Thursday, December 31, 2009

No Better Way

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? "
-- unknown

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Crossing the Line

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

Clydesdales CAN Dance!

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.

Props to
  • 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

30 hours to go...but who's counting?

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

Newest Pagan Ritual

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.

A week from Monday (21st) is the Winter Solstice - the shortest day of the year and the official beginning of winter. It is also the root of some swell pagan rituals including the Feast of Fools, Navratri (nine-day celebration worshiping female divinity), and Sadeh (a mid-winter feast to honor fire and to "defeat the forces of darkness, frost and cold").

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!