Friday, October 29, 2010

Green Mountain Trail Review, Blue Ridge, Georgia

Green Mountain Trail
The Aska Trail System has almost a split personality: the trails on the west side of Aska Road are very steep and reasonably technical.  The other half of the trail system on the east side of the road is still hilly because hey, this is North Georgia, but in general the climbs are more reasonable and the singletrack is pretty fast and reasonably buff.

The Green Mountain trail comprises over half of Aska's mild side. It is about 4 miles long one-way and can either be ridden as an out-and-back, a lariat, or a loop utilizing gravel and paved roads.

Green Mountain Connector Trail
Smooth benchcut singletrack.
The trail passes through a variety of ecological areas: the top of Green Mountain (which is devoid of views), the deep North Georgia forest, a cluster of log-sided vacation homes, the shores of Lake Blue Ridge, and even a swampy lowland. This incredible variety of surroundings keeps the ride interesting and engaging.

Not that this trail needs constantly changing scenery to be engaging: the narrow one-track, the fast downhills, and the swooping bermed-out turns are sure to keep your heart pounding and your adrenaline rushing!  The construction of all the Aska Trails and especially the Green Mountain trail is top-notch sustainable benchcut that is truly a joy to ride!

Bottom Line: This is an excellent, narrow singletrack trail that will paste a smile on your face and give your legs a work out, but won't really challenge your bike handling skills at all.

Deep Forest

The Route
As I mentioned above, there are 3 main ways to set this trail up, with even more intricate possibilities if you add in other trails such as the Long Branch Loop.

The most accessible parking lot is the Deep Gap parking lot on Aska road, which is where the directions below will take you.  To access the Green Mountain trail, head back out to the highway, and pick it up on the other side.  There are two options to take you up to the top of Green Mountain: the trail beginning slightly up the hill from the parking lot is more difficult, and the trail starting just down the hill from the parking lot is a little easier.

Once at the top of Green Mountain, it's mostly downhill! You'll pass a spur which drops down and connects to the Long Branch Loop.  Feel free to add that in if you'd like. Continue down the trail.

When you reach the area with the vacation homes, make sure that you follow the trail across the driveway(s) and in-between the houses.  It continues for another mile or two.

When you reach the Lower Green Mountain Trailhead, either turn around and ride back up the hill to where you started, OR

Loop It.
Initially I was going to ride this as an out-and-back, but by the time I reached the lower trailhead I really didn't feel like regaining all of that elevation on singletrack, and I was curious to see what the loop was like.   To loop this trail, continue straight/right on the gravel forest service road (FS 711). When you reach the T, turn left.  In less than a quarter mile turn right onto Campbell Camp Road.  When you junction with the main Aska road, turn left and be prepared to climb and climb two miles back to where you started.

Dry Lake Bed
Lake Blue Ridge, October 2010.

In retrospect, it seems that to get the most singletrack enjoyment out of the trail you might want to ride it as a lariat, beginning at the lower trailhead.  To access the lower trailhead, reverse the directions above.  Then, climb up the Green Mountain trail. When you reach the top of Green Mountain, take the right fork down to the highway, as it is steeper.  Hang a left on Aska Road, ride a short ways, and pick up the other trail on your left. Climb back up to the top of the mountain, and descend back down to your original starting point.

Navigational Resources
The National Geographic Trails Illustrated map #777 is awesome, and great for figuring out what all the junctions are and where all the roads go on this ride. Jim Parham's Off the Beaten Track contains the loop described above, and is an excellent, easy-to-use resource!

Green Mountain
Green Mountain Trail Sign.
In general, the trail signage across the entire Aska system is top-notch, and makes it almost possible to navigate without a map, especially if you've been there before.
Getting There

From Jim Parham's Off the Beaten Track:
From GA 515 in Blue Ridge, take Windy Ridge Road 0.1 mile south, turn left on East 1st Street, go 0.1 mile and turn right on Aska Road. It's 3.5 miles to the Deep Gap Trailhead.
Look for signs for "Aska Trails." Turn right into the parking  lot.

Other trails in the area include:
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.

Closing photo of the Green Mountain Trail.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's So Easy to Get Involved with Your Local Trails... You've Gotta Try It!

This is the follow up to a post entitled "7 Reasons to Start Doing Trail Work."

The Secret Tool which Makes
All Our Lives Easier
The average Joe mountain biker often thinks that in order to be involved in their local mountain bike trails they have to go through the time to get involved in a local advocacy group, pay dues, and go to pre-scheduled group work parties.  While all of those are definitely great and I highly encourage them, you might either A) Not have the time or money for the above options or B) There may be no advocacy group in your area.

Here's what you may not know: getting involved in trail work is pretty easy, and can be a whole lot of fun!

Take this tree across the trail, for instance. Stuff like this can be moved without any tools at all:

Trees such as this take a little more work to clear, but with the right tool they are also quickly removed:

Enter the handsaw. Purchasing a saw such as this one will open up countless opportunities to do trail work, all without much monetary investment, and in a small enough package to easily fit in your Camelback.

 I purchased this handsaw used at a garage sale for $2. A similar saw is available here on for $15.99 brand new. Such a small investment, and yet it will pay you back untold dividends in clear trails!

It literally took me less than 60 seconds to clear this tree.  See, giving back to your local mountain biking community is much easier than you might have imagined!

As someone commented on the blog post from Monday, if you are just beginning to pitch in by doing maintenance, make sure what you are removing isn't considered a technical feature of the trail.  I'd personally recommend just cutting up downed trees such as these that you know are just obstructions.

Here is something to bear in mind: just because you can't ride a section of trail or clear a specific rocky/rooty climb doesn't mean that everyone else can't.... or even that anyone should be able to.  If you want easy, go buy a road bike.

Even more examples:
This might look like a bigger challenge, but again, it is no match for the hack saw!

Even more domination by the folding saw!
Yes, even more domination by the folding saw!
Black Branch was really a mess, but after one ride with about a dozen stops, it is completely clear and a pleasure to ride!

One last "before" shot.  Downed trees like this are especially frustrating because they force you to dismount, even though the main trunk isn't all that big. 
After: clear trails and smooth pedaling. 
I finished clearing this 6ish mile loop just in time!  I pedaled back to the truck just as darkness fell with the immense satisfaction of a job well done. Getting involved and giving back is very rewarding, and I suggest that if you've never done it before that you help maintain your local trails at the next opportunity.

Given the small monetary investment and even relatively small time commitment required, what's holding you back?!


Monday, October 25, 2010

7 Reasons to Start Doing Trail Work

The singletrack trails that we all know and love didn't get there by accident, and they don't remain in rideable condition by accident. There are dedicated volunteers all across this nation that put in countless hours to keep our trails open. If you aren't already involved in trail work, here are 7 good reasons to start contributing man hours to your local trail system:

  1. If you don't, I'll take my hacksaw to your neck and leave you for dead.
  2. Give back. Nobody likes a "friend" that is always asking for favors and is a constant "taker" and never contributes anything to the friendship.  Its the same way with the sport of mountain biking: don't just be a "taker" and use phrases like: "they should really fix this" or "someone needs to cut this tree out of the way. Be the "they" and the "someone" and give back to the community that has given us all so much
  3. It's a good workout. Many of us mountain bikers could really use more time in the weight room working on our upper bodies to balance out our massive quads.  If you're like me, you hate being inside working out when the weather's beautiful.  Instead of hitting the gym, get out and do some trail work to give your arms, shoulders, and back some work.  Sawing up and moving a down tree, digging in a reroute, and building a berm or a jump are all work that require you to utilize muscle groups that don't get much attention during those endless hours on the bike.
  4. You can do trail work when the trails are too wet to ride. Do you want to get outside in the forest, but the singletrack is too muddy to ride on?  Consider going out and doing trail work instead!  If there's a reroute that needs to be done or a berm that needs to built, I imagine (although not 100% sure on this) that the ground would be much easier to work when it's soft... especially if you've got hard clay like we do here in Georgia!
  5. You'll develop an appreciation for the trails you already have. I know that I personally tend to wrongly take my home trails for granted.  I ride them so often that they seem common place, and I often approach the next ride with a very ho-hum attitude, wishing I was driving to ride somewhere new instead.  But once you start getting involved and get a taste of the amount of work that it takes just to maintain your current trails, not to mention build new ones, you'll appreciate what you already have so much more!
  6. You'll take ownership of the trails. This is slightly related to #5, but also is an important point to note.  Instead of the trail just being another stretch of singletrack, you'll be able to point out where you cleared that down tree, where you helped bench in that reroute, and maybe eventually you'll be riding a trail that you helped build from the ground up. These trails no longer just happen to lie near your town, they are now your trails!
  7. It's easier to get involved than you might think.  Stay tuned for my next post on Wednesday about how to easily start getting involved in trail work. (Click Here.)
Your Turn: If you already spend time working on your local trails, what are your reasons for doing so?  If you don't yet, what's holding you back?  Please feel free to share your thoughts below!


    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Buckwheat Knob (Trail #122), Pisgah National Forest, Brevard, North Carolina

    Let me put this frankly: Timm Muth labels this trail as the last section of "Satan's Staircase." Yes, it is that steep!

    This section of singletrack climbs straight up from the end of the Bennett Gap Trail at USFS #477 to the top of Buckwheat Knob and a junction with the Black Mountain, Club Gap, and Avery Creek trails.  Be prepared to push your bike up almost the entire length of this trail. 

    If you plan on descending this section, get ready to place your chest on your saddle and ride those brakes as the trail drops straight down the mountain side.  Even if you're running a lot of suspension, there's bound to be more braking than flowing, though I would like to get my downhill rig out here and try it out!

    The trail does flatten out right at the end when it crests the knob.
    Bottom Line: This trail is crazy steep, so be prepared whichever way you ride/hike it!

    Navigational Resources

    Timm Muth has written an awesome guidebook with detailed statistics and directions.  It includes almost all of the worth-while trails in North Carolina, and features a big section on the Tsali trails.  If you're planning on spending a lot of time in NC, this is a great investment!

    The Buckwheat Knob Trail is included in this book as a part of the Big Avery loop.

    The maps that I have come to live by are all a part of the National Geographic Trails Illustrated series.  Easy to read, almost always up to date, tear resistant and water proof, these maps are designed to ride in your Camelback for months on end! #780 contains all of the Brevard-area Pisgah National Forest:

    Getting There
    I recommend connecting to it from the Bennett Gap Trail. This trail isn't long enough to be worthy of it's own ride anyway, so utilize one of the resources above to work it in to a larger loop.

    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.

    PS: It has occurred to me that I'm not always consistent in the way I review trails. Sometimes I review large chunks of trails that run together in one post, and in others I break it down by individual sections of trails, like I have here for the various trails I rode that day in Pisgah. Which do you prefer: individual trail sections or large loops of singletrack?


    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Dahlonega Wheelworks: The Newest Addition to the North Georgia Green Map

    North Georgia Green Map
    Off and on over the course of the past year, students at North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega have been developing an online map promoting businesses in the Dahlonega community that adhere to green business practices.  The goal behind the map is to promote ecotourism to the surrounding area. Ideally, people visiting here will be able to use this map for research before they come, or access it via a mobile device while in the area.

    Dahlonega Wheelworks
    I'm enrolled in an Intro to Leadership class this semester, and as an integral part of the course we are all working together on a "service learning project."  We collectively decided to work on updating and adding to the green map. As the project progressed, I ended up as the leader of the team tasked with adding new sites to the database. I was perusing the map while trying to brainstorm new locations to add, and I realized that our local bike shop, Dahlonega Wheelworks, wasn't yet listed on the map.  Obviously, a bike shop would be a great location to promote in the context of ecotourism!

    Last week I dropped by the shop and asked the guys a couple of questions so I could write up a review for the map.  The new locations have yet to be added to the map (another group will be doing that work), so here is my review for your reading pleasure:

    Dahlonega Wheelworks
    24 Alicia Lane
    Suite 2
    Dahlonega, GA 30533


    Dahlonega Wheelworks is the only bike shop in the town of Dahlonega, and as such it occupies an important position in the North Georgia cycling community. Don't be fooled by its size: this little bike shop here in Dahlonega sells more high-end bicycles than any other shop in the state of Georgia!

    As far as green practices go, Wheelworks consistently practices cardboard and engine oil recycling. As a general rule, they do their best to avoid excessive waste whenever possible. But as a bike shop, there aren't nearly as many chances to put green practices into use as there would be in a restaurant, for instance.

    Where Wheelworks really shines green is in their significant contribution to the cycling community. As a bike shop, they naturally promote road cycling and mountain biking, which are low-impact sports that can be practiced by athletes over the course of their lifetime. As Jon, the owner of Wheelworks, put it when I interviewed him: "How many guys do you see going to play a pick up game of basketball at 60 or 70?" There are a surprising number of people in their 60's, 70's, and beyond that ride road and, interestingly, mountain bikes. I personally have ridden trails with a number of different people in that age bracket.

    Not only are road cycling and mountain biking sports that can be practiced for a lifetime, they get people outside and in nature, enjoying the natural world. Mountain biking especially allows people to access the heart of the forest via singletrack trails with little impact on the environment. (The most recent studies on the topic find the impact of a mountain biker only slightly more than that of a hiker.)

    Dahlonega Wheelworks is integral to the continuance of these two sports in our area.

    Pictures I took for the review:

    Carbon Fiber Ibis Mojo... Very Nice!

    Photobucket Photobucket 
    Photobucket Photobucket 
    Photobucket  Photobucket
    Photobucket  Photobucket

    Hopefully in the end Wheelworks will get some valuable exposure from all of this!


    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Break out the Blaze Orange

    Stayin' Alive During
    the 2009 Hunting Season
    This past weekend was the opening of gun deer season here in Georgia.  Even if it hasn't begun yet near you, hunting season will soon be in full swing all across the country. For those of us who just keep mountain biking despite the other sporting opportunities and despite the change of the seasons, it is time to break out the blaze orange.

    Wearing blaze orange on the trails when hunting is going on in the area should be considered a mandatory piece of safety equipment. Think about what the hunter sees from his tree stand when you ride by: a form moving quickly through the woods about the size of a deer making very little noise. Obviously, if he's a decent hunter he won't shoot until he knows for sure what he's shooting at, but you don't want to take the chance!

    Why Blaze Orange
    "But why do I need to buy blaze orange?  Won't any old decently-bright color work?"

    Short answer: not really.

    For those who have never hunted before, it may be difficult to understand what's so special about buying a blaze orange vest that is specifically intended for hunting.  Here's what you may not know: there is a specific hue that a piece of blaze orange clothing must be dyed to be legal for hunting.

    This blaze orange hue was specifically chosen by the-powers-that-be because of its visibility over incredibly long distances against the background of the countryside.  Having grown up gun deer hunting throughout my middle school and high school career, I can personally attest to blaze orange's amazing visibility.  When looking out of my tree stand through the woods, I could pick out a hunter coming towards me a couple hundred yards away by a very small patch of clothing showing through the tangled tree limbs.  When driving down the highway during gun deer season, it is easy to pick out a hunter standing in a field on a hill well over a mile away: the color stands out that well.

    Yeah, you may already have a pretty brightly colored jersey that you think may differentiate you from the brown/gray background. Up close, it will definitely help, and I'd recommend at least wearing a bright jersey as compared to a dark green, gray, black, or brown jersey.

    Still, because of blaze orange's inherent visibility, I would highly recommend buying a light-weight blaze orange vest.  It doesn't have to be crazy expensive or full of features: I picked up my simple vest (pictured above) at Wal Mart last year for less than $20.

    If you are riding in a forest that is also open to hunting, stay safe and wear blaze orange.

    Your Turn: What other precautions do you take to stay safe on the trails during hunting season?


    Saturday, October 16, 2010 Is Down has been down all day today.  I'm not sure what the problem is, and I'm just as disappointed as all of you must be!  Still, I'd like to say a warm "what up" to all of the people finding their way here from Singletracks' temporary page.

    Please feel free to look around and see what Greg Rides Trails is all about!  If you're looking for trail information, check out the series of in-depth trail reviews chock full of juicy details, photos, and videos. If you are looking for an example of the non-review writing featured here, check out this 4 post series about "How to Be a Mountain Bike Bum for a Week (Or Longer)."

    If you like what you see, please be sure to "like" Greg Rides Trails using the Facebook box on the right!

    Let's hope Singletracks is back online soon....


    Become a Better Climber on Your Mountain Bike

    My Guest Post
    Hey guys, In case you didn't notice the update on the Greg Rides Trails Facebook Page, I recently got a guest blog post published on one of the biggest mountain bike blogs on the internet:!

    In it, I share 7 Tactics for Tackling that Next Steep Hill. These tactics don't really address the mental state that you have to assume to be a competent climber, but rather focus on the tangible, technical skills necessary for defeating those nasty-steep hills. 

    The specific tactics covered are:
    1. Don't wait to shift.
    2. Shift all the way down.
    3. Choose the right line
    4. Keep your butt in the saddle.
    5. Maintain a smooth, circular pedal stroke.
    6. Remember to breathe, and keep loose.
    7. "Row the boat."
    "Rowing the boat" is the main point of the article, and I dive into a detailed description of how to do it in order to maintain rear wheel traction.

    If you want learn how to become a better climber on a mountain bike,
    click here and read my article!

    Mountain Bike Skills
    Catch up on the rest of the mountain bike skill series here.  More skill-related posts are in the works! 


    Friday, October 15, 2010

    The Black Branch, Vietnam, and Black Branch Connector Trails, Dahlonega, Georgia

    Last week I rode the Black Branch trail for the first time in over a year, and now I have absolutely no idea why I haven't been riding it very often! It was a blast to ride, and has quickly become one of my new favorite trails in the Dahlonega area.

    Black Branch
    Compared to the other areas in the Bull Mountain trail system, this loop has a relatively high concentration of true singletrack. Much of the mountain biking in the Dahlonega area requires forest service roads or wide doubletrack to connect the singletrack gems into a cohesive ride.To an extent, this is also true for the Black Branch loop, but it does contain roughly 6-8 miles of nearly uninterrupted, narrow singletrack.

    This loop of trails is comparatively flat when you consider the burly Bull Mountain loop that lies just next door.  The Black Branch's rolling hills can be a welcome relief from the steady onslaught of an extended anaerobic climb.  However this is still North Georgia, so don't expect to be able to cruise through this loop on auto pilot.  Trust me, your legs will still get a good burn!

    The Vietnam Trail
    When I decided to ride this trail again a little over a week ago I was finally able to locate the Vietnam Trail (so-called by some), and I think that discovery made a world of difference in the level of enjoyment I got out of this ride. The Vietnam Trail is a spur off of the standard Black Branch loop that can easily be worked into the flow of the ride, adding a couple of quality miles of singletrack. It is well worth the time!

    This unmarked trail (save for a no-horses-allowed sign) turns off the main trail and runs into the center of the Black Branch loop for a ways, crosses a stream, and then returns back to the main loop only a short distance from where it left. The trail is very narrow and much less traveled than the main loop, so you'll need to keep your eyes peeled to spot the entrance. Depending on which direction you're coming from, it can really sneak up on you. 

    Tough Obstacle
    The aura of the trail itself is very "underground" and reminds me of the urban trails in Athens, despite the fact that those are in the heart of the city and this trail is in the middle of nowhere.  That environment is probably a product of a "by mountain bikers, for mountain bikers" volunteer development coupled with little traffic. The track is tight, and winds through the trees without the feeling of having had a straight line cleared out of the forest for the trail.  In places the brush is a little overgrown, slapping your arms as you pass. There are 2 or 3 tough, technical moves that look almost physically impossible to ride--and that's a good thing. Moves like these (see right) give us something to aspire to. 

    This experience of wandering off the beaten track for a few miles into the heart of the North Georgia forest is a rewarding one!  I personally love trails of this kind that are very rideable, and yet provide a distinct feeling of adventure and discovery as you roll along them.  So when you are out mountain biking the Black Branch loop, do some exploring and tack on the Vietnam Trail as well!

    Bottom Line: These trails have great quality singletrack with fewer monster climbs, far-removed from the road for a true deep-woods mountain bike experience!

    Black Branch Trail

    The Route
    As I mentioned above, Black Branch is set up basically as a loop.  It can be ridden either direction.  However, here is my recommended route:
    1. Begin at the end of the Jake Mountain trail where it joins FS 28-1 (or ride up the Jake Mountain trail from the lower parking lot). Back track down it across the stream, and hang a left up the Black Branch Connector Trail.
    2. Hang a right on the first gravel road that you hit, and ride straight until the obvious junction.
    3. Head in left at the sign to begin the Black Branch loop.
    4. The trail drops quickly down a steep section of doubletrack full of large water bars.  Catch some air! (But don't run off the side.)
    5. Keep a sharp lookout to your left for the beginning of the Vietnam trail.  If you cross the creak at the bottom, you've gone too far.  Back track uphill a couple of feet to pick up the trail.
    6. Ride the Vietnam trail, and enjoy the rustic singletrack experience! Watch out for the creek crossings.
    7. When you return to the main Black Branch trail, hang a left and continue around.
    8. At one point there will be a fork in the trail. Both options bring you back to the same location very quickly. Right is high and flat, left is low and not so flat.
    9. The end of the loop appears pretty abruptly. As the trail widens out, you'll be faced with a metal barrier at the end of the trail. Hang a left on the Black Branch Connector Trail before you get there.  
    10. Cross the gravel road from #2 and pick up the last section of the Connector Trail that you rode in #1. Now the loop is really complete. 
    11. Hang a right at the Jake Mountain trail and pop back out on FS-28-1 (or turn left to go down the Jake Mountain trail if you climbed up from the lower parking lot).
    Navigational Resources
    The maps that I have come to live by are all a part of the National Geographic Trails Illustrated series.  Easy to read, almost always up to date, tear resistant and water proof, these maps are designed to ride in your Camelback for months on end! #777 contains all of the Dahlonega-area riding.

     Off the Beaten Track: North Georgia by Jim Parham is an excellent guide book for all the mountain biking in Northern Georgia which I have used extensively.  This is usually the first resource I consult when traveling to a new place. If you enjoy traveling to new locations to mountain bike, I highly recommend it.

    GPS Data

    Elevation Profile

    Aerial View

    Download the Black Branch GPS map here.

    This map is designed to show where the trail is. After following the entire track and completing the loop at the end of the lariat, return to your car by retracing the singletrack that you began on.

    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.

    If you are planning on adding in the Jake Mountain trail, take a right off of Nimblewill Church at the sign for the Jake Mountain parking lot.

    If you just want to ride the black branch trails, continue past the Jake Mountain parking lot a mile or so, and take a right onto FS 28-1.  Follow the road up, and don't turn towards Bull Mountain. At the big fork in the road, continue to follow 28-1 and do not turn up 77a. Drive down the hill, up and down the next hill, past the Turner Creek trail at the bottom, up and down the next hill and park near the end of the Jake Mountain trail, which hits the road on the right in that valley. Start riding (see "The Route" section above).

    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.


    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Bennett Gap (Trail #138), Pisgah National Forest, Brevard, North Carolina

    Mountain laurel on the
    Bennett Gap Trail.
    The Bennett gap trail offers a wide range of mountain biking experiences along its short 2.9 mile length.

    The lower section which climbs from USFS road #477 up to Coontree Gap is much more climbable on a mountain bike than many of the other trails in the immediate vicinity. Beginning at a bridge spanning a rushing stream, the singletrack roughly parallels the stream as it gains elevation along the deeply forested northern aspect of the ridge.

    Looking back down a short
    section of Satan's Staircase.
    After passing Coontree Gap, the Bennett Gap trail continues to get steeper and steeper.  The first section of "Satan's Staircase" lies along this ridge: a brutally steep hike-a-bike that will test your legs in a whole different way!

    Side note: Here in Georgia we have very few (if any) true hike-a-bikes. In Montana, Colorado, and apparently North Carolina, humping it up the hill with your bike on your back is almost a sport in its own right and is an integral part of the mountain biking experience.  So many people no longer have an appreciation for a good hike-a-bike, or never had one to begin with.  It is satisfying to know that grueling trails such as this one exist here in the Southeast.

    Further along the ridge the relentless climbing finally lets up. The trail turns downhill, delivering a welcome speedy descent through some beautiful laurel tunnels on highly exposed bench-cut singletrack.  Watch where you're riding on these rooty sidehills: the consequences for falling the wrong direction are pretty high!

    Further down the ridge the trees open up into a large ridge-top meadow.  Timm Muth mentioned how beautiful this meadow was in his guide book, but when I tried to ride through it it was a massive, overgrown field of thornbushes.  The trail was so overgrown that I had to walk just to squeeze through, and I still ended up with several long scratches from the clawing, thorny hands.

    The View
    The crown jewel of the Bennett Gap trail is easily the views from the top of the ridge.  At first, glimpses of the surrounding forest start to appear through the trees, and then eventually you crest the top of a knob and are suddenly presented with a stunning 360 degree view of the surrounding Pisgah National Forest.  It is awe inspiring!

    Looking Glass Mountain
    Pisgah National Forest

    Bottom Line: Riding these remote trails through the North Carolina wilderness is a truly rewarding experience, if you can handle the steep hike-a-bikes.

    Navigational Resources

    Timm Muth has written an awesome guidebook with detailed statistics and directions.  It includes almost all of the worth-while trails in North Carolina, and features a big section on the Tsali trails.  If you're planning on spending a lot of time in NC, this is a great investment!

    The Bennett Gap Trail is included in this book as a part of the Big Avery loop.

    The maps that I have come to live by are all a part of the National Geographic Trails Illustrated series.  Easy to read, almost always up to date, tear resistant and water proof, these maps are designed to ride in your Camelback for months on end! #780 contains all of the Brevard-area Pisgah National Forest:

    From map #780

    Getting There
    Either connect to it from the Coontree Gap Trail, or:

    From Brevard, head north on Highway 64, and then take a left on US. Hwy. 276 which leads into the heart of Pisgah National Forest. Go a mile or two, and hang a right down USFS Road #477. Drive down it a couple of miles, and the Bennett Gap trail will start on the left immediately before a bridge crossing a big stream.

    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.


    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Airborne Is Getting BIG: Sneak Preview of the New 29er

    Airborne 29er
    Airborne is getting BIG... Big wheels, that is!  It is official: Airborne will soon be releasing a 29er hardtail that will fit squarely into their niche of solid bicycles for not very much money. It is looking to be a real beauty of a mountain bike.

    Big Wheeled Mountain Bikes
    Mountain bikes with 29 inch wheels are all the rage in the mountain biking world today.  I wondered for the longest time what the hype was all about: were big wheels really that much better? I had no idea how it really felt to ride one, and my initial assumption was that it would feel as if you were sitting much higher up on the bike. 

    Then I got a chance to swap bikes with a buddy and get a first-hand experience with big wheels. I was stunned by how it felt!  Instead of feeling as if you were riding high above the wheels like I thought you would, the feeling was more of riding between the wheels--more so than a 26" bike. 

    Those big wheels felt so stable on the descents and in the wide sweeping turns, and felt very solid over roots as well. Now I know why these 29er guys are such fanatics! I didn't have much time to ride that bike, but hopefully soon I'll have a new Airborne 29er in my stable to put to the test!
    Head Tube, beginning of decal work
    The Scoop on Airborne's 29er
    Of course, I can't spill too much info yet, and there are details that are still being worked out, but here are a few insider goodies for you to chew over and consider just how awesome this bike is going to be:
    • Price: The intended pricepoint is roughly $1200 for this fully-built aluminum 29er.  That's freaking awesome!
    • Weight: This will easily be the lightest Airborne to date.  Preliminary builds are indicating a complete weight of about 27 pounds or less for a medium/large frame bike.
    • Color: Check those photos out.  How can you not look forward to a bike that is Mountain Dew green? 
    • Performance: According to my sources, preliminary shake-down rides on some of the prototype frames have all been incredibly positive!  From what I hear, the guys lucky enough to have prototypes have been throwing numerous 3-5 hour epic rides at this thing and it is holding up well and just begging for more!
    • Drive Train: This bike will come stock with the new SRAM X-7 2x10 drivetrain. I am excited to put this new system to the test and see how it performs, but eventually I"m thinking about a singlespeed build for this bike.
    Of course, some of these things are a little up in the air as this bike isn't set to go on sale until sometime in early 2011, but suffice it to say that all of the Airborne Flight Crew is stoked on this new bike!

    Look for another preview post in a week or so in which I'll talk about the bike's name and what it means.

    Your opinions, please! First impressions: what do you think? What do you think of the price: is $1,200 for a complete 29er hardtail awesome, or is it just ok?

    Please note: The photos included above are of prototypes for the new bike.  The decal work has only just begun, and the parts in the photos above are not the final build.




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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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