Monday, January 26, 2009

Scoping out the neighborhood

So the unpacking is put aside for the moment, time to get out and meet the neighborhood.

My neighborhood consists of a chunk of land that, to the best of my comprehension, lays either in the section of Fort Worth known as the "Cultural District" (and those that know me would find great humor in this) or else on the border between the CD and the Downtown area. Basically, I live next to the Trinity River, which will likely become the spine for many a ride.

The organizers of FW have created a nice system of paths that run along the banks of the West Fork of the Trinity River, advertised as something around 40 miles. This is a good thing.
Having always lived in the more suburban areas, riding has usually been a little easier, at least from a road biking perspective. Typically I have been able to get out into lower traffic back country roads within 10-20 mins. Living inside the center of a large city is generally not the best for a road cyclist. Lots of cars and narrow lanes on roads that often appear to be of the consistency of cobblestones are not the safest environments for some schmuck on a bicycle.
This was an initial concern with Fort Worth. The Trinity River trails appeared to be the answer for my concerns, as they span a large part of the city and should provide excellent access for escaping out of the confines of the perimeter into the more rural roads. This should also provide access to some topography, which was another concern, since Fort Worth is basically flat. I don't really like flat. The rolling country is outside of the perimeter.
So, with the TR trails ( ) only a minute away, I determined this would be my first area to explore.

The cyclocross bike was picked for the maiden voyage. Two main reasons for this were the versatility, and more importantly, it is the bike I have been riding almost exclusively this winter, so I know it is up to the task, despite being in need of some cleaning.

I hit the trail at the point where Lancaster crosses the Trinity River and headed south into a nice headwind. Apparently it is windy a lot here. With temps in the 70s, there was a good mix out enjoying the paths, but traffic really wasn't an issue and my speed was dictated more by a combo of fitness and headwind. I mixed it up, spending time on the paved sections and the crushed limestone, both running a close parallel. Once I hit a little over 7 miles, I hit what appeared to be the end. I consulted a map and decided that this was a good turning point although there was a little more southerly path available if I crossed the river via the overpass. Turned it around and enjoyed the tailwind back through the starting point and continued up and then took the northwest trail continuing up the West Fork towards Lake Worth. There were only a few people on the trail and I opted to spend the bulk of the time on the gravel. Once at the Riverbend Nature area the path crossed the river and due to fading light I opted to turn around. Headed back to Trinity Park to call it a successful day. Ended up with about 28 miles, not too bad for the cx bike, and felt surprisingly good after not riding for close to 2 weeks.

Couple things that impressed me right off include the quality of the paths, users seem to have good respect for each other, and it is flat. There was never a point I needed to stop turning the cranks, unlike the rollercoaster riding I have been used to the past several years. This will definitely be a change of pace for me, but not one I resent. Change keeps life interesting after all, no? And there are some hills to be had, the trails will just be my link to get to them.

Something around 7 to 10 miles up the northwest trail (West Fork) is Lake Worth, and Marion Sanson Park, which contains some mountain bike trails that are pretty decent, from what I hear. This could be a great setup, good warmup/cooldown getting to/from the trails, so I look forward to a trip NW with the mtn. bike one of these days.

So at the end of the day I call it a success, turn in to the new place and as any racer of quality will certainly do, cracked into a nice cold "recovery" drink. Yeah man, it takes dedication. Wish I had a bit more, but then maybe it wouldn't be as fun.

Tomorrow? More of the same.

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