Saturday, April 8, 2017

Moto Offroad (Buena Vista, VA)

My buddy Whit has an innate ability to find and remember alternate routes all over the state (and country, for that matter). He was responsible for leading our group on the trip to Bear Creek Lake, which was a phenomenal half-day trip. With this in mind, I was looking forward to a weekend trip with him to explore the roads and trails near Buena Vista, VA.

On Friday afternoon we loaded up his trailer and headed west on Route 60. Our destination that night was the Long Mountain Wayside. This is a parking area located at the crossing of 60 and the Appalachian Trail.

We hiked along the AT for just a moment before finding a suitable area to hang our hammocks for the cold, windy night. Despite our best efforts to combat the wind with tightly hung tarps, neither Whit nor I were able to get much rest in the cold. The next morning Whit convinced me (without much effort) to concede to a night's stay at a motel in order to catch up on the sleep we lost. He's a new father, so this trip was as much about getting a full night's sleep for him as it was about adventuring offroad for me ;-)

That day we rode around Oronoco, basically just wandering along fire roads in every which direction along the Pedlar River. The roads were a mix of loose gravel, dirt, and rocks with the occasional creek crossing. I was pleased with the traction I found after installing some knobbies on my V-Strom. The only two limitations I noticed were the lack of ground clearance (scraping my skid pan several times) and the over-activity of my rear ABS. Perhaps I'll find a way to disable this function when offroad as it basically limits the use of my rear brake in loose situations.

That afternoon we rode into Lexington for dinner and crashed at Motel 6 earlier than I'd like to admit. The next morning, however, we were full of energy and ready to hit the trails hard!

This time around we were in search of something more challenging than the gravel roads. We found it in a logging road that had probably only been traveled by a bulldozer. The dirt was soft, rutted, and littered with limbs, logs, and rocks - just what we'd hoped for!

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

DHSE #3, Windrock (Oliver Springs, TN)

The final round of this year's DHSE Series was a scorcher! A fast course under phenomenal conditions.

The week before I hurried to rebuild my rear wheel which had developed several cracks from past beatings and the airless run at TTC. The wheel held true and I felt confident riding the grippier Maxxis DHF's.

I had one off, but otherwise felt great on the track. I also decided to simply enjoy myself instead of focusing on going fast. I suppose that mindset worked - placing 6th in the field of 36 amateur riders.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

DHSE #2, Trials Training Center (Sequatchie, TN)

My participation in the Downhill Southeast Series began last season with my first trip to the Trials Training Center (TTC). It was a great introduction to the venue and I've been looking forward to returning ever since.

The drive to Sequatchie takes about eight and a half hours, so I decided to break it up with a visit to Starlight Bicycles in Roanoke, VA to see an old friend. I surprised Scott with an unannounced stop and we quickly began discussing our upcoming motorcycle ride to VIR for the MotoAmerica Superbike Challenge in May. The trip is especially exciting since his son, Alec, just purchased a moto and will be joining us on our ride.

After the stop in Roanoke, I was back on the road, heading southwest. Around midnight I decided to call it quits, camping in the car with Ruprecht about an hour shy of the final destination. In the morning I finished the drive and was ready to ride an hour before shuttles began - perhaps a result of the time zone change after driving so far west ;-)

Conditions during the practice day were phenomenal. The course had plenty of traction and we continually improved upon our times each time down the mountain.

That afternoon, however, the rain rolled in and continued throughout the night and next day. That night, I slept in my hammock while I let Ruprecht enjoy the warm, dry interior of the Fiesta. In the morning I cleaned & repacked my front hub before swapping my worn Kenda Excavator tires for new Maxxis Minion DHF's in the hope of finding some traction in the wet.

After two practice runs, I felt relatively confident that I'd stay on the bike as long as my pace was tempered. As for the run itself, well, it didn't go exactly as planned. I felt relatively loose right out of the gate, then a flat in the rear exasperated that feeling until I slowed to a crawl, just hoping to make it to the finish line with my rear wheel intact.

These things happen, but the final race is NEXT WEEKEND - perhaps I'll have better luck then. Either way, it was tons of fun and I walked away unscathed!

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Zion National Park (Utah)

Ever since our trip to Vegas last year, Rebecca and I have planned on returning for an extended trip to Zion National Park. This year we were fortunate enough to score free airfare from my job to attend Conexpo in Las Vegas. I flew out for the show on Monday and Rebecca arrived on Wednesday night after I'd toured the event for two days.

The next morning we headed North on Interstate 15, arriving at the Zion Canyon Visitors Center around 10am. After grabbing our backcountry permit, we drove to the Weeping Rock parking lot to organize our backpacks and set off toward the East Mesa Trail.

The hike was roughly 2000 feet of elevation gain over 4 miles - through a series of switchbacks winding up the sides of the Echo Canyon. Once we'd reached the top of the mesa, we began searching for a suitable site to pitch our tent. Eventually we'd established a site and were heating our dinner while we watched the sun set over the spines of distant ridgelines.

The next day's hike was a breeze, although Rebecca had a sizable blister to deal with as we stomped down the trails we'd trudged up previously.

Since our progress was so quick, we took the opportunity to take in the sights during our descent, even stopping to filter some water to refill our canteens.

We celebrated our hike at the car before heading to The Park House Cafe in Springdale for our compensatory coffee.

That afternoon we checked into our AirBnb in Hurricane, UT before returning to the park to explore the Riverside Walk, which approaches the beginning of the Narrows "trail." The Narrows are not an actual trail, but a hike along the North Fork Virgin River. We terminated our exploration at the point that dry land ends, choosing not to dunk our boots in the cold water.

The next day we drove to the Kolob Canyon to check out the other side of the park.

We drove until snow covered the road, then turned around and headed to the Taylor Creek Trail. The 5-mile roundtrip hike terminates at the Double Arch Alcove. It is also a trail created by the flow of water, zigg-zagging along the middle fork of the Taylor Creek. By my count, the trail crosses the shallow creek 59 times.

Satisfied with our exploration of the park (given the time of year), we said goodbye to the rocky cliffs and drove back to Las Vegas for our second AirBnb reservation just south of downtown. In the morning we packed up and headed into the city for food and last-minute relaxation at Sunset Park before returning the rental car and flying home overnight.

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

DHSE #1, Bailey Mountain (Marshall, NC)

Neko Mullaly's Downhill Southeast (DHSE) series has been a great kickstart to the season. This year's course was a an improvement upon an already ripping track, with berms and jumps added throughout.

Ruprecht and I left Richmond on Friday afternoon to find the gate closed at the entrance to our camping spot from last season. With Bailey Mountain slated as the third stop of the series last year, I suppose the entrance was closed until the first day of Spring - which was coincidentally that weekend. Despite the closure, I found a suitable lot to park for the night and sleep in the car.

The next morning I woke early and headed to Bailey to walk the course with Angelo before shuttles began. The ground was frozen, but Angelo and I knew it would quickly thaw into a layer of mud. For most of the amateur practice that was the case, but eventually the sun dried the ground and traction began to improve. After watching the pros slay the dry course, I formulated a few line changes in the case of suitable conditions the next day.

As luck would have it, the trails maintained their traction for race day and two practice runs cemented those strategies. As far as my run was concerned, I was happy with my performance aside from one line choice that led me to stop and reset on one of the berms. The short course suited my [lack of] fitness level, and I made it to the finish line with a time of 2:36 - enough to place 11th (of 65 riders) in the amateur category.

I intended to film some of the pros from above (with the Phantom), but I was distracted by a dead battery in my Fiesta and missed my opportunity. To add insult to injury, I loaded footage from pro practice only to realize I'd been shooting in the time-lapse mode by accident!

Arriving home later that night, I quickly unpacked from the race and repacked for the next trip - backpacking in Zion National Park!

As luck would have it, Pinkbike chose a photo of me in their race recap - purple pants and all!

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Gimbal Test

I recently bought an EVO SS Gimbal to try producing more stabilized videos. I had my doubts after pulling the rather heavy contraption from its box. That suspicion persisted when I mounted it to the GoPro Chesty and felt its mass shifting as I moved around on the bike. Surprisingly, though, the footage came out smooth and stable. There were a couple of instances with some shake, but that was only during the quick spurts out of the saddle to jump or pump transitions. I may try to alter my chest mount in order to keep it from bouncing around, but for now I'm pleased with the outcome.

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Snowshoe (West Virginia)

My buddies Tony and Tobje joined me for a day trip to Snowshoe on Saturday. We shoved off from Richmond around 6am, made great time on the drive and were in the parking lot by 10am. We were met with blue bird conditions and decent snow. Making our way across the basin side, we eventually hopped aboard the shuttle bus to Silver Creek, where we grabbed lunch and continued riding. Two of the three terrain parks were open at Silver Creek, so we explored the features for a moment before settling in on a series of slopes with excellent snow near the border of trees. We could hear the other riders scraping their way down the bare slopes, all the while hooting and hollering as we carved through the snow they'd pushed to the edges.

Silver Creek offers night skiing, so we were already in the perfect spot when the sun went down. Our riding wrapped up around 7pm and we were on the road home about an hour after that. I needed two energy drinks to make the haul home after such an eventful day of riding and the next morning I was absolutely drained, staying in bed as long as I could before groggily emerging.

Tobje and I bought the 3-For-All passes, so we'll most likely try to get back on the snow ASAP. Next time perhaps I'll bother bringing along the goPro to capture some shots.

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