The last post talked about my visual motivator while on the trail. But I find visual motivators at home as well. Think back to being a kid and plastering the walls of your room with pictures of whatever you were totally into at the time. I’m sure it still happens – that growing collection of cycling magazines I have is kept primarily for the pictures, not the articles. When was the last time you heard that excuse? But these days, riders are just as likely to scour the internet for an inspiring desktop background or sweet video. I’ve been on a documentary kick lately and stumbled across a trailer for Pedal Driven, a “bike-umentary” about the future of trail building, often done illegally on public land. The conflict between freeride trail builders and the US Forest Service results from differing ideas of how the US population ought to be able to enjoy public land. Since Pedal Driven is still in production, I only have the trailer to go on, but I am definitely looking forward to the finished product. What are your thoughts?
Tag Archives: Downhill
On Friday I spent a little over 2 hours working on a tiny trail that winds its way up the hill behind my house. I’ve been living here for over 2 years and I’ve always wanted to build something that is rideable in both directions; up to build endurance and down to work on technique. The going has been slow so far because of two primary reasons: mosquitoes and the soil. Or lack thereof on the soil part. A majority of the hill seems to have a ton of roots in the first inch of “soil” and a ridiculous amount of rocks buried about an inch below that, which makes any real digging on the trail almost impossible. I’ve mostly just cleaned off the fallen leaves from the area I want to ride and packed down the loose loam with my feet or my bike.
I’m sure my trail building technique needs more refinement. I know enough not to try to run my trail straight up or down the hill, but I’m trying to find a happy medium where the uphill part isn’t impossible to ride and the downhill section doesn’t leave me yawning. I also know that it’s sometimes better to work with an obstacle rather than remove it. A fallen tree about 2 feet tall caused progress on the building to slow a bit, until I was able to find enough fallen logs to ramp over the tree on both sides. I’ve also set up a line that allows me to ride off the tree without a ramp on the other side.
As it is, I have to walk up the first 50′ of trail, because of a drop that happens right after a ladder bridge that I made out of monkey bars from an old playset. I’m sure someone like Hans Rey could ride up it, but I prefer that section coming back down. There is a line that could make it ridable, but that’s going to wait until after my trail makes it to the top of the hill. Because of the drop, and a hard-packed path on the last little hill, I get to fly around the last corner with my rear tire skidding like I’m some crazy DH racer. The wife says I should end my run further away from the house, worried for my sanity as I drift through the off-camber turn.
My first mountain bike race happened two weekends ago and it was quite a race. As I’ve said before, the Big Creek 4 Ways in a Day race combines XC trails, an uphill climb, a DH run and a Slalom run. The King (and Queen) of Big Creek is the person with the lowest combined time. The shorter events are weighted so that you can’t just run away with the XC course and survive the remaining events. You have to be a well rounded rider. Some people brought two bikes to to take advantage of gravity – either going uphill or downhill.
The morning started a bit brisk around 40 degrees. The riders signed in and had a choice: hit the trails early for the first lap or wait until the last minute and hope the temperature warmed up. I chose the former since riding around the concrete Greenway was freezing my fingers. The riders were starting at 1 minute intervals when I took off and I managed to pass two riders and only get passed by one, so I felt pretty good even though it took half a lap to warm up. I didn’t have to get off my bike in either of the two sections that have been giving me problems lately. That was an accomplishment in itself. While I prefer the first direction we went, I knew from past laps that the counter clockwise direction is faster due to long, slow uphills coupled with steeper downhills. Fully warmed up, I pushed hard on the second lap, again passing two people and getting passed once, despite starting at 30 second intervals for the second lap. 1 way down, 3 to go.
With the second lap finished, it was time for the El Scorcho climb. It’s 700 linear feet with around 150 vertical feet of climbing. While this might not sound too tough, it was a newly cut trail, so the ground hadn’t packed down much and there was evidence of rear wheels spinning out after each switchback. On my 14 year-old 35lb bike, just getting up the hill is tough enough. The race officials were estimating a little under two minutes per run and I finished in 1:48 with a loud grunt and no dabbing. The eventual winner beat out two guys on cyclocross bikes with a time of 1:03.
The race was halfway through and it was time for lunch. The RAMBO folks cooked some tasty (and giant) burgers. A few shops were there offering neutral support and I got a chance to drool over some new Niner bikes.
After lunch was over, the real fun began with the DH and Slalom events. The sun had climbed higher and the weather was perfect for the competitors and the spectators. Finally, the weight of my bike was going to pay off. Being the only person running DH with V-brakes was a little intimidating, butI was totally focused by the time my countdown started. I narrowly avoided clipping a tree and a 2 foot drop on the first run and felt way more confident on my second run. Slalom was more fun, since I didn’t have to worry about any major drops and there were some massive berms to carve through. I rolled all the jumps and ended up a respectable 4th place in the Beginner division.
I returned to the starting area and watched the crowning of the King and Queen, grabbed my sweet pint glass and headed home with my first mountain bike race in the bag.
This past weekend marked the beginning of Daylight Saving Time in Georgia. While it’s now light out until almost 8pm, we’re still stuck in monsoon season. Every day I eagerly check the weather report only to find that my days off always manage to coincide with the days it rains. Needless to say, my training for the 4 Ways in a Day race has been severely limited, especially on the downhill section. I was confident with last years race line, but this year they’ve mixed up the route and made it more aggressive, even for the beginner class that I’ll be racing in. As long as the weather cooperates, that is. I already know I can’t get time off for the make-up rain date in April.
I recently started training for SORBA-RAMBO’s 4 Ways in a Day time trial at Big Creek. The 4 ways are XC (in both directions), Downhill, Slalom, and a brand new 750’ long climb with an average slope of 14% called “El Scorcho”that’s nestled in the heart of the freeride section. Today I was able to ride the downhill, slalom, El Schorcho, and the XC trail in the clockwise direction. I rode for an hour and a half with about 50 minutes at what I consider to be “race pace” after the dismal winter we’ve been having. The XC tried to kick my butt and I need to knock off 5 minutes off the time I recorded today to be competitive in the race. But the special thing is there’s a King of Big Creek division for anyone who does all 4 ways. Last year there were only sixteen people who competed in the King category, so I’m hoping to put the hurt on some people with my 14 year-old GT. I just hope I don’t break my bike before the end of the month so that I can knock one of my 2010 goals off my list early in the year.
On a whim I decided to wear my heart rate monitor and I was averaging 174 BPM. I know I need to get this number way down for my regular rides, even with the race pace riding I was doing. But the big surprise when I got done riding was my max HR of 245! I must be Superman, because that would have killed mere mortals.
My friend Charlie, who is the mechanic at our shop, is into freeride and downhill mountain biking. So while out riding the cross-country trails at Big Creek, I caught up with him in the freeride section and did a bit of filming with my cheapo point-and-shoot camera, threw the footage together and showed it to my family. My grandmother was concerned that it was me in the video—she does want great-grandchildren in the near future—but I assured her that I was not the crazy person. Maybe a little jealous, but not crazy. I have decided that my next bike will definitely have more travel so I can at least consider the more technical terrain that is becoming popular. Perhaps one day I’ll even voyage to a lift-accessed slope and rent a big squishy bike. So, without further ado, I give you Charlie the Mechanic on the Sender at Big Creek.
So fast-forward to last year. I’d continued cycling (now with my own non-pink Masi) and graduated from a sprint triathlon to an Olympic tri, but I was still topping out at about 25 miles a ride. I was moving to Atlanta to be closer to my fiancée, and I had decided to try my hand at the cycling industry. Plus, paying to get my bike serviced was getting old.
I walked into a bike shop, told them I wanted a job, and BAM—my foot’s in the door (well, it was a little less instantaneous than “BAM,” but you get my point). I figure, I’ve been a cyclist for a year or two now, I like reading cycling magazines and getting out on my bike, and I know the different levels of Shimano componentry—I’ve got it made.
Wrong. I never felt so humbled in my life than that first week at the bike shop. There are still days when my bike knowledge is totally shown up by a customer, but I also found out that cycling was way bigger than just the Tour de France and triathlon world I was familiar with. Freeriding, pelotons, cyclocross, downhill, velodromes, crit races; the wide world of cycling was turning out to be wide indeed.
Every day I continue to learn something new about cycling. I regularly conduct “market research,” or at least that’s what I tell my wife as I bring home scores of old cycling magazines. The best part of working at a bike shop, aside from the discounted schwag, is getting other people excited about cycling. I don’t care if it’s a soccer mom buying an entry level road bike for her first triathlon; a downtown hipster converting some old, rusty, vintage Schwinn to a fixie; or a full-face helmet, knee-pad wearing high-schooler. I love getting excited with and for other people.