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  1. #1
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    The Full Musquash -- A personal milestone

    A year ago this week I made the decision to start mountain biking again. It had been 12 years since I owned any sort of bike. I had been on and off the jogging band wagon a few times but I never stuck with it for more than a few months. So I responded to a Craigslist Ad and came home with a 2012 Gary Fisher Wahoo Disc for under $500. The previous owner said he used it only a few times. I knew it was considered entry level but I never had disc brakes or 24 speeds so it was an upgrade to me.

    My first ride out I decided to try some local trails near our new home in Londonderry, NH. The conservation area is called Musquash. Click for a Trail Map. Over the summer my wife and I took our dog there and I noticed tons of mountain bike tracks. One of the trails called Overlook looked particularly fun with swooping corners and bridge crossings. I rode the Overlook trail to the end, about 1 mile, and my legs were burning and I was dizzy and out of breath. While I sat there to regain my composure for the ride back, an older gentleman came down the trail on his bike. We chatted for a bit and he gave me a nice map of the park. Watching him ride off at about twice my pace I knew it was going to take more than a few rides to be in the physical shape required to enjoy these trails.

    Over the next few months I increased my stamina and found some other riders in the area to meet. I made minimal upgrades to my bike telling everyone I'd get something nicer if I stuck with it for a year. I changed the tires to something more appropriate to the terrain and I upgraded to clipless pedals. That's about it. After 6 months my pace was mid-pack among my small group of riders. After 9 months I was keeping up with some of the faster riders even though they were riding 29er and/or full suspension bikes.

    A year has passed now. I have logged about 450 miles of rugged New England single track on my Wahoo. The frame is still great but the drivetrain is getting tired with frequent chain drops and ghost shifts. A month ago I put in an order for a new bike and its due to arrive at my local shop tomorrow. Rather than just toss the Wahoo in the shed I decided to give it one last hoorah. I pushed the bike to its limits and logged 12 miles at Musquash. That's every trail back to back plus 2 miles of overgrown powerline access roads to get there and back. I stopped only for a minute or two at a time to catch my breath, fix my chain, or clear debris from a storm that rolled through yesterday. When I got back I checked Strava and realized I set several personal records and a few top 5 segments. The park isn't a hotbed of strava activity but there are some fast times recorded by a few locals.Click here for the Strava report.

    So after a year of riding I've gone from 2 miles in 1 hour to 12 miles in less than 2 hours. I call it the Full Musquash. I know it's not much of an achievement compared to the epic 4 hour rides some of the members of this forum complete, but it's a pretty big milestone for a guy getting back into the sport after a 12 year hiatus. Anyway, that's my story, hope you enjoyed it. See you on the trails!

  2. #2
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    Awesome, this sport/hobby/lifestyle is truely one of passion and I am glad you have found it again. I have a hard time going 12 hours without at least spinning a wheel in the work stand, how did you survive 12 years with no bicycle?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by chuyler1 View Post
    .

    So after a year of riding I've gone from 2 miles in 1 hour to 12 miles in less than 2 hours. I call it the Full Musquash. I know it's not much of an achievement compared to the epic 4 hour rides some of the members of this forum complete, but it's a pretty big milestone for a guy getting back into the sport after a 12 year hiatus. Anyway, that's my story, hope you enjoyed it. See you on the trails!
    Congrats on the new ride! What are you getting? I'll be riding at Musquash this afternoon. I'm impressed that you got that many miles out of the place. I seem to always ride the same loop (start at Faucher, head up the white trail, Betty Mack counterclockwise, and come down the ravine trail to my car). It's a good loop for a short amount of time.

    I too am getting a new bike in the next week or so (Yeti SB-95). Maybe we'll cross paths in the upcoming weeks on our new rigs.
    That creep can roll, man.

  4. #4
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    Great story. Thanks for posting!

  5. #5
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    Rad, enjoy your new bike.

    Do something cool with the old one, or give it to someone who might like to get into the sport and is bikeless.

  6. #6
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    Good on you, man! Mountain biking is the coolest sport in the world, and as Rides A 10-Speed Everywhere Guy on Family Guy said, "it's a great way to stay in shape."

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by offrhodes42 View Post
    I have a hard time going 12 hours without at least spinning a wheel in the work stand, how did you survive 12 years with no bicycle?
    I really don't know. Up until college it was a part of my life. As a kid we used to ride in the woods on our BMX bikes (I never did race though). In middle school I was old enough to ride to friends houses on my first mountain bike. A Univega with 18 speeds and grip shifts! Man was that awesome. We rode all over the place and I knew the Foxboro State Forest trails like the back of my hand. When I got my first job at 15 I would even ride to work. At one point I was riding with locals from the bike shop and I upgraded to a Gary Fisher Big Sur with a front suspension fork (another huge deal at the time). I took the bike to college but I never joined up with anyone that mountain biked. I used it to ride around campus but then it was stolen off my balcony. I got into cars and video games and other stuff so I just sort of forgot about it.

    Quote Originally Posted by ecwashere7 View Post
    Congrats on the new ride! What are you getting? I'll be riding at Musquash this afternoon. I'm impressed that you got that many miles out of the place. I seem to always ride the same loop (start at Faucher, head up the white trail, Betty Mack counterclockwise, and come down the ravine trail to my car). It's a good loop for a short amount of time.

    I too am getting a new bike in the next week or so (Yeti SB-95). Maybe we'll cross paths in the upcoming weeks on our new rigs.
    DG Cycles in Londonderry has a Santa Cruiz Tallboy LT waiting for me when I get home. Maiden voyage will probably be tomorrow morning since I don't have lights for a night ride.

    The loop you do is typical for me except I usually depart from Hickory Hill Rd. I actually enjoy Betty Mac and Ravine in the clockwise direction a little more but there are fun bits in either direction. You should really make it out to the Deer trail. It's a steep climb up but a real fun descent. Best part of the park is the spur that connects Deer to Landing. It used to be blocked off but it's like a short roller coaster descent. Overlook has the best flow in the park and I love using it as a warm up. Porcupine isn't a bad trail either but it is abusive on a hard tail as evidence from my poor Strava times. The Heron trail is worth a ride even though you double back on it. The descent down Tanager makes the climb back up worth it. The power line trails are usually wet but yesterday they were bone dry because the water table is so low. I added them as filler but the descent toward Wiley on the east side is about a mile of downward sloped overgrown terrain. Release the brakes, pedal a little, and hold on tight as your bike will get slashed by hidden rocks under the grass. Its a fast ride, but by no means buff.

    If you ride Musquash often, we should ride together. Check this Facebook group out for info on when I ride. Usually mornings, but I work from home 3 days a week and can sneak out in the afternoon occasionally. http://www.facebook.com/groups/mazabeski

    Quote Originally Posted by SundayRiverRider View Post
    Rad, enjoy your new bike.

    Do something cool with the old one, or give it to someone who might like to get into the sport and is bikeless.
    I considered keeping it around for a single speed build or something but 29ers rule the local trails. Plus its a large frame and I really need an XL (I'm 6'3"). I'll probably put it up on CL for cheap money or see if I can trade for a road bike. I have very little interest in road biking...except for the fact that it will step up my off-road endurance.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by chuyler1 View Post
    DG Cycles in Londonderry has a Santa Cruiz Tallboy LT waiting for me when I get home. Maiden voyage will probably be tomorrow morning since I don't have lights for a night ride.

    The loop you do is typical for me except I usually depart from Hickory Hill Rd. I actually enjoy Betty Mac and Ravine in the clockwise direction a little more but there are fun bits in either direction. You should really make it out to the Deer trail. It's a steep climb up but a real fun descent. Best part of the park is the spur that connects Deer to Landing. It used to be blocked off but it's like a short roller coaster descent. Overlook has the best flow in the park and I love using it as a warm up. Porcupine isn't a bad trail either but it is abusive on a hard tail as evidence from my poor Strava times. The Heron trail is worth a ride even though you double back on it. The descent down Tanager makes the climb back up worth it. The power line trails are usually wet but yesterday they were bone dry because the water table is so low. I added them as filler but the descent toward Wiley on the east side is about a mile of downward sloped overgrown terrain. Release the brakes, pedal a little, and hold on tight as your bike will get slashed by hidden rocks under the grass. Its a fast ride, but by no means buff.

    If you ride Musquash often, we should ride together. Check this Facebook group out for info on when I ride. Usually mornings, but I work from home 3 days a week and can sneak out in the afternoon occasionally. http://www.facebook.com/groups/mazabeski
    Good choice on the TBLT. The SB-95 has very similar geometry and I love it on the trails around here.

    I really like the White Trail and Ravine trail in both directions but when I come from Faucher road and head north to south on the White I can turn the very end of both trails into excellent descents (especially the end of Ravine into the White Trail on the way back to my car). I rode the porcupine ridge trail for the first time today and thought it kicked ass. I look forward to crushing it on my new bike.

    I'd happily ride with ya anytime. I wish I knew you at the beginning of the summer as I'm a teacher and would ride in the mornings before my wife went to work. We have infant twins at home so getting in a ride is always a challenge.

    Enjoy the new bike. If I have a chance to ride, I'll shoot you a line.
    That creep can roll, man.

  9. #9
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    Well there's always next summer...and vacations! I can ride in the afternoon occasionally so just shoot me a PM or post on the facebook group when you want to ride. If I can't join you, I'm sure someone else can.

    I picked up the bike last night and put 10 miles on it already. I did 5 at Squash in the dark with a friend, my first experience night riding. It was thrilling but the wife doesn't like the idea of me riding at night so I don't think I'll make a habit of it. I did another 5 miles this morning in Hampstead with some other friends. My legs weren't at 100% for either ride but I can already tell I'll be crushing my previous strava times once I do a solo ride without stopping. The TBLT sucks up everything. A few adjustments to the tire and suspension pressures and I'll be in heaven.

  10. #10
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    A quick update. I've got a few rides under my belt with the new bike (Santa Cruz Tallboy LT RAM build). It is really taking my riding to the next level. Now that I'm not slowed down by rocks and roots, I really need to work on my cardio to keep rolling. I didn't complete the Full Musquash today due to time constraints but I ripped apart the first leg of the ride and scored all personal best times. The new Tallboy LT is lightning fast. Once I get the air pressures dialed in a little better I'll really be ripping. I was at 35 psi today but I think I'll try 30 psi on my next ride. The front end still feels a little bouncy.

    The Ride (7 miles total):
    Bike Ride Profile | Sep 26, 2012 near Londonderry | Times and Records | Strava

    The New Bike:


    Here's a break down of the segments and how I improved with the new bike...

    Powerline Climb (1.0mi): 70 seconds quicker. This is a rough double-track climb that is covered in loose rocks from ATV riders. The Tallboy made light work of the terrain and rolled smoother on the short unpredictable downhill sections allowing me to carry some speed up the next hill.

    Tanager Descent (0.3mi): 12 seconds quicker. 3rd best overall. I've got more on this one, but I need some front grip to carve the turns. Its a relatively smooth descent so I never had much trouble with my old bike.

    Tanager Climb (0.3mi): 6 seconds quicker. KOM! This was more work than I was expecting. The new bike smooths out a few rough sections but its mostly cardio and forcing yourself to grab a higher gear each time the trail levels out. Similar to the descent, the climb is smooth enough that I could ride it without getting bent out of shape on my hard tail...so finding extra time left on the table wasn't easy.

    Heron XC Trail (1.1mi): 1 minute quicker! KOM! Typical New England terrain with a few buff sections, a few rooty sections, and several quick technical climbs and descents. I still have some work to do on this trail. I improved a lot but the fast riders that have recorded the second half of the trail are about 45 seconds ahead of me. I need to carry more momentum through the up-and-down sections and power through the final stretch of the trail. I think cardio hit me the most on this trail. I was at the limit on my old bike but this new one has more to accomplish.

    Porcupine Ridge (1.0mi): 2+ minutes quicker! 7th best overall. This is a very technical trail with pretty much non-stop rock gardens. My last ride I had to stop and move a tree out of the way and lost maybe 1 minute doing so. This time I powered through to the end and even made it through a real technical section without dismounting (my first time ever clearing the whole trail). I lost the most time to the KOM on the initial climb. The Heron trail really beat me up. I'll have to hit this trail earlier if I want to shave off more time.

    Powerline Descent (1.2mi): 16 seconds quicker. I didn't push this segment too hard. It was damp and overgrown so I basically coasted most of it and gained a little time in a few places where having the rear suspension allowed me to just plow over stuff. One section is similar to a dried out river bed since heavy rain will turn it into a stream. The Tallboy rolled through with no trouble at all, but I think this is where I would have liked to drop the air pressure on that front tire or fork the most...or maybe its the rebound on the fork. With the rear shock set to DH the front of the bike was acting like a pogo stick in comparison.

    So overall, the new bike has given me the ability to ride roughly 1 minute per mile quicker on most XC terrain. The only places I didn't see much improvement were buff trails that my old 26er could cruise on without getting upset. The rougher the terrain, the better my times were. Part of this is due to the larger wheels and better matched frame size, but mostly I think it's due to the better suspension which allows me to maintain momentum in places where my old bike would slow to a crawl and or beat up my legs as I attempted to pedal and maintain speed.

  11. #11
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    Congrats on the new bike!! You are going to feel a huge difference between the bikes. I hope to get my brother into biking he just moved to Deerfield and the bear brook trails are right behind his house. I'm going to take him out there and let him ride my old bike. I'm going to have him read your story after the ride when he can't move or breathe.

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    Thanks, it is a huge difference, kind of like cheating on a test. I'd love to have Bear Brook in my back yard. I've only been twice but what I've seen so far is tons of fun. With out a doubt one of the best places in Southern NH to ride. If it were as close as Musquash I'd ride it every week!

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    Smile

    Quote Originally Posted by chuyler1 View Post
    Thanks, it is a huge difference, kind of like cheating on a test. I'd love to have Bear Brook in my back yard. I've only been twice but what I've seen so far is tons of fun. With out a doubt one of the best places in Southern NH to ride. If it were as close as Musquash I'd ride it every week!
    It is nice to live next to trail. I live a mile from ft. Rock in Exeter. I feel very lucky that I can mt. Bike from my house. There's no need for a road bike for me

  14. #14
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    This morning I completed the full musquash in its entirety on my new bike. 5 minutes quicker (6.5 if you include going past one of the trail entrances by accident). It was cold, the trails were covered in leaves, and I wasn't pushing it 100%. Still I averaged 7.9 mph over the ride compared to 7.4 mph on my old bike.

    The best part was, as the temp warmed up toward the end of my ride, I felt like I could do another loop, or maybe just half a loop. I pushed hard through the final segments and came close to nailing a few more KOMs. I know the riders who hold them weren't at race pace, but it feels good to shave time off and move up the ranks...and these are cardio/tech segments not downhill rollers.

    Bike Ride Profile | The Full Musquash Oct 17, 2012 near Londonderry | Times and Records | Strava

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    Congrats all over man!

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