After weeks of sub-freezing temperatures, the news that today's forecast included sun and highs in the fifties acted on my winter torpor much like a splash of vinegar acts on a pile of baking soda. Leaping into action, I put out the call to the locals...anyone wanna cap off the year with a nice Red Belt loop?
Dan G., Bill H., and Sean(sp?) answered the clarion call to arms. We congregated at the Jail Trail, then headed over towards Tarentum via Allegheny River Blvd and Freeport Rd. Sadly, I was to find that my oft-postponed drivetrain service had resulted in a state such that I could not really use the lower half of my cassette without disturbing grinding/sawing noises. In addition, the teeth on my chainrings are worn enough that, especially on the middle ring (AKA "the ring I use the most"), the chain has a disturbingly regular tendency to jump off and flail about wildly under load. Ah, well...I've had replacement cassette, chain, and compact crankset sitting in the basement for weeks...guess this means it's time to actually install them. That said, I spent the vast majority of my time in no more than three or four gear combinations; the Red Belt does not have that much variety in terms of terrain, as evidenced by Dan's ability to ride it fixed without visible sign of agony.
The first half of the ride was a bit discouraging, in the "why is the temperature dropping? why is it spitting rain?" sense. However, shortly after Sean had split off to return via North Park, the cloud cover lifted, and we had the delightful experience of being utterly drenched in sunshine for the remainder of the ride. We stopped at the bakery in Sewickley on the return leg, at which point I consumed a truly frightening number of calories in the form of a day-old danish and approximately 24 ounces of peanut butter bar. Thus laden, we decided to omit the delightful climbs through Sewickley Heights and up Mt Nebo, in favor of the traditional flatland return via Coraopolis/Neville Island and the McKees Rocks Bridge.
A very nice ride, all things considered. It's been quite a while since I rode the Red Belt...I think I'll make a point of incorporating it into more of my rides next year.