Dr. Kevin Peterson is associate professor of mathematics and coordinator of Lynchburg College’s 2010-11 Year of Sustainability. He is also a work-a-day cyclist, pedaling 32-miles daily for his commute to and from work. I’ve had the chance to ride with him, and I’ve seen him on the trails around the Hill City.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Peterson possesses a significant amount of facts to make one consider our unsustainable national lifestyles. He shares them because they were what persuaded him to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, which along with commuting by bike, includes using solar power and eating local food.
The new mountain bike film, The Potential Inside, premiered in Lynchburg, Virginia on March 10, 2011. Liberty University’s Tower Theater hosted the premier of this inspirational film, and several hundred attended the red carpet event and the showing.
The singletrack of Candler's / Liberty Mountain played a pivotal role in the film. PHOTO: REDCLOUD PRODUCTIONS
The film is well produced, and shows off the Blue Ridge Mountains and Central Virginia’s trails and twisty mountain roads. For a local rider who built my riding skills in these hills, it was a joy to see how good The Potential Inside made this area look on the big screen.
The film has a strong faith-based message, and is a Christian film as much as it is a mountain bike film. Director Scotty Curlee, who also wrote the script and stars in the film, does a good job of showing (not telling), and the serious messages conveyed in the movie are not meted out with a heavy hand. I’d summarize it as being a movie about the challenges and ups and downs of both cycling and life, and how we can overcome.
Most who have spent a significant time aboard bikes know that there is a spiritual component to our pursuit – it’s one of the elements that warrant our obsession. The lessons learned striving for hard-to-achieve goals, suffering setbacks and overcoming trials mirror life and our spiritual journeys.
Rookie Jake gets lectured by veteran Chris. PHOTO: REDCLOUD PRODUCTIONS
The Potential Inside is also a cycling film, and features mountain and road riding, with extensive race scenes and in-depth physical performance testing with Hunter Allen.
The dynamic between Jake (Michael Cuddire), who is not young although he is a racing rookie, and Chris (Scotty Curlee), the veteran who is at a loss in how to handle a deep personal loss, is what makes this film standout. As Chris shares from his expertise to help Jake realize his full potential as a mountain bike racer, Jake is able to help Chris come to terms with his deep loss and move forward with his life. Jake’s age – which almost made Chris refuse to coach him – is what makes him believable as someone who has experienced and overcome tragedy in his own life. The dynamic is a well-executed example of Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
The bridges of Blackwater Creek Trail PHOTO: REDCLOUD PRODUCTIONS
I enjoyed watching The Potential Inside. While some of my enjoyment stemmed from seeing someone from my earliest days of mountain biking succeed in achieving their vision (Scotty Curlee was instrumental in LU’s mountain bike club when I attended), and from seeing the trails I know and love on the big screen, I also enjoyed The Potential Inside for its quality storytelling, production and mountain bike scenes. I’ll be picking up several copies of the film for those on my gift list when it goes on sale on April 19, 2011.
Top tips for riding your mountain bike in a heat wave
Are some days too hot for riding?
Words, photo and video: Randy King
Temperatures in the eastern U.S. shot past 100° F (38° C) last week and have been cooking in the nineties for a month. Mountain bikers are forced to cope with this heat wave. Over the weekend, the Big Mountain Riding crew hit the trails in Danville, VA, for 2.5-hours of riding on one of the hottest days yet this summer. Between sweating gallons, drinking more than 120 ounces (3.5 L) of water each, and hating every climb, we hammered out a few hot weather riding tips … and survived the ride!
The bottom line: Be cool … or as cool as possible. The warmer the weather, the more challenging it becomes to adequately cool your body. Cooling is vitally important, because heat kills. “People don’t realize the severity of heat on health,” said George Luber, an expert on heat at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the Washington Post. “It’s the number one weather-related killer in the United States.”
1. Drink enough water / fluids. Obvious, right? Um, more on that later. Start upping your water intake several days ahead if you have a hot ride planned. On ride day start drinking water early so that you’re fully-hydrated when you clip in. Water alone is OK for rides of less than 45 minutes. On longer rides in hot weather, add sport drinks to your fluid intake. Jenny Hadfield, author of Marathoning for Mortals, recommends about 8 ounces (.25 L) of sport drink every 15-20 minutes during prolonged hot weather exercise.
Believe it or not, how much water you should drink during prolonged exercise is an ongoing debate. While the word used to be to drink a certain amount per hour, whether you were thirsty or not, your own body seems to be the best indicator of how much you should drink. Your body will tell you if you’re drinking enough, either through thirst or by slowing down.
“[Thirst] is the only system used by all other creatures on this earth. Why should it not also be ideal for humans?” says Timothy D. Noakes, M.D., a professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town, and author of The Lore of Running. Recently Dr. Noakes and his colleagues researched cycling performance during an 80 kilometer time trial, finding that drinking less than thirst called for negatively affected performance slightly and drinking more than thirst dictated had no effect.
Your body also lets you know it needs fluid by loss of power or speed. Riding hard, you will sweat 1 to 2 quarts an hour. If you lose more fluid by sweat or urine than you take in, you will experience dehydration.
“Body weight losses in the 3 to 4 percent range impair the body’s ability to efficiently utilize oxygen. When dehydration causes more than 4 to 5 percent weight loss, your power will deteriorate tremendously,” says Active.com expert Edmund R. Burke, Ph.D.
Your bathroom scale can clue you in. “If you gain any weight [exercising], you’re taking in too many fluids, but if you lose more than two percent of your body weight on a single outing, you probably need to drink more,” says Sally Wadyka in Runners World.
A random video that has nothing to do with this article, except it was very hot on that ride!
2. Get acclimated: It takes about 14 days for your body to adapt to summer heat and cool itself more efficiently. In the meantime, slow your pace and intensity and get your ride in rather than pushing it and risking injury. Listen up, weekend warriors: Riding hard one day a week is a bad idea in the summer, unless you are used to the heat. If you have a race or an important ride coming up, plan ahead and put in the training time.
3. Timing is everything … work with the heat. Good news for the early birds: 4-7 am is coolest time of day. The heat increases later and air quality diminishes. Early morning may be more humid, but you should try to be off the trail and indoors by the time the afternoon rays really heat up. Consider switching your group rides to the hours right after dawn. Additionally, stay cooler by riding in the woods and on trails that are frequently breezy. The temperature difference between shaded areas and sunny areas can swing greatly – think double digits – and wind further cools down b0dy temps. Finally, build cool down breaks into your ride, where you slow your pace for a few minutes.
4. Ride smart: Know the signs of heat-related health problems. The Red Cross shares the following
- Heat cramps: muscular pains and spasms. They are an early warning signal. Take heed.
- Heat exhaustion: a form of mild shock. Signals include cool, moist, pale flushed or red skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; and exhaustion. Cool person off, get them to a cooler place.
- Heat stroke: the temperature control system, which sweats to cool the body, stops working. Signals include hot, red and dry skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Call 911. Quickly cool person off any way you can.
5. Get a little help from your friends. Ride with a buddy – watch each other for heat problems and hold each other accountable for calling time for cooling down. Let someone know how to contact you / where to find you and your expected return time. This is always a good idea, and even more so in extreme temperatures.
Riding All-Mountain on Niner’s XC Race Bike, the Air 9
The Atomic Blue color stands out, as does the Air 9's responsive frame
Review & Photos by: Randy King
Video by: Randy Lewis
Climbing toward the sharp, steep switchback, I grinned in anticipation. With only 20-minutes of saddle time on the Niner Air 9, I already knew that I had a shot at making this challenge – one of those hiking trail switchbacks that cut back on themselves like barely-open scissors. This bike was made for just this type of momentum- and traction-defying situation.
I rode straight at the dirt bank that signaled the end of my current wheel path, running wide at the outside edge of the trail. At the last second, I let off the power and the bike slowed almost to a stop. Now! I turned the bars just as the front wheel contacted the steep benched bank, cranking once to power the front wheel in a nearly 90° slice across the bank. Pivoting with the front wheel, I was almost pointed back down the trail before I could straighten out enough to apply real power. Now the bike threatened to go off the inside corner of the switchback. I spun away at the pedals, rolling the front tire right along the edge of the trail and back on track as I climbed through the eroded heart of the switchback. The Niner Air 9 straightened out and I climbed onward.
The Niner Air 9 rewards riders who have the vision and the ability to leverage its considerable powers. Its Easton GX2 Scandium/Aluminum frame is responsive and lightweight. Although the Air 9 I rode had been kitted out with a mediocre parts spec, its race breeding shone through.
Out for a Niner field day, Randy Lewis (on his Niner E.M.D. 9) and I covered much of the varied terrain of Roanoke, VA’s huge Carvin’s Cove trail system. Temps surged past 90 and then cooled later as a big T-storm rumbled threateningly and stacked up against the nearby Blue Ridge. We ended the day racing the impending rain back to the parking lot.
Here the Niner Air 9 showed off the racing genes of its stiff frame and aggressive, forward-leaning cockpit set-up. Although at low speeds I could really feel the drag of the heavy wheel set, once I powered up the Air 9, I found myself pushing the big chain ring uphill, going faster and faster. What a joy to climb on this bike!
Ride and race local! Here are three fun June events in Virginia. All three events have a festival-feel and boast endurance categories for the big mountain riders. Take your pick, or ride all three!
THE SHOOTOUT ON ANGLER’S RIDGE – DANVILLE, VA
The 3rd Annual Shootout on Anglers Ridge is a USA Cycling-sanctioned mountain bike race that brings two state series together on the same day. On Sunday June 13th, the Southern Classic Series of North Carolina and the Virginia Off-Road Series will race at Anglers Ridge.
Checkered Pig BBQ and Ribs will be providing post-race grub to all racers and volunteers.
With over $8,000.00 in cash and prizes, this year’s event will be a great one.
Cash payout goes 5-deep to all PRO, Expert and XCAT categories … Men and Women.
Prizes go 5-deep to ALL Sport and Beginner Category/Class combos too.
The 7th annual Fat Tire Frenzy and Bike Festival is the weekend of June 18th & 19th at Falling Creek Park in Bedford, Va. The 2010 race is now part of the Virginia Off Road Series. By teaming with VORS the Fat Tire Frenzy will be able to offer a more competitive race by drawing racers not only from the area but from throughout Virginia and even beyond. Please visit the VORS site for additional information about the series.
The 2010 event promises to be the best yet with FREE on site semi-primitive camping available (and encouraged), a kids (10 & under) mountain bike race, a “bunny hop” competition, a track stand-off and a mountain bike swap meet! There is a movie planned for Friday night(Race Across The Sky-private showing for Festival attendees and campers only) along with a ride of the race course, and West Wind will be playing down home southern rock and country music for your entertainment Saturday evening. Of course, the main attraction will be the cross-country race and NEW for 2010 Mountain Junkies FAT 5 ENDURO race held on Saturday.
The 22nd Hoo-ha! on June 19th & 20th will host the inaugural US Cup Triple Crown pro finals, awarding a #1 plate to the top US pro men and women. This is now the coolest pro race mountain bike series ever–Super D, Short Track, and XC at all 3 to determine the best mountain biker, period. And Massanutten’s the finale!
Training Exercise #1 – 40-minute ride time at Blackwater Creek. Orthodox Church, Creekside Trail to bikeway, Sticks ‘n’ Stones, back out on Creekside Trail. Off day, bouncing all around on obstacles.
Training Exercise #2 – 1-hour ride time at Candler’s / Liberty Mountain. Saturday Group Ride, Blind Faith, A Trail Too Far, Lasso, lower Lake Trail, Perimeter to Raptor Run to Bald Spot, Peak-to-Peak to Five Points, out on Lower Dam. A day of firsts – First time getting the big log crossing on lower Lake Trail, and first time riding the dam from the downhill side.
Training Exercise #3 – 2-hour ride time, +2,200 feet altitude gain in 12-miles. Sunday Group Ride at Candler’s / Liberty Mountain. Lake Trail to Perimeter to the fire road leading up to Power Line. Power Line Loop rocky DH, Horton’s Loop to Oak’s Way, right on Split Decision to the skills area, fire road to Logo Rd. Alternate Flight Pattern to Psycle Pathe, to Racoon Alley to Perimeter back to Camp Hydaway. Out on A Trail Too Far. Firsts – railing the big log ride on ATTF from the lower side, getting the final climb on ATTF, including the final pitch with the log.
Training Exercise #4 - 2.5-hour rambling small group ride, lots of exploration and putzing about in the clear cut area. Upper Dam to Luge Trail. Luge climb to Peak-to-Peak to Horton’s Loop. Down the big sets of switch backs – had brake problems. Aargh! Shredded the little spring clip that holds the pads in. Or doesn’t. When I finally broke the clip, the pads stayed in and worked fine. All of Hortons, back to Five Points. Then, DH trail, back up on the climb, up Powerline fire road side, middle ringed it the whole way up that steepy as a challenge. Rode out into the clear cut on the fire road descent. Hit Perimeter for a bit, then headed off over logging roads. Meandered through the clear cut, finding impossibly steep climbs and rough stuff. Back up to the top of Powerline hill, down the fireroad, over on Flames Rd., cut across country to Split Fork road. Back to the Perimeter at the power line crossing.
Training Exercise #5 - 1.25-hour ride time, Tuesday night group ride at Candler’s / Liberty Mountain. Lower Dam to Five Points. Peak-to-Peak climb, to Playground. Playground DH to Horton’s Loop descent. Oak’s Way to Perimeter Loop, turned right, Perimeter to Camp Hydaway. Lake trail around the lake to Lasso, bridge ride on Lasso – a first for Chris, A Trail Too Far with the new and repaired bridges. Had a bit of a challenge with the new skinny to wide contraption, but got it. Out via Candler’s Mt. road and Candler’s Climb. Firsts: Riding the Dam coming from the parking lot.
Training Exercise #6 – 10 lap swim at Lynchburg’s Jamerson YMCA = 500 yards.
Training Exercise #7 – 1 km swim at Lynchburg’s Downtown YMCA.
Training Exercise #8 - 4-mile solo skills ride on A Trail Too Far and Lasso. Practicing my elevated feature work and flow. Videoed some tutorial stuff for elevated features riding. Hope to create a skills video. Modified the uphill entry to the new bridge on ATTF, which I’ve dubbed “EZ Doz It,” because it is best done casually and without getting too aggro.
Training Exercise #9 - 11.3 mile solo ride on a modified perimeter loop ride. 1-hour 50-minutes, brisk pace in the hot sun. Lower Dam out to Five Points, DH trail to perimeter, to the Power line crossing, then off perimeter, on Split Fork Rd to Flames Rd. To Clear Cut Rd., up the climb to Power line hill and a tearing big-ring descent through the clear cut all the way back to the perimeter loop. Continued on perimeter, came out on Lake Trail, riding the off-camber log there from the lower side for the first time. Slipped a cog on the final climb and almost put my bars through my ribs. Came into the parking lot out of water and with an almost flat rear tire. But I made my goal of sub two hours.
Training Exercise #10 – Swam 20 laps in 25-minutes at Lynchburg’s Jamerson YMCA = 1000-yards.
Training Exercise #11 – Swam 20 laps in 20-minutes at Lynchburg’s Jamerson YMCA = 1000-yards.
Training Exercise #12 – Saturday Group Ride at Candler’s / Liberty Mountain trails. 2.5-hours ride time, I had 11.7 miles on my GPS. Scott measured 15+ miles on his cycl0-computer. Struggled with mechanical problems – mine revolved around my Crank Bro’s cleats. Firsts – Made the Dam ride on a roll through from the South. Swung wide, dropped into the fall line next to the tree, bounced around the roots a bit, only straightened it all out once I was out on the thing. Rode across. E-Z. Firsts – Made the final switchback coming back Lower Dam Trail to the parking lot. One time out of six or so, but it was a go.
Training Exercise #13 – Sunday solo in the ‘hood. Wind sprints on the hill by the Y. 4.2 miles of up the 50-foot vertical gain climb and back. Did it in leap frog fashion, sprinting up a 1/3 of the way, back down, sprint 2/3 of the way, back down, sprint the whole way. Good work out, though boring.
Don't let 'em tell ya it don't hurt!
Training Exercise #14 - Solo on Candler’s / Liberty Mountain trail system. 13.4 miles via an extended version of the Perimeter Trail, reversed – starting with Candler’s Climb and down Lake Trail, back up to the top of A Trail Too Far, all the way down and over to Camp Hyde-away lake to pick up the Perimeter. What a tough ride. Bit it on the big log ride on A Trail Too Far. Freaked out on the next bridge. Then, on the cut-across on Split Forks Rd, I rode through a limb and tore the derailleur off my bike. Luckily I had a spare hanger along. Glad when this one was over!
Training Exercise #15 – Group ride on Candler’s / Liberty Mountain. Fast-paced reverse perimeter extended. Hit the bridges from Lake Trail to Lasso, only missing the skinny on ATTF. Put the hammer down for the last bit, racing gravel road against singletrack back to the parking lot from the end of Dead End Rd.
Training Exercise #16 -Friday solo on Candler’s / Liberty Mountain. Rode till I had heat exhaustion. An even more extended Perimeter loop, with the Powerline Loop and one of Split Decision’s climbs thrown in for good measure. Rode till I was ready to drop.
Training Exercise #17 – Sherando Lake State Park with my race partner, Randy Lewis. Despite a few mechanical issues (chain break and flat tire), and Torrey Ridge trail being even rougher than I had remembered it, we made it through 20 some miles. Don’t consider it a good sign that we were both at the end of the tank when we got back to the truck for a late lunch. The Mills Creek trail with its huge climbing switchbacks put a nail in our coffin. Went over the bars in the big rock garden, but landed on a soft spot.
Training Exercise #18 – Solo frontside ride on Candler’s / Liberty Mountain. Stuck to the front side, riding Upper Dam out to 5 points, DH trail to Boblsed up to 5 points again and then the Powerline Loop. Climbed Peak-to-Peak all the way over two peaks to Monorail Trail, and then out on Lower Dam.
Higgedly Piggedly but rubber side down. Yee-ha!
Training Exercise #19 – Solo hill climb up Candler’s Climb from Wingate Inn to the ATV trail to the powerline to top of the FAA tower hill, then down to Lake Trail via rogue trails and climbing Lake Trail back to Snowflex. Met up with Scott. Rode casually all over the mountain, hitting Lake Trail again, Lasso, to ATTF, branched off on a rogue trail or two and looped back to Lasso. Then up past Hydaway Lake and up that hill to the old jeep trail coming down the back of the Snowflex mountain. Over to Racoon Alley and up the new, soft climb to the fire road. Split Decision to Rogue’s Gallery and up past Horton’s Loop to 5 points. Lower Dam out to the parking lot.
Training Exercise #20 – 15 laps in the Jamerson YMCA’s pool. 750 yards.
Training Exercise #21 - 1-hour solo ride at Lynchburg’s Peaks View Park. Enjoyed riding the newly cleared (love trail gnomes!) trails at this fun, tight and twisty park. Nice small jumps on Squeeze Trail. Still can’t get the big log ride. Doh!
Training Exercise #22 – 3-hour ride with Randy Lewis, my team mate for the Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race. Rode the 2008 Assault on Liberty Mountain race course at a moderate pace. Humid and slick conditions. Wore out my rear break pads. Time to mend and tune the bike, pack up and get ready for the big ride. It’s on like Donkey Kong!
The smooth "on-ramp" makes for an easy entrance to this off-camber log ride.
Liberty Mountain Trail System on Candler’s Mountain, outside Lynchburg, VA, boasts more than 60-miles of trails ranging from wide service roads to narrow hillside singletrack. Please see the Getting There page for a trail map and more details on access, eats and lodging. The system has grown greatly in the past few years thanks to the work of Liberty’s Lars Larson and his team and willing volunteers from around the region. Some of the more exciting additions to the trails are the bridges and technical features. Advanced riders looking for something to spice up their riding can hit most of the features the mountain has to offer in this 30-60 minute loop that I’ve dubbed the Tour de Bridges, for a little cycling history flair.
Story: Randy King
Photos: Randy King, Scott Schekman
Park at Liberty’s Snowflex Center (out in the gravel section of the lot) or on the shoulder at the FAA Tower road, about 1/3 mile up Candlers Mt. Road past the Snowflex Center. From the Snowflex Center lot, start down Lake Trail (in the corner of lot). [If you park at the FAA tower, you'll be riding the tour in reverse, starting from and ending at the top of A Trail Too Far.] There are two features on Lake Trail. One is obviously located trail side to the rider’s right after reaching the flat part of the trail and before the first trail junction. It is easier from the uphill side. It’s an off-camber, flat-topped log (about 8″ wide) ride with a very good angled entrance ramp on the uphill side and a straight exit ramp on the downhill end. It is about 18″ off the ground at its highest point, and sloped downhill. Very easy ride, though visually challenging with the off-camber top. The other feature is near the two wooden bridges crossing the creek to the left of the trail at the first junction. It is easier from the uphill end. Cross the creek and take the new trail almost immediately to the right. The log has an angled ramp approach from this, the uphill side, and a straight exit ramp off the downhill side. The log is flat-topped and has traction cross-cuts. It is about 8″-1o” wide and crosses a creek. It is about three-feet off the creek bed at its highest point. After railing these features, follow Lake Trail all the way to its end, skirting around Hydeaway Lake.
Riding the edge - getting all higgledy-piggledy - before getting back on track.
At the end of Lake Trail, turn left and watch for the right onto The Lasso. The Lasso follows a creek for awhile and then starts uphill. The next feature is at the top of the first rise, to the right of the trail. It is a flat-topped, log feature with earthen, angled ramps on each end. Its 6″ wide top is cross-cut for traction and it is easily rideable from either end. The log is about 18″ to two-feet high at its highest point. Follow Lasso to its intersection with itself, and turn left, continuing gradually uphill. The Lasso tees into an unnamed singletrack. Turn left and descend an eroded section through a sharp U to a creek. Cross the creeks on a 2″X6″ skinny to your left and a wooden ladder bridge. Follow the unnamed trail until it leads to A Trail Too Far, to the right at a worn-down log crossing.
A Trail Too Far (ATTF) tracks gradually uphill along a creek valley. Along the way riders will encounter the densest concentration of bridges and features on the mountain. Two “rainbow” ladder bridges, a big log ride with wooden ladder ramp, and three level ladder bridges make the trail a fun mix of weaving singletrack and skills riding. Several log crossings keep riders focused.
The first “rainbow” ladder bridge on ATTF is a Candler’s Mountain classic. About 12″-18″ wide, it curves and arches and is about three-feet above the creek at its highest. The easy route is through the creek to the bridge’s left. Immediately following this bridge is the mountain’s burliest log ride, a large downed natural log (with no flattened top or traction cross-cuts). It features significant ramps on either end, and a 20-foot long log ride. It is easier from the uphill end. The ramp on the downhill end is a ladder with a four-foot long incline and an eight-foot long angled level ladder and then a three-foot down ramp onto the log. The log is a natural surface, and has two recesses that can stop a slow-moving front tire. It is about two and half-feet off the ground at its highest. The ramp on the uphill end is another “rainbow,” an arched, straight line ladder bridge. It is the easy part of this feature.
Shortly after sewing together these two features, riders will cross the intersection of ATTF and a jeep trail. Continue straight on ATTF, to the next two features. One is a simple, low ladder bridge, crossing a wet spot. It is about 18″ wide by 3-feet long and only about eight inches off the ground. Next up is a more challenging feature. Only about a foot off the ground at its highest, this feature’s challenge is in its transitions. It starts off only six inches wide, with a 2″X6″. Eight feet in, it widens into a 10′ ladder bridge that goes from about 10″ wide to 18″ wide before ending with a tight squeeze between two trees. This feature is easier from the downhill end.
The final bridge on ATTF is a 12′ long ladder bridge over a creek. It is about a foot wide and about four-feet above the creek at its highest. It is straight and flush with the trail bed. Only two challenges stand between the rider and the top of ATTF – one foot-high log crossing and a steep climb. At the top of the very sudden and steep (yet ride-able) final 100-yards of A Trail Too Far, turn right on the grassy Lake Hydeaway Rd.
Follow Lake Hydeaway Rd. downhill till it begins to climb. At the top of the first stage of the rise, turn into the woods to the left on the clearly worn, unsigned doubletrack that heads downhill. Descend to the intersection with Lake Trail. Turn left and start back uphill to the parking lot and the end of the ride.
Riding with others is safer, can push you to new heights … or can look a lot like what you went to the woods to escape
Story & Photos: Randy King
Riding at night is best with a group or at least with a buddy
For the first time in my mountain biking life I am part of a regular riding group. Over the last year I have ridden with these guys in rain, summer’s heat, by blue light of LED’s and on a misbegotten adventure in the snow. The cast of characters shifts around one central figure, Scott, who recruits and bonds with the rest of us.
In the late ’90’s I came out for a few night group rides. However, they were things of pain and suffering, cut with only slightest companionship. So for years after most of my rides were just me and two wheels.
Yet riding with others makes sense for most big mountain riding, both for safety’s sake, and for the companionship that forms when we share a big adventure. It’s also a great way to get and stay motivated. So, how to keep group rides at their best and minimize the downsides that can spoil everything?
Ingredients for good group rides:
-camaraderie – If it ain’t fun, why do it? The best groups get along well. Or at least well enough to stick together and have some fun. In Active.com, Active Expert Joe Decker, an ultra-endurance power athlete and renowned fitness trainer, says: “Get out of your cubicle, your car or your house and go meet other people that have a common interest just like you. You never know, you might just meet some real friends instead of the ones you find online.”
-competition – If you can’t test yourself against somebody, why do it? Friendly competition is a vital element of mountain biking. It’s a lifestyle where every yard of trail may present a new challenge. It may not matter who gets back to the parking lot first, but great energy will be spent on who can master one log or that 20-foot long rocky section. “Not only are you more motivated to get out of bed and exercise, but there’s the motivation to improve your current fitness level.” says Active Expert, Joe Decker on Active.com. “If you work out with people who are faster, stronger or fitter than you, you are probably going to get in better shape.”
-patience – Group rides are group efforts. The odds are slim of assembling more than 2-3 riders of exactly the same skill level with the same tastes in trail preference. Group rides are about compromise on both ends. The faster riders get to wait for the slower ones, and the slower ones should push themselves to ride faster than they would on their own. Downhill demons will hang out at the bottom for the mortals to descend; climbing freaks get a welcome break at the top while the lung-limited masses claw their way up. A good group adopts the Marine Corps mantra of never leaving a buddy in the field.
-organization – So it’s about compromise. That being said, somebody has to line up the dots to pull the thing off. Especially if it’s an out-of-towner. Ideally the load of logistics will get spread around. And the rest of the group should comply by being on time for rides, bringing along their own food, common repair items, and adequate clothing, safety equipment, etc. On the trail someone has to pick the route – if you’re blessed with a trail system with more than one loop. Share the load, or keep the complaints to a minimum.
-variety – shake things up a bit. Go for out-of-towners, ride the same-old loop the other direction, mix in night rides. Invite new folks. Few mountain bikers enjoy doing the same lap every time. Have somebody else lead the ride if the normal leader is feeling burnt out. We don’t ride mountain bikes because we love predictability. If you’re getting burnt out on mountain biking, than I say drive somewhere – it doesn’t have to be far – and point your knobbies down a trail you haven’t rode. It will remind you of why you love this fat-tired fad. And, if you have a strong group that likes riding together, start planning your trip to a mountain biking Mecca. When my brother and I were in Moab in 2007, we shared our campground with a big group from CO. They were a Tuesday night ride group that had grown and bonded and now made multi-day trips to places like Moab to ride together. Those folks knew about camaraderie! Watching them jump their blazing bonfire to the tune of their own guitar music made me envious of such a tight-knit riding group.
Spoilers for group rides:
-selfishness - Group rides are not about stomping the rest of the group into submission or surrender. Nor are they about being the center of attention. They are about the group and everybody having a good time. Riders who are always dragging the group along at a lung-searing pace, or those who are dragging the end of the line all the time should consider finding another group. If you’re all friends then you should ride at a compromise pace. That’s what friends do.
-unfriendliness - Nobody likes a jerk. Just because someone’s the best rider doesn’t mean they have the right to rebuff the rest of the group. These are the people who may be carrying you out of the woods if something goes wrong. Save the attitude for race day. Be friendly, get others interested in our sport. Like we learned in grade school, it takes less effort to smile than to frown.
-unsafe practices – I know, it’s an unsafe sport, so what is an “unsafe practice”? It’s relative, but riders who put others in danger don’t belong in a group ride. Danger comes in many different packages. Consistently riding beyond personal abilities, riding poorly-maintained equipment, not wearing a helmet, taking the group on trails that exceed the experience of group members, not waiting for the slow riders, bailing out without telling anybody, etc. A good group ride depends on the right people. If you’re in with the wrong folks, find yourself a new group. If you’re guilty of some the above, then now is the time to turn over a new leaf.
-poor planning – No big deal, right? And so it might be on a 1-2 hour friendly. However, it gets serious fast when somebody has a mechanical failure or breaks a bone several miles from the nearest road and nobody has any tools or a working cell phone, or has told anybody where they are or when the ride should wrap-up. When it comes to planning, the old proverb rings true: a stitch in time saves nine.
I definitely recommend riding with others as part of your time on two wheels. When you’re out with a bunch of amigos, remember to have fun and be safe. Patience, organization and variety are keys to making that happen. Happy Trails!
Group rides in Lynchburg, VA: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday @ Winngate Inn on Candler’s Mountain Road. Park in the lot to the right of the entrance. Usually a 2-2.5 hour ride, medium pace.
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.