Sunday, December 11, 2011

On the rocks ...



My original plan for this morning was to head out to Blue Marsh for an early loop before the temperature rose and the trail started to thaw. Instead, last night I got a text from Sean - he was heading up to French Creek to ride with a few guys from the Shirks and JB Mountainbikes teams and invited me to come along. I hadn't been there since this summer, so I jumped at the chance. I kind of figured that it was going to be a "challenging" ride because I still have the rigid fork on the Misfit. I could have taken my OCLV, which at least has a suspension fork, but what would be the fun in doing the sensible thing?

We all met up at the Shed Road lot at 9 a.m. The temperature was still only about 25 degrees or so, so I wasn't concerned about starting too late for a solid trail ride (French Creek can get pretty messy when it's wet - I once burned through a new set of brakes during a race there in the mud.)

We started out on the Miller's Point trail and all my ideas about riding a solid frozen trail were quickly thrown out the window. After bouncing around on the rocks for a short climb, We started a long bone-jarring descent to the bottom of the park. Along the way, we found ourselves riding through soaking mud and water on the descent, having to go off-trail for several fallen trees, and hiking across more than one deceptively deep creek. I dipped my foot in the water a little bit at one point, which would normally put me in a panic in 25 degree weather, but to be honest, the descent itself was so horrible that I didn't even think about the water - my body was just begging me to stop descending on all those rocks.

Eventually, we leveled off and climbed back out on the Buzzard Trail, but again had to deal with an insane amount of rocks (that wouldn't change all day) and some more off-trail navigation for fallen trees. We ultimately rode across the Hopewell Furnace center and circled out around Hopewell Lake. At this point one of the guys  -- I can't remember the names, but these guys were all very cool and really great technical riders so I felt outclassed all day! -- tore off his derailleur. A few guys circled back and helped him turn it into a singlespeed for the ride out. He was forced into a 32:17, though, so when he made it up the climb to the park road, he decided to bail. Can't say I blame him -- that gear would have been brutal to push for any length of time!

A brief rest along the park road before continuing on the rocks
We finished our ride on a few sections of the race course. Still very rocky, but I was more familiar with that section and had a better feel for what to expect. The climbs were still tough, and my back was a little sore from bouncing around so much, but I was actually feeling pretty good -- it was a warming up a bit, my legs felt good, and we seemed to have finally escaped the water and mud. We went the opposite direction through the big rock garden than we go during the race and I think it's easier -- I actually floated through it without the slightest issue, and that's with a rigid fork -- the opposite way, that section is challenging enough with suspension.

The final descent back to the parking lot
We flowed down the last section and popped out at the parking area. I had originally planned for more miles, but I was perfectly happy to be finished with 16 miles. Going for big miles at French Creek is tough, especially on a rigid fork. I felt pretty sketchy on a few of the descents, although I think I would have felt better about it had I worn my regular gloves instead of the lobster claws. That may sound weird, but I'm used to feathering my brakes on descents with just my index finger. I was surprised to find that having to use two fingers felt pretty alien. Of course, the descents would have been tough either way, but that certainly didn't help.

 A rigid fork is not ideal for French Creek, but it didn't do anything to dampen the fun of today's ride!

All in all, it was an awesome ride, though. I really like that park. It's a perfect example of what riding in PA is all about - rocks, roots, climbs, and earning every mile. I had a lot of fun riding with a new group of riders who stretched my technical skill and made me want to get better. And I was happy to suffer. Like I said, an awesome ride!

No comments:

Post a Comment