Monday, July 27, 2009

Does trail sustainabiltie equal easy trails?

Disclaimer: This post is not meant as a dig at anyone or claiming anyone isn't doing a good job at trail building. I whole heartily respect and I am at awe at what our trail builders accomplish. The spend countless thankless hours building and maintaining trails. This post is solely my opinion to provide my viewpoint. So please no one take offense and hopefully a good clean discussion can be had from this...

Last summer I ventured into mountain biking for the first time. I started out on a Walmart Mongoose bike and through searching on the found Quails Hollow state park. The first time out I remembered how difficult it was. The hill climbs seemed huge and difficult, the rock gardens seemed to be 100 feet long and scared the crap out of me. It probably took me an hour to finish the 3 1/2 mile loop, and I was beat after it. For some reason I was drawn back, even after the pain and difficulty I still went back out the next day to suffer, and I enjoyed it. Soon I was up to two laps and finally three and by the end of summer I was lapping at around 20 minutes a lap with ease.

I soon ventured to Reagan park in Medina. This was an eye opener. This trail was much more difficult. It seemed every time I would go there I would end up falling down a ravine somehow. The other thing that drew me to this trail was two difficult climbs, they were steep and took a lot to clear. A lot of riders couldn't make it up them. I was, however, determined to make those climbs. It was my goal to clear those climbs by the end of summer. A couple group rides later and I completed the entire trail without a dab and making it up those "impossible" hills.

Next is West Branch, truthfully, I'm growing to enjoy this trail more and more. The south side of the trails are where things get difficult. There is of course the rock gardens and then the climb out of the rock gorge. I couldn't make this climb last year, I tried my hardest every time, and could never quite get it. And then the rock gardens, Last year I could only clear the final one on the rock gorge trail, and even that was a moment for me. This year after some hesitation I returned and made it my goal to clear more and more sections of the south side of West Branch. This year I'm proud to say I've made it up the rock gorge climb and I've cleared all but one of the rock gardens on the same trail. Now my goal is to clear a new section each time out. It's hard to put into words the feeling you get after accomplishing something that you've tried so many times but couldn't. That's what draws me to this sport, the little hurdles and getting over those. I could easily get the fitness from riding my bike down the towpath, but I chose mountain biking because it's difficult, because it's has something to strive for.

So what is this post about? This year I've noticed a lot of trails getting easier, and not because of my skill level. Those climbs that I strived so hard to clear at Reagan Park, both are now no longer there, one has been rerouted around to a more gradual route, the other, which was on a trail that you rode in both directions is now only a downhill. The first one I'm sad to see go, and I understand the latter, as the downhill had a poor line of sight that could lead to an accident. An uphill rooted section at West Branch has recently been rerouted around, albeit because of a washout, but now is a gradual smooth uphill. Most of these were done because of sustainability issues, but recently a cinder block land bridge was taken out, the reasoning boiled down to it will be easier to ride.

Now I understand that some reroutes are inevitable because of either sustainability or because of saftery reasons. It just appears that the reroutes are taking easier lines. I understand some places need to be made easier because of being classified as easier trails so beginning mountain bikers need a place to learn, i.e. Quails Hollow and the Huffman side of the Medina system. I just hope that some new techincal features can be included to challenge us once again, or just simply keeping more of the technical features in the trails that already have them. I just don't want to turn the trails into "bike and hike trails through the woods." I guess I'll always have Vultures Knob.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Today was OMBC's S&S race. Located outside of Zanesville Ohio on Chris Skinner's personal training ground. He was nice enough to open it up for us and was a great host. I understand why he's such a strong rider having such a wonderful trail system in his backyard, I'm talking literally in his back yard.

I got there an hour early and had enough time to do a complete lap of the single track. Immediatly I loved the trails. Fun downhills which all ended in a tight turn preceeded by either roots or rocks, so you could open up but you had to be sure to brake before you got to the bottom.

The race started with a Le mans style start. You set down your bikes and lined up, the gun sounded and you ran 100 yards around a sign and back to your bikes. This was meant as a way to spread out the field when you dove directly into the singletrack. Some races it did some races it ended up with everyone getting to their bikes at the same time. What this did for me was give me cramps. I would fight these the entire first lap, along with never being able to recover. I spent almost the entire first lap above 180 bpm. My legs felt fine but I coul never get my heart rate and breathing to calm down.

During the first lap I heard someone yell "Go Andrew! Your looking good!" or something along those lines. At this point I was suffering and didn't recognize the voice. I knew it wasn't a racer because it was loud and wasn't winded. I chalked it up to one of the family members of the CAMBA racing team. About another mile down the trail during a short steep climb where I'm putting all my effort into getting a good place I hear the voice again and it's closer. "Go Andrew, why so serious?" I look up and to my amazment it's Bob Myers. Our local Trek representative, friend of CAMBA and a riding buddy from last year. I hadn't seen him since Ray's in January for the Tri-Flow Time Trial. He had come out to take pictures of his Trek and Gary Fisher riders and took a couple shots of me.

The race was grueling with no time to recover, even the field sections had tire size dips that killed your speed and made it so you had to keep pushing. I average 174 bpm for the entire race. I completed the 10.6 mile course in an hour 13 (with a couple seconds from not stopping the garmin at the finish.) With an average speed of 8.7mph and 1,500 feet of climbing. The first lap myself and two riders traded the lead multiple times. Entering the single track I was placed third and feeling confident. I passed the second placer rider on the first uphill, and took first when the leader took a turn to fast and had to slow down. I passed him to the inside and he quickly grabbed my wheel. I lost the two places I had gained when my chain popped off the chainring right at the bottom of a hill. I lost a lot of time putting it back on and getting up to speed going up the hill. I regained 2nd before the end of the first lap (I think) and we swapped it back and forth once or twice more. The second half of the second lap I started to feel good again and there was a lot of climbing the second half, so I was able to really gap the other rider. I could see the other rider but didn't have enough time to reel him in. The last part of the course was a open field with a short gravel road section. I kept looking back and the third place rider was far back enough that I could sit up the last part and enjoy the finish. Overall A decent finish, and gives me 4 podiums this year, one short of the 5 I aimed for with a lot of racing yet to do.

Congrats to Dirk, Mike Fletcher, and Roger Sommers for winning their races. And big props to Johnny P who finished second with a broken handlebar. Truly epic!

Thanks to CAMBA, Bike Authority, Kenda, Crank Brothers, Rudy Project and Ritchey for helping me race.

Garmin Data

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Some Happenings.

This week was a pretty eventful week for me. Between watching the tour every morning, My brother being in town and still trying to average 8 hours of riding a week, pluss working, I've been quite busy. Sunday I did a recovery ride at Quails Hollow on my 29 singlespeed. Two laps of just easy riding and having fun on some of the obstacles there. Monday I went to the CAMBA Monthly meeting at OECR and did some laps there. I was on Brett's wheel most of the ride and really pushed myself. I was riding my 26 singlespeed and was right around lactate threshold for most of the ride.

Tuesday I did a 30 mile road ride around the roads of Brimfield and Suffield. The roads where pretty crappy chipseal but the scenery was great. I happened upon a little traveled road that took me back from the hartville area that was lined with small family farms. Wednesday was the CAMBA group ride. It was a good morale boost as the first lap I was so fast only one person was able to hold my wheel and he said that he only did so by a thread. This should bode well for this weekends race. Thursday I took my brother out for his first mountain bike ride at Reagan Park. We did all but Bohedes trail and I was really impressed with him. He only fell once when at the start when he was getting used to the bike. By the end of the ride he was a pro on the bike. we would have finished all the trails except we had to get back to Bbq with the family.

Today I took a short 10 mile recovery ride around Tallmadge including motorpacing around the circle Around mile 8 a spider bit my forhead, appearantly he had ridden for a while inside the helmet.

Tomorrow either will be a rainy road ride or mountain biking with Jen and Mike. Let's see what the weather brings me.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Medina Twin Sizzler

Pics to come tomorrow.

This fourth I did my first road race. I picked the Medina Twin Sizzler as it was easily accessible and seemed fun. I had planned to do this race since the first of the year. I had originally planned to peak for this event and make it a big race. As the season progressed, and as I accumulated points in the OMBC series it became less of a priority. So I didn't request off the night before and ended up getting less than four hours of sleep.

Race day I woke up at the ungodly hour at 5, made sure I had everything and set out. Got there parked and started to head towards the registration and as I came to the corner I see my good friend Sarah pull up. We signed up and started our warm up.

The race started a little after eight and my group 25-29 citizen started off. The pace was fine at first and I made sure my pace was around 100 rpm. I did my pull at the front pushing the pace up a little bit and hung back to the back. Went through the rotation and right as we hit the one major hill, at around mile 10 another rider about 3 back decided to go off the front. I was not confident enough to go with him this early and decided to pull him back when the front rider pulled off I decided to start the chase. I pulled as hard as I could and we started to pull him back. I was averageing about 25-26 mph off the front. This would have worked but I pulled off at the wrong time, a slight uphill, my weakpoint, and totally spent. When I got past the last rider I left a little to much space and soon lost the draft. From there on I was out of the draft. A mistake caused by my hubris. From there on out I was off the back.

I finished the race solo, I'm told only a minute behind the leaders. Overall, it was a good ride and fun time. I might do another road race but I think I'm going to keep focusing on OMBC and mountain biking. Thanks to CAMBA, Kenda, Crank Brothers, Rudy Project, and Ritchey for helping me race.