This weekend was another busy weekend in my life – sometimes that is great & sometimes I’m not busy enough to keep my A.D.D at bay…. We had the annual holiday party at the training studio Friday evening – much joyous celebration of being at the ‘pain cave’ when the pain was replaced with a mini-keg of Triple Ale (9%). Great friends & Good times.
On Sunday, I finally got away from working on my car to run up to Dahlonega’s finest area of trail & Fire service roads – Bull Mt. I met up with Greg of Greg Rides Trails and a few other motley crew members for a 24 mile ride that wound it’s way up and over Winding Stairs. (several people that have ridden it before just shuddered as I write this). That’s because in those 24 miles we climbed over 3,100 feet – BUT we also descended 3K feet!
We suffered up to the top of Windy Stair & once getting there, started to Shiver! The top of the mountain was not only windy, but also significantly colder. Suddenly 1 of the guys says, ‘it’s 4pm, we gotta get around the Mountain before sunset!’ We took off, shivering & me with a re-newed nervous energy that comes from not knowing exactly where you are, nor how far you have to go until you are done.
On the other side of the mountain we found snow and ice still in Georgia. In the Atlanta area, we had a day or 2 of 60 degree weather, but here on the North side of the mountain there is less light, the sun seems to set earlier and it doesn’t get to warm-up as much due to both lack of direct sunlight and altitude. Onward we marched, I was savoring the cold wind of a eye-ball blurring, nearly out of control, descent that I haven’t felt lately, yet the whole time I was hoping that maybe I could zip up the collar on my wind breaker just a little more with out choking myself. The cold winter wind has a sneaky way of exposing every little crevice of open material in your clothing much more so than during the summer months. Don’t Figure.
I said to Greg, I think I forgot how much Fun fire-roads can be! To which he replies matter of factly: ‘then we should have ridden this route the other way’. Sweet, I got a good excuse to Bomb down Winding Stair… but I have to work my way up to the top first. Luckily Greg & I had more gears than the Motley CX bike riders did (not that they seemed to need them), however, on the descents Greg & I passed them quickly due to the suspension & Fat tires!
We hit the final descent down Cooper Gap road, which is a good pitch and some switch backs toward the end. I was having so much fun taking the turns at full speed, nearly overshooting a couple turns, and kicking a foot out to make sure I didn’t slide out completely. I realized it was the perma-grin & cold wind that was making my teeth cold. And just like that the descent finishes nearly as fast as you fly down – something about distance/pace continuum thingy…. I amped to think clearly.
We rolled back to the car, both thrilled and a little disappointed, the ride was over, yet we made it before dark. We chatted some and I warmed up the vehicle to head back into 1 of the most amazing sunsets I have seen in a long time….. maybe it was because I had just ridden over a mountain, but having the sunset in one area of the sky and the full moon showing in another area was very awe inspiring, and the icing on a stellar day in the saddle.
Riding fire roads in the winter is a great way to get in the necessary training that road cyclists need while not getting up to the speeds that you may want on the descents. Now, I really enjoy descending, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to ride them as fast as possible. Stay steady and safe on the descents. The climbing is usually less windy due to the trees, and a good average race pace on a Mountain bike is about half the speed of road training, thus half the wind-chill factor, yet you can work on the climbs as much as you would have to on most any road climb – after all it is all up to the gearing/grade.
Another point about riding the fire roads (that also effected us this weekend) is when it rains – your local trails will usually be closed. The fire roads are rarely closed, and usually drain quite quickly.
Thanks Greg for being flexible and meeting up with me! Thanks to John at Dahlonega Wheelworks for waiting on us & Thanks Hill Billy…. just for being yourself – Good Times!