Tag Archives: mountain bike

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!

Taken for Granted . . .

I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was in 4th grade . . . 1976 was the year I started. During that nearly 4 decade period, things have changed significantly. In the early days, I remember us having plenty of places to go and ride. There were trails in the Daniel Boone National Forest, private farms or wooded properties, some pipeline areas, and even empty lots in and around the neighborhoods where I lived.

This Way!
This Way!

Today, only a very small fraction of these places are open for riding. The Forest Service has shut down essentially all trails except for the Red Bird Crest Trail loop. There are some other areas that are open but many are dead end, one way trails that are less than 10 miles in length. No one wants to drive an hour or more to just ride a 10 mile trail. As for private properties, the fear of litigation has stopped all that type of access and riding in residential areas was nixed due to disrespectful actions and idiots who think that louder = faster.

Don’t get me wrong here . . . I too have been “one of those” annoying characters. I’ve drag raced my uncorked IT125 down a residential street with Travis, ridden without the appropriate protective gear, ventured off the designated Forest Service Trail, and stirred up excessive dust and dirt with no respect for those in close proximity. Most of this occurred during my teenage years and even as a young adult.

Don't Take It For Granted!
Don’t Take It For Granted!

Over a long period of time, a broad range of experiences in a wide variety of settings has totally changed my perception of motorized recreation. First of all, if you take the places where you can ride for granted you will lose them. This is especially true in cases where the trail system is of mixed use. That is, the trail system is shared with hikers, mountain bikers, horses, and motorcycles.

Mixed Use Trailhead Signage
Mixed Use Trailhead Signage

In a mixed use trail situation, the motorcyclist is the lowest on the totem pole. You must yield to all other users. It is a matter of respect and simple etiquette. Shut off your bike and if possible move it to the side so that the other trail users can easily get around. Smile, say hello, apologize for interrupting their outing, and make sure they know how many more riders are in your party. Inquire as to how their day is going and if you are carrying a saw (someone in your party should be), ask them if there are any trees down across the trail ahead and let them know that you’ll remove them accordingly. Doing all this goes a very long way to earning the respect of non-motorized trail users.

Trail Courtesy
Trail Courtesy

I have personally witnessed situations where motorcyclists (and even mountain bikers) have not stopped and just blown past a group of hikers or horse riders. This is not an effective way to win friends or garner support for mixed use trails. Frankly, it just pisses them off and gives them the ammunition they need to totally shut down motorized access. Could you really blame them? No one is entitled to act in that manner.

Honestly, there are very few off road riders that have been taught these values. I suspect there are more out West than back East and this is evidenced by the abundance of trails that permit motorized use. Regardless, it is a problem and there are no indications that it is getting any better.

If you want to ride at race pace, roost some dirt, climb straight up every hill you see, or uncork your obnoxiously loud 4-Stroke then go buy your own property in the middle of no where and have at it. However, if you can’t afford to purchase some property of your own then you’ll be riding on public land or on some private acreage. If that’s the case, then you should treat the land and others that use it with respect. Remember that respect earns respect.

Trail Across a Meadow
Trail Across a Meadow

Simply put, taking the places you ride for granted affects us all. I suspect that in another 10-20 years the land we ride on currently will all but vanish. And honestly, it will be the fault of the vast majority of riders and their failure to follow some simple, common-sense guidelines. Think about it . . . do you want to be “one of those riders” that contributed to a land closure?

See you on the trail!

Chain Saw Carrier Project

One of the guys I rode with in 2008 when I went to Idaho the first time sent me a photo of his bike. Two things really jumped out at me. First of all, there was a chainsaw fastened to some fabricated mounting mechanism over the front fender on this bike. Secondly, it had a long, wide scabbard with a 2-foot hand saw in it (see photo below). Wow! I’d never seen anything like that before on a bike. Hmmm . . . what’s that all about?

Hand Saw on a KTM
Hand Saw on a KTM

We’ll as I’ve noted in the past, these guys are truly trail stewards. They take the time to clear any logs down across a trail and keep it only single-track width. As a result, they’ve become friends with the mountain bikers that now realize the motorcycle guys carrying the chainsaws are the ones keeping those flowing trails open and free of all the dead fall. It is hard for most to imagine how many trees are down in those woods (they call it “dead fall”) and how often they fall across a trail.

For the past few years I’ve relied on a quad (or Jesse) to get a chainsaw to a given location where it was needed. It has worked well, but I’m ready to move forward and setup some way to carry a saw on the YZ . . . or WR. It would be so handy for trail work and I could take it out West if needed. One guy we ride with uses the rear mount made by Pro Moto Billet

Trails, switchbacks, tires, and such . . .

We’ve been putting quite a bit of time into “developing” some more technical trails. Nothing that will ever be raced, but rather something that keeps you moving slow with ample obstacles to keep you engaged. It’s not always about how fast you go, its more about if you can go at all!

Bikes atop Narrow Ridge
Bikes atop Narrow Ridge

We’d been working on one trail for quite some time now and as of two weekends ago, it was not finished. We lacked about 50 yards of switchbacks to make it work and keep the loop intact. I’m now glad to say that after some digging on New Years Eve we finally completed the switchbacks leading off of Narrow Ridge. It drops down three big levels and then wraps around the end of the ridge and onto an old logging road cut into the side of the ridge. The loops goes on from there and heads generally back down the main creek bed.