The ride of 1,000 legs

Fresh legs are a biker’s dream: no aches or fatigue and endless energy to pump up hills and whip around tight switchbacks.

Today’s ride in trails that NEMBA calls “Pinehills” had just that: fresh legs everywhere. Yes, they were on my face, in my hair, clinging to my arms. That’s because we’re in the midst of a disgusting, creepy-crawly invasion of gypsy moth caterpillars, and I think for some reason they don’t like mountain bike trails. Or mountain bikers.

The little, leggy critters are furry and they hang from trees on a filament like a spider’s web, making any progress on a trail a matter of bobbing, weaving, and trying to hang onto the handlebars while waiting for the right moment to wipe one of the creeping crap-makers off my face, sunglasses or ear or bare arm — where ever it grabbed on. Halfway through the ride (after a run-in with thorns that strafed my hand and leg, adding insult to injury) I realized this scenario has the makings of a great horror film for those who can’t stand bugs or spiders. Even worse, you can actually HEAR them eating and pooping in the trees, a sound like rain falling on a summer day. It’s nothing short of gross.

pinehills caterpillars

Fortunately, caterpillars weren’t my only problem in the Pinehills, I had something else to think about. You see, I chose to ride here because I have an off-road triathlon coming up and haven’t been on my bike much. I’m confident about the run portion of the race but am researching the mountain bike leg to determine if my exuberance at registration time should be toned down a little. I signed up for the half-mile swim, 12 mile mountain bike ride and 5 mile run back in April. But depending on the terrain of the course I may step down to the shorter sprint triathlon — it all depends on the bike leg.

pinehills view ocean

my craptastic phone camera doesn’t pick it up but in the distance just over the bike seat was a view of the ocean with a big container ship heading for the Cape Cod canal

The Pinehills trails is where I tested my readiness for technical terrain. The jury’s verdict: if the race course is that tough, take the sprint option. I was measuring my speed and distance with my sometimes-reliable Garmin watch and I didn’t like what I saw: I could basically walk backward faster than I was getting through most of the rocky, crawly, and often steep Pinehills trails on my bike.

This is not the sort of swoopy, smooth singletrack that I fell in love with here in Plymouth and Cape Cod. No, the Pinehills (it’s the part that’s east of Route 3A, near the power plant) is technical and full of rock gardens that were often not rideable — in places tougher than Milford/Holliston/Hopkinton’s Vietnam trails, in my opinion. I’ve never seen so damned many rocks this far south of Taunton. Yet just as I was about to decide on the sprint triathlon I took a new turn and found smoother, funner trails coursing through ferns (apparently the only thing the caterpillars don’t have a taste for because they were still green). Of course my speed increased and my frustration leveled off but the math had been done: even with 1,000 legs I can’t go fast enough on technical singletrack.




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