Tag: Wisconsin

Off the Road in the City……

“Blues skies…local MTB trails are open.”


Was thrilled this morning to see this tweet from @WORBA_MMB, the account of Metro Mountain Bikers, Milwaukee’s off-road biking club. The Metro Mountain Bikers maintain several areas of mountain biking singletrack around Milwaukee County.  The Hoyt Park and Oak Hill sections are in located in Wauwatosa – the city just west of Milwaukee proper.

The weather was perfect for our first trail ride of the year. Sunny, 80 degrees. We put the hitch on the car, checked out the bikes; giving them the ABC once over – air, brakes, cranks and chains. Once that was complete, made sure we had all the gear – helmets, water, gloves, before heading out on the 5mile trip to the trails. Yes, I know we could have ridden, should have – in fact I ride past the Hoyt trails on my bike commute.  However, kiddo doesn’t quite have his biking legs and stamina to do both the rides to and from plus the trails. Working on that is a goal for the year.

For this ride, we choose the Oak Hill 1 trail, aka Harley Woods, at Capitol Drive and Menominee Parkway.  To get to the trails, you drop in on the north side of Capitol Drive, just west of the parkway and the river, east of 45. Trailhead is well marked, just look for the signs.

 The trails are flowing, curvy single track. No tough climbs, but fun little touches of dips and creek crossings. The Metro Mountain Bikers do a great job of maintaining these – in keeping brush in check, building boardwalk type crossings, and installing rock and other armor in low lying spots.

The trail makes a 3mile loop heading out along 45 (which is only noticeable in one small section), and returning along the Menominee River. While not overly technical, and no steep climbs, the trail does force you to pay attention in order to successfully navigate the twisty spaces between the trees.  Both kiddo and I were fascinated by the bench in the river – and couldn’t decide if when the river isn’t so high, if you could sit in it.

 I also laughed at this tree. Apparently, a local beaver has the same opinion as I about having this tree at the base of a small hill with a slight curve in the trail. Tho’ I suppose it would prevent you from riding into the river.

The entire time, I could hear the voice of Tania, my instructor from the Ray’s Women’s Clinic, telling me, “Eyes up, Kim”.  I must say compared to the first time I rode this trail last fall, my skills and ability to tackle the trail have made dramatic improvements since that clinic. I am so looking forward to learning more at the Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike weekend next month. I even made a couple of tries at making it over a large log (these not so successful, but other smaller logs, no problem).
We had a great ride, a great time playing in the mud today. Brought a bit home with us.
And as I typed this, was reminded that it was a good thing we took advantage of this sunny afternoon – and how handy it is to get text updates via twitter from @WORBA_MMB, because my phone buzzed with this tweet:
“More rain, arghh!. Milwaukee MTB trails closed.”

National Bike to Work Week

Ok, I admit it. I’m pretty much a fair weather bike commuter. I started bike commuting last fall and rode until the Friday before “fall back”, the switch from daylight saving to standard time. In the fall, I enjoyed riding the 11 mile route in the cool temperatures, and found the early morning frost to be a beautiful addition to the ride. However, I just am not comfortable riding in the dark, nor on snow and ice. So once the time changed, the commuter was put away for the winter.

My schedule and the rainy, crappy weather have been on a collision course for weeks (yes, refer back to the fair weather thing, and add rain and winds over 20mph to the snow, ice and dark list.) I travel extensively for work, often only going into the office a couple of times a week. But I was determined I would ride my bike this week – that no matter what it took, I would commute at least once during National Bike to Work Week. Thankfully, today, on the one day I was in the office, the weather cooperated.
Beautiful sunny morning. Enjoyed seeing a duck pair playing in water on the trail.
Ride in was great. Loved seeing my helmet and gear in my office. So much so, I kept moving it around, so others would notice. On my own little influence others to ride mission around the office.
I’m fortunate in having half of my route off road on Milwaukee’s Oak Leaf trail -both for the views of the Menominee River…… 
And because it takes me off the road – I sure am glad I wasn’t sitting in that traffic above the trail!
Loved the ride. Makes me happy to get the 1st of many bike commutes in for 2011.

Day with Kiddo…..1st ride of the Spring

This has felt like the winter that wouldn’t end. Combine that with some unusually busy weekends, and a focus on training for a half marathon, and I just haven’t been out riding. Kiddo and I were home alone this weekend, while Hubby was down at the Masters. As we planned our weekend, Kiddo suggested we go mountain biking. When I explained the trails were closed because they were too wet, we discussed riding Milwaukee’s lakefront trail. We’d done this last year, this same weekend, and I’d written it up here. I knew the South Shore Half Marathon was Sunday, and was worried the lakefront trail would be too crowded due to the race. I’ve been wanting to try the Lake Country Recreational trail, so this is where we decided to ride.
The 13 mile Lake Country trail runs along the southern end of Pewaukee Lake and Lake Nagawicka from just west of Hwy T in Pewaukee (the trailhead is close to Country Springs Hotel on Golf Road) through Delafield and on to Oconomowoc. This is a good map of the trail.
After airing up the tires, and giving both our bikes the once over, my first challenge was loading the bikes. I’ve never put the hitch rack on my car, and didn’t feel comfortable attempting without a demo – the vision of rack and 2 bikes falling off on the highway was a bit too scary. Throwing my road bike in the back of the car is easy. But my hybrid is bigger, heavier, more unwieldy, and a second bike adds to the difficulty. I can never remember front wheel first or back wheel, but somehow I got them both in, using an old yoga mat to protect the paint and drivetrain of my bike.

The trail runs along a right of way under Wisconsin Electric lines. The first 3 or so miles are paved, a bit further down the trail changed to crushed gravel.

Views ranged from golf courses to marsh to lake views. Though suspect once the trees leaf out, lake views will be limited.

 Kiddo and I enjoyed our time out on the trail. Being the 1st ride of the season we realized we could use a bit of work on our endurance. Nonetheless this ride whetted our appetite for more. We’re both excited to hit other trails, make a family ride a weekly event. 

Ride Like a Girl…Ray’s Women’s Weekend

Seriously, they expect me to ride up that ramp the very first thing…don’t they realize topping little steep hills is one of my weaknesses…I am going to embarrass myself right from the start…I have to get to the top…..


Ok, I know what to do, pedal hard, shift weight forward when losing momentum towards the top, keep pedalling…..

And so began the day at the Women’s Weekend Ride and Clinic at Rays Indoor Mountain Bike Park in Milwaukee. I’d read about the women’s weekends (they also do one each year at their Cleveland location) on the forums of  Team Estrogen and MTBR.

I was both nervous and excited about this day. Kiddo and I have been talking about checking out Ray’s since it opened, but I’ve been a bit too intimidated by my lack of experience and fear of riding ladders to go on my own. However, when I saw they’d be having the park closed down to women only with a free clinic, I jumped at the chance.

I arrived as the day’s format and trainers were being introduced. I chose to rent a bike for the day. I’m trying to get a feel for what kind of MTB to invest in, and want to ride as many as possible. I choose a XC (cross country) style bike – dirt jumpers were also an option. 
I’d estimate there were close to 75 women in attendance – all levels from “1star” beginners like myself to “4-5 star” advanced riders looking to hone their skills on the expert jumps. Many had traveled several hours to attend, were making a weekend of the event. In addition to the women only clinic day, the weekend included half price admissions for clinic attendees on Saturday and Sunday plus a party on Saturday night. 
After the introductions, the groups split into different areas of the park based on ability and goals for the day. Some headed upstairs to the pump track, others to the more advanced sport/XC area, a group on the beginner jumps, an advanced jumping group, and the beginner XC group I’d joined. We’d been told to meet at the top of the ramps by the beginner section. Somehow, I made it up the ramp (I really have struggled with powering up short inclines). In fact getting up the ramp was easy.

Then it hit me, the other half of the equation. That the MTB mantra of “Momentum is your friend” meant…

Oh shit, they expect us to ride down the ramp to hit the ladders….now I’m seriously freaking. I don’t know how to do this. The one time I tried to ride the wooden skill obstacles at Muir had been a bit of a disaster.

I must not have been the only one with a bit of fear showing on her face. When Tania and Jeni, our coaches, arrived, they sized up the group, moved us off the ramp, and over to a flat area to work on beginner skills. Tania and Jeni are both graduates of the International Mountainbike Instructor Certification (IMIC) program and followed that program for beginners. We learned bike-body positioning from neutral to attack position, how to brake, steer, shift weight forward and back, stop fast bracing our heels down, and began to work on front wheel lifting.  Tania or Jeni would talk us through the skills, demonstrate and then have us practice on the flats, offering comments and suggestions to each rider individually.

Quickly our confidence grew and the group headed back over to the ramps, to the beginner sport area. It was time to use our new skills on the trails. The coaches stayed down on the runs. This position allowed them to coach the riders as they passed; often giving extra pointers as the rider headed back up to the ramps. They encouraged us to try increasingly difficult obstacles. The teeter tooter, going over a small log, a larger log, riding over a boulder, pedaling our way through a rock garden.

 
Before we knew it, it was time for lunch, and then the group picture. Finding a spot to get this many people in one shot was difficult, but the expert BMX area provided a decent set up.
After lunch the group headed back over to the Sport/beginner area. Much of the group was ready to progress from the beginner area, while a couple of us did a few more runs in the beginner area. Jeni went with the more advanced group, Tania stayed with the rest of us. 
Eyes up, Kim…..
I think that’s my new slogan. Somewhat of my Achilles heel. When I get nervous I look down. Not sure how many times Tania had to tell me that. I can’t say enough about how great and patient she was with me. How encouraging. Pushing me when needed, talking me through my first time down the steeper ramps, helping me find lines, determine where to look.

Even “picking me up” when this small patch of rocks, taught me a slightly painful lesson about momentum… specifically what happens when the bike stops and you don’t, my first “endo”. Not going fast enough, looking down, my front tire stopped by a rock, me flipping over the bars, hitting my head. Being both embarrassed and just slightly disorientated. A quick check over by one of the Ray’s staff. Then being encouraged by Tania to try a slightly easer run to get my confidence back. And finally moving back to this line to make it through, prove to myself that I could do it.

I feel like I learned so much on this day. I’m getting more confident in trusting that I can look ahead, becoming more aware of my position on the bike. Understanding a bit more of the difference between controlled momentum and out of control speed. That much of this sport I am enjoying learning is a mental game, pushing both physical limits and those set by our minds…..which makes it all that much more appealing to me.

Ray’s has done a great job in building this facility.  There’s something for all skills levels. A great option during the cold and snow. And this women’s weekend a perfect way to get acquainted. I can’t wait to take these skills out on the dirt. And am even more excited for the Midwest Women’s Clinic in June; an event hosted by Sub-9 productions, a company owned by Tania and her husband. Can’t wait!

Reindeer Games and Christmas Wishes

Decided to get a little fresh air and outdoor fun into my day by riding the mountain bike around in the snow. Kutya loves to play in the snow, and gave chase as I went round and round the yard, up and down little hills, over any bump I could find.

I was surprised by how much more effort it takes to ride through snow. How after several times around I was breathing pretty hard. Took me three times to make it up the side “trail” without stopping, or at least dabbing my foot down. Needed to trust my momentum, keep pedalling, shift slightly forward. Good practice for riding real trails.

Spent about thirty minutes making tracks all through the yard. Wiped out once crossing the driveway, my back tire sliding out from under me. Made me laugh more than anything. All the while Kutya by my side.

As I suspected when Kiddo got home, saw the tracks and realized what his Mom had been up to, he also had to give snow biking a try. And discovered exactly what I had, it’s hard work.

On Thursday, I got in my first winter ride. Roads were wet and slick with many more icy patches on the bike path than I expected. Will take a bit more riding to get comfortable riding in winter. Did a mere 3.5 miles around the neighborhood. It felt great to ride.

This year I didn’t do my usual Christmas tree in every room thing. Skipped my obsession with every tree has a theme, a color scheme. Instead, just went with one real tree. Real tree, real sentiment. Using the ornaments that have some meaning to us. Kiddo and I enjoyed unwrapping each one from their tissue, lots of “oh, I remember this one”, “oh, this is my favorite”, followed shortly by “No, this is my favorite”


These really are some of my favorites.


These are new this year. Purchased from SpokenSitch’s Etsy store. Stars (Kiddo calls them snowflakes) made from bike chain. These and their matching key ring make me smile.


This Noah’s Ark ornament(s) has been a sentimental favorite of mine for years. They’ve been through several moves, several life changes with me, probably 15 years old. Little pairs to hang together – Noah and wife, Mr and Mrs Penguin, Lion, Deer and Sheep.

 The Dr. Suess collection was built over the years after Kiddo was born, and we were reading our way through the books. Started with One Fish, Two fish (which is still my favorite), now includes Cat in the Hat, Hop on Pop, Green Eggs and Ham, Horton Hears a Who, The Grinch. Like with the Noah’s Ark group, I enjoy finding a spot of the tree to hang them en mass.


Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, one of my favorite words to say. Represents Maui, one of my favorite places on earth. 
Kutya the Wonder Dog gets mentioned or pictured in this blog often. But Princess Bijou does not. A rare chance to catch a photo of her. Like Kutya, she’s a rescued pet.  Pretty and petite. She’s a great hunter, helping to keep the house mouse free. Or at least that’s what we hope.
Merry Christmas! Wishing you all the blessings of the season.

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