracks.com bases its rankings on average trail rating, number of members who have ridden the trail, and the number who want to ride it.

Despite the system’s popularity, the CVTC sees room for improvement, specifically in how its paths are marked.

“Significant effort has been made by relative few to address the challenge of signing our complicated system,” the report states. “Nonetheless, it remains a confusing system to navigate in many areas.”

Currently, the Carrabassett network overlaps with two nearby trail systems. In response, the development calls for planning and funding a signage system. Ideally, they’ll have the signs ready by the 2019 riding season.

The proposal also touches on funding trail development. For previous projects, the town of Carrabassett Valley and the CRNEMBA primarily paid for all trail construction. Maine Huts & Trails and Sugarloaf have also made contributions. Yet, according to the report, funding the ambitious expansion will “undoubtedly be an ongoing challenge.”

To fund the new trails and system upkeep, the CVTC will develop a plan that projects how much each of the four stakeholder groups can contribute. The CVTC may further form its own subcommittee to focus exclusively on funding.


Video: Our First Time Bikepacking

“Does anyone have room for beer?” A quintessential bikepacking question.


The Best Beers After Every Adventure

There are a lot of things to love about being outdoors in the summer. Days are longer, so you have extra time for adventuring. Temperatures are warmer, so you don’t have to worry about how many layers to wear—and how many extra ones to pack. And, even though the après scene is strong in the realm of winter sports, few things are more satisfying than an ice-cold beer at the end of a hot summer day spent in the wild. So, to make this your most refreshing summer yet, begin with these beer and activity recommendations. Just remember to drink and play outdoors responsibly, please. Cheers!

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Beers for Backpacking

Whether you’re the type to save a little space for a can or three in your pack or someone who leaves a six-pack in a cooler in your car, there’s no denying that a strong brew and backpacking go together like peanut butter and Nutella. Pitch-A-Tent Double IPA from Hobbs Tavern & Brewing Co. (8% ABV; 76 IBU) is the perfect way to wind down from a high-mileage day while you wait for your freeze-dried meal to “cook.” And, it’s still just as good if you wait to imbibe until you’re back in the parking lot—or your backyard.

Beers for Mountain Biking

If you’re anything like my husband and his friends, you throw back a beer at the end of a hard ride, because you totally crushed it, bro. If you’re like me, you probably have a few new bruises, so you crack open a cold one in an effort to dull the pain that both your body and ego are suffering. Either way, New Belgium’s Fat Tire Belgian Style Ale (5.2% ABV; 22 IBU) is an ideal choice for your post-ride recovery beverage. As an added bonus, New Belgium is a member of 1% For the Planet, so each Fat Tire you drink also helps support amazing things like bicycle advocacy, clean water, and reforestation.

Beers for Climbing

Nothing soothes tender tips better than an ice-cold beer after a day of cragging. As soon as your rack is stowed away, your rope is coiled, and you’ve traded in your approach shoes for your flippy-floppies, it’s time to treat yourself to a parking lot Monkey Fist from Shipyard Brewing (6% ABV; 50 IBU). This delicious West Coast-style IPA is named after a knot (for sailors, but still), and according to Shipyard, it “starts smooth and finishes with a…subtle bitterness,” which is likely also how your day of climbing progressed. I dare you to find a more appropriate brew to wrap up a day on the rock.

Beers for Trail Running

Hitting the trail for a tough sweat session is one of those things I love as an afterthought but really only tolerate as it’s happening. The post-run beer, however, is not only something I love in the moment, but it’s also often what motivates me to even put those miles under my feet in the first place. And, in this instance, Rock Art Brewery’s Ridge Runner (7.2% ABV; 23 IBU) always hits the spot. Ambiguously classified as a “Bold Vermont Ale,” these strong suds easily help you forget about those lung-burning climbs, quad-killing descents, and all the roots and rocks you nearly face-planted.

Beers for Hiking

Day-hiking is great, because it’s just backpacking for a few hours instead of a few days and doesn’t involve carrying all that stuff. There’s no denying that a day of hiking deserves a beer, but since it’s not quite as demanding, I like to end my treks with one that’s a little less intense. Trail Hopper from Long Trail Brewing Co. (4.75% ABV; 40 IBU) is a slightly fruity, super-refreshing session IPA—and an excellent way to end a hot summer hike.

Beers for Paddling

All of these summer sports are tiring, but spending a day in a kayak or on a paddleboard has a particular knack for wearing you out. I don’t know if it’s because of all the sun, or if it’s just because I always forget how much of a workout paddling actually is, but whenever I head out, I’m totally beat when I get back on solid ground—and super thirsty. Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale (4.9% ABV; 10 IBU) is a mixed bag of styles (Kolsch, Gose, and Berliner Weiss) with some lime and sea salt thrown in. Men’s Health dubbed it “the world’s most thirst-slaying beer,” and overall, it’s a great complement to your aquatic adventures.

Call It a Day

Some summer days are so nice, you end up enjoying more than one activity. Maybe you hit the trail for an easy run in the morning, and then, go to your favorite lake for an afternoon paddle. Or, maybe you head out for a little alpine endeavor, like Henderson Ridge. Whatever your multi-sport adventure of choice may be, there’s one beer that’s perfect for the end of a day spent outdoors: Call It A Day IPA from Moat Mountain Brewing Company (8% ABV; 75 IBU).

 

Now, you tell us: What’s your favorite beer, and which activity does it pair with best? Let us know in the comments!

 

Credit: Lauren Danilek
Credit: Lauren Danilek

3 Great Early Season Mountain Bike Rides South of Boston

Spring can be a challenging time for mountain bikers. We’re anxious to resume riding, but unpredictable weather often leaves trails muddy and impassable. Thankfully, some popular destinations dry faster than others. So, if you have the need to ride but your local spot isn’t quite ready yet, check out these locations.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Trail of Tears

With sandy, dry soil and mild winters, Trail of Tears in Cape Cod’s West Barnstable is the perfect place for logging early-season mileage. Offering a 20-plus mile trail network on a large parcel of conservation land, it features fun, mostly fast, and flowing non-technical singletrack, with twists and turns through a classic Cape Cod forest. Riders will also come across occasional boulders to roll over and small rocks to jump off along many of the trails. Just be ready for the occasional short, steep hills, which often leave even the fittest riders gasping for breath at their crests.

As you cruise around Trail of Tears, it’s easy to get lost in the rhythm and forget you’re even on the Cape. The woods are immersive, and stopping at the observation deck at the top of the North Ridge Trail reinforces this, as no beaches, traffic, or roads are in sight. It’s almost as if you’re in the woods of Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maine.

Of course, if you’re worried about getting lost, you shouldn’t be. NEMBA hosts rides on both Wednesday and Friday nights, allowing you to get a free tour. However, if you can’t make it, here’s a map. And, because Trail of Tears is the home turf of many Cape Cod NEMBA members, the trails are impeccably maintained, so you can let it rip.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Otis

Located a short drive over the Bourne Bridge, Otis is one of New England’s best early-season riding destinations. While nicknamed after its proximity to Otis Air National Guard Base, the spot is actually located within the Town of Falmouth’s conservation lands and the Frances A. Crane Wildlife Management Area, rather than on the base itself. And, if it weren’t for the hordes flocking to the Cape between late May and August, Otis could be a bonafide summer biking destination.

While very similar to Trail of Tears, Otis takes everything up a level. The singletrack is slightly rootier, rockier, and more challenging. More so, in riding up, over, and in between a series of drumlins, you’ll encounter a surprising amount of steep climbing that leaves many rethinking the Cape’s supposed flatness. Throughout the trail network, look for rock gardens, drops, and jumps, some of which add an extra layer of fun and may take a few tries to send cleanly. The cherry on the cake is the Gravity Trail, built in a natural half-pipe reminiscent of some of the classic trails found in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Don’t leave without checking it out.

Since space is tight, Otis has a well-deserved reputation as a difficult place to navigate. Indeed, the trails twist and turn, almost on top of each other at times. Fortunately, Otis hugs Route 28, providing an easy landmark and a bailout back to the car. If you ever doubt your location, just head toward the sound of traffic or pedal west, and then, take Route 28 South. Of course, this is easier said than done. Did we mention these trails are twisty?

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

Wompatuck

Wompatuck State Park in Hingham, Massachusetts, is another great location. Built on land formerly occupied by the Hingham Naval Ammunition Depot Annex, it’s a bit closer to Greater Boston than the other two options and home to miles of fantastic mountain biking on single- and double-track.

Wompy has trails for riders of any ability. Ones around Prospect Hill are a must-do for those seeking out singletrack. From the park’s lower left quadrant, riders can take either a moderate (but steep) doubletrack or one of the four singletrack trails to the top. There, they can swoop back down the same fast and flowy terrain as it winds down the hill. Definitely worth checking out, the section between the S4 junction at the top of the hill and the S2 at the bottom offers some of the state’s longest switchback singletrack. Also, consider the descent between the S5, S7, and S10 junctions.

Wompatuck is full of surprises. As such, think about exploring the rest of the park’s trails. Around some corners, you’ll find abandoned military buildings dating back to the 1950s, many of which aspiring artists have spray-painted. Off to the sides, you may spot training sites, with ramps, jumps, and logs to play around on. And, near Wompy’s Visitor Center, you’ll find the Pump Track, an all-ages training course packed with berms, bumps, and jumps.

Although many of Wompatuck’s trail junctions are marked, the many intersecting trails make it easy to get disoriented. To plan a ride that sticks to the area’s singletrack, check out the Friends of Wompatuck’s interactive trail map. Then, keep it open as you ride to ensure you don’t get lost.

Do you have a favorite place to ride early in the season? If so, we’d love to hear about it! Leave your favorite early-season riding destination in the comments, so others can explore.


How to Prepare for Your First Century Bike Ride

Spring has finally sprung, and with it comes one of my favorite times of year: Century Ride Season. If you find yourself gearing up for a big bike ride this spring or summer—whether it’s a “true” century (100 miles), a metric century (100km/62 miles), or one of the shorter distances often offered at big bike events—here are nine tips to make sure your event is a success.

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1. Commit to a Training Plan

If you stay reasonably active year-round, you may think you don’t need to follow a training plan because you’re already fit. Personally, I fall into this trap often. You may also be turned off by training plans, because you think following one means you won’t be able to do the other activities you enjoy for eight to 12 weeks.

But, these plans exist for a reason. And, when you have a century ride on your horizon, it’s super important to find one—and stick with it. A quick internet search will turn up tons of potential plans. Look for one that puts you in the saddle for a minimum of three days per week, increases ride mileage and/or duration steadily each week, and leaves room for you to keep up with other physical activities. After all, activities like running and hiking are great for cross-training. And, as you don’t want to sacrifice strength training, either, keep your favorite boot camp or power yoga class on your schedule, too!

2. Hit a Spin Class (or Invest in a Trainer)

A lot of people love spin classes, but I also know many who can’t stand them. On one hand, spin classes help you mix up your routine and work on drills that are really good for you but that you’d never do on a real ride (I’m looking at you, Figure 8s). As well, you still get your workout in when the weather doesn’t cooperate with your plans.

On the other hand, I get it: riding in place can be boring. But, you know what else is sometimes boring? Century rides! Sure, the start and finish lines are always exciting. But, an hour or two into the ride, when the pack has dispersed, spectators are few and far between, and there’s no more music, you’ll need a strong mental game to keep going. Spin classes, and even trainer rides, are the best way to work on your focus. 

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3. Practice Fixing Flats

Most organized bike rides have a Support and Gear vehicle (often referred to as a SAG Wagon) or two on course at all times and bike techs at all the rest stops. Thus, knowing how to fix flat tires and make minor bike tweaks isn’t completely necessary. But, you should still know how to do it, and on the side of the road mid-century ride isn’t the best time to learn.

Practice fixing flats in your garage, so you can do it efficiently in the event that it happens on century ride day. Additionally, know how to handle chain issues, in case yours starts to give you trouble on the course. And, if you do end up having to perform a fix, be sure to have a tech at the next rest stop give it a once-over to ensure it will make it to the finish without any more problems.

4. Body Glide is Your Friend

Chafing may not be much of an issue when you’re just out on the bike for an hour or two. However, during a century ride, it can become a pretty big pain in the butt pretty quickly. Enter Body Glide, your new best biking friend (BBF). Before you ride, a quick application to high-chafe-risk areas—where the edges of your bike shorts’ chamois rub against your skin and upper inner thighs—prevents a lot of discomfort later on. And, if your feet are prone to blisters, Body Glide also takes care of that problem.

Courtesy: New England Parkinson's Ride
Courtesy: New England Parkinson’s Ride

5. Know Your Body

You’re going to be on your bike for a long time on century ride day. Plan for at least four hours, and that’s if you happen to be the fittest rider on the starting line. As such, it’s super important to know your body inside and out. Use your training rides to experiment with fueling options, so you know what foods and drinks your stomach tolerates the best. If you notice that one or both of your knees (or any part of your body) consistently hurt afterwards, take your bike into your local bike shop to make sure it’s properly fitted to you.

Do your hands get super sweaty while you ride? Bring an extra set of bike gloves to avoid palm blisters. More importantly, if you get to the check-in table and don’t feel like you can make it through a 100-mile ride, listen to your body, and ask if you can switch your registration to one of the shorter courses.

6. Know the Course

The influx of GPS-enabled watches and bike computers and apps like Strava means that even if ride organizers don’t provide course maps on their website—which is pretty rare these days—you should still be able to find a map of it somewhere on the internet. It’s good to know what kind of a ride you’re getting yourself into, especially regarding the elevation profile. Find out how hilly the course will be, and try to find training routes that are similar to set yourself up for success. If you live near the century ride route, or at least part of it, get out there, and train on the course itself! The more you know ahead of time, the more strategic you can be, since you’ll know where you can push yourself and when you should reel it in and conserve some energy.

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7. Know Your Gear

From the bike to your clothes and shoes to everything packed in your bike bag, there’s a lot of gear involved in 100-mile bike rides. Plan your outfit carefully, being sure to choose the bike shorts and jersey that will keep you the most comfortable for four to seven hours in the saddle. If you use clipless pedals, make sure the tension on them is set just right. Make sure you can click in and take off from the rest stops quickly, and get out of your pedals in a hurry, in case you have to stop unexpectedly.

Pack your bike bag thoughtfully, including a bike multitool, tire levers, spare tube(s), and a pump, in addition to anything else you may need, such as those extra gloves mentioned earlier or a travel stick of Body Glide, in case you need to reapply. Above all else, avoid using anything new—clothes, shoes, or pedals—on event day. Stick to the things you know and have been using during training to ensure a successful century ride.

8. Take Your Bike for a Check-Up

This one should be a no-brainer, but it’s one that a lot of people—myself included—often skip. Bring your bike into your local shop for a quick check or tune-up a week or two beforehand to make sure it’s as ready for the big day as you are. After all, while it’s great to have the tools (and necessary knowledge) to fix minor issues yourself, as well as access to rest stop bike techs, not worrying about having a mid-ride breakdown is even better.

9. Have fun!

Everything discussed above is important, or else, I wouldn’t have brought it up. But, perhaps the most important tip is to enjoy the experience. Most century rides are charity events, not races, so there’s no need to push the pace all day. Relax, make new friends, stop to take pictures, eat all the PB&Js you want at the aid stations, and just enjoy the ride—literally.

 

Did I miss something? If you have more tips for aspiring (or returning) century riders, let us know in the comments!

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10 Post-Ride Rituals to Keep Your Bike Clean

If you’re like us, washing your bike is the last thing you want to do after a mountain bike ride. However, allowing mud to accumulate on the frame, chain, and shocks is a great way to ensure that your bike will spend more days in the shop than on the trail. So, after your next adventure, follow these simple steps to keep your bike clean during mud season and beyond.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

1. Rinse

Begin by rinsing off the worst and most obvious mud. Start from the top and work your way down, using a gentle spray. High pressure may blow dirt into places you don’t want it, or blow grease out of spots that need it. In the process, make sure to hit the usual mud-collecting culprits: the underside of the frame, seat, and steerer tube of the fork.

2. Degrease

After the initial rinse, apply a degreaser like Pedro’s Oranj Peelz Citrus Degreaser to your chainring(s), cassette, chain, and jockey wheels. For the pro look, apply it using a small paintbrush to ensure total coverage.

Pro Tip: Cut an old water bottle in half, and fill it with degreaser. When it’s time to work on your bike, stick it in the bike’s bottle cage, get your brush, and everything you need to clean your drivetrain is right in front of you.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Soap

While you let the degreaser soak in, cover the rest of your ride (except the disc brake rotors and pads) in a bike-specific soap, designed for use on all types of bikes. As such, you can scrub away with the confidence that it won’t harm the frame, components, or accessories and, equally important, will wash away grease from critical parts.

4. Scrub

After a few minutes of soaking, dig out a stiff-bristled brush and scrub your drivetrain—specifically, the front chainring(s), rear cassette, chain, and jockey wheels. Next, gently scrub the rest of your bike with a sponge (automotive sponges work great) and warm water, which does a much better job at cutting through grime than cold water. If your bike has a suspension, take special care to wipe any dirt from the fork’s stanchions and the rear shock’s shaft. If you don’t know, dirt can get dragged into the suspension when it moves in travel.

When you’re done with all this, do one more quick rinse to ensure you’ve gotten all the soap off the bike.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

5. Extreme Clean

If you had a particularly muddy ride, skipped a few post-ride baths, or simply want to give your ride a pro-level cleaning, then put it in a bike stand and remove the front and rear wheels. With the wheels off, it’s easier to clean all the hard-to-get places, and you can really scrub the rear cassette when it’s off the bike.

Even better, spend a few dollars on a chain keeper. A chain keeper makes cleaning and lubing your bike’s chain easy, and saves your drivetrain from unnecessary issues caused by back pedaling.

6. Dry It

You towel off when you get out of the shower, right? Give your bike the same courtesy, and wipe it down after its bath. This helps remove any dirt you may have missed, and prevents water from corroding metal parts or leaking into bearings and pivots. To be extra thorough, give your bike a couple of bounces to shake free any water hiding in its nooks and crannies.

Next, grab a rag and wrap it around your bike’s chain while pedaling backward (or pedaling forward, if you’re using a chain keeper). This removes moisture from the chain and helps keep it clean by getting rid of any dirt and debris missed in the initial cleaning.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

7. Lube Up

To prevent rusting and minimize wear on your chainring and cassette, lube the chain. We prefer drip-on-style lubes as opposed to sprays, because they make it easier to get the solution on the chain and keep it off your bike’s frame and disc brake rotors. Drip the lube on the chain just before the lower jockey wheel, spinning the pedals backward (again, forward if using a chain keeper) until the chain is covered. After the chain is lubed, wipe off any excess with a rag, as it can collect dust and dirt and do more harm than good.

While some people lube the chain before their rides, we prefer doing it during the post-ride cleaning. This way, the lubricant has an opportunity to soak into the individual chain links. It also makes it less likely that your chain will collect dust and dirt during the ride.

Pro tip: While you’re lubing up the drivetrain, give your clip-in pedals a few drops of a dry lube, like WD-40 Bike Dry Lube, to keep them clicking and releasing smoothly all season.

8. Look It Over

With your bike clean, give it a quick visual inspection—especially if you’ve crashed—to make sure the frame has no cracks or, in the case of carbon, deep scratches or gouges. If you encounter any cracks in the metal or damage to the carbon, have a pro check it out right away, as failure can be dangerous.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

9. Gear Up For the Next Ride

To ensure that your next ride has no surprises, finish up by giving everything a once-over. Cycle through the gears to make sure the bike is shifting well and to work in the lube. Check your brakes to make sure they’re functioning, not rubbing. Spin your wheels to make sure they are still true. If you’re concerned about anything your inspection revealed, bring it into one of Eastern Mountain Sports’ bike shops.

10. Start Planning

With your bike put away clean and in working order, there’s nothing left to do but sit back and plan your next ride. Maybe check out the riding around Boston’s South Shore? And, if you haven’t ridden yet this season, make sure to get some additional pre-season tips.

 

Do you have any tips or tricks for keeping your bike clean during spring rides? If so, leave them in the comments section.


7 Tips for Mountain Biking Etiquette During Mud Season

Springtime means warm weather, blooming flowers, and, for many, the switch from speeding down snowy trails on skis to flying down muddy ones on mountain bikes. Unfortunately, with all of the melting snow and April showers, trails can deteriorate very quickly. Particularly, riding on soft, muddy ground leaves damaging ruts and increases erosion. Thus, with repeated springtime beatings, the trails may not last, impacting access for all cyclists. When conditions get too wet, some locations may in fact formally close the trails to preserve their quality. In order to avoid damaging the trails, follow these tips to ensure they stay rideable for everyone, all year long.

1. Do your research

Check trail conditions before you head out. Thanks to social media’s ever-growing reach, trail condition updates are just a click away. Many local mountain biking clubs and groups post these updates online, so that riders know where things are good and which ones need time to dry out. Organizations like BETA, MTBNJ, and VMBA are just a few groups in the Northeast that regularly provide this information. 

2. Take to the hills

Some areas naturally drain and dry more quickly than others. Trail systems situated on flat areas more often than not require more time to dry than hillier networks or those with more climbs and descents. If conditions are questionable at the flatter areas, head to the hills to avoid making ruts and mud puddles.

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3. Get on some rock

Not all trails are created equal. Sculpted, flowing routes made from dirt or clay tend to be more sensitive to muddy conditions, whereas technical, rocky ones are more robust and less likely to be damaged if damp. If conditions are questionable, ride the techy stuff and practice your rock garden technique.

4. Steer dead-ahead!

It is inevitable to find lingering wet spots and mud puddles while you ride, even though everywhere else seems dry. When you come across a mud puddle, ride through it, not around. Widening trails are a problem everywhere, and are difficult to reverse. Consistently riding around a puddle’s edges only makes them wider, perpetuating the problem.

5. Gravel is great

Sometimes, everywhere is a sopping, wet mess, but you still need to get out on your mountain bike. In that case, head to the gravel roads, carriage paths, or rail trails. Here, you will still be able to scratch the off-road itch while protecting the singletrack trails until things dry out.

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6. Pay it forward

It takes a lot of time and hard work to make trails fun and sustainable. So, consider joining your local bike club for a trail work day. Building new, sustainable trails or fixing lingering problems on existing ones is a great way to help preserve the network and make it enjoyable for everyone. Just be sure you are working with an approved group, as rogue trail building does more damage than good.

7. Remember what you’re seeing

If you are expecting dry ground on your ride and are surprised to find less-than-ideal conditions, let others know that the trails still need some time before they’re rideable. Make a note of perpetually muddy or wet sections that may need some extra attention at the next work session. 


Gifts for Girls Who are "One of the Guys"

Whenever I do anything outdoors, I’m almost always the only girl in the group. This means I’ve had plenty of time over the years to figure out the best gear to help me either keep up or kick butt. So, if you’re shopping for a girl who often finds herself in the same situation, here’s a list of things I use to make hanging out with a bunch of dudes easier and more fun.

Courtesy: Ashley Peck
Courtesy: Ashley Peck

Climbing: Petzl Elia Climbing Helmet

I was tired of a helmet that only sat on my head properly if my ponytail was in just the right spot. The boys were also tired of waiting for me to fix my hair before or after each climb. A few years ago, I received the Petzl Elia as a gift, and this problem hasn’t been an issue since! Other companies “girl-ify” helmets by simply making them in prettier colors, but taking it a step further, Petzl developed a headband that actually accommodates a ponytail in multiple positions. It also weighs just 10 ounces and adjusts to fit any head perfectly. So, your climber girl will probably forget she’s even wearing it and will have an extra-safe hike back to the car after a day of cragging.

Hiking and Camping: GoGirl Female Urination Device

I wouldn’t say I’ve ever wished I was, um, “built like a man.” But, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of how much easier it is for my male hiking partners to heed nature’s call when we’re out on the trail. If the lady hiker on your list has ever complained about popping a squat in the woods, treat her to a GoGirl this holiday! Not only does it have a fun name (if you ignore the medieval-sounding “Female Urination Device” part of it), but it also helps level the pee-playing field and virtually eliminates the risk of getting poison ivy in unfortunate places.

Courtesy: Ashley Peck
Courtesy: Ashley Peck

Biking: CamelBak Women’s L.U.X.E. Hydration Pack

It might just be that my husband and his friends are crazy people, but they hate taking breaks during a bike ride. If I start to get hangry while we’re mountain biking, they’ll cave and let me take a quick food break. However, I wouldn’t stand a chance of staying properly hydrated without my Camelbak Women’s L.U.X.E Hydration Pack. If the biker chick on your list has to keep up with the boys, or if she’s the ambitious one who doesn’t like to stop, make sure she stays sufficiently watered out on the trail with this super-comfy pack that holds enough fluid to ride for hours on end.

Skiing: DryGuy Green HEAT 2-in-1 Heater

Just because the weather gets cold that doesn’t mean the outdoors-woman will stop adventuring. It does, however, mean she might need some extra help staying warm. Whenever I’m skiing, snowboarding, or winter hiking with the boys, it always seems like I’m the only one whose hands are freezing, no matter how nice my gloves or mittens are. Hand-warmer packs help a little, but the DryGuy GreenHEAT 2-in-1 Heater is the BEST. It’ll warm your snow sister’s hands instantly, recharge her phone (or headlamp), and help the planet by reducing hand-warmer waste—making it a win-win-win.

Courtesy: MTI Adventurewear
Courtesy: MTI Adventurewear

Paddling: MTI Moxie PFD

Don’t let your water woman settle for any ol’ life jacket. She may have to wait a few months to use it, but when she unwraps a made-for-her PFD like the MTI Moxie this holiday, she’ll be happier than a seagull with a french fry. What makes the Moxie so comfy is its Adjust-a-Bust fit System—certainly giggle-worthy every time she and her guy friends get on the water. It’s truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Courtesy: Mountainsmith
Courtesy: Mountainsmith

All of the Above: Mountainsmith Sixer

If all else fails, the Mountainsmith Sixer is always a safe bet. For a girl who’s one of the guys, you can be sure of one thing: Beers are a staple of every adventure. And, if the mountain maven you’re shopping for is the one who supplies the cold brews at the end of the day, she’ll always be the boys’ favorite bro.