Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Iowa Hill ride, with Finning Mill and Yankee Jims too!

On Finning Mill Road
Well, it was about time I got around to doing the Iowa Hill route this year, it's really a tough climb that needs to be done at least once a year to keep you humble. This year, I decided to try something different.

We often drive up to Sugar Pine Reservoir via Foresthill. Along the way the way I have noticed Finning Mill Road. It departs Foresthill Divide Road a few miles east of Foresthill, I then see the other end not far from the boat ramp exit at Sugar Pine. A Google search didn't come up with a lot of information. Google and Bing maps weren't very helpful either. I have a USFS map of the Tahoe National Forest which did show the road and it looked alright there, so I decided I wanted to try it.

This ride would encompass a fair amount of dirt road riding, as I planned to ride Finning Mill and Yankee Jims to get back to Colfax. I was riding my Mercian Tourer on which I recently installed Continental "Tour Rides", (described as 37mm wide but really about 34mm on my Sun CR18s). I was looking forward to finding out how they handled the dirt roads.

I drove up to Colfax and parked at the old Dingus McGee parking lot. Poor old Dingus McGee has been leveled, all that remains is the concrete slab, (BTW, found out that the roadhouse has re-opened in Auburn). Departing Colfax on Iowa Hill road, I dropped quickly to the North Fork of the American River. At the bottom I stopped to snap a picture when I discovered my rear tire was flat! A goathead sticker had punctured it right through the top surface! Not an auspicious start for my ride! It didn't help my impression of the Tour Rides either!

I swapped out the tube and then had to start that glorious climb to Iowa Hill. This climb is really, really tough. Good thing I had a 28/28 low gear. Even with no load, it's hard work to make it up that road. Eventually I made it to Iowa Hill where I met a couple of old guys who had passed me on trail bikes. They laughed because they said I almost kept up with them! We chatted and I asked them about Finning Mill. One of them said all he remembered was that it turned to powder during the summer thanks to the logging trucks. They had not been on it recently.

Nothing much happening at Iowa Hill Store today!
I didn't take a break at Iowa Hill this time, but pressed on to Sugar Pine.

I tried something different at Sugar Pine this year. I dropped down to the day use area which is adjacent to Big Gap campground. Earlier this year, we had camped at Big Gap and found the walking path around the lake to the boat ramp had been paved. So I road down and around the lake to the ramp and then back to the main road. Although this saves you from riding across the dam, I can't say you save a lot because you have a good climb before you get to the campground, and you have to watch your speed, the path is narrow and has lots of curves and you don't know if there will be somebody coming around the next blind curve.

Sugar Pine is very low right now.
Anyway, I got back on the road and was surprised to come to Finning Mill Road before the OHV staging area. Well, it looked okay at the start so off I went. I expected terrible, soft powdery sand but was surprised by a pretty good gravel/dirt road for the most part, with little washboard. I encountered just one short stretch of "powder" during the ride, at a road junction.

The start of Finning Mill, so far, so good!
The only navigation problem I encountered was at the junction of Finning Mill and Forest Service Road 24. As I was about to reach for my map, a fellow on a BMW GS came up, (the only traffic I met, save one car). I asked him where he came from and he asked me the same! After that, it was really just a matter of staying on the main dirt road and soon I came to Foresthill Divide road, a few easy miles east of Foresthill.

On Finning Mill. Notice the road surface is good!

The end of Finning Mill road at Foresthill Divide road.
I should mention that ever since Iowa Hill, a few raindrops were sprinkling down. It was keeping the dust down but was not heavy enough to cause puddling or even mud. When I got to the paved road I found the blacktop was wet! Something that hasn't happened since June! It felt funny to be riding under cloudy skies with no sun blistering down on me!

At Yankee Jims
From Foresthill I turned right and headed back for Colfax via Yankee Jims road. I've been on this road many times and have described it in this blog, so there isn't much to add. It was getting a little wetter as I headed down. Recently I have preferred going the other way on this road, descending on the north side of the river and climbing up this south side. I still do, you have a lot of tight turns to make going down this side so you have to ride your brakes more.

I take a picture of the Yankee Jim Bridge every time I cross it!
Going up the other side, the rain seemed to be getting a little harder. Still not a problem, but I was happy to have my fenders on the bike, they were being put to use at last! By the time I pulled into the parking lot the rain was coming down pretty steadily and I was starting to get wet, glad the ride was ending there.

I was pretty happy with this ride. It was fun to add an extra stretch of dirt road to it. Finning Mill was really a fine road. The Tour Ride tires felt pretty nice on the dirt and gravel, and they seemed to roll along on the pavement pretty nicely with 80 lbs. in them. I was disappointed that they punctured, but I don't know of any tire that can withstand a goathead, so that was just bad luck I guess. The Mercian took it all in stride, even with a large handlebar bag. Rides stats: 43.78 miles, 4 hours and 42 mins (!). 5520 feet of climbing.
Here's the ride as plotted by my Run the Map app.

The Mercian with the huge Ostrich bag!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

SKS Longboards for my Mercian

KOM with the beige Longboards
I mentioned in a recent post, (Bonus century!), my rear aluminum fender snapped off of my King of Mercia, (KOM). The fender failed at the point where it is attached to the rear bridge, (normally a brake bridge, but not on a cantilever equipped bike)!

Alu fender failure.
This is the second time a metal fender has broken on one of my bikes. Previously, a stainless steel fender had snapped at the same spot on my Motobecane Jury commuter. Obviously, I will have to rethink my installation of alloy fenders.
Close-up of the failed fender.
It would seem that there is need for reinforcement in that area. But I decided to try SKS composite fenders, which feature an aluminum center clad in plastic. I chose their Longboard version, the same I had used on my other Mercian, (Adjustments to the old Mercian.). It's nice that SKS offers a couple of colors, I again went with the beige, I just like that shade and it seems to go with the color scheme well enough.

Pretty good front fender line...
I wanted to be sure that the front fender was supported by the Nitto front rack, I positioned the front edge just a tad behind the leading edge of the rack. The Longboard is long enough that it still stretches down far enough to offer more than adequate protection.

...rear too!
Rear fender installation was greatly aided by the threaded points Mercian provided for mounting the rear fender. It was easy to set a nice fender line. I didn't install the rear mud flap, I'll save it for a spare.

A look at the rear installation.

And a look at the front, notice the attachment to the Nitto M-12 rack.
So, I've been riding with these new fenders for a few weeks now and I am very satisfied with them so far. They are rigid and quiet and fairly light. Lets see how long they hold up!