Sunday, September 6, 2015

Pisgah MTB Trip Report - 2 of 5

Good morning wet campground, from inside a dry tent!  That's a good way to wake up this morning.

In the middle of the night I awoke to the sound of approaching rain in the forest.  Wait for it... rain drops smacking the canopy came next.  Last I remember using the canopy in the rain was on a past bike trip and I recall the seams were not water tight.  Wait for it... water drops smacking the fly of the tent came next.  That's as low as the water came in our sleeping quarters, so all good for us.

Camping on the corner.

Our bikes stayed mostly dry leaned against a picnic table, covered with a blue tarp.  After some breakfast we pulled the tarp and did some bike maintenance to prepare for today's riding.

Last night we talked to Brian, the Bike Farm Pisgah guide, about how necessary a "dual squish" bike is in Pisgah.  After asking about our riding experience, he concluded we should give our hard tails a try.  We could always rent full suspension bikes for subsequent rides if need be.

Getting them ready to roll.

Back down the steep gravel driveway and we headed south to Brevard.  A turn west onto 276 took us into Pisgah National Forest.  Just like our mountain bike guidebook said, it's a sudden shock to go from the shopping plazas of Brevard to the expansive wilderness of the forest.

Pisgah welcome.

About five miles into the forest we turned onto a forest service road and continued past a fish hatchery another several miles to a parking area for the Daniel Ridge Trail.  There were a dozen or so cars in the lot as we geared up to ride a loop.

As we crossed a bridge, stayed left, and started onto the trail it was easy to spot multiple tents and camp setups along the river. I'm guessing many of the cars in the parking lot were people primitive camping on the holiday weekend.  It looked like there were many suitable spots.

Starting the up on Daniel Ridge Trail.

About a mile in we reached the start of the uphill.  Wow, the fun begins!  It was pretty steep, rooty, and rocky.  I took several tries to clean the opening section but was only able to go so far before getting stumped.  We would ride as much as we could before getting hung up.  I remember one prominent two foot tall rock ledge during the uphill that was not rideable.  For a third of a mile we were sucking wind while trying to ride it.

Just past the intersection with Farlow Gap.

The trail topped out at an intersection with Farlow Gap and we turned right.  Along this section of trail we encountered several riders coming towards us, including a teenage girl with her dad.  She was hitting it pretty hard as we gave her the right away on a short downhill!

It was still rocky but very rideable for another mile.  We stopped at a crossing with a logging road, just before a good downhill, and spotted two riders coming up. Hmmm, that makes five people going the opposite way as us.

The two riders stopped to chat.  They were a husband and wife from out west on a several week road trip to the east.  We enjoyed their descriptions of places to ride in Colorado and Utah, and we took note of a couple destinations should a trip west ever workout for us.

Waterfall with limited water.

Next up, some downhill for the next 3/4 mile.  There were a few surprises but it was all fast and rideable.  Sure, suspension out back could have allowed more reckless attacking on the downhill, but we still got the job done on our bikes.

The guidebook said to listen to the left for a waterfall at the bottom of the downhill.  Not much waterfall sound today as the water was sparse, but we stopped anyhow to check it out.

Someone has been playing in the creek.

Back at the parking lot we were greeted by twice as many cars as when we left.  We did seize the opportunity to move our car from a sunny to shaded spot and enjoyed tailgate snacking.  Many families were out for the day to hike to the waterfall or play in the stream.  We consulted the guidebook for our next adventure and found Butter Gap to be a good option.

From the parking lot we rode west on gravel forest service road 475 and began to climb.  It was uphill but not too steep.  A few miles later we turned left onto FSR 471 and continued uphill another couple miles.  With no other cars or people around and nothing but the forest in all directions it was feeling remote.

Eventually we came upon a parking pulloff with a couple vehicles and made our left turn into the woods.  Passing a gate and heading uphill it narrowed down to a trail.  At a 7-way intersection we turned onto Butter Gap Trail and locked in some downhill smiles.

Rhododendron tunnel on Buter Gap.

A well-marked intersection appeared and we consulted the map.  It looked like we had two options to get back to our start.  Suddenly a couple of hikers appeared from down trail. We learned from them the Butter Gap trail from this point north was not open to bikes this time of year.  This new found information made our decision obvious and we turned left onto Long Branch Trail.

Direction check.

Long Branch had some interesting terrain complete with drainage gully climbing and a stream crossing or two.  We rode it back to FS475 and tucked in to fly down hill on the gravel road.  It was a blur going down and we were back to the car in a hurry.

Stream crossing complete with
log bridge and hand rail.

It was late afternoon and the Labor Day forest visitors joined us in heading back to town.  We sat in no moving and slow moving traffic heading to Brevard.  Hunger and the GPS led us to the Oskar Blues Brewery for food and drink, the one in North Carolina not the one in Colorado.

Welcome to Oskar Blues.

Oskar Blues is quite involved in the bike world, especially in Pisgah.  Their Reeb Ranch is another option for camping and lodging in nearby Hendersonville.  We didn't get to go on a brewery tour, but we walked into the facility to pickup our beer and spotted a full lineup of bikes next to the brew tanks.

Flight of beer in a plank and a burger.

Full of Chuburgers and beer we returned to the Bike Farm for the night.  The outdoor shower once again cranked out some really hot water.  Then we visited with Bike Farm guide Brian and discussed options for riding at Dupont State Forest tomorrow.

We told of our riding today and learned the Daniel Ridge Loop is typically ridden the opposite direction as we had done.  Well that explains why everyone else was coming towards us.  Apparently the challenging uphill we did is a much enjoyed downhill.  Even so, we had our fun!


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Pisgah MTB Trip Report - 1 of 5

In a last minute kind of way Ryan and I made plans for Labor Day weekend road trip to mountain bike and camp.  We had been considering a trip all year but never put a date on the calendar.  Thankfully our family and work schedules cooperated to make a trip come together... but where to go?

The Pisgah National Forest area has been on our radar for some time.  I did some riding in this area of western North Carolina several years ago and have wanted to go back ever since.  With the ability to get away for multiple days we decided to go for it and head ~8.5 hours south.

Riding at Bent Creek!

Saturday morning and time to head out!  We loaded up the CX9 and left Ryan's house at 06:30.  With the rear seats down there was plenty of space for all our camping gear.  The bikes followed along on the hitch rack.  Thankfully, the weather forecast looked good for the next five days, and we made good time driving beneath sunny skies.

A couple days prior to leaving I checked the public campgrounds in the Pisgah area and found they were all booked full, certainly due to Labor Day weekend.  Fortunately I had heard about Bike Farm Pisgah and their web site indicated they had open car camping sites.  Perfect!  I booked a site online.

We made it to Asheville about 15:00 and decided to stop at Bent Creek Experimental Forest for an afternoon ride before heading to camp.  The Rice Pinnaccle parking lot was nearly full as we geared up and rolled out.  I wanted to ride the Green's Lick downhill again, so we worked our way up Wolf Branch and Ledford trails to the ridge on the northern side of the area.  Sustained climbing and warm temperatures tested our legs that had been sitting in a car all day.

Look out below!

Before long we were at the top of Green's Lick and ready for the downhill.  Just as I rememberd, it was fast and fun!  Lots of twists, curves, and jumps came at high speed.  We ripped it as best we could and reached the bottom with big grins.

Knowing there was still camp to find and setup, we headed back to the car but were lured off the road for more singletrack.  We rode service road 479E, blew past the turn onto Deer Lake Lodge, and ended up coming back down Wolf Branch.  Somewhere along the way a trail runner told us of a bear she had just seen.  We rode along scanning the woods but didn't see any bear, not today.

Back at the car we talked to a couple locals who seemed surprised to hear we woke up this morning in Ohio.  They asked about our plans for the rest of our trip and gave us strong recommendations to rent a couple "dual squish" bikes for Pisgah.  "Those hard tails are weapons here, but you are gonna need some 6-6 dual squish in Pisgah."

It was only about 30 minutes to drive from Bent Creek to Bike Farm Pisgah.  We spotted the sign on the west side of 280 and slowly drove up the private drive.  After filling out a waiver at the gate, we drove up and up a steep gravel road and were delivered to a clearing where a guide greeted us.

Brian from the Bike Farm explained the setup, pointing out the outdoor shower stall, water spigot, and directed us further up the hill to our car camping site.  He was very friendly and said to let him know if we had any questions about where to ride.

Car camping site #4.

Upon reaching our camp area, literally right next to the gravel drive, we were initially unsure about the not-so-level area.  Turns out my blindly picking car camping site 4 on the web site resulted in the least flat of the six sites.  They also had deck camping sites, for sure flat, but it would have been a little more work hauling our stuff down a sorta steep trail from where the car would be parked.  We settled in to our site and found it to be fine.

There was a likelihood of rain overnight.  Better at night than during the day, and the forecast for the next several days was clear.  We brought the canopy on this trip, it had been left behind on previous trips due to not enough vehicle room to haul it, and decided to set the tent under the canopy.

After dinner we studied our maps and guidebook for the area, making plans for our first Pisgah NF ride tomorrow.  The sun began to set and it was dark in a hurry.  Katydids, crickets, and I don't know what other kinds of insects were in full swing as we crashed for the night.  I didn't hear them for long.

Ryan fights KT's camping can opener...
eventually we ate some beans with our beef and rice.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Funk Bottoms Gravel Route

With a wide open schedule Saturday and the rest of the family traveling I planned for adventure.  First thought was to hit up a couple mountain bike trails I've never ridden, but the perpetually wet summer has put these trails out of commission.  While eating a late breakfast I stumbled on the idea of riding the Funk Bottoms Gravel metric century route.

Mid-day start for a long ride.

I quickly gathered up bike gear, food, and drink.  Of course the day I decide to do this route is hot and humid, perhaps the hottest of the year so far.  Good thing there would be at least a couple options for mid-ride refueling in Killbuck and Glenmont.

Humble is a good way to go. 

Out of the parking lot in Lakeville and straight up a hill then onto gravel.  It was an appropriate start for the route.  I planned to ride a steady pace and not push it unless needed.  After all, I had however much time I needed today.  I wanted to take some pictures and enjoy the ride.

Plenty of gravel and scenery along the way.
Oh, and blaring sun too.

Many of these roads I'd ridden before but never connecting together for 100km.  I was making quite a few map checks and stopping at most intersections to verify the route.  As I turned onto TR221 northeast of Glenmont I knew the fun ahead.  A fast, fast gravel down hill and a big climb up TR251, a one lane gravel "road".

Refill and refuel at the drivethru window in Killbuck.

Coming into Killbuck I was nearly out of water, so a stop was needed.  To prove to myself that I was not in a hurry, and because it sounded refreshing, I stopped for ice cream.  Never done that mid ride that I can remember. 

 Supporting Orrville by enjoying ice cream

Leaving Killbuck I got turned around and made a couple laps up and down Main St. to get my bearings.  As is often the case, it was really obvious once I figured it out.  The gravel kept coming south of Killbuck with some winding, secluded country roads that would occasionally open up to big views of the valley.

Lots of green to be seen.

And then it got really interesting... heading west on TR324, at the most southern part of the route, I was looking for a right hand turn to head north.  I spotted a driveway / access road but continued on in search of TR28.

Surely that's not the road.

I stopped for another map check and then a GPS map on my phone check.  Yeah, that was the "road" I had passed.  It wasn't much of a road, let's call it a trail.  Narrow, rutted, and full of puddles.  Fun ahead!

 Are you sure this is the way?

 Through the woods.

Now I understand. 

About a mile later the trail opened up to a township road.  I looked back and spotted a sign that made sense.  A Jeep or ATV would be needed to traverse that section, or a cross bike can get the job done too.

Now it was all about riding north.  Glenmont was the next stop where I stopped at the volunteer fire department and was thankful for a couple cold bottles of water.  The gravel climb out of Glenmont was a good one.  I think I've ridden all the paved ways out of Glenmont but this way was a good, uphill gravel grind.

Legs filling up with miles. 

The heat and sun and effort was starting to catch up with me.  Looking at the map I saw a strange loop instead of a straighter option north and I knew what that likely meant; some more climbing was coming.  I stopped at a little bridge over a stream to eat a PB&J while looking up the gravel hill I was about climb.

In the homestretch but the hills kept coming!

By this time I felt like I was going really slow on the hills but I was still cranking as necessary and keeping it together on the gravel.  In the last several miles my legs felt good and I was able to dial in some speed on the pavement. 

I remember thinking this was the final uphill,
but I don't think it was. 

One last map check and I thought I had the finish dialed.  Except, I failed to pay attention to an intersection where I should have stayed left and I went right.  By this time some cloud cover had rolled in and I didn't realize I was heading south instead of north, but three miles later I figured it out.  Ouch, this was not the time in the ride I wanted to be adding bonus miles.  I sucked down a GU and backtracked.

About 6-1/2 hours and 70 miles later I was back to the car.  It was a great, challenging, and scenic route.  Lots and lots of gravel.  Good time!

A victory sneer... ready for some food and recovery.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Mixed Surface Overcast Wandering

Overcast days are my favorite to get out for a ride.  There's nothing like an early spring, chilly, and sun-less Saturday morning to keep many inside while I'm out on the road.  This morning was such a morning and I rolled out the driveway unsure of where I was headed.

This way looks promising!

I did have it in mind to go see if Shreve Lake looks any different, as it was drained over the winter due to a dam issue.  There's no fun in just riding straight there so I ventured out Wilderness Road past the peat bogs.

Bonus: gravel.

A turn here, a turn there... I enjoyed the quiet morning and waved to a couple farmers out plowing fields.  They know spring is here even if it didn't feel like it this morning.  I stopped to retrieve some dried apricots and cashews from the pocket of my wool jersey and ate up while some sizeable horses looked on.


Eventually I made it to Shreve Lake.  It really didn't look any different than the last time I swung by, which is to say it looks rather strange.  Interesting to see the structure that fish must have been hiding around.  I wonder how many fisherman, with future vision, have mapped out the shallows for when the water and fish are back.

Still a drained lake.

No sense in taking the direct route home either.  I rode up the hill into Shreve and headed for some more gravel.  Coming back through the swamps I was impressed by a pair of blue winged teal that flew right in front of me at shoulder height.

It was nice to be out and about on two wheels.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

OMBC Race Photo

During the race Saturday I remember seeing a photographer in the first rock on the state park loop.  As I rode by I thought a couple things:

1. I wonder if and where I may find his pictures online after the race?

2. I wonder how stupid of a face I could have been making as I passed by him and heard the camera snapping.

Fortunately, I easily found Butch Phillips Photography from the OMBC web site.  Even more fortunately, I didn't look too odd in the picture he posted of me. :-)


Monday, April 20, 2015

OMBC Mohican Race Report

It's a first for me.  I've never done an OMBC race but decided to give it a go at Mohican, the second race of this year's series.  So far this year I have ridden at Mohican exactly zero times and only been on a mountain bike twice, for about 3 total laps at the Knob.  But on the positive side, I've been consistent on OCC rides and have felt pretty good. Trail riding, however, is a lot different than the road.

Trusty steed, except all those dropped chains.

Ten minutes after noon, when the expert riders rolled out, I lined up at the start line with the sport riders.  We were in for a full lap plus the trails/roads to get us to from the Mohican Adventures start line.  Shortly after leaving the start line we hit a gravel, steep uphill piece of singletrack and the bunch clogged up.  Off the bike and pushing but we were going again shortly.

Though I didn't want to go out too hard I think I may have.  I was passing riders in the first five miles only to later be passed by them.  Maybe do that different next time.  At the start line I had eaten two thirds of a Cliff Bar and I finished eating that five or six miles in.  On the downhills to the covered bridge I was feeling bold and was flying along pretty good.  I passed a couple guys on the downhill.

Crossing the covered bridge I sucked down half a GU and then started the climb. Maybe it was the aggressive downhill, but I didn't feel able to attack the climb like normal.  More likely, it's a lack of trail riding.  I felt like I really had to monitor my pace not to pop.

Coming into Trailhead B I felt pretty decent thanks to keeping it in check up the climb.  I refilled a bottle with some ice cold water.  It was the warmest day of the year so far and I was feeling it a little. I poured a bottle down my back and it took my breath away.  A handful of dried apricots and cashews gave me some good flavors.

From Trailhead B to the mile 19 crossing I was going pretty good. Unfortunately I dropped my chain about the second or third time of the day.  Something's up with my drivetrain as my 1x10 was doing quite well last year.  The Type 2 rear derailleur was doing it's thing but not today.  I dropped the chain at least four times.  The cost me five or so minutes I suppose, but I didn't get too rattled by it.

After mile 19 road crossing I sucked down another half GU and kept it truckin' best I could.  I felt like I was either going really fast or really slow, depending on terrain.  My bike handling was pretty good today.  I was keeping off the brakes and cornering well.  Some of the hills bogged me down a little.

Coming down to the campground I let a guy pass me just before a switchback only to see him crash right in front of me.  I cornered through on the inside line and he said "I'll follow you, I've never ridden here before."  Yeah, good idea.

As we crossed the bridge to campground my chain dropped again and rode away.  That one sucked as I would have liked to push to the finish with him.  After the section of trail along the campground I popped out at the start of the State Park loop.  Hmmm... I really had no idea how the race finished from here, but soon found out.

We went part way up the opening climb before branching off to the Mohican Adventure property.  There was a super punchy exit I was not at all prepared for and ended up hike-a-biking with several other guys.  Then there were a bunch of gravel roads, a sharp right I missed and had to circle back for, and some other varied gravel campground roads.  There was more racing in the campgrounds than what I expected but now I know.

I cranked down a gravel road to the finish line and crossed 2:40:XX after starting.  Cool!  My goal was to be less than 3 hours and I thought 2:45 would be a good challenge, though I had no idea how much the additional trail beyond the State Park loop would add.  I was mostly pleased with my effort and it was a perfect day for a mountain bike race!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Lap of the Amish Country Roubaix

The Holmes County Fairgrounds at 8:30AM was the meeting place.  From there Ryan and I did a lap of the Amish Country Roubaix gravel road race course.

Rolling countryside.

Leaving the parking lot, it was in the mid 30's and the skies were clear.  I declared a beautiful morning was ahead of us.  We enjoyed sunny skies and warming temperatures.

"Gravel" road with most of the gravel
washed away this winter.

As expected we frequently consulted the map to find our way.  There was a good selection of gravel/dirt roads with some good climbs thrown in.  None of the climbs were the "break your soul" kind of climbs like we've found on some other rides, but I'll bet racing this course is tough.

Off the beaten path.

A little past halfway of the 50km loop as we started up a short hill I heard some drivetrain grumbling.  I shifted a few times and it seemed to cease, until a short distance later when my chain disconnected.  I looked down to see a chain wrapped around my cranks with both ends draping on the road.  Oh, this is not good.  First thought; "uh-oh, I didn't bring my multi-tool with a chain tool on it!"

Upon inspection it seemed the quick link had un-linked.  After a futile search for the missing half of the quick link we decided Ryan would ride back to the car and I'd walk, roll, and sulk.  And then...

 Okay, not on the course but we really
wondered where this double track headed
so we had to explore a little bit.

Cresting the hill we had just come up I saw a Soupcan Jersey or two!  Jason offered up his multi-tool, the same model I left laying on my work bench, and my chain was fixed in short order.

Kevin, Sally, Jason.

We finished the ride with Jason, Shawn, and friends.  Soon encountering the longest climb of the route, a road climb. We strung out while headed up, then regrouped, and had a good ride to the finish.  It was a nice morning for a ride and I was glad to pedal the second half instead of walking it!

Friday, April 3, 2015

NAHBS 2015 - part 4

Here's a final post from my visit to the 2015 North American Handmade Bicycle Show.  Once again, it was my first time to attend this event after following it in media for the past five years or so.  I was excited, overwhelmed, and inspired by the display of all things bike.

Beyond the tangibles, everyone I met was very friendly and eager to chat.  Many times I was five, ten minutes into a conversation about nuances of a bike on display or talking riding style and local trails, then finally stumble on the question of, "oh, where are you from?"  I was always amused to learn my new bike friend was from Fort Collins, Southern California, Idaho, Atlanta, and beyond.  I quickly learned I was the local guy who only traveled about five hours to the show.  No matter, we were all there for the same fun and passion of two wheeled, hand crafted machines.

Now the final batch of pictures...

I lined up to head down an outer aisle and found
this tough looking 29er from Savvy Cycles. 

With thoughts of wood framed bikes brewing in my head
from stops at previous booths, it was good to talk to these
guys.  "It's strong as any bike, I huck it off jumps all the time!"

There's some CNC work going into these frame members.

A fat tire bike completed their wood frame collection on display.

Following are some bikes from the New Framebuilder tables. These are single bikes on display from builders that are not yet making a large volume of frames.  Next time I attend the show I plan to spend more time researching the new builders before attending, and it will be interesting to talk with them and understand how they got started and where they think they're headed.

A very well executed fattie from Wiseman Frameworks.

The Kansas City Bike Collective had a cool booth
with several artisans displaying goods, including
Andrew and his custom frame bags.

One of my favorite bikes of the show is this
one from Vibe Cycles of Boise.

It was a pleasure talking to Dave and hearing his path
to becoming a frame builder.  He was eager to explain the head tube
junction, paint, and other fine details on this bike, the Knarr.

Julie of Pedalino Bikes and here fillet brazed frame on display.

Lots of artisan touches on this bike,
an impressive display of craft and function.

Here's some more fun from Peacock Groove.
Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to talk details.

Matter Cycles had some really nice bikes
on display in the back corner of the showroom,
including this blacked out cross bike.

I enjoyed talking with Collin about the development
of this bike, the SlayRide.  This bike just calls to be
ridden... slacked out and short chainstays.

Another one of my favorites from the show is
this Black Cat Bicycles cross bike.

I have followed Todd's builds the past couple years and
I favor his understated yet intricate graphics as well as
the matching forks and stems on his builds.

I enjoyed talking with Todd and learning more about
his approach and inspiration for bikes like this.

A great display of his stem work.

A KickStarter campaign has brought back

Another Yo Eddy on display, this one with some
squish up front and a dropper post.

Four posts and nearly 100 pictures later, I've failed to capture the display that is NAHBS.  Sorry, you're just going to have to attend in person.  Even then, you will wake up the next morning, like me, thinking "oh man, I missed checking out Alchemy and ___ and ____ and ___... and I never looped back around to talk to Eric Noren!"

It was a grand experience and I look forward to another show within reasonable travel distance for me.  Next time I will research the builders even more before attending and have a little more of a game plan before walking in.  Ah, it's going to be the same overwhelming experience no matter what.  I'll call that part of the fun!

And a final thought for next time... I will save up and bring at least $100 to blow on t-shirts.  ;-)

Nearly everybody had decals and soft goods.  I bought
a Shamrock Cycles shirt for my Irish wife, a NAHBS jersey
and shirt for myself, coffee for my buddy Ryan, and a bunch
of decals for my basement workshop sticker door!