Sunday, September 28, 2014

Grooming the 'Nut: Meet Your Trail Steward Trent List


I have previously professed my deep and abiding love for the mountain bike trails at Chestnut Ridge.  It is my go-to trail.  I learned how to ride there, and I'm teaching my kids how to ride there.


Did you know that the mountain bike trails at Chestnut Ridge did not spring, fully formed from the head of Zeus?  Nope.  They were built and are maintained by COMBO.

As my friend Andy Williamson puts it, "there are no trail fairies."  Except Trent.

Sorry Trent, I couldn't resist
This year, Trent stepped up as Trail Steward of Chestnut Ridge.  This is the first "official" trail steward we've had and I wanted to ask him about the job.  Trent obliged, and we talked all about the trails, Sasquatches, and why Trent hates squirrels.

UD: How did you get into mountain biking?
TL: Four years ago I was on a road ride by Africa Road [where the Alum Creek trails are].  A rider came flying out of the woods and about scared me to death.  But I thought it looked like fun, so I bought a cheap mountain bike from Performance.  Since then, the road bike has had cobwebs.

UD: What's your favorite trail?
TL: Mohican - although that may change after my first ride at Lake Hope this Sunday.

The gnomes at Mohican always make me smile
UD: How did you learn aboout trail building?
TL: Just from doing trail days with COMBO.  I gained confidence from working with Ed [Braunbeck], [Bryan] Pack, and Gregg [Soster].  I learned from them until I felt confident to do it on my own.  

UD: What motivated you to serve the mountain biking community?
TL: When I first learned about COMBO and started going to trail work days, I learned about trail building.  I thought the group was friendly and inclusive.  I wanted to help.  I appreciate the inclusiveness of COMBO.  Personalities are very positive and it's easy to get involved.

Trent made this gate and sign for the wet weather cut-off
UD: Why Chestnut Ridge?
TR: I really got involved a year prior.  I spoke a lot with Gregg [Soster - former COMBO president] and learned how to become more involved.  Most of the guys lived near the Alum Creek trails, and that's where everyone was spending their time [for trail maintenance], so I thought I could have a bigger impact working at Chestnut Ridge. I just went out and started taking care of the trail. I grew up using the trails in the Circleville area, and wanted to help out here.

Another one of Trent's handmade signs


UD: So you're from Circleville?
TL: Yeah, I now live about 25-26 miles away from Chestnut Ridge.  I work midnight to 8 am and then I go ride and do trail work in the afternoons.  Sometimes it's tough to find people to ride with in the afternoons!

Trent shreds in Brown County, IN
 UD: You are sort of setting the standard for the Trail Steward position.  What makes a good Trail Steward?
TL: You have a responsibility to facilitate.  You need to ask for help.  I had a problem with that early in the year.  This year, it was like a jungle and sometimes I would spend six hours just cutting and was tired by the evening.  We're all riders, and we want to ride. I needed more help sometimes.  But there were folks who helped every time I asked.  I couldn't have done it this year without Larry [Marcusic], Eric [Norris], and Megan [dials]. 

Some of Trent's handiwork - armoring a wet spot
Armor-all
UD: Who have been your mentors?
TL: BA [Brian Adams] and [Bryan] pack have been incredibly generous with their time.  They took time off riding just to help or if I had a question about a section [of trail].

UD: Okay, the really important question: are there Sasquatch at Chestnut Ridge?
TL: More than one.  There's a whole family of them, that all kind of look like Ed.  But I won't talk publicly about my encounters.

Seen at the Apple Barn


UD: What do you see in the future for Chestnut Ridge and COMBO?
TL: I would like to see a couple more trails in the area.  Maybe a little extra length added to Chestnut Ridge.  We could expand the downhills and create long, alternative hills.  It's hard, because this summer's "rainforest" changed my plans.  I was cutting, mowing and raking every three weeks this summer, cutting two to three sections at a time.   Also, this year, I hit a squirrel on Chestnut Ridge and it knocked me out of action for a while.  I was beat up pretty bad.

This may or may not be the squirrel that took Trent down

UD: What's the strangest things you've seen on the trail?
TL: Plenty of snakes.  And something that looked like a small skunk or a squirrel, but jet black.  We found sunglasses and two sets of keys this year.  Ed gave one person a ride home and the other one was picked up by AAA.


UD: Any advice for riders at Chestnut Ridge?
TL: Stop short cutting!  The trails are not for your Strava rides!

What do you think?  Has Trent inspired you?  COMBO needs help!  Like COMBO on facebook and join us for trail days!  How else can you contribute?  Just be brave!



Sunday, September 21, 2014

I'm Calling Bulls**t


Photo courtesy of quickdirt.com
So, it's been two weeks since I put up a post and I have probably lost whatever little audience I had, but I hope you've stayed with me.  Life is busy and it's been amazing weather to ride a bike. 

With that out of the way, let's begin with the bullshit-calling.

You may remember that I previously explained that I am not a bike racer.  I'm still not.  But that hasn't stopped me from racing.

"Why?" You may ask.  Well, the truth is, I'm highly suggestible.  So, when someone tells me "try it, you'll have fun," that's generally all the encouragement I need.

As a side note, this may explain the 90's.  My dad is somewhere nodding his head right now.


Anyway, two of my friends, James and Paul, independently suggested that I try racing.  (Side note, I owe thanks to James, because I stole many of the photos in this post from his blog quickdirt.com). 

Here Paul (L) tags James (R) in for a 12-hour team race at Versailles, Indiana.  Photo from quickdirt.com
I protested that I'm old, fat and slow to race.  The response from both of them, independent of each other was: "Don't worry about that.  The important part is that you just have fun." 

"Just have fun."  Yeah, right.  I'm calling bullshit.  If you knew James and Paul, you would understand. 

Of course, it's not James and Paul, it's me.  When someone says "just have fun," my skin starts to crawl.  It throws me back to my childhood.  See, I was on the cusp of the "everybody gets an award generation."  If you're reading this, my guess is, you experienced this too.

At some point, and for some reason, schools, parks, sports leagues - everybody involved with kids in my generation - thought competition was bad.  Like, if someone played, and lost, they wouldn't be able to go on with life.  Just do your best, or try, or just show up, or hell, don't show up - you're all winners!

So, everybody got an award for everything.  Shit, by third grade, I had amassed such a giant pile of "certificates of participation," that they were absolutely meaningless to me.  I can remember the day, at age 11, when I asked myself, "Why am I holding on tho these?" and threw them in the trash.  Worse, when I actually did WIN something (a rare event, to be sure), these "everybody wins" awards cheapened my win.  Why put in any effort if everyone's gonna win anyway?

The same thing is still playing out with the current generation of kids.  I have coached youth sports in leagues where "everybody wins" and no one keeps score.   But the kids know better.  They can count goals by themselves.  And the ones who care, they take losing personally - and they should!  That fire is what drives them to not lose again.  Yet I have seen the same kids throw their after-season trophy in the trash before heading home.  Why?  Because it's meaningless to them.  They didn't win it, it was given to them and everyone else. 

"Just have fun."  My ass. 

But the more I reflected on it, the more I realized this was my hangup.  It's not what James or Paul meant by "just have fun."  

See, James and Paul are competitors.  They both have the fire in them - they want to win, but, more importantly, they are both going to throw everything they've got at a race.  So, for them, "fun" does not mean just participating.  No, they're tapping into something deeper, but it is "fun."  Let me explain.

When I was a kid, I was drawn to other kids who liked to do things that would give our parents grey hairs.  For instance, if someone had a bunch of clover in their backyard, then it was time to go "barefoot bee stomping."  Or, if you had some firewood stacked behind your house, we'd go practice throwing knives and hatchets.  Have a low roof?  We'd jump off - with or without homemade "parachutes." 


My nephew understood this at an early age.  Why just watch TV on the couch, when you can watch TV on a folding chair on the couch?

Needless to say, it wasn't enough just to do these things, but you had to be the best - who could stomp the most bees or jump from the highest tree?  Everything was a competition.

The bike that started it all
And racing - forget about it!  Everything was a race!  As soon as you found out that you could roll in a trashcan down a hill, then you got two trashcans to see who could get to the bottom faster.  Ramps were loosely constructed, obstacle courses created, and teams chosen.

Here's the thing - there was no "reason" for these races.  There was no medal, no certificate.  But you fought like hell to win.  You would push yourself past your limits, hurt yourself, and the winner would ultimately collapse at the finish, gasping for air.  And grinning.  Then, you'd slap backs and, depending on the hour, do it again or go home.

That's what Paul and James have tapped into.  And that's how I understood it when they said "the important thing is that you have fun."  Fun indeed.

So, I have taken Paul and James up on their suggestion.  I have been entering races.

I tagged along with team COMBO for 24 Hours of DINO at Versailles State Park in Indiana.



Versailles is a great trail, with somewhere between 12 and 13 miles of flowy awesomeness.  We did the race in teams, with each team member doing a "lap" and then tagging in the next guy.  The singletrack was great, but almost as fun was just hanging out with the racers and their families between laps.

Photo from quickdirt.com
So, how did I do?  Well, I was the slowest guy in the group.  But my second lap was faster than the first.  And, I was poised to go even faster on my third lap, but I got a tire flat and couldn't get it fixed fast enough.  This cost my team - we were poised to take second (not on my account), but this threw us into third place.  I said a couple bad words.  Still, the teams from COMBO Race Team took all the podium spots in this category.

Last weekend, I raced at the OMBC race at Chestnut Ridge. 

Start of the kids' race
I know this trail inside and out and I love it.  So, I registered in the "Sport" category, one class higher than my previous "Novice" category.  My son Calvin raced too.

How'd I do?  Well, my first lap was pretty low on the Sport category.  But toward the end of my first lap, and in the beginning of my second lap, I gained a little ground, pulling back a couple riders.  Accordingly, I promptly flatted.  Starting to see a pattern?

I might have said a bad word and my bike may or may not have been tossed into the woods.

I tried to fix my flat, but the CO2 pump wasn't working quite right and I only got the tire half inflated.  Then, the CO2 can shot off the nozzle, rocketing like a bullet and following the line of the trail.  "Oh god, I thought, now I've killed somebody."  Fortunately, nobody was hurt, and I managed to limp my bike, mushy back tire and all, over to the next group of bike patrollers, who had a hand pump.  An expert with tools, I promptly broke the nozzle on my tube with the hand pump.  Shit some more.  I tried to press on, and I made it to Bryan and Gary, who laughed at me and then insisted that they change my tire again.  I finished DFL (that's Dead F'ing Last). 

Gary changed my tire, and Bryan laughed at me some more.
Moral of the story: fat guys can't run their tires at 28psi.  I know, I know, I should run tubeless.  But that's a whole process.  Ugh.

Calvin?  He took third in his age group and got to pick a prize from the prize table.  Waaaaaayyyyyy better than a participation certificate.  He earned it.


So, you may ask, am I having "fun" racing mountain bikes?  Ask me next season when I get on the podium.  Meantime, go be brave.

Friday, September 5, 2014

IMBA Summit Day 4 - Ice Bags and Hot Springs


You may already know that Steamboat Springs is actively engaged in becoming Bike Town USA.  It's a resort town.  In winter, skiers and snowboarders come for the downhill runs.  But in summer, the town's tourism industry dwindles.  So, the town decided to invest in cycling as a summer tourism opportunity.



Judging by the miles of beautiful, flowy trail and the fun downhill runs, they are well on their way.  And hosting the IMBA Summit was a great idea.  Steamboat Springs is investing another $5.1 million in the next few years on cycling infrastructure.  I will be back to check on their progress for sure.

But who is the mountain bike tourist that Steamboat Springs is wooing?   Well, the average mountain bike tourist is a middle-age, middle-class, white male.  (Trust me, I went to the seminars).

Hooray, I'm a target demographic!
According to data provided by Harry Dalgaard of Ride Oregon, cycling is more popular than golf, tennis, and skiing combined.  Over 25% of US Americans cycle. 
Slides courtesy of Harry of Ride Oregon
And cycle tourists, according to Harry, spend 20% more per visit than other tourists.  I'm reasonably certain that the vast majority of this spending is on special themed jerseys.  Jerseys are the concert t-shirts of the cycling world.  Just like how people buy concert shirts as proof of their concert attendance, and by association, their awesomeness for loving the band - that's also how people shop for bike jerseys.

Because it's the easiest way to tell the world that you bought a bike jersey in New Zealand
There are even concert t-shirt bike jerseys, resulting in an infinite loop of awesomeness.  This jersey tells the world "I ride bikes and I like to bite the heads off bats." 

I'm pretty sure this is what Ozzy had in mind.
Of course, Ozzy himself didn't need a bike jersey.  When you're that metal, you ride in leather pants.


And if you're not into places or bands, you can proclaim your religious affiliation on bike jerseys too.

Nothing says "I'm saved" like pop-culture satire.
Where were we?  Oh yes, biking Oregon.  Of course, part of Harry's presentation was aimed at showing us that mountain biking in Oregon is awesome.  With scenery like this, it's not a hard sell.

Photo from Ride Oregon

Harry also produced what may be The Best PowerPoint Slide And Venn Diagram Ever, which he used to explain Oregon's cultural confluence in cycling.



This one got a good laugh, and I thought it was worth sharing, so thanks Harry, for letting me use some of your slides!

But back to Steamboat Springs.

The bikes pictured above were loaded on top of the shuttle by Bike Town USA's Executive Director, Tyler Goodman, proving that he's willing to roll up his sleeves and do the dirty work.


Tyler loves cycling and this was probably a big reason that he sought out the job he has.  Unfortunately for him, this means that, instead of riding bikes, he has to drive the shuttle around while other people ride bikes.

This is the irony of working in the cycling-tourism industry, or really any aspect of the cycling industry.  In order to be paid to do what you love, you have to give up opportunities to do what you love.  And, given the demographics, you'll have to watch upper-income, middle-aged males ride bikes while you're working.  I'll let that sink in. 

Tyler helped shuttle us to the rides today, and we got to chat with him.  Originally, he was supposed to take us on our "epic" ride of the World Summit.

When I originally read about this ride, I was stoked.  25 miles of trail, with something like 2,000 feet of downhill over the last 10 miles.  I thought about it every day at the conference, even going so far as to make sure that I didn't overdo it on prior rides, so I'd still have enough gas in the tank to really enjoy the miles.

But when I woke up on the appointed morning, I was bummed to see that it had rained all night.

Stupid rain.  I hate it so much!
So, they cancelled the epic ride.  The trail was too muddy.  Thee followed a flury of text messages and emails as everyone tried to figure out what to do - were other trails rideable?  Should we go road ride instead?  Everybody was trying to salvage the day.  We knew we wanted to ride, but when and where?

After a couple of hours, good news arrived: there were a couple local trails that were still rideable, the Mad Creek trails, so the shuttles were running to them instead.  So, I did what any sensible person would so, and wrapped my feet in hotel ice bags.

Nothing good ever starts with plastic bags on your feet
The ride was great.  Breathtaking scenery and breathtaking elevation.


"No . . (huff, huff) . . .I'm fine . . .(huff, huff).  Just stopping . . . (wheeze,, cough) . . . to take . . . a picture."
And the group I rode out with included MTB legend Hans "No Way" Rey!

From his FB page


My ride for the day was a Pivot Mach 429.



The best part was, after 12 miles and 1,600 feet of climbing, the trail ended up at a natural hot springs, which I proceeded to immediately soil with my presence.  I'm not sure whether you're allowed to drink in there, but I may have seen somebody drink a beer there.

It was me.  I drank a beer there.
What an amazing way to end the ride!  True story, these springs are owned by a guy named Don Johnson.

After muddying up the hot springs, it was back to the hotel for BBQ and an outdoor screening of "Singletrack High," a documentary that follows several teens in their Northern California MTB racing league.  It was inspiring to watch the high schoolers connect with their bikes at an age when I was obsessed with getting a car.  And in doing so, the teens found a community of friends and the drive to reach new goals.

Brindley, me, Chip, and Andy from the IMBA Great Lakes Region enjoy the film with Mike, SRAM's mechanic extraordinare
That wraps up my coverage of the IMBA World Summit.

Go be brave!

#IMBAWS14