Tag Archives: course

Riding in the Front

I had the opportunity to ride with three great guys this past weekend. It is interesting how the family of off road riders is intertwined. Through a random set of associations, Michael contacted me about riding in Kentucky. I’d hinted that waiting until later in the Fall would be ideal as the place was really grown up and there were lots of trees down from the Spring storms. So that was the plan, wait until October or maybe after a frost.

However, he and his riding partners had some plans fall through and wanted to know if this past weekend (8-29-15) would work. Sure! But I reminded Michael about how grown up things would be, especially the blackberry briars. They are long, strong, and brutal this time of year. I’d planned on clearing trail all weekend so it was fine with me. They could help me beat down the vegetation that is engulfing the landscape.

Large Oak at the Staging Area
Large Oak at the Staging Area (click to enlarge)

They were in route by late afternoon on Friday and planned to stay in Jamie’s Bus at the Wal-Mart in Danville. Yes, he has a red International school bus that has been converted into a toy hauler (see photo above). Ryan was on his way from West Virginia whereas Michael and Jamie were coming down from the Indy area. I met them at about 7:30 am in Danville on Saturday and we headed south and parked in the back staging area under the massive oak that dominates the field (see photo above).

Since they were driving a great distance, I had to make sure their trip was worthwhile. I wanted to include some loops with the best single track but I knew that many included sections that were grown over with tall weeds and briars. Oh well, that was the only way it was going to work and like I mentioned before, it gave us a good first pass  at beating it down with 4 riders coming through. The bad part about this plan . . . I was the one that would be riding in the front . . . the whole time. Argh!

As anyone that frequents the woods in Kentucky this time of year knows, there are spider webs everywhere, especially earlier in the day. I’m not particularly fond of spiders but if I have all my gear on I can plough through some webs. I just don’t like to see a spider crawling around on my goggles. Distracting at the very least. Look at all the webs on my brake line below. My helmet looks even worse.

Mileage & Spider Webs
Mileage & Spider Webs (click to enlarge)

The crew took off and hit a part of the old course that I hadn’t ridden since late winter. About 1/4 mile in we came to a downed tree and had to duck out through the brush and up to the field to get around. Unfortunately, we had to do that several times throughout the day. I told Jesse, there were several places we’d need his big saw. Regardless, we were able to quickly get around, up, over or under most things but turning around was the only option in a couple instances.

In one case, the alternate route was definitely the coolest. We dropped off an established trail that was blocked by a massive downed tree onto some very old single track that hadn’t been ridden in at least 3 years. There were lots of face slappers but we made it through and dropped into this deep black shale drainage feature. A little shale waterfall is situated above our point of entry and from there it runs down and around a very slick corner and into a tall bank. I looked back and Jamie was “surfing” around that corner with only the slightest control of his bike! He pulled it off quite well though and came to a safe stop. Michael paused for a photo-op with his KTM 200 propped against the bank (see photo below).

Black Shale Creek Bed
Black Shale Creek Bed (click to enlarge)

I told them there were some nice elevation change on this property and several times we were able to navigate trails that went from one extreme to the other. We hit Cat Cave Hill, the Goat Trail, came down and off the recently cleared Pencil Ridge, and took our first break at the overlook that is at least two hundred feet above the Green River Valley. As with everywhere else in the woods, the vegetation was obscuring the best views but you could still tell it was a long way down to the valley (see photo below).

Scenic Overlook
Scenic Overlook (click to enlarge)

The riding was going well and there was 13+ miles of some great trail behind us before it was time to take a break for lunch. Michael and Ryan ran into town to Subway and Jamie stayed behind to re-jet his Husky (Nick Fahringer’s 2014 race bike) as he’d not done it since returning from out West. My “good bike” was pinging (lean) too so I got my other one out of the trailer, pulled the chainsaw mount off, and strapped on a front headlight assembly. I’d ridden it the past three weekends since re-jetting from Idaho and it was doing fine.

After lunch we went to the “new” side of the property where it is really, really grown up with briars and massively tall weeds. You can slowly move through the stuff and knock down the weeds but the briars love to latch on. I’ll have to say, the most awesome jersey for this type of “thrasher” riding is the Klim Dakar Pro. It is truly like wearing armor. That jersey with a wicking under shirt as a bottom layer and you’re set for pushing through the nasty stuff.

At this point it is getting warmer and the vegetation is very thick but we push on. Just like all day long, I’m leading the crew and taking the initial hit. The branches, leaves, briars, weeds, and spider webs were a challenge in most all places unless we’d cleared it within the past three weeks. I reminded them, that I was riding in the front and taking the brunt of it on their behalf!

On the Trail
On the Trail (click to enlarge)

We started off the afternoon by dropping onto the cool switchback trail that works its way down the north slope of Moore’s Branch ridge. Jesse did a great job scoping out this trail over the winter. It is really shady, covered with small rocks, and blanketed with massive ferns this time of year. The trail ends at the banks of Moore’s Branch and wiggles through some tight trees and up the creek bed a bit. This whole area is still a work in progress but I was able to give the group a good sampling of the landscape and what we have to work with.

The rest of day included pieces of the old KORHS course(s) and as much pure single track as I could weave into the loop. In the end, I only missed a few trails that were nice to ride, but they can “experience” those sections next time they venture down to Kentucky for some riding.

I checked my odometer as we rolled back into the staging area and noted we had 31.45 miles logged for the day.  That is not bad when you consider the size of the area we have access to for our adventures. It is the generosity of a few families that allows us to develop a nice trail system. Special thanks to them!

It was around 3:30pm, my bike and I were covered with spider webs, my nose was cut, I was itching all over, and drenched in sweat. Felt like an appropriate time to call it a day, especially since these guys were heading up to Louisville to ride mountain bikes in the Mega Caverns on Sunday. Everyone was tired, but no one was injured and all of our bikes were intact. Success!

It was certainly a good time and I always enjoy taking folks on a little tour of the Kentucky woods. When you’re the host, riding in the front is always a necessity but in last weekend’s conditions, it was certainly a challenge. I now have a nice mixture of bites from chiggers and deer tick larvae to remind me of our little adventure. I sure hope they enjoyed the trails. I did!

See you on the trail!

A Fall Tour of the Ky Woods

A young man from Northern Indiana came down to ride with us this past weekend. It’s already getting cold and nasty in his neck of the woods so riding down here in Kentucky was a treat with some warmer weather and great fall colors on display. Below is a photo taken the previous weekend from an overlook we ride past.

Fall Colors in Kentucky
Fall Colors in Kentucky

Currently, all the trails are covered with leaves that easily hide all the rocks, roots, and smaller logs. All those things that will grab your front wheel in a deliberate fashion and remind you to take it easy and pay attention. It is good practice and a perfect time to seek out new trails as the leaves are mostly gone and you can see through the woods a decent distance for a change.

Oak and Hickory Leaves Cover the Trail
Oak and Hickory Leaves Cover the Trail

On Saturday, four us were able to ride together. With two KTMs and two Yamahas in the group the jesting was continuous. Never a dull moment with Jesse and Bo are trading jabs! Our guest didn’t know what he’d gotten himself into but he took it all in stride. The good thing was that we all were riding quiet 2-Strokes as it was the opening day of Deer Hunting Season. Stealth riding with little impact was the goal as we traversed several areas.

The Riding Crew
The Riding Crew
Dropping of a Rock Ledge
Dropping of a Rock Ledge

The Row 4 (and 62) Report

A group of us made the commitment to race the Sandlapper National Enduro down near Columbia, South Carolina three months ago. We’d been to that race back in 2011 and made the (nearly fatal) mistake of getting on row 87. It was a miserable experience, but Bo, the Sheriff, and I survived the whole ordeal. The sand whoops would swallow a bike and stumps were everywhere.

But hey . . . we had a plan for 2014!! Get on an early row and maybe there wouldn’t be a bunch of sand whoops. So, on sign up evening I made it all happen and got Earl, Bo, David, and Sam on the same row. Jesse called just 5 minutes after I’d signed us up and said he wanted to go too. I quickly got back on the site and requested the row in front of us. I had requested row 7 and 6 for Jesse but we ended up with 4 and Jesse was placed on row 62. Oh well . . . it was not for lack of effort on my part.

Row 4
Row 4

Once again, the weather promised to be great compared to the Bluegrass State and whole crew was looking forward to the trek down South. However, just like the last enduro, Jesse was unable to attend due to work-related commitments. So, the week before the race Mr. Kyle Miller gave me a call and I laid the offer right in his lap. “Do you want to go the National Enduro next week Wildman?” . . . first there was a bit of a pause . . . then a fairly positive “Yes” emerged. He was on the hook to ride in Jesse’s spot. Could Jesse Smith (alias) obtain another Vet B Class win??

Onward! Everyone was excited. David and Sam really liked the Black Coal Enduro last year and Bo was anxious to head south for some warm weather riding. I knew that Kyle would keep things interesting for us and Earl was glad to not be going it alone! It is good when things are good!

We all left at different times on Saturday and Earl was the first to arrive at the venue. My truckload showed up about 30 minutes later. David and Sam were running behind and didn’t make it to the course, but at the end of the day we all sat down for dinner together at the Applebee’s is Lexington, South Carolina in front of our hotel. It is always good when a group can sit down together for a meal. Good conversation about the day ahead!

KYWR at the Sandlapper
KYWR at the Sandlapper

The next day began early but it worked out well and we arrived at the race with just a little over an hour before our 9:04 key time. I don’t like being rushed but overall, everything I “needed” was ready to go. Kyle helped with sandwiches for lunch and our gear as he had almost an hour to wait after we took off. The group headed for the line and Kyle tagged along to grab a couple photos. Shown (left to right) below are Bo, David, KYWR, and Sam on the line for the first test.

The Row 4 Line Up
The Row 4 Line Up

 

What’s holding you up?

I think it was back in 2009 when I decided Tire Balls would be worth giving a try. We’d been cutting trail at the Salt River Run in Mercer County. You know that place with all the Honey Locust . . . the trees with the LONG thorns? I kept thinking that if there was ever a place to get a flat this was it. They were sponsoring our Series (KORHS) so it was convenient.

Tire Ball (1109)
Tire Ball (1109)

Well, to make a long story short, I’m sold on the whole concept. Not having to worry about a flat tire is great. Especially on long trips where you’ve spent significant time and money to get there and then all of sudden you (and all your buddies) are dealing with your flat tire.

My Son’s front tires are the best example of how well they perform. On at least three occasions he’s had 5 to 7 flat balls when I’ve pulled his tire off to “upgrade” but the tire was still solidly mounted on the rim. An S12 once and an M12 the other two times. So think about that . . . that is 5 to 7 times (each wheel) that we would have had to deal with a flat front tire. His example is extreme though. Typically, I only have 1 or 2 flat balls by the time the tire is in need of changing. Sometimes none are flat at all.

So today was the day. I did a front and a rear wheel. Most folks think dealing with them is a PITA (learned that from Bill) but I’ve actually mastered the entire process. If everything is clean and ready to go, I can easily mount a tire in 15-20 minutes. The right tools, the correct approach, patience, and persistence are all required. It is not for the faint of heart. BUT . . . think about it . . . I’d rather spend my “time” in the garage with the Balls than on the side of the trail dealing with my (or someone else’s) failed tube.

I have a rear wheel that I mounted up with a brand new Michelin Trials tire in June of 2012 before heading out West. It has over 700 miles on it . . . maybe more . . . the knobs still over 75% there in terms of height and it probably has 3 flat Balls from what I can tell. The tire is still mounted well on the rim and it just plain hooks up and goes where instructed.

Additionally, don’t forget about how it helps you in terms of suspension and traction. The ability to run a lower pressure with the balls does wonders for traction! A wide footprint that readily conforms to all shapes equals forward motion where others are left standing still.

See you on the trail!

The Row 47 Report

I guess to me, an enduro equals adventure. Typically, there is a wide range of terrain in an enduro event and that is attractive to me. The idea of covering lots of ground, having a few breaks here and there and seeing the landscape of a different place is something I look forward to each year. We did three National Enduros a couple years ago but that is the most I’ve done in any single year.

For the past three years, the National Enduro Promotions Group, or NEPG, has held a round up north of Muncie, Indiana but this year they went with the Black Coal venue down in Lynnville. Let me tell you, the terrain varies greatly between the flat farming land around Muncie and the scarred strip mining sites in South Indiana near Lynnville. Wide open areas that are rough as can be and covered with scrub grasses and useless little trees coupled with the roller coaster like hills in the older woods makes for an interesting riding experience.

I signed up for this particular enduro back on the evening of July 3rd while I was out in Idaho. The usual suspects were registered: Philip, Bo, Jesse and me. I really don’t like signing up that early but if you want a good row, it is a must. Row 47 has been kind to us all so once again that was my desired row selection and we got it!!

Unfortunately, Jesse just got a new job (congrats to him) and they wanted him to fly out of Lexington @ 5:50PM the same day as the race. He tried to get it switched but luck was not his friend so he bowed out gracefully. We all missed having him around that is for sure.

The first two people I thought to call when I learned he couldn’t go were Kyle and Jeff. Ended up that it was not in the cards for Kyle, but Jeff was able to fit it into his schedule and was pleased to go along. Knowing that they don’t allow row changes, we just decided that Jeff could be Jesse for the day. Jesse dropped off his AMA card and everything was good to go. I had paid for all the entries back in July so that was a sunk cost on my end and Jeff was the beneficiary. Jesse sent his “competition kit” info to Jeff so that he could truly impersonate him. The “kit” included an electric razor (so he could shave his head) and a thumb throttle. Alan said it was mandatory that Jeff use the “kit” but I don’t he liked the idea.

Enduro Ready!
Enduro Ready!

I got everything together for Philip and I on Friday evening and Saturday morning. We picked up Bo around noon and headed north and west towards Lynnville. Jeff had “kid duty” and had to drive up early on Sunday. He arrived at the venue before we got there and was ready to sign up when we got on site. None of us had any major issues getting registered but they did give Bo a hard time regarding his AMA card and exhaust but he worked it all out. Time to race!!

Test 1
None of us knew what to expect but Test 1 started to shape our expectations of what the rest of the event may hold in store. Basically, it was in a wide open area that had been stripped. The ground was not smooth at all . . . very, very choppy. The course ran in and out of some tight tree sections and there were hundreds of turns. Things didn’t start out well in this test as the other guy on our row would NOT get out of the way. Bo put a motocross move on him and pushed him out in a corner but he would NOT let Philip and I pass him. Philip lost his front end in a corner and went down and I pulled right up on this guy and hounded him for at least a mile before he pulled over and let us go on. I had used every tactic I could get around him but he refused to budge. That sure didn’t help our time in that test. As was the case with every Test, Jeff beat us all quite handily. He makes it look easy. Philip came in just ahead of Bo and I dragged in after all of them.

Test 2
Here we go again. Test 2 was just like Test 1. Very easy overall, but lots and lots of turns in open fields with very high grass on each side and a few little tight scrub woods sections thrown in here and there. I just can’t make good time in that stuff for some reason. The fact that I don’t use my brakes much really makes it difficult to make good time where there are lots of turns. Oh well, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks! Once again, Jeff beat us all and was waiting at the beginning of the next test. Looks like Philip finished just ahead of Bo on this test once again.

Test 3
At this point we all commented that the course was not quite what we expected. It was VERY easy up to this point. I swear that there wasn’t even a log laying across the trail. Some sections were so tight you’d have to squeeze between the trees but they were few and far between and typically that is where I do the best, in the tight stuff. Once again, nothing eventful happened and the Row 47 finishing order was still intact: Jeff, Philip, Bo, and Kent.

Black Coal Enduro GPS Tracks
Black Coal Enduro GPS Tracks

Test 4
Now were talking!! The course was now transitioning a bit into some better woods sections, less field stuff, some off camber hillsides and lots of those little sections through the scrub trees. This is more like what I expected. I felt like I was doing fairly well and towards the end I came upon Philip. He had said he was tired at the start of the test and I could see it in how he was riding. We were about 1.5 miles from the end of the test and he let me around. So now the finishing order had been shuffled a bit: Jeff, Bo, Kent, and Philip. Bo and Philip were impressed with Jeff’s skill and the fact that he was doing all this on a 1998 RMX250. Gotta love it!!

Test 5
We all went back to the truck before Test 5 and refueled our bodies a bit. I was getting low on gas but had enough for at least one more test but I suspected that I wouldn’t do Test 6 anyhow as my legs were starting to cramp. Not good. This problem has haunted me now for 3 years and it just won’t go away. Getting old?? Test 5 begins with a little climb and then immediately gets technical. Yes! This is what we’d be waiting for! I get about 1 mile in and realize that I can’t grab the front brake. My fingers won’t unfold off the grip. The next thing I know, my left leg starts to cramp. Geez!! The course is finally primo and I’m not able to put my full effort into it. Argh!! I backed it off a bit so that I could stay in control and then rode at a steady pace enjoying the course.

All day long some young guy on a KTM with Klim gear would pass me hauling the mail. I heard him coming and let him around. About 20 seconds later we come out on a beat up old logging road that is littered with big roots and large rocks. Well this kid hits the ground hard!! His bike goes one way and he the other. It looked really bad! I stopped and picked up his bike as it was nearly blocking the trail. He was down on his knees with his head on the ground. This is not good. I asked how he is and he said he’d hit his knee on one of those big rocks. He said he’d be okay and really thanked me for stopping. I got back on and finished out the Test. It was roller coaster city out there! Up, down, right, left. This was fun! The soil was good, it was technical, and the off camber stuff was everywhere!! Why couldn’t the whole course be like this?? Great fun and awesome job on the layout in this Test. Jeff beat us handily once again and Bo came in somewhere behind him. Philip didn’t even do the test as his hands were all blistered up so I rounded out the pack. I was done, Test 6 was not in the cards for me so I headed back to the staging area.

Test 6
All I know about Test 6 is that Jeff said it was more of Test 5. Very cool!! My energy level just wouldn’t have allowed me to do that safely. Jeff made it back as we were finishing loading up and had a big grin on his face! He’d done well and he knew it! Hats off to him and the old RMX!

Little did we know, but Jeff (I mean Jesse) had pulled off a first place win his class! Very cool! The balance of Row 47 finished quite poorly within our respective classes be we all had a great time. That is what it is all about. Of course we’d all like to do better, but I’ll never get any faster and my conditioning is average at best. Treating it like a trail ride is basically what I do so at the end of the day its more about how much fun I had than how I did overall or in a particular test. Sure beats sitting at home on a Sunday watching some sports game on the tube. If you haven’t tried an enduro, do it!

Spotted at the Black Coal
There were several Kentucky folks there and some others from close by that race the KORHS series. Earl Coffey was there and parked beside us on Sunday. The “Sheriff” Thacker rode up with Harvey and Mr. Tucker tagged along on his new KTM 350. I ran into Jeff Green a couple times and saw him with Eric Gill at the beginning of Test 5.

Into the Jungle . . .

It is just plain hot and sticky here in the Commonwealth. The iron weed is blooming and 8 foot tall, the wild black berries grew an extra foot this year with all the rain, and for some reason the bugs are out in force. All those factors combined make for a somewhat miserable riding experience.

Regardless of the situation, we ventured out last week to check out the course at the Sawmill. Wow! It was like a different world out there. A jungle for sure! The heavy rains we’ve had over the past four months have caused all plant matter to grow profusely. We normally have a lush understory here in Kentucky, but this year it is extra thick.

In the Kentucky Jungle
In the Kentucky Jungle

We came to sections where the entire trail was simply covered. A weave of thorny vines, black berries, and some tough young hickory branches will cease your forward motion. At the end of the ride we’d only gone about 15 miles but geez! I was beat and starting to think about taking a shower to get rid of that itchy feeling from all the weeds, pollen, and bugs.

The good part about all this is that I did get out and ride. It was cooler when we started in the morning but by 1:00pm it was steamy in the jungle. At least I didn’t sit at home and “think” about going riding.

Get out and ride!

See you on the trail!

The Copperhead Run

The next KORHS event will be on May 19th at the Copperhead Run in Wolfe County, Kentucky. We named it Copperhead Run for a reason and the fact that it is located in the Eastern portion of the state means that the terrain is different from where most of our events are staged. The soil is more sandy, the pines are more abundant, and the undergrowth is thicker. All of those features combined with a large flat area that was strip mined over 3 decades ago make for an awesome venue (and a great place for Copperheads to hang out).

Arrowing the Course
Arrowing the Course

The course begins on the flat strip site and winds between the pines but racers are riding on natural terrain within 3/4 mile or so. The next 4.5 miles is a really nice single track trail through typical Eastern Kentucky mountain terrain. Lots of little elevation changes and a mix of hardwoods and conifers keep the trail fun and interesting. There are plenty places to pass though, and I’m sure some new lines will open up as the race wears on. You won’t find this type of trail anywhere in the central or western parts of Kentucky so enjoy it.

Copperhead Run Trail Work
Copperhead Run Trail Work

Racers exit this more natural terrain and drop into an area along the fringes of the old strip mine. This area has an interesting surface as it is where the overburden from the mine was pushed downhill. Lots of little ups and downs between the pines. The course transitions to the flat mined out area around mile marker 5 and flows nicely through the pines for another 1.5 miles.

Below are three links to some video clips of the 2013 Course:

http://youtu.be/vIUoya9Wr0s

http://youtu.be/O9OY8smPDuM

http://youtu.be/EeYzXcEUkgg

The course was a hit in 2012 with most all the KORHS Racers and they’ll love the extra mileage and widened trails in 2013.

See you on the Trail!

The Right Tool for the Job

As with most things, it is so much easier when you have the right tool for the job at hand. We spent nearly one hour at a large downed tree that had two trunks a couple weekends ago. The little saws are nice but we ended up needing the hand saw so we wouldn’t get them wedged. It was slow going for a while but we had Philip along to help so that was good.

Gearing Up!
Gearing Up!

This past weekend we headed out to finish up some course work and Jesse asked if we needed the big saw for anything. “Yes!” was the answer. There were three places on that old logging road I’d been clearing where big logs needed to go. One of these spots was where we spent an hour a couple weeks beforehand. Luckily, the BIG saw fit right into my carrier with little issue. It fit well but it was so much heavier than the little saw. I immediately turned back my steering damper. I didn’t need that type of help with the monster saw hanging over my front fender.

Big Stihl on the Yamaha
Big Stihl on the Yamaha

If you want to check out some of the area I’m talking about take a look a these three videos. Winter trail work in Kentucky is always a great time. This is the only time of year you can tackle all the thorny plant matter out there in the woods.

See you on the trail!

Fall Trail Clearing

Now that we’re done on course work for the year, we can concentrate on having a little fun. Clearing some trails, exploring new areas, and a trip to Red Bird are all in store this fall and winter. I try to get out every weekend regardless of the weather.

Chain Saw on the YZ
Chain Saw on the YZ

This year I’m packing my little Stihl on the YZ and it has come in handy several times. I cleared two sections on the Goat Trail and another large one across an old logging road below a ridge line trail. Having that little saw at-hand makes you re-think whether you can “get there” or not. Jesse hasn’t even offered to carry the one in his backpack.

Fall Trail Work
Fall Trail Work

It’s nice out this fall and everyone should get out and take advantage of it. I know it is slick, the leaves cover up all the stuff that will jerk you front wheel away, and the temperatures are getting colder but it is a great time of year to ride! It’ll improve your skill level if you learn from your mistakes.

I heard recently that some of the last sections of Red Bird were not heavily used and it was hard to push your way through. If you got an early start, it would be possible to get around it all but getting through that last section when it is late isn’t good. You’re on the wrong side of the ridge and it gets dark over there a bit early. Need to go down there before the days get much shorter.

Get out and ride!

See you on the trail!