Tag Archives: Mountain Biking

On the trails again

Thing Two and I hit the trails yesterday when I got off work. It was nothing big, we loaded up the MTBs and headed down to Cleveland Park to ride the Eagle trail. It was a good way to ease my son into different types of terrain though I was the one to take a fall.

Felt Mountain Bike

Felt Nine Sport 29er

I will say that I am enjoying the bike. It is taking me a little bit to get used to the larger wheels. The bike weighs in at over 30 pounds and I’m used to riding a bike that weighs about half that! Also, the taller bike isn’t as easy to “throw around” as the smaller wheeled mountain bike. However, it will certainly roll over stuff!

It was not challenged at all by the Eagle Trail. This is a trail built by an Eagle scout back in the late 90’s (or was it early 2000’s?) It connects an older section of unpaved trailed with a “newer” one that is closer to the zoo. The older section that goes above the tennis courts and follows Woodland Way is a smooth packed single track. Without walkers, you could really pick up some speed.

The newer section is more technical but only relatively speaking. The primary challenge for us on that portion of the trail were all the leaves. There is a pretty steep climb and we simply couldn’t make it up. The reason was because we could get no traction. No matter how much weight I tried to get back on the rear wheel, it would still slip out from under me.

We finally ended up walking to the top of that section to get a chance to access other parts of the small trail network. We did a couple of loops there and then headed back to the older section to make our way back to the car. It was only a 30 minute ride, but it was enough to get some blood flowing.

I did come out of it with my wrist injured. Another things I am having to get used to is the new pedal system. I’m used to my Speedplay pedals that with an easy twist of my foot get me disengaged from the bike. The system on the Felt MTB isn’t a bad one. It just isn’t what I’m used to.

Thing Two and I stopped on the side of a grassy hill and I came to a stop. I then went to get out of the pedal to put my foot down. You guessed it. I couldn’t get out fast enough and over I went.

Thankfully, as I was going down, my foot finally released. I remember distinctly thinking as I put my left hand out that I shouldn’t do it. I knew my wrist was already damaged and who knows what would happen if I put all my weight on that arm.

This was going through my mind as my hand reached the ground. I couldn’t avoid it touching at that point, but I did buckle it quickly and rolled to my shoulder. I then kept rolling and came up on my feet.

There was an immediate twinge of pain in my wrist, but not really any worse than it had been. I mounted back up and we started to ride. At first the wrist continued to bother me, but soon I wasn’t thinking about it anymore.

We finished up my ride and headed home. I was kind of glad it was a short one. It left me wanting to do more instead of feeling like we were suffering to a finish. I did realize that we would have gotten bored if we stayed on that short and limited trail for very long.

Next will be Paris Mountain State Park and then perhaps Dupont. Of course, that reminds me of why I stopped mountain biking in the first place. There is always the search for a new trail to ride and that leads you farther and farther afield. That takes more and more time.

Hey, we’ll worry about that when we get there.

Why I like and dislike mountain biking

Tuesday night my coach gave me the workout instructions to go ride my mountain bike for an hour and a half. I don’t know exactly how long it has been since I have ridden the Giant Trance. It must have been sometime late last fall. The trail was calling, but exactly what it was saying I wasn’t so sure.

The ride is now history and I am reminded of why I like (love would be too strong) and dislike (hate would be too strong) mountain biking. Now, before my knobby tire loving friends cry foul, let me explain. Rest assured that the like is stronger than the dislike.

It was the mountain bike that got me interested in riding again as an adult. I won’t tell the story again, but the short of it is that I attempted to take a Huffy bike from Walmart out on an actual trail. I ended up leaving part of me out there and pretty much crushed the bike.

That was when I met the guys as Sunshine Cycle Shop. They convinced me that if I wanted to ride that kind of trail, I needed a bike that could handle it. They set up up with a solid hard tail and invited me on some of their group rides.

The above photo shows some of the first trail I remember seeing back in those days. Back then, mountain bikers weren’t that welcome in the park. We used to park along a public road that ran along the back of the park and then sneak in to ride the trails. As a novice, it was an experience in horror! These guys would go bombing through those trails and I just knew I was going to die wrapped around some tree!

I much rather enjoyed riding by myself. It meant I didn’t have to keep up with faster riders and I didn’t have to expose myself as a wimp scared to ride over this or that obstacle. For a lot of mountain bike riders, they love to go downhill. Me? I prefer to see if I can climb the trails they love to “bomb.”

The trails gave me both aspects of the experience. I was loving it as my heart pounded and my legs screamed as I climbed the roots up the trail. Then I found my heart in my mouth as I bounced down those same roots and found myself trying to keep my rear wheel from deciding to beat the front one down to the bottom. A daredevil I am not.

What I enjoyed more than climbing and much more than descending was swooping my way along the sections of the trail that were well groomed and didn’t make my hands itch because of the vibration from the rocks. There was enough of that type of trail to put a big grin on my face. Yeah, I was loving that part.

All too soon I saw the sun dip below a nearby ridge. It was time to get back. Once the light began to fade I would lose my sense of depth and on a root invested stair drop that could be dangerous.

I returned home to find the family just about ready to sit down for dinner. It reminded me of another reason why I stopped riding the mountain bike. Time is very valuable. The issue with the mountain bike is that it takes more time to get to a place where you can actually ride. The road bike allows me to get a workout in the same amount of ride time, but without the time spent getting to the trails.

I’m sure I’ll be spending some more time on the mountain bike this fall. Maybe I’ll even find myself going back into my past and hooking up with a group ride. I’m sure I will want to get in a couple of night rides.

As I was riding out of the Fire Road Trail, I came upon a group of 15 or so riders. I recognized the faces of almost everyone of them — a number were my teammates. This morning I learned one of those riders had a pretty hard fall.

It again brought to mind those first days hanging on for dear life behind the Sunshine boys. Wow, a lot has changed since then… and a lot remains the same.

Hard not to think about the bike

Friday and Saturday, I spent time with my family at Stone Mountain Park in Georgia. I left the trainer at home, so there was no need to throw my bike up on the rack. That will change the next time I head down to the big rock.

It was somewhat of a surprise to find a number of riders on multiple lane roads that circumvent a large portion of the park. I stopped one rider to ask about the loop. He said that there was a five mile inner loop and a ten mile outer loop. He said it was easy to get a 20 mile ride in by combining the roads.

As I drove on and off of the park during the day, I continued to see a number of riders out. Saturday morning you could tell was made up of the regulars — probably a group ride. Later in the day I saw more riders on TT bikes and some others on recreational type hybrids. It gave me the urge to come back myself and give it a try some day.

Looking out over Atlanta

Looking over Atlanta and down Stone Mountain hiking trail

It wasn’t the road around the rock that interested me the most though. We rode the cable cars up to the top of the rock and once there I got a glimpse of the trail running down the mountain. My immediate thought was, “Wow, next time, I’ve got to hike this!” Then the next thought was, “Wow, wouldn’t it be cool to ride my mountain bike up this thing… and better yet, ride it back down!”

Of course, the very next thought was, “Yeah, right! No way are they going to allow me to bring my mountain bike up here.” Sure enough, the official word is, “No. Bicycles are not allowed on the walk-up trail or on any of the hiking trails. We do not have any mountain biking trails inside the Park.”

Well, they can’t keep me from dreaming…

Get your downhill on! Paris Mountain awaits.

And now a word from our downhill brothers and sisters at the SORBA.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Paris Mountain is once again hosting an exciting downhill MTB race this Saturday, October 17.  The race is sponsored by St. Francis Sports Medicine, SORBA (Southern Off-Road Bike Association) and the Greenville County Recreation District.  Don’t miss this chance to test your downhill skills against the clock or just come out and watch those that are willing to test their skills.

Barley’s Taproom is hosting a huge pre-race party, 6-9pm on Friday, October 16 that is open to all area cyclists.  RJ Rockers Brewing Company of Spartanburg and New Belgium Brewing Company are providing the beer.  Registered competitors and race volunteers drink free (teetotalers, like Pait, are also welcome), while others are welcome to make a one-time $5 donation to SORBA to help improve the trail system at Paris Mountain State Park.  Your $5 donation also gets you a raffle ticket good for numerous prizes that will be attractive to any cyclist.  It’s a great cause and should be a lot of fun.

Whether you are a downhill racing fan or planning to participate in one of the awesome cycling activities in Greenville this weekend (Paris Mtn Downhill, Greenville Spinners Cyclocross Races, Caesar’s Head Slog Fest or other), kick off the weekend by joining the Pre-Race party at Barley’s on Washington St. in downtown Greenville!  The sponsored beer is free, the pizza is tasty and you could win some cool prizes.  See you at Barley’s 6-9pm Friday, Oct 16.

For more information on the Paris Mountain Downhill Race, visit: www.parismountaindownhill.com

From out of the thorns

… cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee … from Genesis 3:17 & 18

I thought of this passage from the Bible as I was working on the mountain bike trail yesterday afternoon.  The road ride went by the wayside when my boys asked me if they could give the trail a try.  We grabbed our bikes and some tools.  Before long we were chopping our way through the briars and vines.

It is amazing to see the damage those briars do to the trees.  I would cut off one of the briar vines at the root and then start pulling at it.  You could see where the vine went up into the trees to turn into a jumbled mass of dead limbs and briars.

More often than not when I pulled I ended up pulling the tree down!  I’m not sure if this is the case, but it appeared that the vines sucked the life out of the trees and they were dead.  Thankfully, after pulling on the vines and cutting the briars away, I didn’t have to cut down many saplings to make the path.

After several hours of labor, we guys started riding (Thing Three spent most of his time pushing his bike over the mounds of dirt).  It was fun and quite technical in some places.  However, I did end up the day somewhat disappointed.

All of that work, but when we did a timed run of the route out and back the time was underwhelming!  My 8 year-old, who really took to the trail, finished in 2 minutes.  I finished riding the trail in 1:38.  Turns out it isn’t nearly as long as it seemed when I was clearing it!

Today I was back on the road bike heading out to the nearby town of Whiteville.  The goal for the day was to put in two hours focusing on my form — cadence, power, and distance weren’t a concern.  I figured I could make it to Whiteville in an hour and then turn around for the second.

I did it too.  However, I had a slight tailwind all the way there.  I also rode around a bit in the town.  When I turned around to come back, I had the wind in my face.  I ended up with about 2.5 hours in the saddle.

Well, I hope this riding serves me well come race season.  It was pretty lonely out there.  I even had someone throw an full and open soda can at my front wheel.  I’m sure it will be worth it…

One thing I have learned is that I can ride pretty strong for about two hours.  Once I pass the two hour threshold, I start feeling it.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether I ride hard or easy, two hours is the magic distance.  I guess that is why you have to train with longer distances.  You can move that magic distance out a bit.

More mountain bike trail work tomorrow!  We’re going to add a switchback to make the trail more of a loop.  That way the kids won’t get upset with each other blocking the way.

Picturing the trail

Things are getting back to normal here after Thanksgiving — as normal as life around here can be as the Christmas season ramps up.  I’m watching my calendar fill up for the next several weeks.  It brings up that tense feeling as I see different responsibilities and my training collide!

I’m still enjoying the thoughts of what I’ll do with the new trail I’ve started building back in the swamp.  I went out in the rain on Sunday and took a few pictures.  I’m including them here.

The entry into the trail

The entry into the trail

There is a cool walking bridge my dad built sometime ago that leads into the trail area.  It has grape vines growing over it.  During the spring it has new leaves and looks like a portal to a different world.

The mounds of dirt that should make the trail interesting

The mounds of dirt that should make the trail interesting

In the above picture you should be able to see three mounds of dirt that have been there since the ditch the right was first dug.  They are well packed and allow you to ride a short serpentine pattern up and over them.  Not sure that moss will last very long once the knobbys get there.

Here you can see the type of woods containing the trail

Here you can see the type of woods containing the trail

Don’t let the above scene fool you!  While there are large portions of the wooded area that are open like this, there are also large sections with lots of undergrowth and briers.  To the left of this shot is an area that the trail turns toward.  I had to have a machete to cut through it.

The drainage ditch

The drainage ditch

The drainage ditch is what makes the fun moguls, but it also is something I have to get across to get to the larger section of the woods.  My plan is to build a narrow ladder bridge over it.  Then the trail will follow the ditch — you can see where I plan to go on the other side heading to the left top of the picture.

Sure hope all the fun won’t be in the building of it!  I’m sure once I get a bike out on it, I’ll have to make some adjustments.  I also hope to put more challenges into the larger loop.  This is going to take me a while, but hopefully years from now my kids will enjoy mountain biking at grandma’s!

Trail making

Yesterday while here visiting my parents, I was looking around for something to do.  I walked out in a wooded area where I used to play as a kid.  A few minutes later, I was starting the construction of a mountain bike trail.

The geography around here is dominated by swamps.  Because of this there are many drainage ditches running along the various fields surrounding my parents’ property.  Along two sides of their yard there are wooded areas with these ditches running along the edges.

The neat thing about these ditches is that when they were dug many years ago the dirt was piled up beside the cuts.  Later the trees began to cover them.  So here in the woods there are nice little moguls — some up to four feet high.

I began clearing some of the undergrowth and removing some small trees allowing me to open a path along the moguls.  After taking this path along the ditch for about 30 yeards, I turned away from the ditch into the woods.

Things slowed down a bit then because of the myriad of thorny vines.  There were large green ones, old dry black ones, small vines with thousands of small thorns, and some with thorns about an inch to an inch and a half long.  What was fun suddenly lost its enjoyment!

Still, I got another 40 yards down and was starting plans for completing a loop.  Once I got that loop done, the plan was to build a ladder bridge over the ditch into another wooded area about 100 yards by 40 yards.  This could be a pretty awesome MTB trail!

I was very excited about getting back out there this morning.  My nephews said they would help me and I figured we could finish the first loop and build the bridge leaving me something to ride when I return in December as well as opening the new area for further trail building.

I woke up and it was raining!  Did I mention that there are a lot of swamps around here?  There also is no hint of a draught here!  The ground is saturated with water.  It is just way too wet to get out there.  So, I guess I’ll just have to keep planning in my mind until I get here for Christmas.

Night riding at Paris Mountain State Park

Bob Rentz and I take a spin along Turtle and Archery Range trails in Paris Mountain State Park.  The plan was to take Kanuga to Brissy.   It was so cold that when we reached the archery range we turned around and headed back down to Turtle trail.

The following video is edited for time (the ride was about 30 minutes in length) and I tried to include some of the riders we encountered and a couple of slip ups.  If you recognize yourself in the video, leave a comment.  Hope you enjoy the video.

Night riding is a blast!  If it just wasn’t so cold, it would have been great to have captured some frames of Kanuga.  Maybe we can go back at some point and do it again.  However, the intent of this video was just to show my relatives what it is like to ride a mountain bike at night.

Bob, I can’t feel my toes!

Yesterday I mentioned seeing some guys playing bicycle polo in Cleveland Park.  A friend of mine passed along a URL to more information about some matches being organized in the park.  I guess it is something that might be growing here… along with kick ball!

Check out the information at the Upstate SORBA site.

It was pretty cool yesterday as well to find that one of my blog posts was linked from the Quarq Web site.  Quarq is the company that makes the CinQo, my new power meter.  They are linking to my first review of the device.

Last night Bob and I loaded up our bikes and headed out to Paris Mountain State Park with the intention of riding the trails there.  I took along my helmet cam so I could attempt to get some shots of night riding.  On that front, I did get some frames, but they certainly don’t give the full impression of what the ride is like.  I may put some of it up if I can find enough footage to use.

The ride turned out to be very short.  We were absolutely freezing out there!  The temperature was supposed to be 34 degrees or so, but with the wind the “feels like” temperature was in the mid-twenties.

I was dressed pretty warmly.  Most of my body felt fine because I had on enough layers.  However, even with two sets of gloves — one pair being rated for freezing temperatures — my fingers were nearly numb by the time we reached the archery range. Bob had to be worse off because he wasn’t dressed nearly as warmly.

We decided to turn around at that point and head out.  Funny, but by the time we arrived back at the cars, my fingers were feeling fine.  It was my toes that were numb at that point!

You don’t realize how important your fingers are to bike control until you can’t feel them.  I had hardly any feeling for what the bike was doing.  There were times I wasn’t sure I had my fingers on the brakes.  It was disconcerting and I was all over the place with the bike.

It was an experience, but I can’t say it was much fun.  Between the cold and the leaves it was pretty hairy.  A couple of times when riding horizontally across an incline, my bike just slipped right out from beneath me because I hit a patch of leaves on top of a sandy path.  There was no warning.  You just went down.

Still, it will give us something to talk about.  Ride on!

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The weekend: frustration and fun

Saturday morning was pretty frustrating. I got up all excited about my first ride outside of Timmons Park since I restarted riding my mountain bike. I watched the kids while the redhead went to her exercise group. Once she got back, I loaded up in the bike in the back seat of the little red car and headed for the park.

I pulled up to the entry way and noticed the teenaged attendant was looking at me rather sheepishly. I asked, “How much is it to get in?” He gave me the number, but I can’t remember what it was because he followed that by saying, “…but the trails are closed to bikes today.”

What? You don’t understand, I have been looking forward to this for a week! “Oh, really?” I asked and continued, “How can I know when it will be open and closed?” He pointed at a sign by the gate, “The trails are open for bikes on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.”

Click here to see Paris Mountain State Park

Sure enough, I went to the SCTrails.com web site and in black in white it reads, “Note: This is a shared trail, used by mountain bikers and hikers on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday and hikers only on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.” Well, now I know.

I went ahead and did the Urban Ride (it is getting very boring) and I guess I’ll try PM later.

However, the weekend made a turn for the better after the Tar Heels beat Virginia Saturday afternoon and Jeff Gordon won Sunday’s race.  So, summing up my weekend, I would say: Frustration and fun.