Sunday, May 21, 2017

Baptism by gravel: Taking the Felt on Ponderosa Way and Yankee Jim's Road.

On the Ponderosa Way Bridge.
I related when I described purchasing my Felt V100, ( See: Felt-gravel-grinder.), that riding Ponderosa Way, ( See: Exploring-ponderosa-way ), was something of my inspiration in buying an "all-roads" style bike. So I was anxious to try the Felt on this road. At the same time, I figured it would make sense to combine that ride with Yankee Jim's Road, a road leading out of Foresthill which I've ridden several times. Both of these roads have significant stretched of dirt and gravel and offer some beautiful scenery.

I decided to combine these two rides, starting at the old park and ride besides the long departed Dingus McGee's restaurant, just off I-80. The restaurant is completely razed now, and the park and ride doesn't really look like it's being used but at least its not fenced off, it seems that you are free to use it. From here, depart and ride up the short climb to Placer Hills Road, taking a left on that road to Weimar Crossing Road. Take a left and climb into Weimar proper, a tiny village that sits off I-80. You have to take a left across the offramp to get to Weimar itself, the sign shown below should be apparent. At this point you are now on Ponderosa Way! (Turning right on Ponderosa), you will continue on this road all the way to Foresthill Road on the other side of the river.

Starting on Ponderosa Way in Weimar.

Ponderosa Way is a winding and hilly road, pretty fun going in this direction. Eventually you come to the boundary of the wonderful Auburn State Recreation Area.

Entering the State Recreation Area.
Eventually, you come to a gate at the end of the pavement. At the gate, I spied a slightly disturbing sign, stating that the road was closed at the bridge! I thought it over for a moment and decided to go for it, figuring at worst, I'd get a good gravel ride down to the bridge and maybe I could get past whatever it was that had closed the road.

Umm, may have a problem!
The descent to the river was pretty much as I remembered it, steep in places and pretty rough at times. But this time I enjoyed having some new 42C Continental Speed Ride tires and disc brakes. These two features really helped make this year's ride more enjoyable. The tires absorbed a lot of road shock and the brakes performed very well and relieved me of the fear I had of overheating my rims due to constant braking!

Pinched this view from last year's ride, heading south to the river on Ponderosa.
I eventually got to the river, (North fork of the American), and found the bridge open! Only two pickups were down at the bottom. Crossing the bridge I met a hiker, but he didn't know anything about the closure.

Taken on the Ponderosa Way Bridge, looking east.
As I started to ride up the other side I encountered a barricade but I noticed a set of bike tire tracks passing through, so I took that as a good sign and pressed on. I soon came to one large washout at a bend in the road, but I was able to ride through it fairly easily. There were several washouts on this side of the river and I imagine these are what prompted the closure. Indeed, you could ride a bike through here easily enough, but you'd have a heck of a time trying to drive a car or truck through!

The reason for the road closure: some of these washouts stretched clear across the road.
All this meant I could look forward to no car traffic on the next few miles to Foresthill Road!

Overlooking the river canyon on the south side of the river.
I continued up the next few miles with no incident. The day was starting to warm up but this side of the river has a good amount of shade.

What the closure looked like from the other side!
I eventually came to the barricades on the other side! I was relieved that I didn't have to turn around and could now look forward to Yankee Jim's Road. Despite their width, The Speed Ride's performed pretty well on the pavement of Foresthill Road. The ride up to Foresthill was uneventful. From there, I turned north on Yankee Jim's.

On Yankee Jim's Road
Quickly dropping down this road, I was soon on the gravel again. Once again, the bike felt very comfortable on the dirt, absorbing the vibrations pretty well.

At the Yankee Jim's/Shirttail Canyon junction.

Along Yankee Jims Road.
Crossing the river again, I made the long climb back to Colfax and finished the ride. The total distance was just under 35 miles. Descending on the paved part of Ponderosa Way, I managed to hit 40 MPH!

Combining these two rides worked out well, the road closure actually was a blessing in disguise! I highly recommend this route for Sacramento area gravel riders.

Screen shot of the MapMyRide plot.
Equipment notes:

This ride was the kind of ride I bought the Felt for and I was not disappointed in it! I've made a couple of changes to the stock bike; most recently I added an 11-34T cassette giving me a 1:1 low gear. The biggest change were the tires. Installing the 700X42C Conti Speed Rides really brought this bike into its own. The tires' actual width is 39mm on my rims-a good thing too- since they really are the widest tires that would fit between the bike's chainstays!

A couple of shots showing the clearance allowed by the V100's chainstays. The Conti Speed Rides' are listed as 42C, but actually measure around 39 mm on my rims.
There is maybe 2-3 millimeters clearance on both sides back there. Plenty of room at the fork though. Anyway, I can't go any bigger, but these tires are quite wide enough for me and pretty light, and cheap! I'm going to order some spares.

The 34 tooth cassette gives me an an adequate low gear now. There was a slight problem with the drivetrain; the chain would occasionally skip in the lowest gear, but that was a derailleur adjustment issue which I have fixed.

Overall, the Felt handled very well, I am very satisfied with its performance on gravel

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