Mt Biking etiquette

This month I have come across some bad etiquette from other riders. Knowing some of these riders, I know that it probably wasn’t on purpose, and I bet they didn’t realize how this effects other people’s ride.

Broken carbon 2Niner frame

This past weekend for example, a group of my buddies were on a long Mt bike ride. There were about 70 people at the start of this ride. The course was over varying terrain – single-track, fire road, steep uphills, steep downhills and nearly everything else in between. One of our buddies is stronger in leg strength, but is still developing in off-road technical bike handling. So, we would ride awhile, then 1 of us would pause and wait on the other 3 to catch up and re-group.

This helps to make sure that if there is a problem someone is there to help you out. We wanted to make sure no one got a flat, everyone is following the same route and that no one crashed and needs assistance or actual medical help. But, it is also a chance to catch our breathe, talk about Fun sections, any crashes and/or near misses that just happened.

BERMS!

The problem was once we got onto the last 5 miles and less technical section of this course, our buddy proceeded to drop the riders that had just waited on him for the previous 25 miles. Although nothing was said, it was bad etiquette to not wait on us, when we had waited on him and stayed together as a group.

Another time I was riding with a friend on a trail that I had never ridden before. After a few miles, I realized that my front rotor was rubbing – I said ‘hold up for a sec’. I stopped for a second to readjust the front wheel and proceeded, I guess she didn’t hear me, but I figured I would catch up. I went a short distance and came to an intersection. I had no idea which way my friend had gone – so I just stayed there. A couple minutes later my friend showed back up.

Friendly bike rack

When Mt biking, here are some tips to keep everyone together and safe.

1) Always stop at intersections or at least make sure at each intersection that everyone makes the correct turn.

2) If you come to an intersection and don’t know which way to go – just stay there, that is better than getting lost, and people having to search for you.

3) On long uphills and or downhills, occasionally check that the person behind you is ok. Sometimes I just look over my shoulder, sometimes I will stop and regroup to ensure everyone is good.

4) If you encounter other riders stopped on the trail, check to ensure that they don’t need assistance because at some point it will be you that would like someone to check on you.

5) When passing riders going in the opposite direction, it is courteous and safer to mention how many other people are in your group, that way they will know there are more riders up ahead, thus potentially avoiding a head-on collision.

6) I have a bike Bell. Several reasons – it warns bears and horses that a human is near, alert other Mt bikers while going around blind turns, alert other mt bikers that I want to pass, and let other riders know that I’m Freaking Enjoying the Ride!

Weekend at Tsali

While the Athens Twilight and the Historic Roswell criteriums were going on in Athens then Roswell, I got a chance to get outta Atlanta to Bryson City, NC for the weekend of camping and Mt biking at the Tsali trail system and campground.

If you are a Mt biker and have never been to Tsali, then you must find out what your missing! The Tsali trail system is quite easy to find, it is close to Almond, NC. And the trails will overlook Fontana lake. From the Nantahalla Outdoor Center go about 4.5 miles North, and make a left onto Hwy 28. Go about another 3.5 miles and look closely for the brown sign that points to the Tsali trails and campground. Then you have about 2 miles off the main road to get back into the parking area and campground.

We camped within walking distance of lake, which was awesome for us and the dogs to take a swim. The camping area is primitive, but adequate. Although, if you want to upgrade the restroom areas, and don’t mind driving to the trails, then I highly recommend the Turkey Creek Campground – great people that are on-site – again, their only downside is the distance to the trails, about 3 miles.

We arrived by 5 on Friday afternoon to find friends already reserved a camping spot and pop-up, tarps erected. There was rain in the forecast for Saturday afternoon, so we built a canopy to keep our area dry.
We got out for the Left loop on Friday, a warm-up lap for the weekend to get the 3 hour car ride out of the legs and get the blood flowing.

On Saturday we got the whole crew together after breakfast and headed out for the Thompson and Mouse loop. Both trails were very flowy and mostly quite fast pace to them.

As I got back, another friend finally made it to the campsite & we headed back out for an additional loop of Thompson….. little did I know that this was going to be a lap of ‘race pace’. It was a good thing, get out and hammer some, I had a 12 hour race at Yargo coming up the following weekend.

The mouse and Thompson loops have some great sections of single track!! Some great burms in many corners assist you in keeping the flow going through the turns. The trails do have some puddles after rains in several sections & I always recommend doing a wheelie through them b/c there are some that are much deeper than you would expect.

On Sunday we headed back out for the Left N Right loops. I HIGHLY recommend the Overlook trails!!! Some of the views are just Spectacular! Although the overlook trails have the feel of being an out and back trail, they actually are loops, but it appears that most people ride them as out and back and miss the turn for the ‘loop’ part of the trail.

You can expect a little more water crossings and creeks on the right loop. This is the side that I have raced before (although I’m not sure if all races are on this side), and that does seem to keep this side of the trails beat up a little more. Although what I did like about the right loop is that the greenery did remind me more of Pisgah and less of the local trails around Atlanta.


Summary
Tsali is some great Mt. biking if you like groomed and mainly smooth trails that are wicked fast, and you don’t want to A) navigate B) stop to climb over downed trees or most any other kind of debris that may interfere with your ride. Most of the climbing isn’t very steep, but expect a couple climbs that will test your legs, and LOTS of single track to test your lungs!
Caution that because the trails can be so fast, they are multi-direction, and you may come across on-coming riders.

Mt biking Stanley Gap

A friend of mine had to take a trip up to North Georgia and it gave us the perfect opportunity to ride on some Awesome trails that are only 90 minutes North West of Atlanta in BlueRidge, GA. After a relaxing morning we had the car loaded up w/ 4 dogs and 2 Mt. bikes, and cruised up 575, onto 515 past Ellijay into BlueRidge.

After settling the dogs down, they were taken on a guided hike w/ a lake visit. We hopped on the Mt bikes and off we rode onto the lake Blue-ridge connector trail out onto Aska Rd. headed for a long beautiful sunny day in the saddle. The views of the landscape, pastures, and Mountains are incredible in this part of Georgia. The temperature was amazing. I felt warm while climbing, but chilled from the breeze as soon as we would stop.

Soon we were climbing back country trails heading to the trail head of Stanley Gap. There has been quite a bit of great trail work in this area, and although it is still back country riding, most of it is quite ride-able. Many sections reminded me of the riding in Pisgah National Forest. There are several climbs that are challenging and make the Granny gear a necessity for most riders. The downhills are wicked fast, and there were a couple of sections that I was lucky to stay upright getting through them. It is easy to carry so much speed that you get into a technical section a little too fast!

A video (with Music) from the ride there last year:

Next up we started part of the Flat Creek loop. Coming down the rocky descent along a stream just adds to the amazing scenery that you will miss b/c you are too focused on the next upcoming water barrier that you can jump!

We carried the Flat Creek trail all the way to Aska road. Luckily I had a guided tour of the area, but I still can’t help but feel that there is so much more in this area of Blueridge to explore, yet unfortunately we had to head back to the Atl, so after a well earned steak and potato dinner, we picked up the lake weary dogs and back onto 515 we cruised, sore, exhausted and thoroughly content after a day of lung and heart pumping Mt biking.

Georgia has some great Mt biking, but if you want some steep, some steady climbs and some sick downhills with a true feel of the Mountains, Flat Creek and Stanley Gap will not disappoint you. This is part of the reason that both trails are rated 4.5+ on MTBR.com trail review section. Enjoy!

Train slow, move slow, Train Fast and Move with Power

Train slow, move slow – train fast, and move with Power!
This doesn’t just mean that if you train fast you will have power……

I went out for a spin on a Friday before some Gold Sprints at Peachtree Bikes – but I realized I would waste my time attempting to sprint that night. My legs didn’t have the turn-over required to spin a gear that fast to do well in the sprints. I was having to put too much effort into attempting to spin much above 100 rpm’s…. but it is to be expected, especially when you consider where I am in the training plan.

Although this is disappointing, it is not unexpected, I have been doing a full cold, wet, snow/ice winter of gym workouts this year. Not a lot of heavy lifting, but more true strength building exercises, including weighted lunges & single leg squats. To complement the work in the gym, I have been doing hill repeats at least once a week. When I’m doing the hill climbing my RPM’s are around 70, and the focus is on leg strength – not cadence or Heart Rate. So currently my legs are more used to slowly grinding their way uphill, not turning over the pedals for the county line sprints. So, to suddenly ask my legs to turn over 150 RPM’s for 60 seconds is not suddenly going to be possible!

The good thing about a training plan is things are in phases and I know that the leg turnover comes around much faster than the strength building. Although it has taken most of the winter to build the strength of doing 1 leg squats, it will only be a matter of several weeks to get the legs to increase their turnover again.

As the strength from climbing is combined with the efficient pedal turnover the end result will be power to the pedals. And now that we are into the plyometric phase of the training regime, this is already taking place.

As disappointing as this is b/c I’m not racing in a great event, I know that as I add more speed to my training that the form and turnover of my legs will be a greater reward for the small sacrifice. This is truly where having a plan for the season allows small things like this much more understandable when you are able to look at the big picture and remember the seasons goals, not just what sounds fun this week.

When you are training for a big goal or event sometimes the mind and body respond in funny ways. Some weeks are very challenging physically and sometimes they become challenging mentally. I always let my clients know ahead of time that this is part of the process of becoming stronger. I can even tell them which week in their training plan it will happen & why it will be better the following week.

I find that 1 of the best things about accepting these thoughts as part of the process is although they still pop-up, you don’t dwell on them. Although this does not prevent these self-defeating thoughts from entering the mind, it does help you accept them and push them aside, understanding that it is expected and only temporary. And that just around the corner from this is growth and Strength!

Slow Rider ahead

I got a chance to ride with someone that was a bit slower than me. I knew this ahead of time and was looking forward to the ride anyway. Often I enjoy going at a slower pace….why some folks have trouble with that, I’m not sure why
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Ask the Pro’s and most coaches and they will tell you that a big thing about training is that when you go hard – you have to go Very Hard! and when you go easy, you have to go Very Easy!!
7Inches

So, I’m out Mt biking with a friend, and as we got going, I was able to cruise on the downhills and hit some of my favorite sections with some good speed. This was due to me being able to keep momentum, and being focusing on gaining more momentum from the terrain.

I was able to ride along at an easy pace, yet still hit some of my favorite sections w/ some pretty good speed. So, the downhill sections that I like so much were pretty much taken at the same pace, as I looked for different lines to take & different sections to challenge me.

I came into the climbs with a much lower heart rate than usual. I was able to take it easy on the climbs, which allowed me to have power in reserves for the steepest uphill sections and the same for the technical sections that require just a bit more finesse and strength.

Later I realized that I had more time to look for other technical spots that I usually was going by before I realized that it was there. I tried different techniques and/or lines going into or out of those sections. Heck, in 1 spot I did a wheelie to shift my front wheel into a different line – I would not have the time to do that if it was a race-pace ride.

I always seem to have more Fun than expected. Just a relaxed ride. So, the next time you go out with a friend that maybe a little slower than you, have fun with it – at their pace, they will get to enjoy the ride more also!

Snow and Ice weekend

Snow and Ice this past weekend in Atlanta.  This being fairly rare means that many people raced, ahead of the storm, – to the stores to grab what little bread & milk that was left on the shelves.  Then to blockbuster/netflix to rent a half dozen movies to entertain themselves.

Atl Snow Days
Snow Day

As I went out for a mid-day hike on the local ‘rails to trails’ Silver Comet it appeared that not many people were willing to get out.  The only other footprints were of a couple local kids and a couple runners.  Too bad because the after math of the storm that rolled through made for a beautiful day.  Sure it was chilly out, but I was able to layer enough clothing that it didn’t seem bad at all.

Because of all the ice on the roads I decided against the ‘skinny tires on Ice’ routine.  Finally on Sunday I headed up to Sixes rd.  I was surprised by the number of people that I saw at the local Mt bike trails on Sunday!  I think that I saw as many young kids as adults out.  Maybe everyone was cooped up too long.  I rode with some other friends and no one was complaining of the cold.  It was a really great day out, even though the temps were below freezing.  The right gear can make the difference between enjoying the outdoors and avoiding it.

I actually broke out a pair of tights that I haven’t worn in many years.  I usually wear 2 pairs of bibs and 2 pairs of knee warmers.

I am a little disappointed that I have not had a chance to try out my new Neofleece combo scarf that I got at REI.  I justified getting this after the WBL ride & a below freezing ride on fixed gear ride on the Comet.

Apollo snowMonday I got out over to Kennesaw Mt. and did a hike/run of about 7+ miles.  This was good for Apollo also, the running pace is an endurance pace for him.  So he can get more mileage with out having to go nearly as fast as when I’m on the Mt bike.  Running is a great way to increase your dogs mileage and endurance for when you 2 do go Mt biking.

A Dogs day of Cycling

Yesterday after a great workout, I was pretty energized and knowing the the high on Saturday was going to be 43 – I grabbed the dog and headed up to Blankets creek. It had been raining last week, so I opted for the dog to carry the GroPro helmet cam – as a trial run (literally for him!)
While we were out, we saw another Mt bike dog on another section of trail. It’s good to see other cyclists getting their dogs out for some exercise, but it also made me realize that not all trail dogs are the same.

Apollo and me Mt biking
Apollo and me Mt biking

For example, lots of trail dogs run behind the cyclist. NOT Apollo, once he is pooped-out he runs behind me…..but before then he is usually beside my left leg. How he is able to maintain this with out being A) run over B) wacking into trees is mainly b/c he stays alert to what is going on and he listens to my commands.
So, when I’m taking a hard hairpin to the left, I will tell him “heel” just ahead of time. This will slow him down a little and let him know to pay more attention to what I’m doing and about to do, just as it would when riding with another person.

Cycling with your dog can be lots of fun for both of you, especially if you both stay in-tuned with each other!