Sometimes You Shred, Sometimes You Throw Your Shoe in the River
Do you pack a lot for trips? I do. My bags for the COMBO spring trip took up the entire kitchen counter, even though we were only going to be travelling for four days.
You may be wondering, “Do you really need all that stuff?” Yes. Yes I do. You see, if it’s cold, I might need my arm warmers and wool socks, if it’s raining I will need my raincoat and booties. And for chamois cream, I could take the coconut scented, but isn’t the mint more pleasant in springtime? Also, I need my enduro shoes, my all-mountain shoes, my winter boots, and maybe my cyclocross shoes, just in case.
Really, it’s all pretty stressful. Full finger gloves or half-finger? Road or enduro jerseys? Bibs or halfshorts? Do I need tights? Knee warmers? And don’t get me started on gear. Which bike? Hardtail or full suspension? Which tires? Should I bring a spare bike (Paul)?
And what about spare parts? What if I lose a shoe or break a shifter? More on that later.
Historically, my approach has been to pack it all, and 75% of the stuff never leaves the bag. This time, I tried to pack light. Still, the bags were full. And, of course, I forgot some stuff. Namely, chamois cream. But it’s cool. I didn’t really want to sit down today anyway.
Anyhow, Brian Pack and Paul Remonko were at my door promptly at five-fricking-thirty on Thursday morning to head to the Kerr Scott trail trail system near Wilkesboro NC, on our way to our ultimate destination, near Brevard NC to ride the DuPont trail system and Pisgah.
This promised to be the biggest COMBO Spring Trip ever, with 20 riders of all shapes, sizes, ages, and skill levels. The basic requirements to join the trip are that you have to be able to ride Chestnut Ridge, maintain four hours in the saddle, and not be a complete ass (although this rule may be bent for board members and good volunteers).
But before we were halfway to Kerr Scott, we learned that Kerr Scott had been closed due to rain. Stupid rain. I hate it so much. And don’t give me any of the “April showers bring May flowers” malarkey either.
So, we shifted plans to ride a trail that would be open and that could be ridden even when somewhat wet. We headed to Pisgah and rode a short, but steep, 10-12 miles at Trace Ridge.
Some people swear by Pisgah. These trails are old-school, often along “fall lines,” where water runoff creates ruts and rock drops. There’s plenty of hike-a-bike sections and some big drops off exposed rock and roots. Personally, I prefer a purpose-built trail with decent flow, but this was still plenty fun.
Day one ended with steaks and local beers. Then back to camp for some rest.
Day two and we were off to DuPont.
But first, we had repairs to do. Eric needed cables. And Jeremy’s dropper seatpost wasn’t working right. He tried an enema, but the seatpost remained constipated. And it was time to go. Too bad he didn't pack an extra seatpost.
It had rained overnight, but the trails held up very well and were nice and tacky. Just like my homie Trent.
The plan was to ride around 20 miles or so from the Cornmill Shoals trailhead. We rode Big Rock, Cedar Rock, Burnt Mountain, Cornmill Shoals, the Airstrip, Pine Tree, Cascade, and Little Rivers trails.
About 300 feet into the first trail, my shifter broke. Shit. We monkeyed with it a little, but to no avail. And, because I was running 1x11, I was stuck in the one gear where my shifting stopped – 30x36. Okay for climbing, but on the flats, I had to spin at about 200 rpm in short bursts just to not fall too far behind. Pack called it “hamstering,” because I was spinning like a hamster in his wheel. I guess I should have packed a spare shifter.
What to do? Should I turn around and go home? Drive 40 minutes to the nearest bike shop and hope they have the part in stock?
Nah. I just kept riding. I could keep up pretty well on the climbs and the descents. And the lack of shifting options had me looking for “free speed” on the trail – pumping the bike off every trail feature I could find to keep the speed up.
Fortunately, he group was willing to wait for me at each waypoint, so I didn’t get lost. We saw some pretty amazing slickrock, as well as “the Dome” (no, not Pack’s melon) and a fast river crossing. Overall, some amazing scenery.
The river crossing was on the Cornmill Shoals trail. Sometimes rideable, but today, the heavy rains made the current too fast and the water too deep, as a couple in our group found out.
The trick was to pack extra socks. That way, you could take off your shoes and carry them across the river. Wearing socks helped provide extra traction on the slippery rock of the riverbed. Then, on the other side, you could just put your fresh socks back on and ride away.
One guy in our group, who shall remain nameless (Dave), had an idea. Instead of carrying his shoes across, he thought “why not just throw them to the other side?”. This worked okay the first time, but on the way back, one of his shoes landed in the river and the current carried it away. Brian Adams went in to get it as it bobbed in a eddy, but didn’t realize that the river was six feet deep at that point and almost got swept away.
In the end, we bid the shoe adieu and fashioned Dave a new pedal from two sticks, a clif bar (blueberry crunch), and some gorilla tape. He managed to hot-foot it back to the parking lot and then off to a bike shop for some new shoes. Too bad he didn't pack extras, like me. Hmm, new shoes . . .
Another group had a similar adventure. When Tim tried to ride across, the current knocked him down and his bike started floating away. Risking life and limb, Jeff dove in to save . . . the bike. We all agreed that this was the correct course of action. I mean, it was like a 22 pound stumpjumper.
We ended the ride with a ripping downhill from Airstrip trail.
Then back to camp where Lee had left a pork butt slow-cooking. Mmmm, pork butt. When it started raining, we improvised a second shelter out of a tarp, string, and a bike repair stand.
Brian Dubuc and Adam West showed up during dinner. They work for the same bike company, and had been able to snag me a new shifter on their way to camp. Sweet! It’s good to know people.
Saturday morning started with some local hot sauce on eggs.
Then it was back to camp to fix my shifter. With roughly 12 amateur mechanics on hand, and two actual bike shop service managers, I had little to do but stand around and take pictures. Several guys actually looked disappointed that they didn’t get to work on the bike.
Soon, I was up and running at 11 speeds again. Then it was time to go.
The plan was to ride DuPont at the Lake Imaging trailhead. We would ride many trail, including Jim Branch, Isaac Heath, Hooker Falls, Ridgeline (AWWW YEAH), Hickory Loop, Hilltop, Locust, Three Lakes, and Buck Creek. Probably another 20 mile day.
No mechanicals or medicals today. Just loads of climbing rewarded by sweet, swoopy downhill.
After the ride, a bunch of us headed to the Oscar Blues Reeb Ranch. We checked out the Red Bull pump track course. Then it was off to the Oscar Blues brewery for some draft beers and hamburgers.
It rained all night (stupid rain, I hate it so much), and it was still raining heavily in the morning, so we knew we couldn’t ride locally. And the rain was quickly moving North. We tried to out run it and find one more trail to ride before the trip was over, but to no avail.
Still, all in all, a successful COMBO Spring Trip. Many high-fives we accomplished, much gnar was shredded, old friendships renewed and new ones made. Can’t wait for the Fall Trip! Now, should I pack my knee socks, footies, or wool socks . . . .