Big 'Cross Ride, 2nd AttemptFAIL!!

A couple of months ago, after I first built up my 'cross bike (Cannondale Cyclocross Disc!) I wanted to take it on a ride that would showcase its qualities: a light, fast, efficient road bike that's not afraid to get dirty. Unfortunately, on that ride, while heading out Axtell-Anceny Road to ultimately come out on Norris Road I ran into deep snow. Upon climbing by foot I got to a vantage point that revealed only many more miles of the same, so it was time to turn around.

Today, with the balmy temperature, clear sky, and minimal wind, I decided to tackle this ride again. Last week I had unceremoniously removed (and dismembered) my rear derailleur from the Cannondale, an event I believed had been hastened by my use of a too-short chain. With a brand-new (as in installed last night) 105 derailleur and a freshly-tensioned and trued rear wheel I shoved off.
The ride could be described as "blissful" up to about mile 24. Sun, warmth, a perfectly-functioning bike, feeling strong...this was shaping up to be an all-time best ride for me (not to be confused with that awful concept of a "personal best").
Mile 24, about the same point that I hit impenetrable snow last time, I encountered streams of water running down truck tire tracks in the road. And mud. Thick, sticky mud. Mud that continued up above the surface of the road, where grass helped to bind it to normally free-rotating bike parts, like wheels. I was forced to walk for a bit, until the grade lessened, but until I got to the very top it was still an exercise in slow-motion solitary cyclocross racing, just without the crowds, competitors, and gin.

The top made it all worthwhile. Fantastic views, few man-made structures (except for "no trespassing" signs on fences) and what looked like a fun downhill.
After a few bites of my favorite long-ride endurance fuel, I attacked the downhill. The twin tire tracks made it something like parallel singletracks, except without things like trees or rocks. The 'clean' line alternated between the two, occasionally traversing the ever-present stream of runoff down one of the many ruts following the road.
For about a half mile this continued,, until the road took an abrupt turn to the left (west) presenting to me:

Miles of straight, mildly rolling...


I briefly entertained a thought to turn around. I had no real idea how much further it was to Norris road, and I especially didn't know how long the road stayed as muddy as it was.
Hurriedly, I shoved these thoughts aside and continued. Well, for about another half mile, at least.
While crossing yet another pit of thick, icy, gritty mud I shifted into my lowest gear and while wheelieing up onto the grass a familiar sound revisited me:


Another muddy ride, another 105 derailleur, I suppose.

While organizing my stuff for this ride this morning, I decided against bottles and for my Camelbak. Iwas planning on a long ride where there was questionable cell-phone service, very little car traffic, and no place to get food. Lying in one of the pockets in the Camelbak was my Surly Singleator , removed during a recent Mountain Bike ride at Pipestone.
"Hmm, I think I'll leave this home" thought I.
"No, remember what happened last time?!"
"Yeah, but I got a new derailleur, and I know I have it adjusted right...I won't need it"
"Jackass, leave the ounce of aluminum in your bag! It'll suck to walk 30 miles back!"

For once in the tragicomedy that is my life, a good decision was made.

Before removing the distended drivetrain bits, I looked west, then east...briefly considering continuing. Clearly, better judgment was on a winning streak since I quickly nixed the idea of heading west.

At this point I was faced with about a mile of fairly steep climbing followed by mostly downhill, then fairly flat, then slightly rolling terrain. I chose a gear suitable, if a bit on the high-side: 50x19.
Climbing anything steeper than a few percent was clearly out of the question, so I started walking east (and up). Mud, snow, water, mud, snow, mud, grass, pick muddy grass out of everything. That's pretty much how it went for the next 45 minutes. Oh, and looking at the ranch hand ride away on the ATV who conveniently turned around when he saw me walking. Yep, good old-fashioned "western values" there.

Finally, the top! Back on the bike, and down a lot of the stuff that I had to walk up. Exceedingly sloppy and fun!

At the bottom of the road I was actually feeling pretty damn good. 20ish MPH was no problem on the hard-packed dirt and the chain was staying on, so instead of retracing my ride back to Bozeman on Cottonwood Road I hopped on River road before getting back into Gateway.
This road was thick, wet clay a week ago, when I took my fixed-gear on it (much of which is still on that bike) but today it might as well be hard, fast, undulating bumpy pavement. Awesome. That road is one of my new favorites. It's just up above the Gallatin River and it meanders enough to keep things interesting.

Well, since that went so well, by the time I got to Norris road west of Four Corners there was no way I was going to end my ride by riding on the four-lanes-of-unpleasantness called Huffine Lane. Nope, I continued down River Road, on the section that is a showcase of how beautiful asphalt can be when it's not chip-sealed after installation. Glassy smooth, fast, and ever-so-slightly downhill. I was able to maintain 18-22 MPH until I got to Cameron Bridge road and turned east to get back to Bozeman. After a quick food break on the river (Ham, cheddar, and tot burrito with BBQ sauce) I completed the last few miles home. The dreaded bonk set in with only about four miles to go, but I had *just* snough in me to stop at the Holiday gas station for a can of Sparks* for a recovery drink.

*It's good with ice, honest!

Here's a map of the ride.

Here's some more pics.


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