Saturday, February 27, 2010

Springtime Can't Come Soon Enough!

This winter has felt long.  Way, way too long.  I am tired of the cold, rain, and mud. I'm tired of the darkness. It is all getting to be too much for me.  It's time for the warm, sunny days of springtime and the long hours of June daylight to return.

Enough of this!  I want 60 degree temperatures and lots of good singletrack!  Is that too much to ask?

"Yes, for February it is." (God speaking)

Yeah, I know it's February all right.  I'm just eternally disgusted with Georgia winters.  I would much rather have a quality Wisconsin or Montana winter than this wishy-washiness we get down here in Georgia.  No consistent snow, but hey every now and then we get enough white stuff to screw up the trails for weeks.  And even when the trails are dry, it is cold enough to make riding really not all that much fun.

But sure, we brave the elements anyways, and are rewarded with some good singletrack riding that really does bring pleasure to the soul. 

Ah, there's always something to complain about. It's much better to just joyously accept what God has given, and live it up!  We've only got one shot at this life, and he's made an awesome world for us to enjoy, with people to meet and know, and trails to be ridden with them!  Of course, heaven's going to be all that and much, much more.

Who knows? Maybe with all of these natural disasters, some of us are going to get sent there soon.  But we could still use some spring weather in these parts.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Sunshine Makes All the Difference

Sleep deprivation aside, I forced myself to get out for a 12 mile ride yesterday afternoon.  The weather was colder and windier than it had been earlier in the week, but for some reason the trails were calling even louder.  As I was humping it up a ridge-line doubletrack climb, a realization hit me: sunshine makes all the difference.  Despite the colder temperatures and howling wind, the sunshine makes the world seem more pleasant and inviting, as if all will be well. 

There's something to be said for good 'ole Vitamin D.

I cranked through my 12 miler pretty quickly. . . I impressed myself.  As always, it was just such a satisfying and relaxing feeling to be sweating and grunting away at the pedals.  

Ah, mountain biking.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Victoria Bryant State Park, Royston (Franklin Springs), Georgia

Getting There 
From Franklin Springs, head north on 327 just a bit, and it will be on your left.

The Route
As you can see to the left, there are several nice signs spread throughout the trail system to help you get your bearings.  All of the trails are well marked with spray painted blazes on the trees.  Piece together a ride of up to about 15 miles for some hilly Piedmont riding!

All About the Trail
Whenever I ride at Victoria Bryant, it seems like I always have forgotten how hilly Franklin County can be.  This is technically the foothills of the Piedmont mountains, and while there isn't any serious elevation to be found here, there is some serious hilliness.  Most of the perceived hilliness comes from how the trails are made: they seem to go straight down and straight up the hills.  Don't get me wrong, everything is rideable, it just feels like there is never a flat spot to be had in the entire trail network!  Despite the lack of massive elevation, it makes for a good workout!

Technically, these trails are about as tame as the come.  The only singletrack in the entire park is super tech, and illegal to bicycles. The 15 or so miles of legal trail are all wide doubletrack winding their way through the woods.  Some of the trails are even so tame as to have all the roots and rocks sticking out of the trail more than two inches spray painted so some old woman doesn't trip over them. 

Bottom line: All the negativity aside, if you're in Royston, want to ride your bike, and don't want to drive 45 minutes.... well then you're going to have to ride Victoria Bryant.  And because it's better than not riding, it'll be an enjoyable spin through the woods.

Rides at this trail:


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pedaling for Balance.

Pedaling helps keep me balanced.  The self motivation just wasn't there yesterday to get me to the trailhead, yet somehow I made it out there for a quick 7.5 mile pedal. I think that maybe I was just tired from not enough sleep the night before and classes and homework all day long. 

Getting in the saddle consistent really does help me stay emotionally balanced.  The emotional benefit can probably be attributed to the effects of dopamine release due to aerobic activity, but I have a hard time doing any sort of aerobic activity that doesn't involve a significant adrenaline release as well.  Personally, I think the adrenaline/dopamine combo is the best drug there is.  Who needs coke, seriously?  I've got a mountain bike.

It was a gray day... didn't help with the motivation any.

No Tell

No Tell Wash Out


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Riding with my Wife, and about socializing while riding

This past Sunday, I was blessed with the opportunity to ride with my wife at Victoria Bryant State Park.  We knocked out a solid 5 miles in the beautiful weather, and it was just an awesome time!  I'd forgotten how hilly Franklin County can really be.  There are no flat spots in the trails there at Vicky B: they built them straight up and down those hills.  It's all climbable, but can add up to a pretty intense workout if you've been off the bike for 3 or 4 months. 

Fitness level aside, I always enjoy riding with my wife!  It isn't at all about getting in an intense workout.  I just enjoy spending quality time with my wife, enjoying the beautiful outdoors, doing something fun! Mountain biking is definitely a whole lot of fun, and Sunday was a beautiful day for it!  Highs in the mid 60's in February?  Heck yes!

As a general rule, whenever I ride with people (really anyone, because I guess I usually ride by myself), if I find myself in the position of being the fittest person in the group, whoever I'm riding with automatically thinks that I want to mash the pedals and run my heart through the roof.  This isn't the case. Whenever I get the opportunity to ride with others, I prefer to just hang out, ride at a decent pace that fits the whole group, and chat and have a good time.  The memories that I hold up as examples of great group rides are invariably ones that, yes, were a good distance and speed, but more importantly ones where I got to have good conversations with my riding partners.

The community that mountain biking provides is a very important aspect of the sport. I love it!


Monday, February 22, 2010

Beginning a new job... T-minus 38 minutes

Today I start a new job.  I can't put my finger on it, but for some reason I feel apprehensive about the whole situation.  It most likely isn't apprehension, but just nervousness because, well, every time I start a new job, there's a little nervousness involved.  It doesn't matter if I'm definitely overqualified, I still get a little bit nervous. 

Maybe it has to do with the fact that I haven't technically had a job other than college for the past two months? That could be the main stressor.  Part of my general nervousness, I believe, is just the insane amount of homework I have to do this week, and the fact that I haven't been able to be quite as motivated as I would like to be.  Now throw 20 hours of work that I didn't know I would have two days ago into the mix for the upcoming five days, and studying for several tests, writing 10+ pages worth of papers, and doing who knows how much reading and research.  . . . and all of a sudden simply surviving the next week becomes an even more daunting task. 

What about biking?

That could be it.  With all of the homework that I've had, it has been difficult enough to accomplish all of that while still maintaining a decent amount of time in the saddle.  It is looking like my mountain biking time is going to take a serious hit.  On the other hand, having a job is going to make mountain biking easier.  There will be more money in our budget, which means there will be some more money to be spent on repairing my mountain bike every month.  The tide of the war against bike repairs may be turning! 

As with everything in life, there is a constant trade off.  New job = more money for bike repairs, less time on the bike.  (And more money for other things.  I'm not going to be spending even half of what I make on my bike, so don't think I'm too greedy!)

T-minus 30 minutes.

I better finish getting ready to go.  Please pray for me as I explode back into the world of punching the clock and sucking up to customers.


Jake Mountain, Dahlonega, Georgia

Getting There
From Dahlonega, Georgia head West out of town on Hwy 9.  Take a right onto Hwy 52, and then 4.6 miles later take a right onto Nimblewill Church Road at the old Grizzle's Country Store. Take a right at the Jake Mountain parking lot sign, and take a left/straight into the first parking lot. The trail starts by the corner with the fence. Click here for the trailhead's Google Map placepoint

The Route
Beginning from the trailhead just off of Nimblewill Church road, continue down the gravel road, past the campsites, past the outhouse, and the trailhead will eventually be on your left.  Ride on up the trail.  Eventually, there will be a couple of forks in the trail, offering several options.  Please refer to either the red Bull Mountain map from Milestone Press, or the Maps Illustrated map #777. Also, Jim Parham's Off the Beaten Track. is a good reference for this ride.

The left most fork will lead you to connect over with the Jones Creek Ridge trail, and if you bear more towards the right you will be able to hook up with either the No Tell trail or the Black Branch.

4 Foot Deep Trench
All About the Trail
The Jake Mountain trail is a very mixed bag.  It begins as a wide doubletrack climb, but narrows into some beautiful, long sections of singletrack intermittently throughout its length.  Jake Mountain, along with Bull Mountain, are historically two of the oldest and most popular trails in the area.  As such, they have both seen (and continue to see) the most traffic, especially from horses.  Jake Mountain is a really popular horseback ride, and many sections of the trail have been hammered, widened, and destroyed by hooves.  This has created the single most technical section in the entire network.  With the trail turned into a 4 foot deep ditch at the top, several 2-3 foot drops, washouts, and loose rocks and dirt, that single section can prove to be a challenge, especially to those with minimal suspension. More than anything, this section of trail is an ugly testimony to the incredible damage that horses can do to a trail, especially when ridden wet.

The ditch-like vestige is a fate that many of the trails in the area which are popular to horseback riders  have suffered, and Jake Mountain is no exception.  There are most definitely sections of this trail that are a joy to ride and embody the essence of gorgeous singletrack, and there are some that exist to define what a worn out trail looks like.

One last note: be prepared for several serious stream crossings, especially in the spring.

Bottom line: be prepared for everything. Steep climbs, deep streams, gorgeous singletrack, gnarly descents, boring doubletrack, and navigational nightmares.

Update 10/12/2010:
The horse people finally decided to take care of the mess they caused with the massive washout pictured above. They got a small trail dozer in and flattened it out, so now instead of a 3-4 foot deep ditch it is a 3-4 foot wide section of doubletrack:

Also, while they were at it they rebuilt a couple of the turns further up the trail, and fortified them with some big stones.  Not the most mountain biker friendly rebuild, but it works:

In addition, I want to add a little bit of commentary about the trail as a whole.  In the body of the previous review it may seem like I'm giving this trail a bad rap.  In truth, that wasn't my goal.  Sure, there are a couple of sections that aren't all that great to ride, but some spots are simply sublime one-track! There are a couple sections in specific that run through the deep trees on heavily shaded northern aspects (most of the trails in the area are on southern-ish slopes) that are narrow, fast, and a joy to ride!  So get out and ride Jake Mountain.

The Rest of the Trails in the Bull / Jake Mountain Network:
Your Turn: Do you have more information that needs to be included, or do you have information on new developments since I originally posted this review?  If so, please leave a comment and help keep this post up-to-date and as useful as possible.

Rides at this Trail 


Jake Mountain, Dahlonega, Georgia


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Disappearing Trail

I was riding near Jake Mountain yesterday, and I pieced together an awesome 17-18 mile loop consisting largely of trails that I don’t generally ride.  As I was heading to connect over on a piece of singletrack that I had never actually ridden before, I thought I saw it heading off in the woods across a stream, but the trailhead wasn’t marked at all.  I rode around in circles for a bit, and eventually picked up the trail heading down the hill.  It was a nice piece of narrow singletrack, dropping and curving through the trees.  A little ways in the branches dropped down, slapping me in the face with attitude.  The overgrown trail dropped down a beautiful hill and dead ended in a marsh.  After trudging through ankle deep mud for several minutes trying to pick up the trail, I eventually made the executive decision to abandon the search and just backtrack to the forest road.  I continued my ride a different way, and all was good.

Later as I was sitting on my porcelain throne trying to determine how many miles I had ridden, I looked at my map and the trail had disappeared!  I swear, it had been there all along, I knew it had been there!  Something was seriously wrong with my map.

I got a grip on life, and decided there had to be a rational explanation. 

Ok, maybe I’m pulling your leg a little.  The map I had been using when riding was an older map clearly showing the trail segment, and the map I was using to calculate the distances was a newer map, showing a new trail addition a different part of the network, and omitting the section of trail that had dead ended into the marsh.  Why this section of trail had been abandoned, I had no clue.  I hypothesize that the marsh is relatively new, maybe due to a beaver dam or something of that nature, and that it eradicated the trail. 

Whatever the case, it was quite sad, as what I had ridden had been a lovely section of singletrack, and would have fit nicely as an extension onto one of my smaller loops.  But it was not to be.


Friday, February 19, 2010

The Beauty of the Mountains

As I drove back into Dahlonega the other day, I noticed that the tops of the mountain ridges were still covered with the snow from several days earlier.  They actually looked much like the mountains in Northwest Montana when it starts snowing around the peaks, but the snow line doesn't reach all the way down to the valley.

I am just in awe of the mountains and the majestic beauty that they portray!  Our short Valentine's Day getaway to North Caroline was void of any intense exercise or far-ranging explorations.  Rather, we spent most of the time just enjoying each other and soaking in the majestic creation that God has put around us!  That is why I love the mountains:  the are visible testaments to the power, majesty, and beauty of God!

(PS All this reminds me that I really want to get back up there to ride because those mountains are a heck of a lot bigger than those we have in North Georgia.)

The Swan Range as seen from the Flathead Valley, Montana.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bryson City Bicycles (and thoughts about browsing in bike shops)

While up in beautiful North Carolina, my wife and I were checking out down town Bryson City, and we came across Bryson City Bicycles.  Of course, I grabbed her by the hand and dragged her in the door to check it out.  What we found was an impressive little bike shop.  Big by no means, it definitely made up for its lack of size with big character and style.(Well, who ever said size has anything to do with being a good bike shop anyway? I like small shops.)  Andy, the owner, greeted us as we walked in the door, and we got to chat with him for a good while about almost anything and everything bike related.  He's just a really cool, down to earth guy that obviously loves what he does for a living!  Man, I could tell that this guy was just fired up about riding bikes.  He shared beta with us about the local trails, local races, group rides, bikes, pedals...  you name it. We left feeling well taken care of and walked out the door with a super positive vibe, but feeling a little guilty deep down for not spending a cent.

Do you ever get that feeling when you walk into a bike shop and just want to browse?  I do--often.  I want to support the shop and the guys working their by buying at least a little something, but I'm usually so flat broke that I can hardly afford the gas to get there (ok, that might be a slight exaggeration). Sometimes I wonder if they get tired of me coming in, and always responding to their "Do you need any help finding anything?" question with a "No thanks man, I'm just browsing." 

However, eventually I do become entirely justified when I settle down and choose a local shop to keep coming too... because invariably, I will break something major on my bike and will need to get work done.  For evidence, check out all the bad bike repair karma that has hit me in the past month.  So while it may not happen immediately, I eventually become one of the owner's favorite customers.  When I walk into the shop pushing my bicycle and looking frustrated, they know there is some serious cash coming their way.

Regardless, if you're ever in town and need a part, or are just looking for beta on the local trails, be sure to wander into Bryson City Bicycles in downtown Bryson City.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wolf Creek/Trail#544, Bigfork, Montana

Getting There
From Bigfork, drive north on 35. Take a right at 83 at the gas station (first stop light outside of town). Take a left onto Foothills road? at the Echo lake cafe/school/gas station corner. Take a right on 5292, and head up the Jewel Basin road (follow the signs for the Jewel Basin). As you're climbing, you will see a trailhead and parking area on your right, with an old gravel pit on your left that is commonly used for a shooting range. Park there, the singletrack starts off the right side of the road. 

The Route
Start climbing. Follow 544 till the split/junction with the supposed trail 354 (which in actual fact, doesn't exist) and then turn around and head back down (about 6 miles each way for a total of 12). I suggest turning around because if you continue its a steep steep hike a bike for a very long ways. Pick up the Swan Lake Ranger District map for more info.

All About the Trail
Super-exposed corner
The trail in question has a good bit of everything: some amazing, stone-laden bench cut singletrack with awesome views of the valley, some intense, super-exposed corners, loamy deep woods singletrack, stream crossings, and a lot of rocks... which makes for a tricky climb to the top.When I say a lot of rocks, I definitely mean it.  This is easily the rockiest trail I've ridden in Montana, and ranks somewhere in the top 3 rockiest that I have personally ridden in the whole nation.  Therefore, technical is the name of the game! The gnarly climb is rewarded with a gnarly descent... that's how it usually goes.  

Flathead Valley and Lake, Montana


My first Trail Advocacy Meeting: GSC SORBA

I did do some riding this morning, but then at 11 o'clock I attended my first ever trail advocacy-type meeting.  Somehow or other I've ended up on the GSC SORBA email list, and I got an email from them last night mentioning that there was going to be a meeting this morning... and there was going to be free pizza there.  While Gainesville is a bit of a haul from where I live, the possibility of meeting new people to ride with and the pizza (the food really did push me over the edge) drew me down to attend.  I had no idea at all what to expect.  What I was really looking for was some information about group rides, and I didn't find that because all of the Gainesville trails have been closed for the past couple of weeks.  What I did find, however, was intriguing.

The folks at the GSC SORBA meeting spent most of the time discussing several different events that they're sponsoring in order to get more people on bikes, as well as a long time talking about what needed to happen to maintain the trails and keep them from being destroyed. I found this discussion incredible insightful.  I mentioned that I had just ridden the previous day when the trails were frozen solid, and they responded with a "Haha, you're not supposed to be out there doing that!"  They explained that the main issue wasn't that I rode, but that by riding I'm encouraging people who don't know any better to ride when the trails are wet.  I can see the point that was being made, especially due to the fact that if I had waited a couple of hours to ride, the trails would probably have been mush.  While I have the experience and knowledge to know when the trails are O.K. to ride, other, less experienced riders probably do not.

Overall, the experience was enjoyable because I am always up to talking about riding, and I learned a great deal about trail management from the brief discussion. There had been much talk lately on the forum about trail closures and maintenance as relates to FATS, and I've spent a good deal of time on the Gainesville SORBA (A branch of IMBA) website watching the statuses. Realizing the volume of mountain bikers that comes to ride these trails has helped me realize why they are managed so strictly.  In other places in the country, and even the state, there are not nearly the type of crowds that are dealt with at some of these more popular trails.  Because of the crowds, it is imperative that they are managed more strictly to ensure the quality of the trails for years to come.

Wooden Bridge at the GSC Trail


FATS (Forks Area Trail System), Augusta (Clarks Hill), South Carolina

Leafy singletrack
FATS in the Fall.
Photo Credit: Brian W.
Getting There
Courtesy of the listing:

From I-20 near Augusta, GA take SC Exit 1 (SC 230). Head north on SC 230 for about 5 miles. Turn left on Woodlawn Rd. Go approx. 4 miles, trailhead parking area is on the left.

The Route
There are about 6 singletrack loops that make up this trail system for a total of over 35 miles of singletrack!  The trails are all well signed, with a big information kiosk at the trailhead.  Make your own route!

All About the Trail
FATS rocks! That is about all there is to it.  There are very few places in the Southeast where you can go and ride 35 miles of singletrack without having to worry about grinding up a forest road. On top of that, this is one of the best-maintained trails anywhere in the nation!  This is one of the main reasons IMBA is hosting their international summit in Augusta in 2010.  In addition to the quality upkeep of the singletrack itself, the trail signage is excellent, parking is well laid out, and there are plenty of amenities such as a pit toilet, water pump, and picnic tables at the trailhead.

Forks Area Trail System
Brown Wave. Photo Credit: Brian W.

But what about the quality of the trails themselves?  The singletrack at FATS is FAST! FATS boasts smooth, hardpacked trails that flow up, down, and across the hills of South Carolina.  None of the climbs are difficult, and none of the descents are hazardous.  In fact, none of the trails are "technical," in the basic sense of the word, at all.  A beginning rider with modest fitness should be able to ride all of the trails here.  However, when the speed gets kicked up, all of the undulating rollers turn into opportunities for the experienced rider to get some serious hangtime! The trails are incredible in the way they can serve both beginner and advanced desires for a mountain bike trail. The only things they do not provide, however, are really long, steep hills or seriously rocky, rooty technical terrain.  If you have a choice of bike to bring, bring the hardtail.

Bottom line: There is a reason that FATS can see 200-300 riders per day easily.  Actually, there are 35 reasons.


Nearby Trails:
Stevens Creek
Stevens Creek/Modoc Trail, Augusta (Modoc), South Carolina

Turkey Creek
Turkey Creek, Augusta (Plum Branch), South Carolina

Wine Creek
Wine Creek, Augusta (Plum Branch), South Carolina


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shredding some Tundra

Got some epic tundra riding in this morning.  No really, it was freezing outside!  I checked the weather before I started riding, and it was 25 stinking degrees!  I dominated 8 miles of frozen goodness on the Gainesville College trails.  The singletrack was seriously frozen solid, and it was fast.  It felt like I was ripping through the woods on a bumpy, curvy sidewalk.  I had heard about the wonderful traction afforded by frozen mud, and now I believe it!  The trails weren't really muddy per se, but the frozen sand/clay composition of the singletrack at GSC had a very interesting feeling undertire that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Before I ventured into the bleak, windy wilderness for what turned out to be an awesome ride (barring a couple numb fingers) (more like ten numb fingers), I contemplated waiting until the afternoon to see if it would warm up anymore.  Despite the fact that its only supposed to top out at about 31 or 32 today, I made my decision to ride early based mainly on the fact that I wouldn't ruin the trails, and my bike would stay cleaner.

See, here's the thing:  I Hate Cleaning My Bike.  It's a nuisance, and I have so many other things on my plate (like cleaning the dishes) that cleaning my bike is the last thing I often want to do.  Lately, during my whole busted brake debacle, I've been told in no uncertain terms that I need to stop being such a bum and start taking better care of my bike, especially due to the number of miles that I put on it. So I'm going to take better care of it.  But if I can keep it from getting all dirty in the first place, then bam! we have a winner!
Frozen bike track from who knows when


Monday, February 15, 2010

Brand New Brakes!

Today I got out for a ride with my brand new Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes.  (Sorry, I left my memory card in the computer, so all I have is cell phone photos.)  The switch from hydraulic to mechanical definitely felt different, but these brakes were seriously still rocking!  I was thinking about it as I was riding, and this was my first ride all year with both of my brakes at 100%.  Believe me, it felt awesome to have the security of knowing that you can actually stop without braking for about 50 feet.

I knocked out about 12 miles in the chilly low 30 degree temps today, and made up a lariat with some USFS roads from the church, and then over on No Tell and down Turner Creek.  The singletrack was actually the driest part of my ride today.  I did manage to get my bike seriously gunked up with cement-level Georgia clay. The cement penetrated every little part of my bike, even causing one of the guide wheels on my derailleur to seize up.  I'm serious, that stuff was bad! 

Despite the cold and some of the muck, It felt awesome to be on the bike again after a week off due to weather, mechanical issues, and personal time off. If I'm going to make my goal of 2,000 miles offroad this year, I really need to start dropping the hammer and riding 4-5 days a week.  It's time to get serious!

Exit question: What disc brakes do ya'll recommend?


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Up in North Carolina, rebalancing to center in life

I spent the weekend having a nice getaway with my wife to North Carolina.  And no, I didn't bring my bike.  I needed a weekend to rebalance to center in my life, and just remind myself of all that is truly important.  Biking is an important part of my life, and no I'm not quitting.  In fact, I'm going riding tomorrow with a brand spanking new pair of Avid BB7 disc brakes!  There are priorities in life, though. The key to wisdom, and having the outcome of living a happy and fulfilled life, is to obtain a perfect balance in everything.

For a human being to obtain balance in everything is impossible.  It is made so by the human nature, by the feat of truly balancing things, and the misnomer of the word "balance." After living life for my several years, I have come to realize that some things in life cannot be balanced. It is in their nature to resist each other, creating a "tension" between the two.  Most often (but there are exceptions to the rule) the wisest place to stand is at the center of the tension, and to refuse to be pulled to either extreme.  Some people may refer to this as "balancing the two sides," but as I stated previously the word "balance" is really a misnomer in this scenario.  Balancing two things in life occurs when one makes decisions about the levels of importance of two or more things in one's life.  These things are indifferent to each other.  One is not directly impacted by the other, save for the amount of importance they hold in a person's life.  Things that exist in tension, however, are those that at first glance seem diametrically opposed. They appear to be total opposites, with no reconciliation between them.  This is what causes most people to be drawn to either extreme, due to the fact that they see only two possible solutions.  Thus being on one or the other extreme seems like an accurate conclusion.  Wisdom, however, realizes that between the two points of tension there exists a sliding scale, with places to stand all along it.  Most often, the wisest place to stand is close to the middle of the tension.

Take the example of the diametrically opposed viewpoints of environmentalism and industrial progress and urbanization.  Here are the views of the extreme environmentalists (and there are plenty of them, and they make sure that they are heard:
"Cutting down a tree for any purpose is wrong!  Injuring an animal in any way, and even if you forget to feed your dog Molly in the morning and don't put food in her bowl until the afternoon, should be punishable by prison time!  We must deconstruct everything man-made, and return to the forest, living off of what the forest gives us."
Proponents of extreme industrialization, urbanization, and "progress" say:
"Log all those forests off and turn them into houses and paper! Whales are good for money, and I am going to hunt them until they're gone so I can get as rich as possible!  We are going to build a superhighways into the Alaska interior and get that oil out of there!  Hell, we'll pave a road right across the flanks of Denali if we have to!"
These are the extreme viewpoints.  True wisdom understand that the best place to stand is most likely at the center of the tension.  The wise man proposes environmental conservation and good stewardship: wise use of the land as the best course of action.  Not clear cutting all the forests or abstaining from cutting  a single tree, but cutting and replanting, or doing selective cuts.  Wisdom says it is foolish and wasteful to drive an SUV if you are sitting in traffic, by yourself, on your commute to the office in the heart of Atlanta.  Wisdom also says that the contractor living up in the mountains of Dahlonega may have a very legitimate reason to drive a big diesel pickup truck all day.

The one exception to this concept of standing at the center of tension is when the two things in question make mutually exclusive truth claims.  I.E. they both cannot be true at the same time. It takes wisdom to realize when this is the case.  It takes wisdom to realize that this case can even exist.  And it takes great wisdom to discern what really is the truth when they are two different viewpoints that simply cannot be compromised.

For now, this has been enough discussion about balance, tension, and wisdom.  In a future post, perhaps I will expound more on different examples of mutually exclusive claims.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Bike repairs causing dissension

Let's face it: riding a bike can turn into an expensive hobby.  That is especially true if said bicycle always seems to need fixing, new parts, adjustments, etc. etc.  It can turn into something that costs a little bit of money.  I wish it was totally free, but it isn't.  There are bike repairs, and then there's the cost of driving to the trails, sometimes the cost of paying money to ride at the trails, cost for clothes, maps, and dozens of  other things that could possibly be purchased to fuel one's mountain biking habit.

Repairs are, by far, easily the greatest expense of them all.  I've been attempting to do most of my repairs on my own, but even then there is still the cost of new parts, and I simply don't have the know-how or tools to do some of the more intensive repairs.  It ends up costing money.

If it is just a hobby, it can turn into a great "black hole" of wasted money, as well as time.  For those of us that call ourselves mountain bikers, however, it is never just a hobby.  It is a way of life.  Mountain biking is our ticket to freedom from the punch-the-clock day job, endless lectures and pages of reading in the classroom, what was once a great salaried job now turned time-consuming nightmare, the smog of the city, the hustle and bustle of becoming "someone," and any hundreds of things that are considered "normal" by the general populace.  Since when is "normal" good? Normal sucks!  I decided long ago that I was never going to live a "normal" life by any standard, and that I absolutely hated the idea of living in suburbia and sitting at a desk in front of a computer screen crunching numbers all day.

The pressure to attain to that idea of what is "normal" and what is "achievement" is so high.  And hey, at times the money that'll come rolling in from having that job in urban Atlanta could look like the ticket to a nice bike, with plenty of funds to repair it when it breaks.  6 months into the "normal" life or the life of "achievement," you'll realize that hey, you never have to fix that $5,000 bike you bought because you never have time to ride it anymore.  So it sits in the garage in pristine condition, just so you can take pictures of it and post it on a message board and try to look hardcore.  When in fact, you've owned that bike for 6 months and only put 100 miles on that.

The moral of the story:  don't be that person!  Never be that person! I've decided that that won't be me.  And over the course of the next couple of years, if you stick around and read this blog, I'll prove that to you.

The real moral of the real story: keep your priorities in order.  Biking is all well and good, and while it feels like it is necessary to survival, it most often isn't. Keep everything in it's proper place: maintain balance in all things. Have fun, don't live a boring life, and definitely don't waste your money on a $5,000 bike if you can't afford it, and especially if you won't use it.

(PS I don't own a $5,000 bike.  But I wish I did ;)  )


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Reno/Flag/Bear/Deadman, Crested Butte, Colorado

Getting There
From Crested Butte, head south on HWY 135.  After about 7 miles, take a left on Cement Creek road (FS 470).  The trailhead will be about 7 miles up that road, on the right.
Trailhead in Google Maps

The Route
This is a 20 mile loop, consisting of about 6 miles of USFS road and 14 miles of singletrack.  It's been about a year and a half since I've ridden it, so please see these sources for more information:
Pick up Mountain Bike Crested Butte Gunnison & Salida Singletrack by Holly Annala, and the Trails Illustrated Map #131 Crested Butte and Pearl Pass.  Also, see the listing.

About the Trail
This is easily one of the best trails anywhere!  High, alpine singletrack with fast, smooth descents, incredible views, long climbs, and one of the gnarliest, switchback descents in the United States!  This trail is absolutely gorgeous, and is just blissful to ride! If you are ever anywhere near Crested Butte, this ride is a must-do. This loop is without a doubt once-in-a-lifetime quality singletrack!.

Bottom line: travel to Crested Butte and ride this trail ASAP.

Greg Rides Trails,best of

crested butte

crested butte


Heritage Park, Athens (Farmington), Georgia

Getting There
From Athens, head south from the loop on Hwy 441.  Drive about past Watkinsville and through Farmington, and Heritage Park will be on your right, with a big, white old house, a long white fence, and a couple of horse barns in a massive field. Turn right into the park. Park in the gravel parking lot straight ahead.
Click here for the trailhead's Google Maps placepoint

The Route
From the parking lot, follow the singletrack out through the fence towards the field, and hang a left right as you enter the trees.  The trail is basically a loop with several options to make it shorter.  Follow the Orange arrows (for the most part) to take the hardest trails.  Or just do what looks like the outside loop.  Just keep following arrows and you'll make your way back to the parking lot. This is just about an 8.5 mile loop

All About the Trail
Heritage Park is probably one of the rougher rides this far south in Georgia (or in the Southeast in general).  There are lots of low roots, and quite a few rocks as well.  The climbs and descents are short and steep, and the trail gets pretty tight and twisty in some spots on the advanced trails.  While the singletrack feels rather wide in some spots (but still very singletrack), it gets pretty narrow in others.  In spots its benchcut into the hill, in others it's not.  This trail has a good mix of lots of different riding all thrown in.  Heritage also has this way of thoroughly working me over, despite the fact that it's in Central Georgia and only 8.5 miles long.  If you are doing one of the endurance races out here:  prepare to be hammered.

Bottom line:  This is one of the more popular trails in the area for a reason:  it's just good straight-up mountain biking.

Greg Rides Trails,best of



Losing the War: Bike Repair Woes

I'm losing the war to broken bike parts.

Today, I set aside some time to do some work on my bike, and replace some warn out parts (including my rear brake pad).  I was really excited pumped up about doing some maintenance, because I had just finished a long trek to pick up my wayward bike parts.Long story short, got my brake pad installed, pistons reset, and I have no freaking brake power!  Went to the shop, and talked with the guys, and it's the same thing that is still not fixed with my front brake.  I'm going to need to get both master cylinders in my brakes fixed before I can ride again.

So I was thinking, instead of calling this blog "Greg Rides Trails," maybe it should be called something more along the lines of "Greg Wishes He Rode Trails," or "Greg's Bike Repair Woes."

bike repairs

bike repairs


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Adventure and exploration as the essence of mountain biking

If you are in the market to buy a new bike, the most recent issue of Bike Mag is your crucial resource for gear research!  I have personally never seen such an exhaustive survey of current mountain bikes in my entire life!  The Bike staff approached these with reviews with the typically famous work ethic, and spent weeks riding and reviewing bikes.  Of course, I’m sure they enjoyed spending almost a month riding some of British Columbia’s finest singletrack! 

Since I am not planning on buying a new mountain bike any time soon (see my last post), the write ups on British Columbia singletrack were the ones that really got me daydreaming at school. New trails! Trails that I haven’t ridden, and of the world-famous caliber of B.C.!  Will I ever get to ride those trails?  That remains to be seen, but I sincerely hope so.  And if I make it to the age of 40, I’m pretty sure I will. My wife will finally say “All right, I’ve heard enough about this British Columbia!  Let’s go and get it out of your system!”  But of course, you can’t get singletrack and the thirst for exploration out of a true mountain biker’s “system.”

The insatiable thirst for exploration, to roll down trails previously personally unridden, is the most fundamental element of our sport.  Without trails to explore, destinations to travel too, and adventures to be had we devolve to simply those rednecks living back in the woods who refuse to drive outside of their county (except wearing lycra and peddling multi-thousand dollar pieces of aluminum and carbon fiber). 

The essence of mountain biking is embodied in exploration, in adventure. So go, click on the Trail Review Series link, find a trail that you haven’t ridden, get out there and ride something new!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fighting a war, and fueling a habit

I placed an order over at JensonUSA about 2 weeks ago, and this past Saturday I got a text from my old roommate saying that my package had turned up on his door step.  The only issue is a moved over an hour and half away from there.  Today I decided to make the drive down to pick up my parts. It's really a good day for it, because the weather is cold, wet, and basically nasty right now.

I NEED those parts. I am constantly fighting a war, battling to keep my bike in good running condition.  If I had a budget of $100 a month to work with, I don't think it would be much of an issue.  Well, that's not the case.  I'm currently attempting to fund my mountain bike "habit" off of less than $30 a month.  That's incredibly inexpensive as far as vices go.  I mean seriously, you can't even binge drink once a month for $30, much less 3 or 4 days a week like most people do. Don't even get me started on smoking, and if you move into other, more interesting things... please. There's no way.  But I digress...

Bike parts. I need them LAST WEEK.


Monday, February 8, 2010

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Riding for a living

It's amazing to me sometimes how overly optimistic I can be.  I'll think "Oh yeh, I can knock out this 18 mile loop no problem, I'm feeling so good, I'll still have gas left by the end of it!"  And oh how wrong I can be.  While I did dominate an 18 mile ride up the Jake to Bull connector, the entire Bull Mountain loop, and then back down the connector, by the end of it I was toast. I was gone mentally. 

I had been spending a lot of time while climbing up one of the eternal fire roads about different ways I could possibly make a living riding my bike. Grand thoughts of opening a bike-specific resort, owning a shop, starting my own guiding business... lots of different things. By the end of the ride I was nearly cursing my foolish desire to ride a bike for a living.  The numbness from my toes, pain from my legs and other unmentionable places that haven't been spending enough time in the saddle, were all telling me that getting a nice, easy job as a philosopher writing books was the way to go.

I did spend a little time thinking about my English essay that I should have been at home writing. It was looming in my consciousness, siphoning off some of the joy I was obtaining from cranking up some rooty singletrack. The ride did help me settle down and get some thinking done, and thankfully my English paper is now written and checked off the list.  All I have to do is a little bit of editing here and there, and it's good to go.  Riding bikes will do amazing things for you if you let it.

bull mountain,mountain biking

bull mountain,mountain biking


Jake Mountain parking lot to Bull Mountain parking lot connector trail, Dahlonega, Georgia

Getting There
From Dahlonega, Georgia head West out of town on Hwy 9.  Take a right onto Hwy 52, and then 4.6 miles later take a right onto Nimblewill Church Road at the old Grizzle's Country Store. Take a right at the Jake Mountain parking lot sign, and take a left/straight into the first parking lot. The trail starts by the corner with the fence. Click here for the trailhead's Google Map placepoint

The Route
The route is fairly simple. It is a straight out and back (3.25 miles each way), but I recommend combining it with the Bull Mountain loop to make an 18 mile epic lariat.

For the connector trail, the first section of singletrack will dump you out on a FS road. Go left, then a quick right, and then the singletrack starts again on your left. After climbing all the switchbacks and hitting the FS road again, cross over the road, down the other side into the Bull Mountain parking lot. Trend towards the left, pick up a massively washed out short piece of connector trail, and then choose to continue on up the normal Bull Mountain loop or not.

Navigational Resources
The only resource that currently includes this trail is map #777 from National Geographic.  This is easily the best and most up-to-date navigational resource for the greater Bull Mountain area.  If you are going to be spending much time up here, I highly recommend investing in one of these maps:

About the Trail
This is one of the most newly constructed trails in the Bull Mountain area. The trail is narrow, undulating singletrack that is, for the most part, better constructed than the other trails in the area.

That being said, some sections of it are typically the wettest sections of trails in the area; some mud holes take a long time to dry out. The first section of trail is fast and flowy, but after crossing the road it steepens and tightens up, and has a series of very nice, rideable switchbacks climbing most of the hill. I believe these are the only legitimate set of switchbacks in the Bull Mountain area, although some of the trails could definitely use them.

Here's a video review of one of my favorite rides, combining this trail and the Bull Mountain Loop:

jake to bull connector

Update 10/21/2010:
The last section of the initial downhill on this trail where it intersects forest road 28-1 was quickly eroding into a deep gully, mostly due to the pretty obvious horse prints in the muddy soil. Yes, the CTHA spent the time and money to put in this new reroute, but if the horses had stayed off the trails when they were wet and if this last section had been better constructed in the first place, it wouldn't have been necessary. 

Here is what the new trail end looks like from the road:

While they obviously put some work into this, the construction is absolutely horrible for mountain bikers.  The new reroute is too steep, and the gravel they used is very loose and powdery.  Not only is the steepness horrible for mountain biking, but I think this will wash out as well in a year or two.

Be careful when approaching this from the top; it looks as if you should continue straight when really you've got to hang a sharp left down the gravel.  Here's what it looks like now as you approach the end of the trail:

All things considered, this was a necessary reroute.

Rides at This Trail 

Your Turn: Do you have more information that needs to be included, or do you have information on new developments since I originally posted this review?  If so, please leave a comment and help keep this post up-to-date and as useful as possible.




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Greg Heil is the Editor in Chief for He's been writing and publishing online since before blogging existed.

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