Wednesday, November 9, 2016

My Vote is For More Mountain Bike Trails

Jason Monk of Easy Rider Cycling put together an Election Day Ride.  I acted as trail guide for the day and gave Jason, Marcus, and Kris the grand tour of the Big Sinking area.  We rode Flat Hollow to the arch, Hillbilly Hayduke including a bushwhack descent of the under-construction section, part of the under-construction Shackle Rod Trail, and a whole lot more.

The weather was perfect.  The conditions were perfect.  The trails were in good shape except for a fallen tree on Hillbilly Hayduke that I need to go back to saw.  The gravel and dirt roads were also in great shape.  I have to say as much as I’ve been grooving on Spaas Creek and Hatton Ridge lately this was a much better ride.  After a tour of the singletrack and planned trails we returned to Flat Hollow Trailhead for a Sunrise Bakery lunch.  Everyone still wanted to ride so I suggested the Big Sinking Loop.  It’s a four mile technical gravel grind that I rode many, many years ago and eventually dragged Dave out to get his opinion.  Way back then he was impressed with it though he kept trying to get me to go ride at Capitol View Park.  I had no idea where that was twenty years ago.

Bellies full we turned the bikes west, riding along Bald Rock Road, and then picking up Big Sinking Road before diverting onto the unofficial doubletrack on the north side of the creek.  This has always been one of my favorite rides.  It inspired me to get out and ride my bike more for the sake of mountain biking so long ago. 

I didn’t have a ton of energy and my legs felt somewhat hollow despite refueling.  I’d eaten well leading into the day and am still not sure where my get-go went.  That didn’t dampen my spirit as we rode down into the Big Sinking gorge. 

There were sections of dry creekbed full of loose babyheads. While that sounds treacherous, it was actually a fun reprieve from a lot of the stuff I’ve ridden the past couple of years. And that’s a ride experience you don’t get at Veep, or CVP, or Skullbuster.  There was also a lot of flat, bare rock to ride.  And flowing sandy sections of road.  My favorite unridden section of earth anywhere is the climb from Big Sinking Creek up the Sheltowee Trace southbound.  It’s a series of slick limestone ledges that are sick hard. 

Before we reached the really hard stuff near disaster struck.  Marcus, Kris and I rode through a dry section of the creek over some really cool limestone slabs.  I stopped to grab some video of the other guys and waited for Jason to come through.  And waited.  And waited.  Finally the other guys had backtracked and we wondered what had happened.  It was time to go find out.

Turns out he had lost a derailer hanger to a stick that got caught up in his drivetrain.  So we stopped as he converted his 27.5+ bike to a singlespeed.  Once it was all back together we continued on the loop hoping his fix-it would hold.  And it did.

As we approached the crux climb at the Sheltowee intersection I told Kris if he cleaned it I would buy his dinner.  He asked if I would drive over to Ravenna to pay for a meal at Michael’s.  I agreed.  I was certain I’d not have to fork over a single dollar.

When we rounded the turn Jason walked.  I walked.  Marcus rode a little ways, and Kris began pedaling furiously but spun out low on the climb.  He walked back down to try it again.  The second time he made a solid surge on the stopper ledge but rolled onto his back like a turtle.  “Maybe next time,” he said.

The loop finishes with a nice gravel road on the south side of the creek heading east back toward Flat Hollow.  We made steady progress, stopping at one point only to watch the leaves cascade all around like huge dry snowflakes dyed autumn shades.

Shortly thereafter we closed the loop and picked up Bald Rock again. The ride was coming to a close.  It had been a great day and a great ride.  After such a long year and a half of presidential campaign shenanigans it was nice to escape into the woods and not think about politics or the fate of human civilization for a few hours.  I had voted early, then worked with my family on our new 
chicken run in the backyard.  I felt good about blowing off the afternoon riding with the guys.

We all agreed that Flat Hollow/Bald Rock/Big Sinking has yuge potential.  The existing dirt and gravel roads are worthwhile on their own.  If more people knew what was there and where to ride it would be a popular destination as it lies on the ground now.  With ten miles of singletrack as icing on that mountain biking cake?  East coast mountain biking hub.  No doubt!

They’ve promoted me to plan another trail day.  I’ve decided that once we get our IMBA chapter off the ground I’m going to try to have a monthly group ride and rotate through the existing but unknown rides in the area.  Things might be truly ready to change in the Gorge area. 

Tuesday night the rains came.  I hope they wash across all of Eastern Kentucky and put out all these forest fires.  The rain should definitely put out the fire in the Gorge off Tunnel Ridge.  Next Saturday is the Rough Trail 50k, and I’m taking photos.  I’m writing this on Tuesday night before the election results are final.  I don’t know if I’ll write up my thoughts on the results.  I guess it depends on who wins.  

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