Ouachita Challenge Approaches

The Ouachita Challenge is next weekend in Oden, Arkansas. The Saturday event is a laid-back Tour while Sunday is a full-bore race to the death - with an 80 mile option if you're feeling particularly awesome. Other than Jim and Wendy, I don't know of any other GORCer doing the race. Kirby, Steph, Bryan, Matt (me), Lisa T, Larry K, John D, Scott (scooter), John T, Rob H, Josh n' Tammy, and er, if there's more I'm forgetting, will be riding the Tour on Saturday. Logistically it just works better for most as taking a Friday off is easier than racing on Sunday and driving back Monday.

Several riders will be sporting single speeds and I anticipate they'll do just fine. This is my fourth year riding it and I've died at the end every time on the geared bike so I'm taking my historical data into account and not going down that path of complete destruction.

The course this year starts off on the Womble and ends on the Ouachita. The two trails are ying and yang. The womble is buff, flowy, valley/ridge sweetness. The climbs may be long but they aren't ridiculously steep. After the Womble there's a fair amount of gravel road before hitting the Ouachita. Or Ouchita, whatever you want to call it. This trail was never designed with bikes in mind and it shows in places. The climbs are stiff and large boulder fields keep riders on their toes (and feet while they walk the sections.) The difficulty lies in pacing the ride. The Womble begs you to rail for 20-30 miles but then the Ouachita simply blows you out, hence the ride up, along, and down Blowout Mountain. The end never comes soon enough but when it does - for me anyway - the end can feel worse than the last miles of riding.

But it's fun. It's adventurous. It's an excuse to ride somewhere you never really go no matter how much you talk about it on message boards or coffee shops. After you've ridden it once, it gets in you and you can't wait to stay up till midnight and register for the next annual Ouachita.

It is a challenge. You would love it.

Info: Ouachita Challenge Website | Tour Map

2009 PTBA Conference, Asheville NC

I recently attended the Professional Trailbuilders Conference in Asheville NC on March 18th and 19th. After the conference, I participated in the a USFS Chainsaw Certification class in the Dupont State Forest.

The conference was set up in 1:15 sessions on various subjects pertaining to land use, trail building and trail management. I tried to hit the sessions of most benefit to me in relating to GORC issues. The first day I attended “Rigging for Trail Work”, “Trail Maintenance 101”, “Ecological Considerations for Stream Crossings” and “Wetland Structures”. The second day I attended, “Creating a Self-Sufficient Volunteer Crew”, “Current Trends in Public Bicycle Recreation”, “Design Considerations for Adventure Recreation” and “Design, Development and Management of High Use Equestrian Trails”. All were very informative and taught by knowledgeable people. Since this is a Professional Trailbuilders Association, most of the presenters were professional trailbuilders.

They also had a trail demo area that was stocked with all the latest mechanized trail tools. The hotel donated a putting green to put the equipment to the test. It had some pretty silly looking trail in it by the end of the two days. The riggers had also set up a very cool demo on how they move rocks using wire rope and a Griphoist. This was probably my favorite thing I witnessed and wished we had these tools. It made moving rocks very easy and fast.

I’ll say that the predominant attendees at the conference were land manager types. They were all most interested in the mechanized trail building tools and how they could speed up trailbuilding with them. Most did not seem to have the volunteer base we have or the experience.

I went to the conference expecting to learn our faults and/or weaknesses. However, I came away seeing much more of our strengths. This is based on the conference, but Land Managers don’t always trust their volunteers to build trail on their own, let alone, design the trail. Boulder is just now starting to let Volunteers organize trail work, but the LM is still the one that controls when, what and how they do it. What would seem like large trailbuilding centers don’t even set workday schedules. They organize workdays on a few days notice and wonder why they only get 10-12 people show up. That points to another thing we do really well. Our workday attendance is far above any I heard of except for big IMBA led workdays. People were amazed when I said we regularly had 25-30 people at our workdays. Even in Yosemite, they were lucky to get 6 volunteers to show up.

What we’ve learned at Greensfelder was reaffirmed for me. They referred to designing based upon the overall use of the trail system. You shouldn’t build trail the same for say a place like Greensfelder vs. Berryman. A high use system should stay in the 3-5% average grade where you can get away with 8-10% in low use back country trails. It was also interesting to see how crossing a creek impacts the environment, especially where equestrians are a user group. Having trails drop down fall line into a creek increases the amount of sediment deposited into the streambed which increases the potential for E-Coli. Adding grade reversals before a stream crossing will help. These are things we need to become more aware of. Also, recognizing rock armoring is not always the best choice when dealing with our four-legged friends. There are other techniques we can use to armor trails that will be less dangerous or harmful to them.

Our weaknesses may be our trail maintenance which seems to be catching up with all agencies. As more new trail is built, it just increases the load. Our best solution will be to setup a group that will concentrate on maintenance. This will be something we’ll work on in the next year. I would like to put together a self-sufficient, well-trained, knowledgeable group that can just handle maintenance on all the local trails. The other thing that I will stress, that isn’t really a weakness, but something we must focus on is QUALITY of our trail construction. We should not hurry construction to add more miles, it will only catch up with us in the end and require more maintenance.

It was a great trip and I had a really good time. It would have been nice to have had some company, but it was still fun. I got to end it by playing with a chainsaw for a couple days in the beautiful Dupont State Forest. I also did a road ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway that went up and up for quite a ways. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to visit. GORC should definitely consider visiting there sometime. I know, I know….it’s East!

Bryan Adams, GORC Pres.

Greensfelder Work Weekend- March 28-29

This is a big event for GORC. Now that all of the trails in the park are multi-use, we are evaluating existing trails, and trying to decide which, if any, can be reused, or whether we need to start over from scratch. Needless to say, we think there is the potential to have as many as 25 miles of singletrack in this park! This will be the first step in connecting the existing DeClue Trail to the Scenic Loop Rd. Once this trail is built, there is already another loop which will be an offshoot, that is already flagged and approved.

There is a lot of trailbuilding to be done, but not enough time on our schedule to do it, so we're trying something different this time. What's better than a day of building trail and riding? How about a whole weekend of building trail and riding!? That's right, work and ride on Sat., camp at Greensfelder Sat. night if you wish, then get up and do it again on Sunday. Advance registration is required for camping, and more details are available here. We also have a special challenge with our friends at the St. Louis Adventure Group as to who can build the most trail on Sunday. They already have more than 30 people signed up, so unless there's a really good showing, we're going to be significantly outnumbered. Please show up for at least one of the days, if you can.

Lost Valley Race Report

by Matt Hayes
Unknown rider from Team de Seagal , but damn, look at that sweet new switchback hotness!

Several GORC members attended the Lost Valley race. Craig and Steph were on GORC Bike Patrol and the crowd appreciated the assistance in the Kid's Race. Larry Koester, Bryan Adams, Scott Piepert, Greg Ott, John Twist, Curt, among many more whom I can't recall due to my race-fogged mind, rode circles around Lost Valley. While some of the guys weren't directly racing for GORC, I donned the green GORC jersey and tried my best to show folks that we're more than just a bunch of trail-building fools. We had just laid down fresh Lost Valley (LV) trail the day before and I felt the need to market the club as best I could.

I raced the single speed class and knew it would be hard on me . . . I'm just not a fast spinner and Lost Valley is all about the cadence meter. I pulled the Lynskey from the basement - last used at the Berryman Epic - and hoped the 2:1 magic sprocket set would get the job done.

Larry Koester rackin' up laps of Marathonic proportions

Nine SS'ers who chose not to race Marathon class (gravel road madness! - Ouachita without the trails) launched off the line on the Hamburg trail and rocketed away. I kept up early on but backed it off because I was gonna die in the first 30 seconds. I never knew people could dole out the pain so swiftly. You know, pedal, pedal, pedal, OK, boom, 20mph follow me now mf! - that's what it felt like anyway. Greg Sandknop of Team Seagal kept the pace sickly fast with fellow team mate Eddie K. right along side me. Eventually I found my groove about 40 seconds behind Greg and 40 seconds in front of Eddie. I felt ill the entire ride (I mean race) as there was no time to actually recover. I gave it everything I had and was coming up short. I found my flow on all the narrow and gained time on Greg only to lose sight of him on the flats. I couldn't spin any faster. Hell no.

The new singletrack is terrific, by the way. It was cool to see people on the opposite side of the valley drains with the slight hope of catching up to them. The new stuff was a bit bumpy and slow but it will simply be mind-blowing fast this fall.

But back to the race report.

Everyone rode well. The marathoners did 40+ miles while I opted to break off my personal tachometer in the SS class. Turns out I did pretty well. During the entire race I thought Greg was pacing just behind the 1st place single speeder who was out of his sight. I told myself it was insane the speed these mofo's were pushing. A 36x16 would've been nice. I'd never punished myself so hard.

Scooter on the 3-hr Marathon trip

Finally, at the end I found out I was 2nd and not 3rd . . . cool with me, my head was spinning and the edema/COPD-like lung fungus kept me cross-eyed for a while! I was satisfied because I knew there was nothing left - I'd tried my absolute very best to win while flying the GORC banner. For a non-dedicated race-when-I-feel-like-it who prefers trail building over training, my day was made and - behold - beer was in sight! Oh, damn, beeeeer! ASAP in the belly, and then quickly, the little Drinky-Crow on my shoulder said another would do me up so I bummed a tasty Miller Lite (thanks Steph!) for some additional supplementary enhancement. Instant heartburn, but such relief. Even as I write this I am still coughing up bits of scarred lung. I gotta hand it to the Seagal kids - they're a fast bunch doing mega rides left and right and their PBR-sponsored beer tent is much appreciated - so much so that it was completely destroyed and left a crumpled shell in the wake of the race.

Mesa Cycles put on a great event and everyone agreed the new singletrack addition at Lost Valley is super cool. All in all, a superb weekend to be on the bike. See you all at Greensfelder this weekend. New trails, more beer, good friends. Perfect combination.

Race Results can be found here...

Fixed Gear Mayhem (Why It's The Best Training Ever)

A disclaimer: if you already have nagging knee problems you will find that this style of riding either helps correct the issue or puts you in a wheelchair. This article is not science and I am not Adam Craig. I am an average midwestern mountain biker with access to a blog that needs some articles.

Onto the glory of fixed fun . . .

Fixed gear bikes have been around for as long as bikes have existed. They are not the first bike you usually pick up when going out the door for a ride. Why is that?

For starters, you can't coast. Oh, and you have to pedal backwards to slow down because you only have a front brake. They can also tire you out faster since there's no such thing as coasting. Also, they will always, always be a singlespeed hardtail one at that.

Most people think fixed gear riding is foolish and stupid. It's slows you down they say and it wrecks your knees. Surely you must hit every single rock on the trail and skid all over the place.

Nah, not really.

My first ride on a fixxxie was at Greensfelder two years ago. I had the winter blues and bikes sucked. I felt slow. It wasn't as fun as it used to be. I had read about these Boone ti cogs that bolted onto a disc-brake hub where the disc would normally be. So I ordered one up and put it on my single speed at the time, a Surly Karate Monkey.

Took off the rear brake, flipped the wheel around and bolted the cog on. Done. I now owned a fixie. A genuine 32x16 fixed gear bike meant for trail use.

Nervously, I rode it on Dogwood. About 30 feet in I almost snapped my knees off when I tried to coast. Can't do that, when you think about it for a second, you know? The trail felt new, felt hard and tried to kill me. Many times. Logs wanted my pedals, rocks begged to shred my crankarms.

It was great training to say the least and way fun. Fixed riding demands that you focus entirely on the trail, your bike and speed. Obstacles must be avoided, threaded, hopped, whatever. You learn to rock out on just a front brake. No, you don't want to skid - that wrecks the trail and your speed. Timing log hops is the hardest. Rock ledges come a close second. You have to lift up the rear wheel and kick back just enough to get the cranks up and over the obstacle. Sometimes the logs will stop you in your tracks. The situation just didn't work out. It happens.

Sometimes that works, sometimes the cranks get a bit crappier looking. Generally speaking, I've never wiped out from making crank contact with a rock or log. The bike will shudder or go off line but recovery is almost immediate. Learning to feather the front brake is crucial because only so much leg force can stop you when you're traveling 18mph.

I slowly built up enough rides to confidently tackle the DeClue trail, Berryman, and Chubb. I don't ride fixed on every ride but it helps to stay in tune with it at least 3 times a month over winter. If you stray too long without a fixed ride under you, don't be surprised to find that you want to coast and tear your feet off your pedals.

When starting out, I suggest using a low gear, like a 32x19 or so. This lets your cranks spin much faster and gives your more options to get over obstacles. Plus, you're not killing yourself on the trail. Always remember, coasting is crashing.

I usually only run fixed over the winter months. It gets too hot in St. Louis to constantly spin but I'm not saying you can't do it. Summer is when you want to be railing gulley berms on your favorite bike.

Whatever you do, remember to watch out for obstacles, slow down on the downhills and REMEMBER YOU CAN'T COAST. Your kneecaps will explode if you forget this rule while jamming on a descent. Your front brake is your friend. Don't be the Hulk and backpedal when your legs are wasted - you risk injury. Use your hand brake when nature is attempting to feed you tree bark. You will be amazed at how much power one brake has and how hard it is to really wash out the front wheel. Be smart through rock gardens and loose gravel - physics still apply.

Oh yeah . . . and don't listen to naysayers. With practice you can keep up with other bikers. You may not be able to outrun them on a descent but with the gear/chain/rear wheel throwing you uphill, you can assure yourself that you have the best momentum generator going.

Do enough fixed rides and you will improve in several areas; handling, speed, cadence and endurance. When you get back to your standard rig you'll find yourself not coasting as much, but instead rocketing through tech gardens, flowing over roots, logs, rocks with mucho endurance to boot.

I just finished up a ride out at Chubb and it was unreal. It felt as fast as on the traditional single speed. See you on the trail.

Changing of the Guard

Bryan and Former President Scott Whitaker

For those of you who may have missed it in the minutes from the last meeting, GORC has new Officers. Michael Bolton Bryan Adams is the new President, and Matt Hayes is Vice President. I'm sure they will prove to be as effective at cat herding as their predecessors. Next time you see them, buy them a beer- if only so that they gain a little weight to slow them down.

Events this Week March 1-8

New trail at Lost Valley from workday on Feb. 28th

It's another busy week. Here's what's going on, including a few items from the past weekend:

--On Saturday the 28th, there was a workday at Lost Valley which began the construction of a reroute that will eventually be around 2 miles long. We'll need a big turnout on March 21st or it probably won't be open until the Fall. It's going to be some incredibly fun singletrack, but it's also difficult terrain requiring a lot of rock work as you can see in the pictures, so it's very time consuming. There were only 22 people at the workday, and considering how many people ride at Lost Valley, this was a somewhat disappointing turnout. If you can, please try to attend the next workday. More details will be on the forum.

--Sawyers were out on Sunday, March 1st preparing for the big workdays at Greensfelder on March 28th and 29th and Matson Hill on March 7th.

--March 4th is the regular monthly meeting at the Schlafly Tap Room.

--March 7th, Saturday 9am-1pm is the first of what will prove to be many workdays at Matson Hill. Making use of the new land that St. Charles County Parks has purchased to extend the park will result in as much as 12 or so miles of singletrack there. More details are available here.