A simple, shocking fact is that, all too many times, one second makes all the difference. Sickeningly, we are usually never aware which second is that second until it’s too late. We say we’d love to go back and relive whole chunks of our lives, so that we could make different choices. Yet really, if we could relive less than a minute or two of key seconds, we could change so much.
Cold creek crossing on Candler's Mountain
This was brought home yet again for me on Saturday’s friendly at Liberty University’s Liberty Mountain Trail System. Mid-ride, we headed back to Five Points for a rendezvous with a friend.
Our amigo Ricardo, ever searching for the perfect bike, immediately asked if he could try out her 29-er Specialized hard tail. He jumped on her bike and took off up Rogues Gallery trail while the rest of us chatted about where we’d head next.
A minute may have passed, and then Richard began yelling from around the bend in the trail. We were bemused. However, his tone grew more strident, and Scott said “We’d better go find out.”
Just as I approached the log crossing and saw the bike lying twisted on the other side, Scott rode back and reported, “He says he broke his arm.”
As indeed he had. Broke it in such a way that he needed surgery to ensure it would reset properly.
In the late ’90s a friend and I were visiting family in the hilly suburbs of Knoxville, TN. We borrowed two mountain bikes and as we rolled them out of the garage, I thought to warn my friend of the powerful grab of the V-brakes, but then I remembered that she had a bike with V’s. We started off down the hill and within seconds she was lying on the ground, bleeding from deep cuts to the face and hands from a too-hard brake pull.
The summer following my senior of high school my dad and I were putting a new roof on a lake house and our boss left us in the evening with the instructions that we didn’t need to finish off the job that day. Dad kept on pushing, though, because a storm was rolling in and he wanted to get to a certain point before the rain. Tired, teen-aged and harassed by the onslaught of pre-rain mosquitoes, I badgered him for his stubbornness. Finally the rain arrived, and we struck the scene. I scrambled off the roof, and had to grab at the eaves as the ladder slid a bit on the slick deck below. Eager to depart, and angry that we had tarried so long, I didn’t offer a warning of the precarious ladder, and moments later I heard the crash and yell of pain. Broken ribs and bruised lungs resulted.
In both of these cases mere seconds made the difference. However, two things can help us better the outcomes of these crucial seconds. Read more…
Debriefing the Big Mountain Riding 30 ‘n 30 Challenge
"They's folks as ain't come back from them hills, sonny."- From ride 23 'n 23
I haven’t been on my bike in a week and a half. I’m taking some time off following December 30. That’s when I rode home in the light of the full moon, finishing off the 30 ‘n 30 Challenge. The next day we hosed off my brother-in-law’s bike and gave it the TLC it had long needed. The day after that I arrived back in Virginia, to freezing temps and snow on the shaded side of everything.
Happy cows come from California
The Big Mountain Riding 30 ‘n 30 Challenge threw down the gauntlet for 30 rides of at least 30-minutes in 30 days. Unfortunately, the challenge started on Nov. 30. I pedaled in the snow; I pedaled in freezing rain. I pedaled in the dark and against the wind. I pedaled on Christmas Eve and Christmas. I pedaled on opposite sides of the country, in six trail systems and two neighborhoods. By traveling to California to see family for Christmas, I dodged the biggest snow in 10-years at home. I rode with my 50-something friends, I rode with my 12-year old nephew; I rode a lot by myself. Animals encountered included deer, rabbits, turkeys, buzzards, hawks, owls, cows and coyotes. I rode pavement, sidewalks, gravel roads, drainage ditches, doubletrack, singletrack, cow trails and cross country. I broke a few regulations along the way, and alarmed a few cows. Damages incurred included a new fork for my bike Jack Rabbit Slim, brakes for my brother-in-law’s bike, poison oak and a head cold for me.
In the 30-days, I rode +/- 150 miles and put in a work week on the bike, logging 39-hours in close proximity to my trusty steeds. Among my California relatives I’m the guy who rides bikes, and this holiday season solidified that stereotype.
Moments I will remember include: catching a coyote on his way home from a night of naughtiness in Hayward, CA’s Garin Park, railing the teeter-totter at Danville, VA’s Anglers Ridge, taking my nephew on his first mountain bike ride, encountering a red-tail hawk on the hillside at Lynchburg’s Blackwater Creek, the eye-watering full-speed doubletrack descent into Garin Park from Bailey Ranch Road, soldiering through the ice rain at Candler’s Mountain at dusk, the final ride home with my moon shadow stretching behind me like the 30 ‘n 30 challenge.
"Some of dem trails down in der woods is's slick as snot." - From ride 17 'n 17
This challenge provided a hearty serving of both learning and self-awareness.
1. It takes time and willpower to ride every day. Sounds obvious, but as the daylight bleeds away around 5 p.m. in December, procrastinators will run out of time. And time aside, you’ve got to push yourself to go out and ride. Nike has it right. Just do it.
2. Bikes are beautiful. What an instrument for speed and harmony. It’s an extension of your body, but not part of you. And on a sweeping curve of a narrow trail through the woods … what could provide more feeling of flow?
3. We’re trashing our planet – even if we aren’t killing it. Ironically – given that I was only able to access these hills for 30-minute sound bites because of all the roads and cars – I was saddened by all the garbage and scars we leave on this land. Roads reaching into every solitary place, litter lining even the smallest of foot paths. We are creatures of destruction.
4. Mountain bikers live on variety, so vary your rides. Riding every day means some duplication. However, most of us would quickly lose interest if we continually had to ride the same trail in the same conditions. Seasons change, leaves and trees fall, rain makes mud, sun makes dust. All this and so much more means that even the same trail differs on different days. I sought out various trail systems and different routes, yet I wish I would have ridden even more places, like VA’s Sherando Lake SP and CA’s Lake Chabot RP.
5. Take care of yourself and your stuff to extend the miles. One of the biggest lessons of the challenge was when we looked up the manual online and took apart the Manitou Axel fork on my brother-in-law’s bike. With a few hours of time and a $10 bottle of fork oil, we revived that fork and saved a couple hundred bucks. A little more frequent cleaning and more lubing can cut down on those costly repair bills. In the same way, stretching, eating right and cross training means more and more enjoyable miles. This was brought home on my first day in Garin Park after a year of eating better, more exercise and more time on the bike. I immediately noticed the increase in skill and power.
Now that the 30 ‘n 30 Challenge is complete, I am already thinking of the next challenge. Initially, I had thought of just letting the 30 ‘n 30 roll into the 365 ‘n 365. However, I chickened out and am looking for something different. Hmm. Ideas anyone?
"Must think it ain't hard enough as is, 'cause they done built a bunch of crap in the woods." From Ride 13 'n 13
Ride 30 ‘n 30 – About as “all climb” as one can get. 1-hour 10-minute, 4.4 miles back through Garin Park from the Zeile Creek entrance to the Bailey Ranch exit and up the hill home. Riding into the woods at Zeile Creek at dusk went against my better sense. I was hoping any lurking mountain lion wouldn’t be a fan of the Subway club sandwich I had in my back pocket. Once I cleared the damp dark of the woods (without popping on the head light – though I did sing a bit out loud) the nostalgia hit early. I would miss this purpose of riding my bike every day. And I’d miss the odd beauty of Garin Park – we were to fly out East the following day. I stopped at the saddle where the jeep road heads uphill toward Bailey Ranch Drive. In the light of the full moon I ate the rest of the sandwich and let my eyes adjust enough to see my moon shadow. In the midst of a park with cows grazing and wild pigs rustling in the canyons as well as wild turkeys roosting in trees, I ate my club – roast beef, ham and turkey – sandwich and was not slaughtered or banished from what was now, in the dark, their domain. Then I got on my bike and made my way up that hill one last time. The moon stretched my faint shadow out behind me and ahead I saw the warm lights of home. Part of me wanted to turn around and ride all night in that other and colder ghostly light.
See the rest of the rides below …
Garin Park's bald hills
The Big Mountain Riding Thirty in Thirty challenge:
30 rides of at least 30-minutes in 30 days. Inspired by an interview with Mark Wier on the Fox Racing Riders web site, it started as a goal of riding seven consecutive days. And then, while tooling through the wet woods on day 3, I scoffed at how mundane that was and upped the ante. 30 days. And I knew already that those days included Christmas, coast-to-coast travel, and a few other minor obstacles – not to mention the weather. Things got rough quickly, with three rides in the cold rain within the first week of the challenge and snow flurries and iced-over puddles along the trails on some days. Ah, but other days were sunny and in the 50’s. And on one Tuesday night we rode for more than 20-minutes without lights, rolling in the luminescent glow of the full moon. Another day I saw a red-tailed hawk take flight off of a behemoth fallen tree on a steep side hill. The challenge moved to California, and I encountered a coyote creeping back home in the early morning, and heard owls hooting at dusk
These are the moments that I sought with the 30 ‘n 30 challenge. Those “pocket miracles,” contained little moments of wonder and delight that only come to the work-a-day biker, spinning the cranks regardless of the weather. The 30 ‘n 30 plan had other benefits. In an epic race one rides rain or shine. See the 2009 Middle Mountain Momma XXC race. So riding regardless of the weather is good training. Additionally, I want to make a living (or something) writing and talking and riding bikes. As anybody who puts in miles by themselves in the woods knows, it’s a great place to think. New story ideas, union with the bike, increased skills.
However, is there such a thing as too much of a good thing? And would this be too much too late in the year? The play-by-play follows. You can read the post-challenge debrief here.
1 ‘n 1: 45-minutes in the cold rain at Lynchburg’s Peaks View Park, solo, riding the perimeter. Weight after ride – 174 lbs.
2 ‘n 2: 2-hours in the moonlight at Lynchburg’s Liberty Mountain Trail System on Candler’s Mountain , group ride, Lower Dam to Five Points to DH trail to Paw-Paw to fire road to Powerline hill to fire road to Great Escape to Rogue’s Gallery to Horton’s Loop to Five Points to Upper Dam and out.
3 ‘n 3: 1-hour 10-minutes in the cold rain at Candler’s / Liberty Mountain, solo, U. Dam to Monorail to Peak-to-Peak to Five Points to fire road to Bobsled to climb DH trail to Five Points to L. Dam and out. Weight after ride 171 lbs.
4 ‘n 4: 1-hour 10-minutes solo in the sun and wind at Bedford County’s Falling Creek park. Parked at Turkey Hill, followed the race course out to White Rock Hill and the Slickrock trail. Did the Ridge Loop with Fat Albert and then Creekside, came out and rode back to Deer Trail, connected with Piney Ridge Trail and rode back on Turkey Hill trail. Weight after ride 171 lbs. Resting heart rate: 64.
5 ‘n 5: 1-hour 10-min. 6-mile solo in good, cool weather at Lynchburg’s Blackwater Creek Recreation Area. Took the Rail-to-Trail (R2T) to Creekside Trail and back to R2T to cut over to the Daura Rd trail. Did a short right loop on Sticks & Stones trail and back to R2T to the connector back to the Creekside Trail near the crest. Out on the “new” climb back to the R2T. Seen: Red hawk taking flight over creek valley, whitetail deer, one mad Kung Fu squirrel whose air walking chops would turn Jackie Chan green.
6 ‘n 5: 35-min., 3.25-mile solo at Candler’s / Liberty Mountain. 2,000′ of climbing. Started at Ridge Top Rd T.H. DH Trail to Bobsled to Paw Paw to Fire Rd almost to the top of Powerline hill to Bobsled Trail and back to T.H. Weight after ride 171 lbs. Resting heart rate: 64.
7 ‘n 6: 35-minutes solo neighborhood ride in the icy mix. Car struggles to start. Jack Rabbit Slim (the bike) is ready to roll. 3.6-miles, 500′ climbing. Mostly sprinting up the hill from the soccer field at the YMCA. Rode the drainage ditch on the way down – or attempted to. Thought I had it on the final run. 5-yards from the end, the front wheel stops like it’s planted. Back wheel comes up, I go forward, perch on the top tube, balancing one-wheeled, trying not to fixate on all the “so sharp! So hard!” rocks lurking all around. Bike falls back and I fall sideways, unable to unclip my right foot from the pedal. No rocks struck, though. Woo-hoo!
8 ‘n 7: 3.5-hours at Candler’s / Liberty Mountain. 9.9 miles, +/- 3,000′ climbing, group ride. Climbed Peak to Peak’s north face in the snow, coming up from Five Points. Lots of “just try it” moments and crashing on log rides, slippery descents, etc. Rode the dam again. A new bruise or two, a new raw spot on my shin.
9 ‘n 8: 30-minutes solo on Blackwater’s Sticks & Stones on a cold, sunny day. 2.03 miles.
10 ‘n 9: 50-minutes, 3.9-miles solo at Candler’s / Liberty Mountain in the 35° rain. Upper Dam to Five Points to Bobsled to climb up Downhill trail back to Five Pt’s. Lower Dam back out in the last wisps of light. Soaked from feet to thighs from tire spray.
11 ‘n 10: 1-hour, 4.2-miles solo at Candler’s / Liberty Mountain. 45° and sunny with water running everywhere from the rain. A Trail Too Far to Hydaway Rd, back up to the lower end of Blind Faith and then down to Lake Trail before cutting over mid-point to A Trail Too Far. ATF was a running stream in sections. Saw a whitetail running.
12 ‘n 11: 30-minutes solo at Peaks View Park. 40° and sunny with the trails drying out. TH 1 to TH 2 via Rollercoaster trail. Then the climb on Rockpile Trail. Back out to TH 1. Across the park to ride the drop down to the creek from the disc golf course. Almost savaged by a standard poodle who thought it was Kujo.
13 ‘n 13: 4-hour group ride at Danville, VA’s Angler’s Ridge, 15.5 miles of twists and turns and the occasional slick patch. 40° and partly sunny. We were plagued by mechanical issues – a flat tire, a broken chain, shifting issues, tweaked drive trains, etc. Still nobody got hurt, and that was good considering a few of the spills. Hit a teeter totter that was short and steep and pretty intimidating rolling in.
14 ‘n 14: 1-hour solo ride at Candler’s / Liberty Mountain. Sun had just broken out after a morning of icy rain. The trails on the front side U and L Dam and DH, were awash with running water. Cold day too, with temps in the high 30’s.
15 ‘n 15: The half-way point of the 30 ‘n 30 Challenge! 1-hour solo ride at Candler’s / Liberty Mountain. Gorgeous “warm” day, sunny with temps in the 50’s. U Dam to Luge Trail – Hike-a-bike up to Monogram Rd. Then, a grueling pedal up Peak-to-Peak to the top of the Monogram. Made it! Down the always-fun Psycle Pathe, all the way to the bottom. Connected to Alternate Flight Pattern up and out to Monogram Rd. Peak-to-Peak over the next ridge. Across the fire road and down Monorail. Lost it on the wet switch backs and bombed down through the woods to U Dam and out. Tomorrow’s supposed to be in the 60’s! Then the challenge shifts to Cali.
16 ‘n 16: 40-min solo ride at Candler’s / Liberty Mountain. Repeat of 15 ‘n 15. Without the trail repair stop.
17 ‘n 17: The initial California ride. A fun and relaxing solo foray into the woods at Hayward, CA’s Garin Regional Park. Mostly stuck to singletrack, and it was rewarding to see what a year of frequent riding has done for my skills in negotiating slick and twisty singletrack. Approximately 8-miles with +/- 1,400-feet of climbing.
18 ‘n 18: California cow trails. 2.5-hour solo with some free-form navigating from point to point. Missing the full sussy with the new Fox front-end on these hoof-trodden cow paths. Rode past a buzzard skeleton, what goes around … Approximately 8.6-miles with +/- 1,200-feet of climbing.
19 ‘n 19: Some rough-shod fire roads and cattle-cut singletrack. 1.5-hour solo with some free-form navigating down the steep side of a bald hill. Really wish I had the full sussy here (whine, whine, whine) or a 29-er. Approximately 7.9-miles with +/- 1,000-feet of climbing.
20 ‘n 20: Quick out-and-back sally to Garin Park 45-minute solo morning ride. Saw a coyote slinking back from a night of coyote-ish debauchery and devilry. 4.6-miles with +/- 400-feet of climbing.
21 ‘n 21: 35-minutes solo ride, 4.8-miles, racing the sun back to home base. Garin Park in the cool dusk. +/- 600-feet of climbing.
22 ‘n 22: 35-minutes solo grind around the neighborhood in the cold, windy rain – in the dark. Punching the clock. Luckily, didn’t get nailed by a car in the fog.
23 ‘n 23: 1-hour solo exploration around the neighborhood and then dove into Garin Park to rustle up another coyote and find a calf skull on a cow trail. Beautiful sunny day, but windy. 5.8-miles.
24 ‘n 24 - Rode a new downhill route from Bailey Ranch entrance to Zeile Creek exit. 6-miles on Christmas eve. Then it was all uphill back home. What a hill climb. 700-feet vertical from the bottom back to the top.
25 ‘n 25 - 1-hour ride with my nephew Ajay. Downhill in Garin Park to Zeile Creek exit. Then the shuttle car picked him up and I rode back up to Bailey Ranch and out by myself.His first real mountain bike ride. Not sure he was a big fan.
26 ‘n 26 – 30-min solo morning commute to Garin Park. Hit the first rise and circuited the hill on cow track. 3.6 miles. Back in time to kick off the tourism for the day. A trip out to Point Reyes – a real wow-er. Got in even more exercise there with a mile run and a 300-step stair climb up from the light house.
27 ‘n 28 – 30-min. solo in the neighborhood. In the dark and rain. Getting back on the wagon.
28 ‘n 29 – 1-hour race against dusk in Garin Park. XC’d over to Newt Pond Trail and then up and out to the Bailey Ranch Rd. entrance. 5.9 miles. Just me, the owls and the cows.
29 ‘n 30 – A 30-min. DH bomb run of 4-miles through Garin Park and then climbing out Zeile Creek entrance to Dobbel Ave. and over to the Subway by the Cal State East Bay campus. Ate some energy there, watching the bike the entire time to make sure no one pedaled off with my brother-in-law’s ride.