Saturday, July 31, 2010

Last day to win a Free Giant Mountain Bike!

Today is your last day to enter to win this free Giant Trance X1:

If you want a crack at this, you had better click on the image and go fill out the sweepstakes form.  Its crazy easy, and this is a nice ride! Giant's website lists the average retail value at $3,600.  Yeah, you want this bike! Guest Post
The promised detailed write-up on the Jackrabbit trail system in Hayesville, North Carolina is now live as a guest post over on  Click here to check it out!  

If you've just landed here for the first time from, I'd just like to say a big "What up?" and invite you to take a look around the blog, and see what you think of it.  If you are looking for recent posts that are somewhat "normal" and exemplify what Greg Rides Trails is all about, I invite you to check out a some of the links below:
Thanks for stopping by, and I hope this isn't just a one time occurrence.  We're always open to more people getting involved in the GregRidesTrails community!


Friday, July 30, 2010

Lots of Stuff in the Mix: Friday Flight Crew Update

Want to win a Giant Trance X1 and/or $100 cash?  Click here for details!

The Airborne world has been a busy, busy place as of late.  But before we get to all of the news, here's your mtb video fix for the week:

Airborne has officially announced on their Facebook page that the next bicycle to be released will be a 29er!  The Flight Crew has been having a big say in some of the design elements, as well as the name and color selection of the new bike.  It has been really exciting to give advice on the "under development" models, and I am very excited to finally see the production model of the 29er very soon!

Taka Time

Photo taken by Patrick
In order to help us spread the word about more of their current bike models, Airborne has decided to send each Flight Crew member a second bicycle!  After much internal turmoil, I selected what I honestly think is currently the best bicycle in Airborne's lineup: the Taka downhill bike

I have wanted to get into full-on lift served DH riding for a very long time, but I've never really lived in a place where it would be practical to buy a dedicated downhill rig.  Well, I still fully don't as it's almost 4 hours to the nearest lift served riding, but I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to get one of these sweet rides for free! 

Dang, I just love going fast downhill!  I can't wait for this to show up on my doorstep!

Other Flight Crew Members
Ana Christina Rodriguez has ridden the Taka to the top of the podium and claimed the title of Wyoming's Pro Women's DH Champion!  A big shout out to her, and a congratulations on a job well done!

Marty Tank just posted a new riding video of him tearing up some sweet Wisconsin singletrack.  Be sure to click here and check it out!

Your Turn: How interested are you in Airborne's new 29er?  What do you think it would take for a 29er to really stand out in the current market?


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Win a FREE Mountain Bike, and/or $100 CASH!

Here at GregRidesTrails, I always try to have the best interests of YOU, the readers, in mind.  I strive to write content that will hopefully provide you with quality information, or teach you something.  Also, whenever the opportunity presents itself, I love to hook ya'll up with information on how to win FREE STUFF!  Now, what could be better than the opportunity to win a Giant Trance X1 Mountain Bike?

Yes, YOU have the opportunity to win a FREE mountain bike by clicking on this link and filling out the form. This giveaway is being provided courtesy of the awesome guys over at Michelin. In case you didn't already know, Michelin offers a full line up of bicycle tires, spanning the spectrum from road racing to downhill mountain biking.  So thanks to them for this free mountain bike!

There is a deadline.  If you look at the small print at the bottom of the image, it says the contest ends on July 31.  That's in two (2) days!  So if you are going to register to win this, get on it RIGHT NOW!

That's Not All
I bet there are going to be a lot of people registering to win this mountain bike.  That shouldn't deter you from trying, because honestly, how awesome would it be to get that package in the mail? 

So as an added bonus to go along with this offer, one of you readers here on is definitely going to win a FREE $100 American Express Gift Card!  $100 is still an awesome prize (and you have a lot better chance of winning it), and is worthy of a small competition!

Here's what you have to do:
Submit the best picture that you have of you (or someone you know) mountain biking.  (1 submission per person).

It doesn't have to be a recent photo, it doesn't even have to be all that great.... but submit it by either posting a link or embedding it in the comments section below, or by emailing it to g.gaheil AT gmail DOT com. If you leave it in the comments section below, be sure to leave your email so that I can get ahold of you if you win!  I will be accepting picture submissions from now through 11:59 pm Sunday night, August 1st.  Yes, that means you have one more day to get your picture in to me than you do to register to win the mountain bike. 

I will be choosing the best picture from those submitted, and you'll receive $100! Big air, shear gnarliness factor, great scenery, or artistic composition could all go towards helping your picture be the best.

Also, please don't cheat and grab a picture off of the internet.  Karma, God's wrath, or something similar WILL catch up with you!

Your Turn:  Enter to win that mountain bike, and submit a photo to win $100!


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

8 Things God Is Teaching Me Through Back Pain

Click here to check out Part 1.

Pain can have vastly different purposes, depending on your philosophical views.  For instance I, and most other mountain bikers, hold to the philosophy that "Whatever doesn't kill you only makes you stronger." As evidenced by the rampant obesity in America today, that is not a very commonly held philosophy.  Rather, many people strive to avoid pain and distress as much as possible, and so they eat themselves into a gargantuan body while watching TV and dreaming of being someone they're not.

Religious views can also have a large impact on what one thinks the purpose of pain is.  For instance, holding a Darwinistic perspective could lead one to endure much pain in order to strengthen himself (see above) and become the "fittest."  OR, the lack of a greater meaning in life could lead the holder of an atheistic world view to avoid pain at all costs, because really, what is the purpose of pain?  Pain is annoying, uncomfortable, and serves no purpose other than to depress us even more by the pointlessness of our situation.

On the flipside, those who hold a worldview based on Biblical Christianity already have a thought paradigm in place when pain comes into their lives.  For we know that suffering has a purpose:
Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)  3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
 James 1:2-4  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
All this talk of perseverance is something that we mountain bikers can understand.  We are constantly pushing harder and further in order to become fitter, faster... to have more stamina, more perseverance.  Endurance athletes understand that perseverance takes struggle, pain, and a great deal of time to achieve.  Yet, we still view it as a worthy goal.

Why is that? Having more endurance, more perseverance means that we can go longer, harder, and at a higher level.  It means that we are capable of doing more and accomplishing greater things. This is why I believe God puts us through hardships so we develop greater perseverance: because after we reach the other end of the trial, we are capable of accomplishing more for His kingdom than we could have ever accomplished beforehand!

As I emerge (hopefully) from these months of pain (for more info, read the beginning of yesterday's post), I hope to take away a number of things that God is trying to teach me through this pain:
  1. Trust, and God's capability. To trust in Him that he will deliver, even if at the time I can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel… and even if I still can’t. I need to learn to trust him to know what’s best for me when I don’t. As Jason Croy preached about last Sunday, we often doubt or don't fully grasp God's capability.
  2.  Perseverance, greater strength. Like I mentioned above, when I come out of these long months of pain, how much stronger of a man will I be? As mountain bikers, we often speak of powering through pain in our legs, pain in our whole body during the most epic of rides or races.  I have hated this back pain as it has not been a "good pain."  But still, won't I emerge from the other side of this with a much greater tolerance for pain and discomfort?
  3. Patience. This goes along with trusting, and being strengthened through the pain, but patience in suffering is a virtue.
  4. Priorities. What really matters in this life isn’t what we do for our hobbies. It is the people that matter most. Jesus was all about his God and sharing God’s love to the people around him. So often I have trouble looking past my circumstances to what God wants me to do, even in spite of them.
  5. Happiness. Where do we draw our happiness from? Do we draw from the well of everlasting happiness that is Jesus, or do we try to find satisfaction in things that fade and that can be taken from us?  Mountain biking, physical fitness, and even movement can be taken away from us.
  6. Eternal perspective. This body will one day die. Instead of being so constantly focused on the here and now, on the pain that I’m currently experiencing, I must fix my eyes on eternity which will be free from pain! This world is fallen and broken and has been since the Garden of Eden. Life on this earth is pain! (See #4 from yesterday.) These earthly bodies are mere shells for our spirits, even if they will one day be resurrected, this body will still decompose first. 
  7. Hope. All of the things I've listed above factor into learning how to live with a constant hope for the future, and an implicit trust in Jesus and his plan for my life.  Even after these 4 1/2 months of pain, I still am having a difficult time trying to grasp this concept of living filled with hope and joy.  Maybe this is something that I will more fully comprehend after I have finished this trial and can look back on it from a distance.
  8. It can always get worse. I have been tremendously blessed in so many areas of my life!  I have a gorgeous wife who loves me and has supported me as best she can through this struggle.  We don't have a lot of money, but do have health insurance and enough to cover these medical costs.  And I know that God has a plan for my life, even if I don't always understand all the twists and turns that I'm taking along the way.  It could be much, much worse.

    Your Turn: Feel free to share your thoughts below on philosophy, worldviews, theology, and how that impacts what we learn (or fail to learn) from trials such as chronic pain.


    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    6 Things I'm Learning from Back Pain

    Over the past 4 and 1/2 months I have been battling chronic mid-upper (thorasic) back pain.  It has been a miserable struggle, and has had me off the bike for weeks at a time, and at others has confined me to just paved road riding.  In addition to this back difficulty, I have been experiencing stomach pain along with it for the past 2 months or more.

    I have seen 2 chiropractors, 2 doctors, and 1 physical therapist over the past 2 1/2 months.  I have undergone a battery of treatments and tests, and am still not fully recovered.  However, I think that now I am on the path to a full recovery and maybe I will be completely healed within another month.

    Over the course of this physical struggle, I have been learning many things about myself, and about life.  Below are 6 key things that I've been learning and pondering:
    1. Not to take my health or physical fitness for granted.  It can disappear in the blink of an eye, without any warning or apparent cause.  Be thankful for what you have!  For so long I lived oblivious to the fact of how healthy I really was.  I took it so for granted, and I shouldn't have.
    2. To take advantage of my health.  As a corollary of #1, if you are healthy and pain free, don't sit around on your bum!  Get out and exercise!  Enjoy your body while you have the chance!  I was no slouch in this. Still, after having experienced this much pain and downtime, as I hopefully struggle my way back to a full recovery I am going to seize every opportunity with so much more zeal and fervor than I used to! I'll revel in the simple ability to make myself tired, without having unnatural pain.
    3. To be thankful for the ability to ride a mountain bike. This is implied by numbers 1 and 2 above, but stems even beyond it.  Every time I get out and pedal the bike, especially when it is on singletrack, it is such a blessing!  Yes, I'm blessed by being able to be healthy and active and not be in pain. Also, I'm blessed by not having to struggle for survival, so I have free time on my hands to do things like ride singletrack.  Not only that, I'm blessed to be able to own a decent mountain bike, and to be able to keep it in good running condition (most of the time).
    4. Life is pain. Life is full of pain, and the moments that we aren't in some sort of discomfort should be cherished! Pain/discomfort can definitely be physically oriented, but it can also be mental or emotional too.  I figure I might as well get used to it.  
    5. I can't always fix things by myself.  Sometimes, I need other people's help.  Yes, this means that sometimes I need to go to the doctor.  Despite the fact that I think I know my body inside and out and can tell what's wrong, I am not an expert.   Sometimes, you just need expert help. That's what doctors and physical therapists are for.
    6. Doctors aren't always right. Despite #5 above, doctors are not always right and don't know everything! I know myself pretty well, and sometimes it pays to just go with my gut instinct.  Also, using wisdom and discernment between differing medical opinions is key in making beneficial decisions.
    Your Turn: Have there been hard times in your life that you have learned something from?  If you feel confident to share, please drop a comment below!  Feel free to share your struggles, their conclusion, and what you gained from them.

    Click here to check out part 2.


      Monday, July 26, 2010

      Advanced Switchback Technique

      After talking about the main points in riding a switchback last Thursday, I thought it necessary to explain an advanced switchback descending technique.  This is generally accepted as the fastest way to negotiate a sharp switchback while going downhill.  Please note: I've never actually done this before.  I've had it explained to me, and been shown how to do it, but I've never actually attempted it.

      1.  Approach the switchback with much more speed than you would normally use to ride through the turn. 
      2. When your front wheel is well into the turn, grab your front brakes hard, bringing your rear wheel high off the ground.
      3. Instead of going over the handle bars, swing the back end of your bike around towards the outside of the turn, until you are directly inline with the lower trail.
      4. Release your front brake as you let your rear wheel down, and ride straight out of the turn.
      The four steps above take place over a matter of a few seconds.  When done correctly, this is a visually stunning technique that is bound to leave your riding buddies in awe... and lagging far behind you.

      Remember to wear your helmet (as you should be anyway) while you attempt to master this technique!

      Your Turn:
      Are you one of the talented few who can pull of this maneuver? If so, I'd love to hear a more detailed explanation!  Feel free to post it in the comments section below!


      Friday, July 23, 2010

      Friday Flight Crew Update

      As promised, here are some multimedia goodies from my time out at the Jackrabbit trail system near Hayesville, North Carolina.  In addition to this, expect a more in-depth write up and full-length video sometime in the near future:

      Tree Ride!

      Jackrabbit Trail System

      We rode Jackrabbit on a Wednesday, and the following weekend my wife and I headed over to Clayton, Georgia for some camping and, of course, mountain biking.  We rode the incredible Stonewall Falls loop, and I also rode the White Twister trail.  White Twister was a big letdown.  I had heard some rave reviews of that trail, but it seemed completely covered in large downed trees.

      Stonewall Falls more than made up for White Twister's shortcomings.  Consisting of well-built benchcut singletrack, there were climbs to be had aplenty, and downhills to go right along with them!  The downhill sections of Stonewall Falls were an absolute blast to bomb down!  While there were rocks and some roots, the trail really wasn't very technical.  The Zeppelin Elite soaked up whatever resistance the singletrack offered with ease.  Really, Stonewall Falls is the kind of trail the Zeppelin is made for.  It can climb solidly when the trail demands, and when the singletrack rolls back downhill the Zeppelin is ready to fly!

      The more miles I put on this bike, the more satisfied I become with it.  The Zep is really an everyday go-to type bike.  While some bikes may seem to have a more specialized task (the Taka for downhilling, a hardtail for when it's not too rough, a jump bike for jumps), the Zep is one of those bikes that you can just default to and expect to handle most everything a normal day of riding will throw at you!

      Stonewall Falls
      The trail's namesake.


      Thursday, July 22, 2010

      The Secret to Riding Switchbacks on a Mountain Bike

      A big switchback.
      Switchbacks can be the most challenging section of a mountain bike trail, and if there are some rocks and roots thrown in, they can be nearly impossible if you don't know the secret to riding them properly.

      A sharper switchback.

      For those who don't know, a trail is said to "switchback" or have a "switchback" in it when it turns sharply back upon itself, usually while climbing or descending a hill.  Most classic switchbacks execute a complete 180 degree turn.  Some of them may be big and shallow like the one in the upper left of this post, or they may be sharper and steeper like the one on the right side.

      The Secret To Cleaning Switchbacks
      The "secret" to riding switchbacks cleanly is really no secret at all, as I have already written about it.  In a phrase, it is this: "Wherever you are looking, that's where you will go."

      When you are riding a switchback, however, it can be tough at first to remember to look where you want to go, because the trail appears to reach a complete dead end.  Obviously, you can't keep looking straight ahead into the forest, because that is where you'll end up.  You can't look at the part of the turn where your wheel is, because you won't know what is coming at you from even two feet ahead.  

      Rather, you must look all the way through the turn, and crane your head around to see the section of trail that you want to end up on.  Imagine, for instance, you are riding the switchback pictured above and to the right. First, you must look at the turn as it approaches. When you get near it and your front wheel begins to enter it, you need to pull your head hard to the inside of the turn (in this case, left) and look through the turn and up to the section of the trail above you.  At first, this may feel very disconcerting as you aren't looking at the front wheel of your mountain bike at all, and aren't even looking in the same direction as your current path of travel!  
      As your mountain bike is about in the middle of the switchback, you should be basically looking straight along the upper trail after the switchback.  In about one second, your bike will swing around and catch up with your line of sight, and you'll be ready to rock and roll, having successfully ridden the turn!

      In order to help illustrate this concept, I took some helmet cam footage while climbing some switchbacks in my local trail system.  I angled the camera down so that you can see where my front wheel is, but as this is a helmet mount you will be guaranteed to see where my head is pointing.  (Bear in mind that my eyes can partially look through the turn without my head having to turn fully.)

      You will notice that my head turned, looking through the turn and up to the trail above it, faster than my front wheel turned.  Basically, my head led my wheel as it turned.  I was able to look straight along the upper trail before my front wheel was pointing that direction.  If you watch closely, you will notice that the camera stopped turning while the bike still was, and that my front wheel swung around and caught up with my line of sight.

      Try watching this clip from another switchback. On this clip, I've slowed down the period of time where I am "looking through the turn" so that you can see where my head is pointing in relation to my front wheel:

      This effect of the front wheel lagging behind becomes even more pronounced the sharper a turn is.

      Generally, going up a switchback is much more challenging than riding down one, which is why I've talked about climbing up to this point. Descending switchbacks generally seems much more natural, although the same technique still applies.  The only difference is you don't have to worry about providing the momentum to get the bike through the turn, or getting your front tire up and over a root or rock.

      The technique of "looking through the turn" really comes into play on downhill switchbacks that are very, very steep and sharp.  These would be the kind of switchbacks that would be impossible to climb up, simply because they are so stinking steep!  When riding one of these switchbacks, I tend to almost come to a complete stop as I try to inch my front wheel around the outside of the turn as my back wheel stays in basically the same spot.  Then, the bike seems to reach a tipping point, where all you have to do is shift your weight downhill to the inside of the turn, and you ride out of it and continue on your merry way.

      Click here to read about an advanced descending technique.

      Keep Your Eyes Peeled

      Keep your eyes peeled for switchbacks as you are descending.  Again, switchbacks require you to slow down drastically, sometimes almost to a complete stop.  If you are screaming down a sweet singletrack descent, it is imperative that you are constantly on the lookout for switchbacks.  A switchback that catches you by surprise will cause you to leave giant skid marks in the trail (which precipitate unnecessary erosion), at the very least.

      As a worst case scenario, you won't have enough time to stop, and will go flying off of the end of the switchback into whatever is on the other side, most likely causing a crash.  If this is a tree, a steep hill, or a cliff, the result could be serious injury or death.  As trek7k of reminded us yesterday in his blog post, mountain biking is a dangerous sport!

      For instance, I was flying downhill during my first ride ever at Stonewall Falls in Clayton, Georgia on what had been a long, fairly straight downhill.  As I entered an open area with tall blackberry thorn bushes encrouching on the trail, the tread quickly became rocky and somewhat washed out.  As I rounded a slight bend in the trail, I looked ahead and saw a wall of thorns!  The trail took a sharp 100 degree turn to the left (it wasn't even a full switchback), and though I tried to stop, I didn't have nearly enough time!  I flew off the turn (which dropped off on the other side), and ended up face-first in the thorn bushes with my bike on top of me.  It took me almost five minutes and a lot of needle pricks to extricate myself from the thorns.  I paid for my speed in blood, but luckily escaped without any serious injury.

      The moral of the story: keep your eyes up, and ride in control at all times!

      Your Turn
      What have your experiences with switchbacks been like? Do you have any advice to share with someone new to riding switchbacks, or do you have any further questions on switchback technique?  Please feel free to share your questions and advice below!

      The Rest of the Series
      Be sure to round out your arsenal of Mountain Bike Skills by reading the rest of the series here.


      Tuesday, July 20, 2010

      Contest Winners!

      It's the time you've all been waiting for! (Drum roll please)

      The winners of the free schwag giveaway/comment contest are:

      Sal Picataggio
      Crush #41

      Congratulations to you guys, and thank you for all of the comments and being a part of this! 

      Over the course of the contest, there were 38 comments left by people interested in winning some Free Stuff.

      Honestly, I wish all of you guys could have won... but unfortunately, it just wasn't possible. The good news though: if you read my post about Wear Endo and how they're involved with Greg Rides Trails, there will probably be more contests similar to this one coming down the road!  Also, remember that anytime you shop at, you can get 15% off just by using the coupon code: "gregridestrails."

      Big thanks also go out to Anti Monkey Butt Powder for their support in this contest (read my review, "Combat the Monkey Butt," here), as well as Airborne Bicycles, for being the main sponsor behind this blog!

      Thoughts on Commenting
      I'd just like to thank all of you again for reading, and for participating in this contest.  I had a lot of fun last week reading and responding to your guys comments.  Just so you know, I always love receiving comments and having participation on the blog!  In my opinion, blogging shouldn't be a one-way street per se where I just talk and talk about whatever I want. Rather, a blog should be an area of open discussion where I can learn from YOU all as much as you can learn from me.  So feel free to drop by and leave a comment anytime with your opinion, additional advice, or a request for a specific post that you would like to see.

      I'm looking forward to what the future holds for Greg Rides Trails!

      Your Turn: As a loyal reader, this blog is just as much your domain as it is mine.  What sort of posts would you like to see more of, and what would you like to see less of?  Please leave your thoughts below!


      Monday, July 19, 2010

      Combat the Monkey Butt

       Do you know that feeling of dropping back into the saddle and having your chamois squelch with absorbed butt sweat? After spending enough hours in a squelching chamois, monkey butt (a really raw behind) is the resulting condition.
      Anti Monkey Butt Powder is a product specifically designed to combat your sore, sweat-soaked hide. 

      When riding with the powder applied, it was difficult to tell exactly what effect it was having on my buttocks. However, after several rides with it applied and a couple without, I realized that the difficulty I had in pinpointing the effects of the powder  was simply because AMBP was just doing its job: keeping my rump dry. 

      Ok, I really need to phrase this next paragraph carefully....
      The day that I really became convinced of AMBP's effectiveness was on another hot, humid Georgia day with temperatures in the low 90's.  I had applied the powder to my chamois, but let's just say I hadn't done a very thorough job of it, and that it had clumped further towards the back.  After finishing the ride, I distinctly noticed that my rear-ward nether regions were dry and comfortable, while some unmentionables further forward were completely soaked and sticky.

      Lesson learned: this stuff just works!


      Saturday, July 17, 2010

      Wear Endo, Get Outside

      As you may know, Wear Endo is the big sponsor for this contest/giveaway which ends TODAY! (If you want to leave more comments for more chances to win, please do so before midnight tonight!) They are letting me give away a t-shirt to 3 different people, and if you win you get your choice of cycling design and size.

      Wear Endo is a brand new t-shirt company that specializes in high-quality outdoors t-shirts.  Currently, they feature t-shirts relating to biking, boarding, bouldering, climbing, paddling, skiing, trekking, and more.  I've perused their website, and so far these guys have come up with some pretty neat designs. From what I hear, there are many more in the works!

      They are sponsoring this contest, and they are now also the official Greg Rides Trails t-shirt sponsor.  If you look down on the right hand sidebar, you can see their logo with a link to their website in the "Sponsors" section, directly below Airborne. 

      "But what does it mean to be a 't-shirt sponsor?'"

      For me, it means getting free t-shirts to wear and review.  From the time that I've already spent wearing their apparel, I can vouch for these shirts being comfortable and high-quality!

      For you the readers, it means several cool contests like this, where you too have the opportunity to win some free gear!  (Yes, that means there are more contests coming down the road.  So if you haven't already, be sure to subscribe to Greg Rides Trails using one of the options on the right side.)

      ALSO, while there will be several of these contests taking place, as a reader of Greg Rides Trails you have access to an exclusive discount code that can be used on Wear Endo's website during checkout.  The code is "gregridestrails" (no quotation marks) and gets you 15% off of your purchase, whenever you buy gear!  Yep, you can use that code as many times as you want.  Now if I'm not getting you the hook up, I don't know who is!

      So keep your fingers crossed and hope that you win a free Wear Endo t-shirt!  Leave a comment below, and anywhere else you'd like (before midnight tonight), for more chances to win one of the 3 sets of schwag.  I wish you could all win, but even if you don't, remember that you can still get 15% off of their very cool t's simply for being a reader of Greg Rides Trails.

      Good luck!


      Friday, July 16, 2010

      Movie Night: Friday Flight Crew Update

      The biggest Airborne news that I have is probably the above video, which I just posted to the Airborne Facebook Page today. All of the footage was taken on local North Georgia trails while riding the Airborne Zeppelin Elite. The Zeppelin has been riding very well, and I have been very pleased with it as a bicycle.  This is the type of bike that I can just see myself riding day in and day out... which is why I chose it. The Zeppelin has definitely been meeting my expectations in a very good way.  I can't wait to see what Zep 2.0 looks like...

      That would be the other big news in the Airborne realm:  there are a ton of really cool bikes/designs currently in the mix.  I don't want to say too much, but I'll include a short blurb that Airborne posted over on their page:
      The Product Team here at Airborne Bikes will be spending the next two weeks at the factory working on some new and exciting stuff. We don't want to say too much but let's just say that mountain bikes won't be our only offering soon!

      Feel free to comment on here to let us know what you would like to see in the future. You never know where the next great idea may come from.

      Keep riding.

      The Airborne Product Team
      Yeah, there are a lot of very cool bikes in the works, not all of which are mountain bikes.  Airborne's lineup is currently pretty good, but I think that it will soon be really good with the next line of bikes. This is so cool to be a part of!

      Your Turn:  I really want to hear what you thought of the video.  What did you like, what didn't you like?  What was done well, what needs improvement?  What would you like to see more or less of?  Please leave your comments below.

      Oh, here's a little incentive:
      I'm giving away 3 of these schwag packages!


      Thursday, July 15, 2010

      Keeping Busy: Mountain Bike Bumming, Part 3

      Remember, every comment you leave this week gives you a chance at winning some free mountain bike gear! More info here.

      Hanging out, reading a book in the park.  (From here.)
      Mountain bike bumming is all about long, epic days in the saddle... repeated day after day after day.  The focus is definitely the riding. 

      But in reality, you just can't ride every waking hour of the day for days on end.  Your body just cannot take it.  Since you are out there living a bum lifestyle for a week (or longer), you've got to do something to fill the extra time in the evenings, or during the blistering hot hours midday. 

      The key to being a bum and saving money after you ride is really simple: don't spend your money on any sort of entertainment. You do have to do something though, right? Well, here are a number of absolutely free ideas:
      • Chill out at one of the local parks. Parks are generally free for the public to use, and are great places to hang out.  Many of the other activities listed below can take place at one of these beautiful outdoor areas.  By far the coolest park I've ever hung out at while bike bumming was in Crested Butte, where they had recently installed a big, artificial textured boulder with a spongy crash pad built into the ground.  After a long day of riding, I'd head on over to the park, pull on my climbing shoes, strap on my chalk bag, and spend an hour or two working bouldering problems. 
      • Bring books to read. Books are generally very cheap, and most people have a stack that they are meaning to read "sometime." Bring those books along with you and dig in!  It's relaxing, and takes up a lot of your time too. 
      • Write. Writing takes a good deal of time and insightful thinking, and can be a very relaxing after-ride activity.  For the real "bum" feeling, be sure to use pen and paper... and maybe napkins from the local convenience store.
      • Take pictures. As most of you probably will only be pretending to be bums, bring along your camera and shoot photos of the places you visit during your journey! They'll be great to look back on later.
      • Leach free wireless internet. Again, if you're just pretending to be a bum, bring your laptop along and try to steal some free wireless internet by sitting in range of a local coffee shop or restaurant... without buying anything from them.  I would often drive my car around with my laptop in the passenger seat, searching for a wireless network to bum some bandwidth off of.  Come to think of it, I still do that.
      • Walk/Ride around town, take in the sites and shops... but just don't buy anything.  Check out all of the interesting attractions, but don't get suckered into paying money.
      There You Have It
      Now you are all set to go and have a dirt-cheap mountain bike adventure!  I've given you a great kick start on finding places to sleep for free, spending as little money as possible on food, and chilling out after an epic day of singletrack without spending a cent.  Now, a budget of $200 can get you hundreds of miles from home, and at least a week or two of epic mountain biking in!  Whenever you get a week off, take your chance and get out and there and mountain bike bum it!

      Your Turn: What else makes a great after ride activity? And/or do you have any more thoughts on bumming on a long mountain bike trip?

      There's only 3 more days (including today) to leave comments for more chances to win some awesome, free gear!


      Wednesday, July 14, 2010

      Eating on the Cheap: Mountain Bike Bumming, Part 2

      Granola Bar.  From here.
      Click here to catch up on the rest of the series.

      "Food is essential to life, therefore, make it good."  -S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-Fil-A

      I love to eat Chick-Fil-A.  S. Truett Cathy has a good (and obvious) point: food is essential to life.  And food costs money... but when you're bike bumming, the key is to make it cost as little money as possible. 

      Let me spell it out  simply in big, bold letters: DON'T GO OUT TO EAT! If you are trying to mountain bike on a minimalist budget, you absolutely cannot go out to eat.  Eating out is crazy expensive for a bum, and adds up incredibly quickly.

      Food For a Week
      Rather, I suggest buying dry foods that you can store in your car and eat cold.  Foods high in calories, especially carbs, are excellent choices to keep you well fueled for those long days in the saddle.  I suggest packing food such as:
      • Cereal
      • Fig bars
      • Granola bars
      • Crackers
      • Bread
      • Peanut Butter and Jelly
      • Pre-packaged fruit cups, applesauce cups
      Nutrition can be somewhat sacrificed for a short amount of time like a week, but I'd recommend buying the occasional salad from a grocery store, and maybe some milk every now and then.  When I'm traveling, I'll also buy fruit as well, and consume it immediately.  While bumming for a week, I basically only eat cold/dry foods, and don't cook anything. 

      Ok, I confess: cravings for a hot cheeseburger regularly overtake my being with a  seemingly supernatural power. When those sort of circumstances arise, the dollar menu is the bum's best friend!

      MMM... cheesburger... (From here.)

      Eating on Longer Trips
      A hot meal cannot be beat! If you are going to be living the MTB-bum lifestyle for more than a week, a small propane stove is really a necessity.  If you shop around, you can easily pick up a backpacking size stove for not very much money. 

      A mini stove like this for $17.95 would be great!
      While this is $60 off of, I picked one of these up for under $25 at an REI scratch and dent sale.

      The number of meals that can be cooked on one of those stoves is amazing! 

      Bottom Line
      Going out to eat at $10 or more per meal adds up FAST! Remember, we're striving to only spend money on gas, and as little as possible on food.  Buying your own food that stores easily is definitely the preferred way to go.

      Your Turn:  What sorts of food do you eat while away on mountain bike tips?  If you know of anything that's crazy tasty, packs a caloric punch, and stores easily, please share below!

      Part 3: "What to Do: Keeping Busy"


      Tuesday, July 13, 2010

      Don't Pay Money to Catch Some Z's: Mountain Bike Bumming, Part 1

      Where else can you get views like this?
      Remember, every comment you leave this week gives you a chance at winning some free mountain bike gear! More info here.

      My goal whenever I've gone mountain bike bumming has been to spend as little money as possibly. 
      Specifically: I only want to spend money on gas and food.

      During a normal trip / vacation, lodging is usually a very large percentage of the cost.  Hotel rooms, cabins, condos... all of those cost big bucks everyday of your trip, especially in the true destination towns that have learned that they can charge an exorbitant fee and get it. 

      Even camping can be expensive.  I recently tent camped for a weekend in a National Forest campground, and the cost was $14 per night for a basic campsite with no amenities. Additionally, if you don't already own the requisite gear such as a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, etc., the initial cost of purchasing it can be very steep! (Especially if you buy quality outdoor gear.) 

      Camping can only effectively correlate with a true MTB-bum lifestyle if two conditions are met:
      1. You already own all of the necessary camping equipment.  As noted above, its expensive, but if you already have it: use it.
      2. You can find a suitable location to pitch a tent that is 100% free.
      Number one is self-explanatory, but I'd like to shed some light on a free location.  The ease of finding a free campsite can differ widely depending on what part of the country you're in. From what I've observed, camping is generally free on National Forest land.  So if your travels find you riding near a National Forest, you're in luck.  To find a good spot to pitch your tent, try driving back into the woods on a gravel USFS road.  Based on what I've observed over my years of riding and traveling, there are generally a good number of largely unmarked pull-offs randomly spaced along these backwoods roads.  These locations make for ideal camping spots.  While they may be difficult to find if you're not a local, keep your eyes open as you drive around to different trailheads, and try to notice any promising spots.  From my experience, locations near streams or rivers, or crossings of a major hiking trail such as the Appalachian Trail tend to contain well-used campsites.  Little free spots like that abound here in the Southeast, and I've seen many of them in the Rocky Mountains as well.

      True Bumming
      If you don't have the gear, are traveling from area to area a lot, are crossing great portions of the country, or aren't near any good National Forest land, camping could easily not be an option.  The true bum way of life shines through when hotels and camping are both out of the question.  The solution: sleep in your vehicle. 

      Your vehicle doesn't even have to be a big van or SUV with comfortable seats.  I pickup truck or even a relatively small car can be made to work.  When I bike bummed across Colorado and Wyoming, I slept every night in the cramped back seat of a Pontiac Grand Prix.  While not ideal, it was totally free, and with a little ingenuity I was able to turn my back seat into a cozy bed.

      Parking Your Car
      The concept is simple: just go sleep in your car.  Right?  Wrong.

      Finding a good place to park your car can be tricky, as I personally discovered the first night I tried to do it.  If I remember correctly, I drove around for over an hour and checked out about 5 different spots before I finally chose one. When choosing a spot, you need to consider the fact that you don't want to get busted by the popo (as a ticket would negate any savings earned from sleeping in your car) and don't want to get robbed by a gangsta. Check out the list below for some ideas that I've come up with after several adventurous nights spent in the back of my car:
      1. USFS road out in the boonies.  Check out the camping section above if you skipped it because you don't have the gear... those spots would work as great places to park your car, too.
      2. A parking lot with a lot of cars.  Any place with a lot of cars can be a good idea too, because you won't stick out like a sore thumb by being the only car in the parking lot.  Places like 24 hour Wal Marts and the like fit into this category.
      3. Waysides and overlook turn-offs.  Rest waysides off of interstates are classic locations to sleep in your car.  Also, while you might not think of it, a turn-off for an overlook or view can prove to be a convenient sleeping spot. I took the image at the top of the post when I woke up early in the morning in Jackson Hole, unknowingly parking in a gorgeous location the night before. 
      4. Ski resort parking lots. Sure it's 2010, but many ski resorts still contain traces of the ski bumming glory days in their general leniency with their parking lots.  Plus it's the summer, so the ski resorts have a multitude of vast lots sitting completely unused, just begging to be inhabited by broke mountain bikers.
      5. The trailhead, if it's not forbidden.  Obviously the most convenient place to park you car would be at the trailhead.  Just check to make sure that it isn't forbidden. Remember, getting in trouble with the law is not in a bum's best interest.
      There you have it: an excellent source of information to get you started with a place to stay while on your own mountain bike bumming trip!  Next up: eating on the cheap.

      Your Turn
      What do you think would be the best sort of place to stay/park while living the mountain bike bum dream?  Or do you have any questions about possibly parking spots?  Leave your opinions and questions by using the comment box below!

      Part 2: "What to Eat: Eating on the Cheap"


      Monday, July 12, 2010

      How to Be a Mountain Bike Bum for a Week (Or Longer)

      Bike bumming my way through Jackson Hole, Aug. 2008.
      There are some mountain bikers out there that can afford to spend an inordinate amount of money on a riding vacation.  For them, a plane ticket to British Columbia, a 5 star hotel in Whistler, and 10 days straight riding the lifts at the Whistler Bike Park is an annual affair.  I am not one of those people.  Rather, whenever I want to get away for a trip focused exclusively on riding, I've had to "bum it." Over the course of this series, I will give you some solid advice from my own experience about how to take a grand mountain bike vacation while spending as little money as possible!

      Not this kind of bum. (From here.)
      Now, being a "bum" for a while isn't reserved only for the chronically homeless. These bike bum tips can be useful for a person who:
      • is unemployed and wants to ride for a while
      • is in college, and getting away during one of their school holidays
      • wants to escape from the pressures of everyday life (people, technology, etc.)
      • is on a budget
      • or anyone who just doesn't have a whole lot of money.
      So follow along as I explore this topic over the next 3 days, and give you tons of tips and stories about mountain biking on the cheap!

      The Series:
      Your Turn: Raise your voice and give some advice below!  What tips would you give someone looking to travel with their mountain bike while not spending very much money?


      Saturday, July 10, 2010

      Top 5 Most Useful Websites for Planning a Mountain Bike Trip

      Monarch Crest Trail on
      In preparation for my upcoming series, "How to be a Mountain Bike Bum for a Week (Or Longer)" which launches this Monday, I thought it would be appropriate to write up a short list of the top 5 most useful websites for planning a mountain biking road trip:

      1. -- Find the trails you want to ride! Read trail descriptions, reviews, look at maps, pictures, and videos and decide which trails you want to hit!  Once you've settled on your top choices, be sure to print off the listing so you have directions to the trailhead in case you get lost, and directions while on the trail, in case you get lost again. Also, if you're looking for a nearby campground, Singletracks includes links from the trail pages to campground information on its sister site,
      2. -- Figure out how to get to those trails. includes the location of the vast majority of trailheads in Google Maps, and allows you to get directions from your home to the trailhead! You can also use Google Maps to plan your epic mountain bike road trip  in detail, and then print it off to use on the road.
      3. -- Check to see what the weather will be like during your trip.  If it is a longer trip, plan your rest or driving days accordingly.
      4. -- Nothing can beat a good local guidebook when you're on the trail. Having professionally written trail descriptions for an area bound into one handy volume is invaluable! Admittedly, will only have the larger, mass produced guidebooks which may tend to lose some of their local flavor.  Still, any guidebook is better than no guidebook!
      5. -- If you're like so many other people and are either too lazy to do your own research or simply want validation for the trails you've chosen, head over to the regional forums on and ask for advice on what trails to ride.
      When this post goes live, I will be riding some trails that I've never ridden before over in Clayton, Georgia and camping out for the weekend.  I personally just went through this process, and accessed almost all of those same sites.  Be utilize these great websites when you plan your next mountain bike trip!

      Your Turn:
      Is there a website I've missed that you think should be on the list? Let me know below!  Do you have anymore tips on using the listed sites? I'd love to hear them! 

      Also, remember that the more times you comment this week, the more chances you have to win this gear package!


      Friday, July 9, 2010

      From Gnarly to Flowy: Friday Flight Crew Update

      Bull Mountain
      Sunday: Bull Mountain
      It was the Fourth of July, and I was determined to go riding!  I met up with an awesome rider from Florida named Steve, and we turned our tires toward Bull Mountain for a seriously fun evening of riding. I've been wanting to get the Zep up there to ride, as the Bull Mountain trail is one of the gnarliest in the area.  It has everything: steep, anaerobic climbs; fast, rocky descents loaded with baby heads; washed out roots-turned drop-offs, a few jumps, berms, flow, gnar... the list goes on and on!  

      Altogether, I was impressed with how the Zeppelin performed.  I am definitely going to enjoy riding this bike! It tore through the downhills like nobody's business, and railed corners in fine style!

      Two things that I wasn't impressed with:
      1. As I've mentioned elsewhere, the Zep is a porker.  Yeah, it weighs in at right about 35-36 lbs, and on some of the brutally steep climbs, that weight took its toll.  Once pointed downhill, however, it was rock solid through everything I could throw at it.  Really, it felt like a point-and-shoot freeride bike, not a 5" travel trail bike.
      2. It felt like I could point and shoot it, except that I had to baby the fork.  The Tora was so over powered, I was afraid to let my weight get too aggressively forward over the bars, and I felt like I was popping wheelies over everything in order to keep the fork from bottoming out harshly and send me pogoing.  There was one point when I let the front end drop too harshly off of a root drop, and the fork bottomed out harshly, kicking my rear tire up in the air and sending me flying off the trail into a small tree!  (Maybe it was more my fault than the bicycle... hard to tell sometimes). I smashed straight through the shrub/tree, rode the front tire for 4-5 feet before I could drop my rear tire back down.  Steve (the guy from Florida) was riding behind me, and told me that it was a brilliant recovery!  I'd prefer not to have to  recover though, if you know what I mean.
      Not my picture. Image from here.
      Wednesday: Jack Rabbit Trails
      The Zeppelin Elite needed to be tested on something a little different from the rough-and-tumble trails of Bull Mountain.  On Wednesday evening my wife and I traveled up to the Jack Rabbit trails near Hayesville, North Carolina.  These trails are the complete anti-thesis of the trails at Bull Mountain, and the stereotypical North Carolina trails.  Expect an indepth review soon, but if I was to describe the trail system in three words it would be, "Fast, flowy hardpack." 

      While I really wanted to be riding a 20 pound hardtail, the Zeppelin Elite loved the flow of those singletrack trails!  I pounded it up the slight rises in style, with very minimal rear end bob.  The Zeppelin dived into and out of the bermed-out turns with grace, and generally railed the entire system. 

      The handling was sublime everywhere I turned, including some big whoops and a massive tree-ride feature.  I really couldn't be more pleased!

      Sorry about the lack of multimedia content from Jack Rabbit.  Currently having issues with my laptop, and am blogging from the library.  Look for a ton of video footage and several photographs sometime next week.

      Big Picture
      Altogether I am thoroughly enjoying my time riding my beautiful Airborne bicycle.  From the gnarly trails of Bull Mountain to the smooth cruisers of Jack Rabbit, I've been trying to throw a little bit of everything at this bicycle.  Next up: Stonewall Falls and White Twister in Clayton, Georgia.

      Your Turn:  When you are testing out a bicycle or are putting your new ride through its paces, what do you throw at it to see how it responds?  What do you think really tests your bike? Is it rock gardens, cornering ability, climbing ability, how it handles in the air, something different, or a combination?

      Please feel free to share your thoughts below, and remember, your comment could win you free gear!


      Thursday, July 8, 2010

      FREE SCHWAG: Come on over and get the hook up!

      If there is one thing in the world that everyone loves, it's FREE STUFF!! And what's better than free stuff?  That's right: free bike stuff!  Over the past couple of weeks I've picked up a couple of new gear sponsorships, and those sponsors are allowing me to give away a bunch of free schwag to all of you awesome readers!

      Here's what's up for grabs:

      Wear Endo T-Shirt
      Wear Endo is a new t-shirt company that is just getting started, and they're giving me 3 free t-shirts to give away in this little contest.  At a $20 value per shirt, that's pretty sweet!  You'll get your choice of bike-related design and size.  Stay tuned for more info about this company and my thoughts on their products sometime in the next two weeks.

      Click over to to check out all of the cool designs that you could win!

      Anti Monkey Butt Powder
      No one likes a sweaty, nasty bum.  I'm currently in the process of testing this product out to see how it performs, and from the couple of rides I've done in 95 degree heat and high humidity: places with powder stay dry, places without are soaked. 

      If a lady wins the one of the schwag bags, feel free to let me know and I'll send a lady's version your way!

      Airborne Schwag
      I'll also hook you up with some schwag from my awesome sponsor, Airborne Bicycles. Coming your way will be a not-for-sale Airborne water bottle,

      And a not-for-sale Airborne T-shirt:

      Admittedly, the t-shirt from Wear Endo is of a much higher quality, but this one will still be nice!

      What You Have To Do
      This is ridiculously simple, really.  All you have to do is drop a comment on my blog starting today and running through Saturday the 17th.
      • Every comment that you leave will give you one chance at winning one of those three packages. 
      • Each package includes all of the gear mentioned above!
      • The more comments you leave, the more chances you have to win!
      • One-word comments don't count.  It has to be a halfways-decent 2-3 sentence comment.  You can say whatever you want, as long as it's halfways on topic.  In today's world, everyone's got an opinion.  Voice yours here on Greg Rides Trails!
      Other contest information:
      • I'm giving away 3 identical packs of gear.
      • More comments get you more chances to win a package, but you can't win more than one package.  I.E. 3 people will win.
      • I'll announce the winners after the competition is over, but it would be best if you make sure I have a way of contacting you.  Suggestions: on your first comment, include your email, and just use the same name when you contact every time after that. I'll get ahold of you if you win.  Or, include your username, and I'll PM you.
      • I'll randomly draw the winners at the end of your contest.  Again, you have one chance to win for every comment you leave.
      If you don't want to miss a single post over the coming week, be sure to subscribe to Greg Rides Trails by using one of the options on the top of the right side bar.

      Your Turn: How much do you love free gear?  What are some free things you've won in the past? 

      So go ahead, start commenting, beginning with this post!


      Wednesday, July 7, 2010

      Suches / Blairsville: Mountain Bike Destination FAIL

      From the Pinhoti Trail, near Ellijay.
      Ellijay is truly a worthy mountain bike destination! With a claimed 140+ miles of quality singletrack ranging across the area, to countless doubletrack and forest road rides, there is enough mountain biking to be had in the Ellijay/Blue Ridge area to satisfy any rider for a week or more of intense MTB vacationing!

      Let's now swing our focus to some neighboring counties: the greater Suches / Blairsville area. Several so-called "trails" are listed for the area:

      Circled are the "trails" listed in Blairsville and Suches and one "trail" in Helen.  I could take the Helen/Cleveland area to task too, but that will have to wait for another day.

      One of the better rides in the area, but still a forest road.
      In reality, none of these "trails" are trails, but are in fact forest road rides.  Some of these rides are somewhat scenic and entertaining by gravel road standards, while others are just down-right lame and miserable (see Sosebee Cove). Yet, these rides rank higher in the list of recommended trails in the tourism pamphlet than the epic singletrack trails of Ellijay and Blue Ridge.  Something is not right here.  To get to the bottom of this, let's take a look at the area trail map as we did for Ellijay:

      The chunk of green trails towards the bottom of the map is the Bull/Jake mountain trail system in Dahlonega, which contains 45-50 miles of trails. Some of these trails were listed in the tourism pamphlet, and the Dahlonega area definitely gets points as a city with a viable chance at mountain bikers.  However, it doesn't rank in the category of Ellijay as a destination.

      There is a small section of un-highlighted singletrack in the upper left that is part of the Aska system in Blue Ridge which we covered yesterday.  Everything else is roughly the Suches/Blairsville area.  Note that there isn't any green. Does this mean that there are no singletrack trails in the area to speak of?  Definitely not!  There is a vast interconnected network of singletrack spreading throughout the area, which is all closed to mountain bikes. 

      The bike legal trails in Dahlonega and Blue Ridge are still highlighted green.  Everything highlighted in red are all of the bike illegal trails in the area, which completely encircle the greater Suches / Blairsville area, and even extend down and to the west of Dahlonega.

      Nevertheless, despite the fact that there are literally hundreds of miles of singletrack in the area and none of it is open to mountain bikes, some author writing for a little tourism pamphlet thought that there was destination-quality mountain biking in the area.  To be honest, there isn't. If you're traveling to Suches or Blairsville, do yourself a favor and hit up Bull Mountain, Stanley Gap, or Jack Rabbit across the border in North Carolina.

      As far as being a mountain bike destination, the Blairsville/Suches area is an epic FAIL.

      More on Mountain Bike Tourism
      Your Turn:
      Been to the area?  Weigh in on your open!  Or feel free to voice your opinion on foot-traffic-only singletrack trails.




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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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