Friday night …

… Jason called me up to go check out the Kelly Canyon Knobby Tire course. Fifteen miles of nice, slow-paced riding along the course. When we got done later that night, my thoughts were, "This is the kind of course that will either scare a roadie off, or it’ll get him hooked–but either way, it’ll get the blood flowing."

The first section was a climb along the gravel road I ride for training–the one that goes by the ski hill. So far so good. After two miles of climbing, it turns left to a serpentine singletrack (that’s mtb speak for skinny trail that winds through the grass and small climbs so closely together that you can’t see more than 20 feet in front of you at one time) that weaves along the peak of the mountain. And that was my first tourist moment–the view was stunning. Everything was lush and green and springy up there–though the mosquitos kept us moving.

I love mountains–I hope you know that by now. In fact, that’s my one requirement for a future home–it better be near some mountains. But I’ve lived in this area for six years now, and I’ve never seen those mountains from that viewpoint. I was loving the ride before we even got to mile 5.

The trail connects with another trail which connects with another trail, which … to be honest, it all kind of blends together in my mind, but somehow we ended up screaming down some extremely twisty trails, some of which lined up against old barbed-wire fences (who builds a fence in the middle of the forest like that?), and some of which led through mud and slop to the edge of a small stream trickling through the valley. The course included three separate stream crossings–one of which submerges your bottom bracket–before it kicks you over a footbridge, on to a hiking path and then you’re spit back onto another gravel road climb.

Up the road, you hit the info booth fork, turn left, and then you’re on the part of the course I knew–the switchback climb that leads to some kind of radio tower. In two or three sections, the gradient gets steep enough that you don’t dare leave your seat for fear the bike will roll over backwards. And the craziest part of the climb is that even when you think you’re at the top, there’s more climbing to go before you get to the tower. But when you get there–provided you have time to look–it’s a breath-taking view of Teton Valley and the mountains above it. I think it’s all part of Targhee National Forest.

You round some more singletrack and eventually throws you headlong into this hairy descent–starting with a batch of shale just to shake your nerves up a little. The Moose Run descent was probably the most intimidating part of the trail, and when we did it on Friday I collected a batch of cow dung up my leg on the way down.

At the bottom of the descent, we found a rider out surveying the course backwards. Interestingly enough, when he found out Jason was racing Expert and I wasn’t, the guy didn’t even acknowledge my presence. No shame, I suppose.

As we parted company, Jason turned to me and said, "I think this is probably the most dangerous mountain bike course I’ve ever ridden." And that made me feel a little hesitant about signing up. After all, I do have a wife and unborn kid to think about

You’d think Moose Run would be the end of it, but then the course takes you across this section of grass that–believe me, I rode there a few weeks ago–really isn’t a trail, but is rather a mess of rocks and fallen trees before you hit the bottom of the ski slope. The last little bit includes the freakiest descent of them all–a steep drop right into the stream for one last splash and then over a jump onto some slippery gravel. Yeah, I walked it.

Unfortunately, my bad luck streak continued when I went over a railroad crossing too fast on the way home from the trail Friday night and wrecked the passenger side brake. For a while, I thought I might have to pull out the bike, leave the car behind and ride home.

But that’s not what happened …


9 thoughts on “Friday night …

  1. Tom Stormcrowe

    Sounds like a great ride! Unfortunately, the mountain biking around Lafayette lacks one important element! Mountains!

  2. Unknown

    I didn\’t get a chance to pre-ride the 12 hours of endurance course this weekend, but I think it\’s almost all singletrack.
    So you damaged the brake on the car, by driving across railroad tracks? Are you driving a Yugo?  
    Al\’s super pro-road right now, but if someone got him out on a trail like you\’re describing, I\’ll bet he\’d get hooked on mt biking. I\’m surprised at how much I enjoy road riding, but as for pure fun, the road can\’t hold a candle to the trail.

  3. Zed

    That\’s who I had in mind with regard to roadies getting hooked. Who could resist it–the trail\’s awesome, the descents are gnarly as heck, and there\’s tons of adventure along the way. Al woulda loved it.
    I still think road bike climbing is a tougher workout, but I might\’ve never discovered that if I\’d seen this trail network sooner.

  4. Unknown

    We\’ll which you think is tougher after 6+ hours on the trail . . .
    P.S. If my knee doesn\’t get better between now and then, you might be getting a HELL of a workout on the 24th. But don\’t worry, I\’ll be there to hand you waterbottles as you finish each lap.

  5. Unknown

    I used to love XC riding back in the days when being an MTB\’er in the U.S. meant alternative facial hair, being portrayed as a drinker of exclamation point-ed beverages in ads (SURGE!  JOLT!) and being a sort of anti-roadie. Yes, I was a goatee wearing MTB\’er, when being a goatee wearing MTB\’er was cool, perhaps even just but deserted the IMBA-ciles for my road bike when… well, let\’s do a formula here:
    n = number of trips to emergency room
    XC = number of cross country rides
    J = MTB Joy
    If n ≈ XC then J = 1/n.
    You do the math. 
    FWIW, by next spring I\’ll probably have finished building up a single speed 29\’er and we can talk about it then.  I figure the single speed will be a little slower downhill, a lot faster uphill, and the 29\’er will be easier on my aging, aching bones.  But until then, I\’m going to have to be satisfied with riding my fixie-cross bike* off road.  (Yes, let\’s just say it draws some odd looks from people on more traditional MTB rigs.  "Are them drop bars, boy?  Howdjoo make er skid like that without usin\’ them brakes?")   
    *Why choose a fixie cyclocross rig?  Because I couldn\’t think of anything dumber, harder, or more perversely backwards thinking than fixed gear cross.  Look upon my towering neo-luddism, you quivering masses, and weep.  Eh, okay, I may go single speed, with freewheel, for cross season if I can\’t get the dismounts down right.  But me and my stone axe should get at least some credit for trying.

  6. Zed

    Sweet, then it\’s settled–Al can be my partner if Botched drops out with knee problems.
    By the way, Al, I actually think that bike sounds pretty stinkin\’ cool.

  7. Unknown

    The fixed cross bike is cool?  I guess it\’s cool, if suffering is your thing.  I\’m definitely having to work on my bike handling skills, tell you what.  It\’s a bit countercultural to ride a beast like that off road, I\’m finding.  Come to think of it, it\’s pretty countercultural to ride it on the road on group rides, too. 

  8. Unknown

    The biggest (no, make that the most dangerous)  problem with riding a fixed gear off road, is that there are lots of times when you really need to stop pedalling to avoid obstacles and so that your pedal doesn\’t hit the ground as you are turning.  Sounds fun.

  9. Unknown

    Yeah Botched, it\’s fun alright.  I\’m thinking about buying a unicycle and learning how to ride on one wheel, so I can avoid that pedal strike problem  Hah. 
    I can\’t see this fixed off road thing working out in the long run, I\’ve mainly been riding it on the road, and otherwise have stuck to mild off road stuff, rolling trails so far, but technical single track would be pretty nasty, methinks.  The whole idea of fixed MTB now strikes me as kind of dumb, as I think about it.  I\’ll probably go a little longer fixed, mainly for road training purposes, then slip on the freewheel in August prior to cross season.  That seems smarter in a number of respects.

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