Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Riding in the South: Mountain

Forward:
Much of the time I'm not on my bike, I think about bikes. This sounds obvious, I know. But why don't I think about the trails or roads? After all, the bike (hopefully) stays the same. (Although, since I wrench my own bikes, this isn't the case in practice, only in theory--this is the subject of a different post, though.) Mostly, I think, it's the reviewer in me. I'm trying to rid myself of the habit. In December, I found a cure-all: ride an entirely new trail.


The Story So Far:
As I posted about many moons ago, I was in the south over the Christmas season last year. Besides a fantastic road ride, I got to taste the sweet goodness of a purpose-built mtn. bike trail.

Honestly, I had no idea a trail could be so much fun. I naturally assumed that a trail like this would be quite tame--so as to accommodate less-experienced riders. I was pleased to report that wasn't the case. What I got was an ear-to-ear perma-grin for 9 miles of challenging, swoopy, technical, fast-paced, steep, smooth, rocky trail. There was an extended climb to get your heart pumping. There were fast, technical descents to keep your heart pumping for entirely different reasons. There were rock gardens and bridges. There were stream crossings and sandy bits.

At one point, after climbing a short section, one of my riding buddies encouraged me to turn around and go back down the way I had come. "Trust me," he said, "it's worth making this climb again." He was right, it was beautiful. Just enough places to lean back and launch the bike, followed by a few tight curves to keep you on your toes.

The trail was perfectly groomed, but never boring. All of it wound through beautiful forest. That ride convinced me that even if that were the only ride available, I'd never get tired of it.

I was feeling so good that day--so, in the groove--I didn't even hesitate when Terry and the Beast stopped to warn me about "Blood Rock" up around the next bend. Sure enough, I came around the corner and there was an area marked with red paint and lots of warnings--at least, that’s how I remember it. I didn't slow down; I didn't stop to think about it. I made it through that particularly wet, rocky section without leaving any of my own blood on the rocks. I felt fantastic.

To top it all off, there were bike showers at the end to clean your gear off before loading up the cars.

Thanks again to Terry and the Beast for taking me on one of the best rides of my life, for providing me with a bike, and for riding me again to a state of utter exhaustion. I can't wait to go back.

Notes:
-The ride was Oak Mountain, I believe.
-You can read Terry's more detailed write-up of it here: http://ridesandroads.blogspot.com/2009/12/over-river-and-through-woods.html
-The bike I rode was a classic Trek Y-22. No water-bottle holders and me without a Camelbak. Once again, Terry and the Beast came through for me by letting me steal gulps out of their packs.
-The Beast did some of those climbs in the big ring--not the middle ring even--and I'm not even joking. If he wasn't so nice about stomping you into the ground, I'd have taken it a little harder.
-We passed a guy who was fixing his second flat and gave him a spare tube. Later, we passed him again (obviously after he'd passed us) and again, he had a flat. He wasn't having as good a day as I was. Hopefully, he lives closer to the trail so he can get back there and have a better day.

1 comment:

tkp said...

Hey Jon, nice write up. Just one quibble, the trail is 18 miles. Though maybe you only enjoyed half of it :).

I'd like to second your impression of the Beast. Those climbs are long and some sections are long and steeeeeep. And rocky. It's hard to describe how impressive it is to see someone big ring those climbs. But has Mrs. Beast often says of her husband, "no brain, no pain."

Hope to see you out here again sooner than 5 years from now.