THE Chainring Report? The CHAINRING Report? THE. CHAINRING. REPORT. …?
This week I had the good fortune to be able to attend the Professional Trailbuilders Association’s (PTBA) Sustainable Trails Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee. I took my bike. What? Why wouldn’t I take my bike? Haven’t you heard of Knoxvegas’ Urban Wilderness loop? I hadn’t either. It’s amazing what you can find (and flawlessly navigate) on MTB Project.
|For most of the week anyway...|
I’m calling this the Namesake Report because I am going to give you a trip report on…Chainring. No shift! But before I do that…
A Trail Named Flow
I was plumb tuckered out. My Pete’s Coffee Shop breakfast was all used up. And that was hard to believe. I asked for a second biscuit to go with my biscuit and gravy and toward the end was pretty sure I was going to burst. And to eat so much just before riding in a new and unknown (to me) area…what was I thinking?!
But I was pretty far into the Urban Outfitters loop. Er, Wilderness. I just barely caught the turnoff for the quarry (forget which one right now) and stopped in the trailhead to add some air to my rear tire. But the nozzle on the complimentary pump had been savaged, so I just continued on with the PSI I started out with. I found Flow easily enough. Csikszentmihályi would be proud. I love flow. But I really loved Flow.
Much like some earlier trails I rode that day I ended up riding in the wrong direction. AC/DC was disappointing because I first had to climb all the banked bridges before descending them. And when I got back to the top I realized I had left my Garmin paused for the entire descent. But I was GPSing hard as I started up Flow. The character of the trail was vastly different than most of what I had ridden up to that point. Until I found Flow most of the riding was reminiscent of Skullbuster. Some of it reminded me of Cherokee Park in Louisville too. And maybe a hint of Waverly. Flow had a western flavor. Like that first time you tried chorizo and realized sausage could be something so much better…
|The Gateway to Flow|
One thing I was certain of by the time I was wrestling with Flow on the lowest upslope of an impending bonk: “Very Difficult” in Knoxville isn’t as bad as I imagined. Or I’m getting to be a better rider after all these few years. I had ridden a couple of black trails and a whole slew of blue “More Difficult” trails on my quest for Flow. Heck, I climbed Chicken Coop! That was a thigh broiling affair up a water trough. Maybe that was why I was delving into bonk territory.
Flow gave way to the doubletrack multiuse trail. I knew I needed to jump onto Turnbuckle—a “Very Difficult” black trail—to avoid a long detour back to the car. And as I climbed up Imery I glanced over and saw a horrowshow rock garden through the trees. That was Turnbuckle!
I was going to die.
But I finally reached the split from Imery onto Turnbuckle and it didn’t look to bad. So I veered left and plowed ahead with waning energy. I was pretty sure I had about five miles to go with one big long climb between me and freedom from the Urban Wilderness. I guess I could have peeked at Google Maps and figured out a bail out. But why cave to wussitude?
Turnbuckle was a nice challenge but not fatal. I rode some techy stuff despite the hollowness that was infused through my legs. Then I was on the last significant trail, I forget which, and slogging up and up and up to gain a suburban ridge. Somehow I kept riding.
Just below the crest of the ridge as I approached an off bamboo thicket I noticed some extra squish in my back forty. I hopped off the bike and gave my rear tire a slam and wouldn’t you know it…slow leak! I knew I had forgotten my frame pump. I had switched seat bags just before leaving home and the smaller bag wouldn’t hold my fat pump. So I hoped I had at least stuck it in my daypack and brought it to Tennessee with me. I’ll spoil the ending: nope.
I was going to shoot some CO2 into the tire to get me back to the car. I was close enough I could almost smell it. But unfortunately there was only a miniscule puff in the cartridge. So I soldiered on with a loose rear end.
At the top of the ridge I crossed a street and sure enough I was back in Hastie park and on a trail I had seen at the beginning of the loop. I knew I was less than a mile from the car. I rode gingerly hoping to maximize my momentum. But eventually, after turning onto View Park, I just had to get off the bike or risk mangling my rim. So I walked the last half mile or so to the car.
Once there I added air to the offending ring of rubber and was rewarded with instant whooshing. Looks like I either broke a bead or have a sidewall tear along the bead. I haven’t looked at it yet. My riding for the trip may be over. Silly me, I didn’t bring an extra tire.
Imagine my surprise looking at MTB Project the night before when I discovered a trail called simply Chainring. Well of course I had to ride it. I started out in Hastie Nature Preserve (or something to that effect) and was riding pretty hard to get to Chainring. And to get my heartrate up so I would stop shivering. At 8am the temps were still hovering around 40F and I had left all of the cold weather gear at home since the forecast was for 60s and 70s for the week. My bad!
But I saw Shadow Run before leaving Hastie and remembered reading that description and thinking it looked fun so I climbed up that moderate trail. At the top I decided I needed to beat feet back down to get on track to Chainring so I descended my first “Very Difficult” trail of the day: Rock Ledge. It wasn’t “Very Difficult” at all.
|Wooden features on Shadow Run|
Once back on the gravel road I headed toward Redwood which would lead to a neighborhood connection and then to Lost Chromosome which would deposit me on the doorstep of Chainring. Along Redwood I came upon a raccoon standing in the middle of the trail. It looked injured, and after a failed attempt to call someone in the local parks and rec department to alert them of the potential hazard the fuzzy little guy/gal came trotting toward me seemingly cured. It was a little unnerving so I hammered on down Redwood to escape a case of urban rabies.
The leaf logo they use for the Urban Wilderness is painted on the streets that connect the different areas along the 12+ mile loop. I followed them to Lost Chromosome and found another great trail. But it didn’t take long before I finally found Chainring.
I had intended to ride the whole loop, but got sidetracked first on the Creek Trail and then on AC/DC and it’s enticing banked bridges section. That was fun! My nephew Ty would absolutely pee his pants looking down that gully. Then I got sucked deeper into AC/DC which is a great trail aside from the wooden features. But the clock was ticking. I knew it was going to be tough making the loop if I didn’t get back on track A.S.A.P.
|I'm a big fan of AC/DC|
Finally I was trucking along Lost Chromosome again, and picked up Dozer which was a long section of pretty fun double track. I made up some time there, but I could feel the energy draining from my thighs long before I reached the paved greenway trail which would lead me to Flow. And when I finally found Flow I was out of gas.
The death march leg of my journey was about to begin, punctuated by the slow leak and an increasing sense of urgency to get off the trail and back to my hotel so I could get cleaned up for the conference.
I sit in my room composing this post thinking I should go down to the parking garage and get my bike out of the MBDV and fix the flat so I can ride again while I’m still in town. I was wrong. I forgot to bring my frame pump altogether. At least I have a floor pump and spare tubes.
I hope to have a full conference write up for Ramming Speed Friday or for your Monday blahs next week. If I have any worthwhile riding adventures in the interim I may bump the confopo to Monday anyway.