Thursday, December 31, 2009
Is there any better way to wrap up a year of SEPA mountain biking than with a fresh snow ride?
No, I don't think so.
The soft hissing sound from my wheels as they glide through the fresh snow. The grip of freshly packing snow when I stand to power up a hill. The smoothness of the ride, all the tiny bumps have disappeared. The fresh fox and rabbit trails criss-crossing the trail in front of me. The utter quiet.
I didn't have much in the tank after yesterday's ride, but it was so special I rode some trails twice, following my own track in the snow. Chatted for a while with another biker, said "hi" to two others. Everyone grinning ear to ear. It felt like we had stumbled upon some big secret. Ride ride ride before the rest of the world discovers it.
I hear there is more snow on the way tomorrow morning. If I am able to turn a crank, I will be out there...
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and...I took the one less traveled by,...And now where the hell am I? "
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Mike and I rode White Clay this morning. It was mid-week and mid-teens so it was pretty quiet. The mud had frozen to the consistency of granite so the trails were fast and treacherous.
On the return leg, we stumbled upon a granite marker that Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon used to help settle a border dispute between a couple of young colonies. Pretty cool. So we paid our respects, snapped a couple of pictures, and were on our way.
Mike navigated us back to our favorite stretch of single-track - the Whitely Farms Trail from Nine Foot Road to Pleasant Hill. That trail is down hill, fast, and has awesome flow with lots of perfectly timed twists and rollers. It's the type of trail where you just get totally absorbed and let'r rip. When it's over you don't know if it lasted 2 minutes or 20 minutes, but you are totally exhilarated.
Sort of like Willow Koerber's Uncle Doug.
Willow is an Olympic mountain biker who was interviewed in Outside Magazine. She was asked about her crazy family and she mentioned her Uncle Doug who "drank and entire bottle of jalapeño sauce just to prove he could." When they asked him why he did it he replied (frothing at the mouth, eyes burning, coughing) "At this moment, nothing else exists."
So I guess that stretch of Whitely Farms Trail is like our own little bottle of jalapeño sauce.
"At this moment, nothing else exists"
-- Uncle Doug
Sunday, December 20, 2009
This year's event kicked off with a record 17 riders. Ridership dipped momentarily to 16 at the top of the bobsled run due to SM's "leave'm for dead" math but in the end we managed to avoid any major mishaps. Of course there were a couple of close calls, including an impromptu nose-wheelie-bailout that prompted one rider to comment "Clydesdales CAN dance!" In the end, all riders returned safely to base camp where we proceeded to ignite the bonfire and to see what surprises the post-ride festivities would bring.
They did not disappoint.
We'll start with "the contest." Last year's champion took a hiatus this year (sipping martinis with extended pinky finger), but competition was as fierce as ever and the crowd was split on the favorites.
- Entry #1 scored high in holiday spirit, craftsmanship, and creative incorporation of beer into the presentation. Bonus points for incorporation of a biking theme. The burn was only moderately intense but with very long duration.
- Entry #2 received a high score for debauchery, a deduction for a minor anatomical inaccuracy, and received a perfect 10 in the attitude department. The burn, initiated by special guest Henry Kissinger who really took the blowup doll by the ankles bull by the horns, was intense and scored high for leaving no trace except perhaps a couple of broken hearts.
- Entry #3 would normally have turned a couple of heads but struggled to get onto the judge's radar due to the caliber of entries #1 and #2. However points for effort and, yes debauchery.
The judges struggled to select a winner but after consulting the bylaws, were forced to disqualify entry #2 because beer was not physically incorporated into the actual entry (although there were some suggestions). So the panel awarded first prize and a year worth of bragging rights to...entry #1. Congratulations to MRDBS!
The competitive spirit of this group could not be contained as evidenced by this year's fire jumping competition (now an annual event thanks to AS' inspirational performance of '08). The kickoff was weak with a ho-hum corner jump but escalated rapidly into an impressive volley of middle jumps, middle jumps with beer smashes, and even some uphill jumps. And of course the inevitable bicycle-jumping phase ensued with some impressive performances turned in by two bikers and one blow-up doll, and resulted in only one chipped tooth ("Oh shit, I chipped a tooth"). But we proved yet again that there is no bar this group cannot raise (including the stupidity one) as the competition concluded with a first ever tractor-fire-jump that brought the crowd to their feet.
Around 11:00 the crowd had swelled to 20 and the kitchen served up 11 lbs of dead cow in the form of piping-hot homemade chili. Oh my God, this was just the ticket for a bunch of hungry bikers. The warm food calmed the rowdy crowd, we found our seats around the fire, and settled into more cerebral pursuits like "rip a new a-hole for anyone stupid enough to open their mouth" and getting all misty-eyed and sharing our fleeting memories of "J."
The group hung strong with very little attrition occurring before the first snowflakes fell around 2am (beginning of a nor'easter that dumped about 14" on us over the next 24 hrs). It was pretty cool - you could actually smell the snow. Things eventually started to unravel with a few disappearing acts (and a couple of reappearing acts which were met with much fanfare) and finally the dwindling group threw in the towel shortly before 4am.
- RV for trusting us on his first night ride, the snow-boarder helmet was a nice touch.
- KO for best decorated bike, festooned with tinsel and shiny dangley things.
- JA for best costume, allegedly borrowed from his nightstand "fun drawer."
And an event of this magnitude does not come off without a lot of help, so special thanks to:
- KO for letting us trash his back yard, again...
- MRDBS for his awesome catering, raising the bar yet again...
- DM for letting us raid his woodpile, and for sacrificing his tractor...
...and to everyone who made the pilgrimage. It takes some effort and lots of faith to turnout for an event like this in the middle of December, but the group makes the event and this year was a shining example.
Happy holidays and happy trails!
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Bikes are being pulled out of sheds, firewood is being collected, tires are being patched, lithium ion batteries are being charged, beer is being bought, Kirk's new neighbors have been warned, and excitement is building for tomorrow night's big event. One rider relayed to me that he is "having trouble sleeping" due to the anticipation (and some nerves relating to "the contest" - he has a reputation to protect).
We have fourteen "solids" who are locked and loaded for bear: JA, DC, CD, SF, BG, MH, RI, SM, DM, KO, TP, MR, AS, RV, and MY. We also have a handful of "bubble boys" who are still working out the details: MB, JC, CD2. And then there is always the chance of s stray biker or two turning up. So we are on track to set a record for 2009.
And as if that wasn't enough, the forecast is perfect - 30 degrees and dry at 7:00pm...and if we can muscle through to 3:00am we might even be treated to a snow shower!
But I am sorry to say that the news is not all good.
It is rumored that a certain duo who operate in and around The Seasons have been billing themselves in public circles as "mountain bikers." I would remind said duo that you have to earn those stripes. Last time I checked the policy manual, it said that a strong showing at this annual event gets you into stripes for a while - "strong showing" of course includes actually riding the bike (the drinking part comes naturally - you have those stripes permanently tattooed).
9:00pm curfew tonight and don't forget your Wheaties tomorrow.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
First a quick ride report: the 36 hour deep freeze resulted in some awesome fast trails and no mud whatsoever for our ride this morning. Of course there was the occasional deep frozen rut trying to twist the front wheel and eject you over the handlebars, and the unforgiving ground as hard as granite (found out the hard way), but it really was our best ride in weeks, maybe months.
That puts our own Friday the 18th pagan ritual - the one that worships biking, bonfires, and beer - in some pretty good company!
Anyway I've stopped counting the RSVPs - the last time I checked it was in the high teens, so even if a few of you decide to wear skirts instead of spandex, we will have a solid turnout with enough loose canons to keep things interesting.
Friday's base of operations will be behind Kirk's house (114 Gottier) about 10 yards from the Struble Trail. I have provided a Google Map that shows you where to park, the location of the fire pit, and how to make the 482ft walk between the cul-de-sac and the fire pit. We'll get things rolling at 7:00pm - drop bikes, provisions, camp chair, and après ride gear at the fire pit - and be clipped in and pedals spinning by 7:30pm. That should get us back to the fire pit by 8:30 so we can have the opening ceremonies and commence the debauchery.
Stuff to bring:
- Bike gear for night riding
- Drink of choice (ice not necessary)
- Camp chair
- Après-ride gear like warm shoes, jacket, etc.
- Contest entry (if competing) - remember it will have to burn
- A short memory
A couple things for the new guys:
- If you will need a loaner light please let me know so we can track down a spare.
- If you have your own light, don't be stupid and forget to charge it.
- Right now the forecast is somewhere in the low 30s at ride time. This is not as cold as it sounds, you will be generating plenty of heat during the ride. The key will be "breaking the wind," so to speak. If you are new to winter riding, you might check this posting for a few tips.
We will be laying the fire and installing the brass pole Friday afternoon. Let me know if interested in helping out (and thereby getting dibs on upwind chair location).
So buckle your chinstraps and get stoked for Friday!
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Great ride this morning - sort of our mountain biking version of Thanksgiving mud football. Six riders, all grins, and nobody got winged by the hordes of hunters that were out there.
Moving on to some pending business...the 2009 FOURTH-Annual-Bike-Ride-Bonfire-and-Beer-Exchange is just around the corner. This event has turned boys into men, teenagers into frightened teenagers, and middle-aged family men into drunken middle-aged family men. In years past we've been blessed with some spectacular crashes and some spectacular women. Precious family heirlooms have been sacrificed and some of them have magically risen from the ashes. We've had firewalking (riding) and riders with women's underwear. But mostly we've just had a lot of fun, here is a sampling:
We call it the "Beer Exchange" to provide some light cover for those of us whose wives may not be fully bought-in on this "riding bikes in the woods at night" concept. It puts it in the category, roughly speaking, of a traditional holiday cookie exchange. How could she say no? The format is pretty basic:
- A short night ride. No matter how hard some of us try, it is impossible to keep the group focused on riding when beer and bonfire beckons, so the ride usually lasts about seven and a half minutes.
- Ignite the bonfire. Expertly laid before hand, soaked with kerosene, and stoked with plenty of kiln dried lumber, this bonfire is a wonder to behold. SF wore flip flops one year if that gives you any idea.
- Beer "presentation" contest. I'd have to check my records, but I believe past winners have been DC, SM, and MR. If past years are any indication, this is a very competitive event so if you "bring it" be sure it's your A-game. Also keep in mind that it is tradition that contest submissions be burned in the bonfire - part of the sublime nature of this event.
- Oh, then we drink the beer and jocularity and debauchery ensues.
Let me make something else perfectly clear. If you can ride a bike and drink beer, then you are qualified for this event. The price of admission is the bike ride, but the ride is easy and expertly chaperoned. Lights are available if you need them. All of the hills on the route go down except for the ones that go up. All you really need is a bike, a helmet, and some beer.
We need to nail down the date so I will throw out Friday December 18th as an option to start the discussion. Let me know if you are willing and able to do that date. If you are willing but unable, then shoot me some alternative dates and we'll see what happens. Bottom line is get back to me so we can get this thing booked and order the strippers.
Oh and have a great Thanksgiving and be sure to leave room for pie.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
We thought we might challenge the record with ten riders today but some pre-ride attrition slashed the group down to six. However it was a great opportunity to catch up with a couple of guys who have been out of circulation for a while:
- One was instructed by his wife to downsize the love-handles. Slightly embarassing.
- The other one has been road riding. Moderately embarassing.
We expect to see more of these two guys in the coming weeks and months. But I have to mention that two of our no-shows were reported to be playing volleyball or kickball or some such nonsense instead of riding. That is off-the-charts embarassing.
So anyway, our group of six was just one of many riding groups enjoying the brilliant sunshine and spectacular mid-40s weather. The trails were soft but perfectly ridable, and we even found a new section of singletrack that someone laid out by the Bonus-Bonus Loop (it starts at the hairpin turn). It is expertly done, with a bridge, a small rock garden, some nice rollers, and a couple of small stream crossings.
There is talk of a ride on Thanksgiving morning so we can eat turkey and drink wine and then eat pie and then lay on the couch for a guilt-free afternoon. I think this is a swell idea.
"Better to wear out than to rust out"
Note: photograph shamelessly misappropriated from somewhere on the Internet.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
It is November 15th in SEPA. It has been wet, overcast, and cold for almost three weeks now...
...but today the mountain biking Gods took pity on us and treated us to brilliant blue skies, a blazing sun, a gentle breeze, and 70 degree temps.
I had already moth-balled my short sleeve jerseys and fingerless gloves, but gladly dug them out for today's ride along with Silver (who hadn't been in the dirt since spring). And the trails were in surprisingly decent shape (better shame than I was anyway).
It was fabulous.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
P.S. Thank you.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Wishful thinking...because it has been raining since Friday, there is standing water everywhere, and today's Fair Hill Mountain Bike Jamboree is basically washed out.
Oh and to add insult, the forecast is bone dry for the next 10 days - which, coincidentally is the start of a travelling work week of hotel food and air conditioned meeting rooms.
I might have to suck it up and ride the skinny tires today, just to take the edge off.
"Life's Not Fair"
-- Scar (from Lion King)
Friday, October 23, 2009
I don't get it.
I do get hunting. It's what carnivores do (sorry Jamie). Most of us prefer to have someone else do the dirty work so we can buy our meat shrink-wrapped in serving-size portions from a grocery store, but in the end it's the same thing. And frankly from the victim's perspective, I'd rather be shot by a high power rifle while peacefully grazing than to "buy it" in an industrial slaughter house. So I am totally fine with hunting.
But I digress.
What I don't get is why we allow hunting in a suburban multi-use park like MCSP? I mean hikers, bikers, and horseback riders peacefully co-exist every day without fear of killing each other. But once the hunters take to the woods, the rest of us have to stay home or risk taking a frickin' bullet. It just doesn't feel so "multi-use" anymore.
Today I ran into three hunters in less than one hour. One was sitting on a bucket in the middle of a trail about 100 yards from the parking lot. I had to swerve off the trail to get around him. He had the gun, so I just said "hi" and got the hell out of there.
My opinion - flying bullets just don't mix well with hikers and bikers.
Friday, October 16, 2009
It is 36 degrees It has been raining non-stop since yesterday afternoon. The forecast is rain for the next three days. This is the sort of thing that drove me to spend some perfectly good money on a road bike. This video is hilarious and sums it up pretty well. Thanks to Mountain Biking by 198 for the tip.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
I am visiting family in Maryland this weekend so I took the opportunity to check out the nearby Schaeffer Farm Trails. The trails have a reputation for being crowded, but I was the only car on the lot at 7:00 this morning - 40 degrees and dark may have something to do with it. I had the trails all to myself (and a few deer, chipmunks, and a lone fox).
The trails are wicked fast with awesome flow, especially out on the yellow loop. This is a single-speed wonderland. One particularly fun stretch was sweeping through a corn field on some twisty singletrack for a few hundred yards as the sun was coming up. I was half expecting to run into Shoeless Joe Jackson as I railed one of the many blind turns at full speed.
This is all SWEETNESS!
Friday, October 2, 2009
Just watching this trailer got me totally jacked. I can't imagine seeing the actual movie which is too bad since imagining it is my only option since I will be on business travel on the only day the movie is playing nation wide. I guess I'll have to settle for watching the trailer until the movie comes out on DVD in a year or so. This just really bites the big one.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday's night ride started innocently enough.
Riding the along the creek near the Blue Trail climb. Jim thought he had broken a spoke so we paused for an equipment check. We could hear running water and splashing - it sounded big (i.e., not a deer). When we stopped, it stopped, abruptly...Jim and I glanced at each other then promptly saddled up and departed scene.
A minute or so later during the (miserable) Blue Trail climb we heard a strange and distinctly unpleasant howl in the distance. These did not sound like your typical dog or coyote. In between wheezes, Jim made a not-so-innocent comment "what would we do if we were chased by wild dogs?" This was followed by another pair of howls that sounded noticeably closer. That was all either of us needed - the hair on the back of my neck stood right up and I thought to myself "scared of the dark, how pathetic is this???" but we wordlessly put the hammer down to create some separation between us and the howls.
The rest of the climb was uneventful. I think there was one more offhand wild dog comment and then the conversation moved on...and the whole experience was on it's way to the dustbins of our fading middle-aged memory, or so we thought.
A short while later we were traversing the empty boat launch parking lot when we came upon a lone vehicle:
Even though we were moving briskly in order to avoid detection by "The Man", Jim noticed something peculiar about the vehicle so we circled back to investigate. Upon inspection we noted this large steel cage with very sturdy locking doors...
...affixed with this sticker...
...and it all came together. Our earlier encounter had been a nite hunter and his 'coon dogs in the process of treeing a raccoon, or attempting to tree a couple of mountain bikers.
Of course we did not have a camera with us so we had to ride home, grab a camera, and ride back to gather this photographic evidence - all the while kidding each other about Pennsyltucky, giggling about white supremacists, and cracking Ned Beatty jokes...and of course that is when we had our near run-in with the hunters returning from their nite hunt.
But you will have to join our next night ride to get that part of the story.
"Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you"
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Ruth and Sara (my wife and daughter) called the OGCB-palooza rally the "old guy thing." They had it basically right, but that does miss some of more sublime aspects of yesterday's event. For example:
- Singles and gearies;
- 26ers, 29ers, and at least one 69er (some call them 96er but what fun is that?);
- Bicycles built for one and a couple built for two;
- Bikes with seats and bikes without (ouch);
- Geezers, youngsters, fathers, daughters, wives, old friends, and new;
- Coolers overflowing with cheap beer...Strohs, Mickey's wide-mouth, the newest expensive-sounding-cheap-beer Lionhead...and a few fancy-schmanzy beers to round out the selection;
- No bikes had a potato cannon, but I think it is just a matter of time.
Many thanks to Jim for organizing OGCB and to everyone else for rolling out the welcome mat for some new riders. I had a great time even though I left before the 3rd trip to the teeter!
"Bikes, babes, and beer. Whenever life gets you down, return to the fundamentals"
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
So today we did that "other" Philly bike ride. You know, the one where they actually wear clothes. I am still trying to sort that other one out in my head. I mean, I acknowledge that our cultural view on nakedness is a little puritanical and I am all about "letting it all hang out," but I also find that clothing offers some very practical benefits when riding. How those guys survived the potholes and frost heaved streets of Philly is beyond me. But I digress...
Today's ride was well attended, Sara estimates 3000 (3001 if you count Mayor Nutter). The rollout from the Art Museum steps was awesome as always, cruising down the Avenue of the Arts with nary a car to be seen...followed by 10 miles through the neighborhoods of Philly and the Waterfront (hats off to Vince Fumo as we passed the Maritime Museum), then another 10 through Fairmont Park and Boathouse Row before we returned to the Art Museum for pizza, hot dogs, pictures, and music. We were home before noon with a full day of riding under our belts and an entire afternoon to bask in the sun and replenish our electrolytes (Tanqueray is an electrolyte, right?).
I will close with a quote Sara picked up from the "Inspirational Knot" booth at today's ride (it's a booth where you jot your own inspirational message on a ribbon, toss it into a bowl, and then pluck one from the bowl for yourself). Sara's (the one she plucked) reads as follows:
"A strong body makes the mind strong"
-- Thomas Jefferson
Saturday, September 12, 2009
The mobile version of Google Maps has a feature called lattitude. Latitude tracks the location of your friends using the GPS in their phones and displays this graphically and real time on a Google map. I presume this is so you can find your drinking buddies at any hour of the day or night.
I use it to give Ruth peace of mind when I bike alone. You see, one of her fears is of me crashing deep in the woods and lying there paralyzed, unable to reach the phone (not unreasonable given my early track record). So I just turn the Lattitude feature on, throw the Blackberry in my Camelback, and voila - we have a real-time mountain-biking husband tracker. She can see my location real time on her Google Maps webpage...and I am free to paralyze myself with peace of mind that I will be found, eventually.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
So here it is. My dirty little secret is out of the box, literally.
Now if you read this blog then you know I am prone to an occasional offhand comment at the expense of road riders. Well now I am a part time road rider.
But here's the deal.
If you ever catch me shaving my legs or wearing purple spandex, then you are encouraged to kick your car door open as you pass me on Creek Road and/or chuck your 72oz big gulp at me. No hard feelings.
...and I do reserve the right to continue ribbing road riders. In fact since I am now one of "them" I can do it with a clean(er) conscience. Stay tuned.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Alas we did miss this year's Philly Naked Bike Ride but at least we punched the last ticket of the summer riding season with a spin on the east side of the lake today. Three of us cleaned the new 70' causeway and got a sneak peek at the new teeter-totter going in near the top of the hill. It is a monster, probably 12' long and perched on downed tree with the fulcrum almost waist high. This is one in a series of Bonus Loop upgrades being made in the runup to the 2009 Old Gear and Cheap Beer event. Details are still sketchy but my understanding is that nude bike riding is not planned (that's probably a good thing). It looks like it will be Saturday the 19th. More to come.
And now begins the best riding season of the entire year. Admittedly, early summer is pretty awesome but that's primarily because it comes after a long cold winter followed by a wet muddy spring. In reality, fall riding is the best with the cool temps still suitable for shorts, low humidity which means sweating actually works, and soon the unique colors, sounds, and smells of autumn. Get dressed and get out there!
Thursday, September 3, 2009
This is an image that is sure to quicken the pulse of any bike lover. Lucky me because it is an image I have seen twice in 11 months!
My daughter texted this picture to me this afternoon after the UPS man sped away. How the heck am I supposed to concentrate at work after receiving a message like that?
Tomorrow we open the box and all hell breaks loose.
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a bicycle, must be in want of another one."
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I think the "Old Gear and Cheap Beer" minions are at work preparing for the big day. Still under construction, I would estimate this bridge to be at least 3x as long as the Sole Trail bridge and maybe 2 inches narrower! I see some broken deraileur hangers in the future, yet another reason to ride a single speed.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
1,415. That's the number of calories we burned on a not so recent mountain bike romp at Fair Hill. I know this because Andy's GPS-HRM-thing-a-ma-bob said so.
1,350. That's the number of calories in a McDonald's Big Mac meal (super sized like they suggest when ordering). I learned this from McDonald's own nutritional information posted on their website
I think that is staggering. I know people that don't do that much work in a week, and they are the same people I used to see at McDonald's before I swore off fast food last December. What the heck are these people thinking?
Here's another set of numbers that I think are interesting: 4,000, 100, 1,415, and 14.
4,000 is the number of calories burned in a road century. I found this information on the Internet so I know it is true. 100 miles is a century. So that's 40 calories per mile when road riding. 1,415 is the number of calories we burned on our 13 mile mountain bike romp, which is 109 calories per mountain mile, or 2.7x the caloric burn rate of road riding.
So the next time your roadie friend at work asks you how many miles you rode on Sunday, ask them if they mean "roadie miles or mountain miles?"
Sunday, August 16, 2009
It's the dog days of summer so don't forget your UV protection, but beware those tan lines.
This morning's ride got off to a rocky start when we had to roust one rider out of bed, at 9:00. Said rider was apparently not entirely clear that we were riding this morning so elected to burn the candle last night. On the other hand his wife was pretty clear that he was riding. How do we know this? Well as we were congregating in the driveway (and said rider was chugging a pedialyte) the garage door opened, a loaded camelback skidded across the garage floor, and the door promptly closed. I think this was the biker wife's version of "don't let the door hit you on the way out."
An honest ride ensued, we worked both sides of the lake, whitnessed a good old-fashioned baptism at the boat launch, and by my calculation sweated about 2.5 liters of liquid. I will not elaborate on the how I did this calculation, but you get the picture. Hot and humid.
We only have a month or two of morning rides left before shortened days and hunters put an end to them., don't miss out. The scenery on these rides is incredible, and the endorphin rush you get at work later in the morning will power you through anything the job can throw at you.
See you guys, Tuesday morning 6:00am, sweeping north on Kaiser...
Saturday, August 8, 2009
I felt like an extremely ripe tomato at the top of a very tall cheese grater.
Let me start at the beginning.
After a day of guided XC biking with my brother-in-law, we thought we would take it up a notch and try some downhilling at Sunday River. My understanding is that Sunday River was the first place to offer lift-assisted mountain biking in the US (world?). It's a sizeable east coast mountain with the summit lodge perched 2,300' above the base.
So we grabbed bikes, gear, and power bars and made the 2hr drive to the mountain. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, we encountered the regulars clad in head-to-toe body armor - knee/shin pads, thigh pads, chest plates, back plates, elbow/forearm pads, arm pads, kidney belts, full face helmets, etc. We must have looked pretty cute with our baggie shorts, short-sleeve t-shirts, "half" helmets, and XC bikes because we were definitely getting some curious looks.
We bought our lift tickets and headed to the lift. I was feeling pretty good about myself as I pedaled past a downhiller pushing his bike up the hill to the lift (downhillers don't do much pedaling for a variety of reasons). Anyway this would be the peak of my downhilling performance for the day - ironic that it would occur while going uphill...
In the lift line the curious stares continued from the body-armor-full-face-helmet crowd so I broke the ice by commenting in a self-deprecating manner that "I feel a little out gunned." Nobody disagreed. The last clue was from the lift operator who asked, while loading our bikes into the lift, "hmmm, you guys are clipping in???" We nodded sheepishly and took the last big step down the proverbial slippery slope by hopping into the next chair.
The 1/2 mile vertical climb to the summit gave us plenty of time to yuck it up (nerves) and pick our first trail from the map (we elected to start with "Easy Tiger"). At the summit we took a few (last?) snapshots, mounted up, and headed off in search of Easy Tiger. The next few hundred yards was the ripe-tomato-and-cheese-grater part where we (the tomatoes) took a wrong turn and had to descend a massive expanse of treacherous ledge rock (the cheese grater). Fully armored with a full face helmet, this would have been rideable, barely. With short sleeve t-shirt and half-helmet, it was barely walkable.
Anyway we got ourselves down to the top of Easy Tiger and were treated to an awesome descent, probably 1,000' vertical, of VERY steep but flowing singletrack with seriously banked turns, some rollers, and a few stream crossings, and one bloodied rider awaiting the bike patrol (EMT on an ATV). Don't confuse Easy Tiger with the traditional bunny slope for skiers - this trail was a handful on an XC bike and not a place I would bring the wife and kids. Eventually we rolled down a dirt access road to the bottom of the lift.
This time the lift operator offered some free sage advice that if we decide to make this a habit we might treat ourselves to full-face helmets since just last week they had pulled a guy off the mountain "who will never be the same" due to lack of protective gear. Point taken - we decided to stick with Easy Tiger for the second run.
The second run went even better - we skipped the cheese grater part and pretty well nailed the Tiger part. At that point we had to wrap up for the day due to a family commitment. This was probably best as I think we had done all we could safely do as a couple of ripe tomatoes without proper equipment.
Add downhilling to the list of things "ventured and gained" but for now it's back to pedaling up hills for a while.
"I'll try it if you try it."
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I've got my Maine mojo on. It's the mojo you get from riding miles of sweet backcountry singletrack in the morning, taking a dip in a pristine New England lake at lunchtime, and then knocking back a stiff mid-afternoon Tanqueray and tonic on the back deck.
Thanks to Cliff (our guide from Back Country Excursions) for leading the ride, providing us a few welcome riding pointers, and administering first aid as needed (it was needed). We even stopped for a breather at a natural blueberry patch bursting with fresh natural energy food. Also kudos to my brother-in-law Jeff who gamely jumped from the mundane grind of roadbiking into the unfamiliar territory of mountain biking. He even got a "granite kiss" on the forearm to memorialize the ride (note the mo7s crash counter reset).
If the G&Ts and Advil do the trick, we may head north this Friday to Sunday River for a taste of downhilling.
"Great things are done when men and mountains meet. This is not done by jostling in the street"
-- William Blake
Saturday, July 18, 2009
She was ambivalent about mountain biking. Over the years she occasionally saw me come home a little banged up and I think it made the wrong impression on her. So I didn't press it until last Saturday when she said she wanted to go geocaching. "Awesome" I said, "and I think bikes will be the perfect way to get around the park." She flashed me that knowing smile and agreed.
So she got her first taste of singletrack, a handful of sloppy mud pits, some rocks, and plenty of roots and came out of it smiling from ear to ear and admitting that "yes Daddy, it was fun." So I am thrilled beyond words.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I just spent the day hosting some colleagues from San Diego. I have been to SD a few times and have to say it's pretty close to ideal if you like perfect weather, beaches, sailing, mountains, biking, and California mojo. But I was struck by how they kept commenting on how "green and lush" it is here - I guess SD is pretty dry and brown at this point in the season.
So as much as I still want to get out west and ride that desert singletrack and slickrock, their comments renewed my appreciation for the our eastern seasons, our root infested trails, and most of all the greenery (images from this morning's ride).
Sunday, July 12, 2009
We knew today's ride was going to be a wildcard. We did not know it would be a beat down.
The proposed itinerary was the Sunoco trails with a crossing of the infamous extremely-high-and-rickety-abandoned-railroad-trestle south of town. The trestle is just too good to be ignored, so we figured there had to be some singletrack that linked the the trestle to the main Sunoco trail network.
We rode the trails down to the valley floor only to discover that the township has laid waste to most of the singletrack on the east side of 322. Construction, all in the name of progress no doubt. After mucking about in the carnage for a bit, we did the climb out of the valley back to the Skelp Level Road parking lot half inclined to call it a day and go drown our sorrows in cheap mexican food.
...but once in the parking lot we realized that we couldn't end on such a sorry note, so we decided to ride back down Skelp Level to pick up the railroad bed and double back to the infamous trestle. We figured this would be a 45 minute sojourn to the trestle and back. Little did we know it would unfold into a 120 minute beat down. Here is roughly how it went...
We got to the railroad bed in one piece but with brakes smoking. OK they weren't literally smoking but we could definitely smell them and they were HOT. That was sobering. We got ourselves on the railroad bed and eventually to the trestle. I would estimate it to be between 200' high and in generally crappy condition. Some of the gaping holes in it were definitely large enough to fit a rider (and maybe his bike too). This white knuckle ride dropped us on the other side of 322 and left us with a dilemma - ride back the way we came over the dilapidated bridge (the 45min option), or try the west side trails which are supposedly of questionable legality. We were on a roll so we chose the latter and were treated to more miles of hilly technical wet-root infested singetrack and stream crossings that left us both exhausted and exhilirated (but mostly exhausted).
Now if you know this area then you also realize this left us back at the BOTTOM of the valley for the second time today, with another serious climb to get back to the parking lot on the other side of the valley.
We felt good enough to throw in a bonus loop of single track at the top, but it's fair to say we were toasted by the time we got back to the cars. Advil tonight, maybe 600mg. We will be feeling this one tomorrow.
"Art is suffering."
- Squidward Tentacles
Saturday, July 11, 2009
It was Ruth's idea to go to see the Iron Hill Twilight Criterium last night. I'm not sure what was more exciting - seeing the race or the fact that it was my wife's idea. She is awesome.
Anyway eveything I know about road riding would fit on a postage stamp. So last week I did my wikipedia research on criteriums and here it is for you other postage stampers:
- Short course road race held on closed off city streets (in this case West Chester)
- One hour duration (which amounted to about 50 laps)
- Prizes (called "primes" - in this case cash each time a racer won designated laps)
- High speed, hair rasing turns, lots of contact, and some spectacular wrecks
IMHO this is one awesome spectator sport. The first few laps of each race were hair raising, with probably 75 professional riders careening and bumping down the straights and diving into corners in tight packs mere inches from the specators standing behind fences and haybales.
The riders were averaging 35mph which made the laps about 90 seconds each. A "support" car (pimped out Subaru) would lead the pack with lights flashing and horn blaring, and a referee on a motorcycle trailed the pack. Announcers kept us appraised on the race overall and official clocks timed the overall race and the lead rider (so it was easy track the chase groups). Bike shops set up on the closed streets to raffle bikes and give away bike schwag, the sidewalks were crammed with spectators cheering and ringing cowbells, and the always excellent West Chester street scene was in full swing with restaurants and bars overflowing onto the sidewalks.
We parked ourselves outside the Iron Hill Brewery (very convenient) looking straight at the "pit" where a continuous stream of mid-race mechanicals were serviced by a SRAM crew (check out the left middle picture in the collage above - the racer is in the pit on one of those crazy isotruss bike frames). The first 10 laps of each race were intense and it was risky standing by the rail - lean in more than an inch or two and you were likely to be clipped by a rider. Being so close you really got a great sense of how each rider was doing (strong vs suffering vs resigned) and with so many laps you quickly identified with a handful of individuals to follow throughout the race.
It was an awesome evening even for a devout mountain biker, I highly recommend it. Put this on your calendar for next year.
P.S. Here are some more Pictures taken by someone with more camera and much more talent that I...
Friday, July 10, 2009
Just when I thought I had gunkholed every trail in MCSP, I found a brand spanking new single track in the park (picture of sunrise at the park entrance). I liked the new single track so much I rode it 3 times (up, down, then down again toward the end of the ride).
During by first down on this new trail I heard someone bombing the Rocky Climb but I wasn't able to circle back in time to see who it was (typically not many riders at that early hour). Was that you Sebastian? I am pretty sure it wasn't Mr. non-committal-that's-how-I-roll-drunken-bike-shop-guy (not mentioning any names) because his garage was buttoned up when I rode by at 6am.
Anyway Kudos to the enterprising soul who laid in that new single track - it is awesome.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
The first Midnight in Milford Mills night race is this month. Should I follow my heart or follow my brain?
Heart: Imagine the carnage of a night race. The stories, the bragging rights, and maybe even the t-shirt! The run-up to race day, riding the course every other night and watching my split times drop. Carb loading the night before, suiting up, a driving to the start area with the sunroof open and AC/DC cranking. Registration. The jostling as we congregate at the starting line. The race starts. The mad acceleration across the open field and into the woods. Trying to find the right spot in the pack - too fast and you'll explode - too slow and you'll get stuck in traffic. Now in the groove and riding race pace...
Brain: ...pushing hard, harder than on any of the practice rides. Bombing the twisty downhill section a little faster than I should, on the ragged edge of disaster. Now climbing again, legs burning, lungs heaving. Then down. And up again. Down. Up. Getting a little bit tingly - is it nerves or is it oxygen deficit due to the race pace? Time to choke down some energy (Shot Bloks are my preference) but breathing so heavily it just turns into a thick gluey mess in my mouth. Wash it down with some water just in time to start the next climb. Why am I doing this? I have a perfectly good time riding this course hard during practice or just for fun, but this is starting to seem like work. More up. More down. Yes, definitely work. Just make sure nobody passes me. Try to catch that rabbit up ahead. Up. Down. Finally drag my sorry self across the finish line, mid-pack assuming no major mechanicals.
Heart: That was awesome (now that it's over). The buzz after the race. Put on some dry clothes. Checking the finish times as they are posted - how did I stack up against others in my riding group? The appetite starts to crank up. One hot dog. Two. Three. Comparing notes with fellow riders - remember that sketchy turn, did you see that poor bastard who bonked on the last lap? What a blast, can't wait until the next race.
In my case the brain usually speaks loudest, but I have found it just takes one weak moment for the heart to break through and make a commitment that the brain can't undo. Stay tuned.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
While the rest of the world was hitting the snooze button I was being treated to the sights, smells, sounds, and stimulation of yet another perfect-10 morning in SEPA. In Sunday's blog entry I promised I would do a better job with the camera on my next outing, so I made it a leisurely ride with time to take some pictures.
I still have plenty left in the tank (actually charged up from this morning's ride) so I think we'll make it a double header today - head out after work and experience today's sunset to complement this morning's sunrise.
There seems to be a nice symmetry to that.
"If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong."
"If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong."
Sunday, June 28, 2009
We tore up Fair Hill today.
I mean like, we TORE IT UP.
We opened by ripping the Fox Pen and then decided to try Crackhead Bob backward (CHBob would be proud). The start was rough - long uphill grind for a group that was already gassed - but soon we were rewarded with the most awesome twisty never-ending punch-the-gas-and-rail-the-turn single track I have ever had the pleasure of riding (and that's saying something after last Thursday's White Clay adventure). Finally we wrapped with the root infested trail adjacent to CHB and then the long grind back out of the park.
Sorry the only picture is of four sweat soaked riders in parking lot after the ride, but this ride was all speed with no time pull out the camera. I'll do better next time.
Ride telemetry credit goes to Andy. It is hard to believe we only burned 3 Big Macs worth of calories on that ride (frankly I don't believe it).
"It never gets easier, you just go faster."
– Greg LeMond
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Oh my God what an awesome ride we had at White Clay last night! We elected to start early since night riding is prohibited there (and apparently enforced) and we mountain bikers are all about "peace and love."
We ended our 2hr ride with a totally awesome 15-minute non-stop high-speed in-the-groove zen-like bob-and-weave descent on the sweetest stretch of single track I have ever had the pleasure of rolling on. We ended at dusk, drenched in sweat, high-5-ing in the parking lot.
THAT is the way to burn a Thursday evening.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
I am thinking the unthinkable.
I am thinking of getting a road bike.
It has rained for 13 of the last 19 days. The last dry spell was 3 days and the trails had just begun to firm up to a soft tacky consistency when the rain returned. Today's forecast was partly cloudy (it would have been the 2nd dry day) but it is now 5:00 pm and it has been raining - steadily - since 8:00 this morning.
Would anyone blame me if I went to the dark side?
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Sunday, June 7, 2009
We got a big dose of elite cycling today, and the 25th Annual TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship wasn't bad either. Team Columbia Highroad won the men's race and Floyd Landis successfully tested out
his new hip and his clean living (actually I choose to believe he is an innocent victim of an event that ran off the tracks but I have no useful facts either way). Anyway the REAL elite performers were our kids - Sara, Becca, and Luke - who rode their mountain bikes 15 miles to Manayunk to watch the first few laps of this year's race (that's 30 miles round trip). And if that's not enough, we had to drag them out of bed, early on a Sunday morning, to pull this off (ever trying waking up a 12year old at 5:45am on a Sunday to go biking?)
- Riding with the kids up the infamous Manayunk Wall before the race. That's a 17 degree grade, very wall-like.
- Riding with the kids back down the wall, brakes fading, realizing that if your kid relaxes on the brakes they will accelerate from 5mph to about 60mph in like 2 seconds.
- Men's breakaway. We were situated midway through the 1st lap at the turn into "the wall" and for the first lap were treated to a solo breakaway who had a solid 3 minute lead. Based on TV coverage this evening he subsequently blew up, but he looked damn good streaking thru Manayunk on lap #1.
- The women spotted the men 10 minutes at the start and then passed them midway through the men's race. Granted they only had to do 50mi vs the men's 150, but 10 minutes? Good lesson for Sara and Becca, and for Luke too.
On the way home there was some talk of trying some "real" road riding (i.e., with a road bike). We'll see. Five years ago I told myself I had bought my last mountain bike, and 3 bikes later I am having difficulty justifying "just one more" but the Marshman Triathlon is this fall and...
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a bicycle, must be in want of another one."
Sunday, May 31, 2009
I am travelling next week so I thought I'd put a couple of irons in the fire to ensure the week is not a total loss:
Night Ride - Riley and I were discussing the idea of a weeknite night ride at White Clay. If your gut reaction to the idea of mountain biking at night is "no thanks" then I encourage you to read this short article entitled "how night-riding is like hotel sex." It seems pretty accurate from my experience (and is entertaining to boot). We do have some loaner lights available - a good set costs about the same as a good hotel room (funny coincidence) so you may want to try some out before buying.
Philly Bike Race - The biggest single day professional bike race in the US, the Philly Bike Race will be next Sunday (June 7th). The men's race is 10 laps between the Art Museum and the Manayunk wall. A few of us are making it a family event and riding with the kids to Manayunk to watch. This is an awesome kid-friendly sports spectacle and very cool bike scene. If you get there early, you can see the first few laps, grab a sandwhich, and be home in time to watch the finish from your air conditioned living room (we did this last year and it was pretty hot).
That's all I have for now. Time to saddle up and try to burn off a mild hangover...
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I took my 18 year old nephew out for his first mountain bike ride this weekend. He made a good showing for himself, especially considering he hadn't ridden a bike in over 3 years. He took the customary trip over the handlebars on the Lakeside Trail and made the obligatory "this is a pretty good workout" comment as we crossed the dam. I think he finished with a new respect for his geezer uncle and appreciation that you don't have to be a college freshman to have a really great time (although based on his Facebook page, it really helps).
Monday morphed into a local ride, solo or so I thought until I hooked up with a friend at the boat landing. We proceeded to TEAR UP the west side of the lake at a pretty good pace (for me, anyway). It was a really sweet ride, I was outside of my comfort zone, and my 29er felt just awesome. Really, it did.
I have a great quote to wrap up this blog entry. It's one I've been saving for a while and it sums up the feeling I had for maybe 45 minutes today. One of my goals for this summer is to get to that "place" more often, and to stay there as long as I possibly can...
"It's freeing, the sense of detached awareness found only on the best mountain bike rides. I'm no longer me. I'm a rolling ball of intent. Ride over that rock. Go wide on the curve. It's hard but there's no place I'd rather be. There's no place but here. No time but now."
- Don Cuerdon
I have been pounding the heck out of the east side of Marsh Creek Lake lately (Lakeside, Sole, and Bonus loop trails). Why? Because they're awesome and the Lakeside trail (a masterpiece in my opinion) makes it so much fun just getting to the Sole Trail and Bonus Loop. Oh, and the sun rises over the lake just as I arrive at the Lakeside trail. It's magical.
But today I thought I'd spin around the west side for a change and wow, what a pleasant surprise! I had forgotten the many sweet trails on that side. In an hour of riding I managed to hit the Eddie Trail (see picture), Sidewinder (down), Quarry Climb (up), Entrail (both ways), the Babyheads, and the Rocky Climb (up, up, up). And there are still a myraid of trails I didn't hit like the Bobsled Run, O-Positive, and the maze of trails that drop from the ridge down to the Brandywine creek.
We'll be back at it in 10 hours (6:00am morning ride is queued up).
P.S. I have a friend who hasn't been riding in quite a while. He was a pretty avid biker (night rides, winter rides, etc). I bugged him recently about getting back into the flow with the morning rides. He said that he "doesn't set alarms for exercise." Me either. I'm worried he may be heading down a slippery slope. Please keep him in your thoughts.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Here are some more morning ride pictures for your viewing pleasure. I will happily share these pictures all summer long because frankly I can't think of a better way to start the day. Actually, I can think of one and if that's the reason you missed the last five morning rides then congratulations, keep up the good work. But if not, and the result of my picture taking penchant is you looking at a bunch of cool pictures with your morning coffee then I think you are missing the point (or maybe I need to take better pictures).
Anyway I am curious where we stand on this:
1) If I took better pictures then you would be on board 200%
2) Need an earlier start and return (this is doable).
3) You found the only better way to spend the morning, every morning (congratulations)
4) You are happy to live your life vicariously, keep the pictures coming
5) None of the above (please elaborate)
Don't be shy. Let's hear it.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
I don't know what you were doing at 6:00 this morning, but I'm pretty sure I know what you should have been doing...and it has something to do with rolling quietly and swiftly along some totally buff single track ...with the sun rising over a mirror-like lake...disturbed only by the occasional duck flushed from the shoreline as we cruised by.
Let me know if you are interested in jacking up your morning - we'll get the regular AM ride thing going, make you a better person...
"If you're lucky enough to be in the mountains, you're lucky enough."