Monday, September 22, 2008

Pisgah SingleTrack

I am finding it hard to put into words how I feel on the bike these days. Every chance I get to spend in the woods, I relish.

Clay and I met on Saturday for a slightly ambitious ride, I would hesitate to call it epic. However, it was another attempt to gather enough fitness for the beast known as Double Dare coming up in less than four weeks.

Driving up to the mountains in the morning is always a treat. Even though it was sunny in Travelers Rest when I left, the mountains were shrouded in beautiful white puffy clouds that seemed to be forming from the valleys up. By the time I made it to Black Mountain, it was sunny and the fog had lifted.

I had the downhill party to try and make it to while Clay wanted to sleep in so I knew the ride would be a little hasty if we wanted gain any significant mileage.

Our ultimate route would be:

Black Mountian -> Turkey Pen -> Vineyard Gap -> Riverside -> ???? -> Squirrel Gap, S. Mills River -> Buckhorn -> Clawhammer -> 477 -> 276

This was the first time I had ascended Black utilizing the black magic of gears. I have to admit that it was kind of nice seeing Clay walk (singlespeed) while I soft pedaled my granny gear in places I would normally walk the singlespeed. I can’t say I was any faster than normal, I just rode more.

Right before the junction of Maxwell Cove, Clay let me lead the short downhill when I heard something scurry off into the woods. It was a black bear of course, Clay saw it and I still have not seen a black bear in Pisgah, damn I need to stay on my toes more.

We made pretty quick work of Black and before I knew it we were standing at one of the greatest trails in the land, Turkey Pen. Before Saturday, I think I had only ridden Turkey Pen one other time in a non-race setting.

Turkey Pen is majestic. It lures you into sweet singletrack bliss during its quick descents only to spit you out at the bottom like a jet fueled rocket along the few flat spots that quickly turn into sharp uphill grunts. Some of these grunts I was able to conquer in the granny and others I was happy to get off and huff up to the top.

From there Clay and I had a short debate about how much time Vineyard Gap would add to our ride. However, it was an easy decision to make so early in the ride, we were hitting Vineyard gap and it would be my first time so maybe a nickname is in order, virgin gap.

I can’t believe I have given this trail the cold shoulder every time I had gone by. The first part of the trail is just like Turkey Pen. Some hard grunts followed by quick downs. However, the last downhill that takes your from the top of the gap all the way back down to the river was incredible. Dennis (who lives 1.5 miles from the trail) had said before “There are a bunch of water bars at the end that are fun.” I really had no idea what I was getting into and when I came around the first corner at full bore I knew I was in over my head. However instead of kissing the ground I was able to hold on just long enough so I could pull my speed back to a reasonable level. Then the one-thousand and one steeply chutted water bars began. I don’t remember a trail with this many quick drops. I was charged at the bottom.

From there we took a long look at the map as this part of the forest still escapes me. I can’t visualize all the nooks and cranny’s like I can in other areas. Talking Clay out of a full tour of S. Mills River was high on my priority list as I was secretly lusting to ride Squirrel. Clay mentioned that I probably hadn’t ridden the bottom of Squirrel before and he was right. Even though I was off my game slightly on this trail I still enjoyed it thoroughly and soon we made it to the PAS work Party. Both Clay and I felt bad for riding by the party knowing full well we should be helping but sometimes you just have to ride! They were doing a good job of turning a mud hole into a rideable section and we stopped and chatted for a second before we continued on with our agenda. Thanks for the work guys and gal!!!

The ride could have been 100% singletrack if we had chosen to march up and over Black on the way back down but we were short on time so we ended up 90%/10% with a fast cruise back down and the small amount of pavement on 276. It was a beautiful day with 0 mechanicals.

Sunday was spent at Paris Mountain, I volunteered for 11 hours course marshalling spectators and riders. I had a primo volunteer job as I ushered spectators up and down the trail during practice runs and got to see some fantastic crashes. This event was a HUGE success and it was a good day to be an UpState SORBA member.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Conversation

Last night after our brief SORBA meeting I went back out for a quick loop to help burn some of the excess calories I have gained over the past two non-riding months.

As I was coming back down toward the main parking lot I encountered two trail runners about a half mile apart. I didn’t have my bell on the new bike so I loudly clicked my brakes as I approached them hoping not to scare them as I know how it can be when your heart is pounding in your chest.

I was able to get around the first guy with little trouble on either end. When I approached the second runner, the trail was tighter so I was hanging back until I had enough room to pass when he just stopped and got off the trail. That wasn’t how I wanted the pass to go down but I took it.

As I was loading my car up, the first runner came up and he was parked one car away from me. I felt I owed him an apology so I said “Sorry about making you stop, I was just waiting for a better place to pass.” He said “Its ok it just took me out of my rhythm.”

We proceeded to have a lengthy conversation as I had admitted to trail running and he admitted that many of his friends ride mountain bikes. I asked him how his experiences with bikers have been lately and he said “I think my friend is going to shoot the next biker he sees.” That pretty much summed things up for me so I went on a political apology of sorts about how we are trying to educate all bikers blah blah blah.

Well this guy was very receptive and I think he was genuinely glad to meet someone who showed compassion for all users of trails. He also discussed the fact that the top of Sulphur Springs (the downhill course) is being destroyed by bikers. I was able to reverse his thinking and made him realize it was mostly the design of the trail and water flow that caused all the damage. I made sure he realized that UpState SORBA were the ones working on the trails and he said “Now I love that new Kanuga trail.” I made sure he knew that we played a pivotal part in helping that trail get built. Ok, probably not pivotal but I have to push for good community somehow and we did help.

He also mentioned that he had seen some people “really moving fast” on the upper section and I explained about the race and how we had emphasized that during normal park hours everyone should still respect users and stay within control.

I am excited to see a race at Paris, I really hope that we can help educate all users about how multiple trail use should be utilized but it is such a large job. If you read this, please remember to do your best to help out.


Monday, September 15, 2008

An Eye Opener

After almost two months without a true Mountain bike ride, I had zero expectations going into this weekend. Would it be possible to actually “ride myself into fitness” as the great Palmetto Solo had once typed?

After close to 60 miles of pure gravel and singletrack this weekend, I can almost say this is true.

Let it be known that it has been approximately two years since I have had any sort of suspension on my bike. Currently I have the blue Monkey set up with a triple stack (gears) and an 80mm Reba. In all honesty, I feel as though I have converted to a downhill bike and I feel sorry for that little fork. I imagine her life will be short but I will do my best to prolong it.

Saturday was a day to test myself, the wrist and my new Mountain Machine to the fullest. A good route had been planned by Cook and I jumped on for part of the ride. Ascending the trails was not awful but I am not in shape, yet. My first real test in descending had me grinning ear to ear and I as soon as I made the first switchback, I realized that it all came back to me just as though I were riding a bike. . . wait a second.

There was a point in the past, where I thought that my descending was not affected by a rigid fork, I was either completely wrong or in total denial. On Saturday, I was able to blast through anything the trail threw at me and with no wrist pain whatsoever (I am currently wearing a brace while I ride)!! GAME ON!

I must admit that some of the more precarious tree fells had me apprehensive. Pisgah is starting to get wet and slimy again as it should be and the thought of catching myself with the bad wrist has led to many walks across those slippery suckers.

Sunday was to be a long day in the woods of Dupont. A couple not so far away out-of-towners came up and we set out with a good crew for an all day adventure. I was just hoping my legs could take me the approximate 40 miles that I had planned for the day.

Our first loop had a couple highlights including a descent of Burnt Mountain and Big Rock that left the group smiling. It makes me smile every time I ride the big rock garden on Burnt Mountain.

The second half of the day included some super fast rolling terrain along with one rocky descent that left me with my first flat on the new bike. After my second slowest tube change ever, we were off and by the end of the day I was running on empty and luckily I had a friend in the back of the pack with me for motivation.

I was in denial during my absence off of the bike. I denied the fact that I wanted to go fast through the woods. I denied everything I loved about mountain biking. It all came back in a gigantic surge of emotion this weekend. It came back as though I had drunk a gallon of OJ in the ninth hour of hallucinogenic binge into the unknown depths of the psyche. I did as any good hippie would do; I just sat back and let the surge take me over.


Thursday, September 11, 2008



There might be some real posts coming soon.

Sunday 9:00am @ Fawn Lake for a longish ride in Dupont.

Oh yeah, CF has a blog, I will never let you live it down either big boy 8-)

Can I get ready in time for Double Dare? Probably not, but it will make for some interesting stories.