Time travel is real: Part 1

This story is going to require a bit of background, so we'll break it up into two parts. Or more if needed, but as of this writing, I'm suspecting it will be two parts.

Depending on when you met me (Adam) I was likely involved with "x" discipline of cycling. In recent years that X would be cyclocross, prior to that road, and prior to would be mountain bikes. The trends of cycling wax and wane like anything in the world and frankly, so do my interest. But at the root of it all, I'm a mountain biker.

This past weekend I attended Dark Horse Cycles MTB race out in Montgomery,  NY: Singlespeed-a-palooza. I was riding this bike:

 1997 Independent Fabrications "Team Frank" single speed

1997 Independent Fabrications "Team Frank" single speed

So while I was riding 28 miles of really fantastic singletrack in the Stewart State Forest, it dawned on me that I have been riding mountain bikes for over 20 years. And before you jump the obvious conclusion that of course riding that 20 year old bike was full of nostalgia and "brought me back in time", that's not what I'm talking about.

In the beginning...

I had a bike, it was red and white and it was awesome. Originally, it had white tires on it, but I skidded through the rear so it ended up with a black tire in the back. My first tire mullet. Also, note the Tour de France sweat suit. 

As a family, we went camping in the summers. Station wagon, tents (a pop-up camper too), screen houses, marshmallows, the whole bit. If you don't know, campgrounds have a spider web maze of dirt roads and trails which also happen to have rocks that just so happen to be great for getting rad on. See below:

 Bbrraahhhhhhpppppp

Bbrraahhhhhhpppppp

There are a number of other bikes that came after this red and white bike with spokey-dokes. One was black with 20" wheels, another was blue with 20" wheels that my dad found. It had a coaster brake that I managed to eliminate the brake function on and rely solely on the marginal hand brake. 


First mountain bike-

 Not actually his bike.

Not actually his bike.

The way I like to tell the story, whether or not it's true, is that my uncle Jerry read an article in Outside magazine about a new sport called "Mountain Biking". This was in the early or mi 90s. So he goes to the local bike shop B&B Cycle and Sports and buys a mountain bike. Which, I don't remember what it was, maybe a Diamondback or similar entry level mtb. Later, he'd upgrade to a Proflex. Which at the time were completely ground breaking. Thought later we would realize how strange a full suspenion MTB with a chromoly swing arm and elastomer rear suspension really was. Oh, and canti-lever brakes. Anyhow, fast forward a bit and my dad gets a mountain bike which which was a Diamondback Topanga. Eventually he upgraded it to suspension with a Manitou Mach 4. Elastomers baby!

I want to go with you guys!

 Moto hand guards!

Moto hand guards!

I'm not sure if I asked and begged to go riding with them, or if I was invited. That part, to me, is irrelevant. Though, in thinking about the time line, I think I was invited. Since I had just received and awesome 21 speed Huffy Street Heat for my birthday. Which birthday? I don't remember. It was purple-ish with hi-viz bits and lightening bolts. The White Heat was a popular bike then, but the Street Heat was WAAYYYYYY cooler. Ironically, I can't find a picture of a Street Heat on the internet, so here's a white Street Beat (it had a built radio on the handlebars). Most notably, it had steel wheels. In my experience, steel rims with side-pull caliper brakes does not make for great braking. Particularly off-road where your rims may encounter things like mud or water. And so, I proceeded to ride the wheels off of that thing. In retrospect, because I didn't weigh much, the bike held up pretty well.

The Outlook-

Next after the Street Heat I got a "real" MTB in the form of a fully rigid, canti-lever brake equipped Diamondback Outlook. It had some rad plastic thumb shifters and that's all I can really remember about it. After a few rides, it became apparently quickly that this bike wasn't going to cut it. So, we returned it to the store for a Diamondback Sorrento, which was still a fully rigid chromoly 26" canti-lever equipped bike, but it had some nicer components that were more up to the task of GETTING RAD. It had 7spd trigger shifters! 

That bike was bright blue. And it got the ever living shit kicked out of it. At some point I skrimped and saved enough money to put a down payment on a suspension fork. A sweet sweet Manitou Mach 5. Which was full of elastomers, which come to find out, don't work in the winter because they freeze. Oh. So there's that. 

Part 2 coming soon which includes highlights like the LaFleche, a chromoly/carbon fiber hard tail. Noleen suspension fork and Speedplay Frog pedals.

IRR 6.0 is coming, and it will wait for no one

Occasionally I get asked really difficult to answer questions such as, "How hard is the route this year?" or "How much hike-a-bike is there? Compared to last year?" or "Do you think I can ride X,Y,Z bike?". The answers all begin with "Well... " and then end in some vaguely explained version of "it depends".

Here's the thing, I really can't answer these questions for you. Mostly because there are SO MANY variables and unless I have ridden with you often, I don't feel comfortable saying that you can or can't ride something. As far as I'm concerned, everything on the IRR route is in fact rideable. Is it rideable after 90 miles and 8 hours? Hard saying, not knowing. There's also the fact that the route changes year-to-year...

Anyway, I thought I'd clue you in to what to expect so you can plan accordingly for your own level of enjoyment.

The Start-

This is locked in and decided. You'll be starting (and finishing) at the Cochran's Ski Area. Some of you will even be camping there, so if you miss the start, it's on you. If we can find a way to somehow include the new dual slalom trails into the route by golly we will!

 

cochransstart.jpg
CochransHill.jpg

From there, you get a pretty fantastic stretch of road for 10 or 12 miles that I include in a bunch of my regular rides. It's a great way to stretch the legs out, warm-up, or create a separation from the main bunch if you feel like chasing Ansel around for a while. It starts off paved, and then changes to dirt right around mile 6.5. Or so. Along this road you go from Richmond, through Jonesville, through Bolton and into Duxbury. You're only in Duxbury for a quick minute while you make your way across route 100.

Squirrel Catcher-

Across route 100 you hit the first challenge of the day which is a kind of long, definitely steep paved/dirt climb. Cobb Hill Rd. From here you enter the Squirrel Catcher, which serves as a great early test to make sure 1) You know WTF you're getting yourself into 2) Your bike and gear choices are up to the task 3) You're close enough to your car to turn-back and no one will be the wiser. All told, the Squirrel catcher isn't bad at all, it's short, with the current Strava KOM at 6:42. What it lacks in length it makes up for in variety of terrain; there are baby heads, loose gravel, mud, a stream crossing some years, tall grass and over-hanging branches, some bizarre cabins and ancient stone walls. Oh, and it's steep in sections, of course.

 

 Enter the Squirrel Catcher...

Enter the Squirrel Catcher...

Out of the woods and down some double-ish track to a ripping fast descent. You hit RT 100B for a bit (stop and swim if you need a break after the first 1:15 of the ride) and make your way to Moretown and Moretown Common Rd. which, while quite the challenging climb, it substantially easier than going straight up Moretown Gap. For anyone wondering why we don't just head south to Moretown Mountain Rd, the simple answer is safety. The left hand turn onto Moretown Mtn Rd. is in a really strange blind spot and the intersection is just really terrible to navigate. So we go around and gobble up some extra dirt miles. New class 4 section as we approach Moretown Mtn. Rd from the north and a tiny waterfall.

 

 Don't forget to use the hashtag #IRR6

Don't forget to use the hashtag #IRR6

The Devil-

Then up and up and up and down, to possibly my favorite road on the entire route. Though, it's terrible in the spring, so avoid it at all costs. Devil's Washbowl never disappoints.


From the entrance of Devil's Washbowl it's an enchanting 9 or so miles of single lane, secluded dirt roads that meander past piles of dumped trash, forgotten cabins, operating farms, seasonal camps and bunch of other strange things in the Vermont woods. You'll know you're just about out of the woods (so to speak) when you reach the Stony Brook covered bridge.

Don't be a knuckle head and blast out onto route 12. It's high speed and fairly narrow, so be aware. You're only there for about 3/4 of a mile. A quick dip down Lovers Lane and you get to the first general store along the route. AKA, a Mobil station. Their beer fridge is WELL stocked, so you may want to take a look. They've been known to have Lunch and Another One at certain times. 


Word of Warning: While you're in the Mobil station contemplating a Coke or a Snickers or if 10:00am is too early for a beer, consider this- You are now just shy of 40 miles into IRR, it's been 2.5-3.5 hours and things are about to get REAL WEIRD and it's going to happen REAL FAST. What you do next is entirely up to you.

All but lost-

Onward I say... A quick zig and zag and if you haven't yet, this next section should get you to mutter a decent WTF or two. This a real world, living definition of DGAF riding. Though, truth be told, there are some components that may force you to walk. ::shrug:: Few people saw this section during IRR 5.0, so it's been reversed and turned into an uphill for IRR 6.0, just to be sure you really absorb it's forgotten beauty. Then you hit some super rad climbs that approach 15% and kick to the finish at 12%. Easy stuff. Then you turn into what looks like a driveway/cow pasture. Mostly because it is those two things.

 

 

 


What happens next-

You've made it to mile 49, and if this is anything like IRR 5.0 there will be a cooler stuffed full of 40s any second now. (You know, 40oz, malt liquor, Old English...). And from here, it's like a sweet siren song of the mountains calling you. The road follows the gentle curve of a stream, there are waterfalls, it's secluded and quiet. Splendid really. It's not steep, the double track is wide and pleasantly smooth and you'll happen upon a huge clearing with a brand new bridge heading what appears to be straight up the opposing hillside. And you'll think "That's steep AF! But at least I can see the top, let's get to it." Well, sorry friend, that's not where you're headed. If you're looking at the bridge, thinking about how nice it would be, turn 90 degrees to your right and look for that scratch of a road carved into the forest. That's your destiny.

 Not really where you're going, but it makes a good teaser.

Not really where you're going, but it makes a good teaser.

 Legit water crossing for IRR 6.0, all your dreams are coming true.

Legit water crossing for IRR 6.0, all your dreams are coming true.

Starting the gravel/dirt road/adventure/DGAF season the right way. #VOMAR

So it's April 27th, 2017. That is 1 month and 1 day after the Vermont Overland Maple Adventure Ride that for the sake of saving space and time, we will call VOMAR. Which also happens to be what Peter (Vollers, the promoter) calls it. So good, glad that's settled.

It is also the day before my mother's birthday. Happy birthday mom!

The winter, for me, dragged on endlessly. This was exasperated by the constant colds (#newdadlife) that I seemed to have and the very real flu-like illness that I was struck down with for what seems like an eternity.

Anyhow, back to VOMAR, first what you need to know, is that is the defacto "start" to the gravel season here in the Northeast or at the very least New England. It takes place at the end of March, which truth be told, is a BOLD time of year to hold a road/dirt road event in northern New England. And as luck we have it, we were graced with absolutely sublime late winter/early spring conditions for VOMAR. What does that look like? Let me spell it out for you:

  • Conditions that are cold, but oppressive. 25+F. Toasty!
  • Sun! Sometimes, maybe. Occasionally if you glanced up at the right time.
  • Low winds. Thank you baby cheez-its!
  • Frozen dirt roads covered in recent sand, you know, for grip. On ONE side of the mountain.
  • Frozen ice-pack ruts on the "pave" sectors, provided by a livery of Land Rovers and other overland equipped vehicles.
  • A wonderful slurry of mud, slush, ice, and near freezing run-off which here in Vermont we just call "Mud Season".
  • And the most power zapping of them all, dirt roads that have been inexplicably smeared with a thick coating of chunky peanut butter.

That pretty much sums it up.

Mrs. KOA, the peach and myself all stayed at the Top Acres Farm which was just outside of Woodstock. You can find them on AirBnB, they're super nice, the place is huge and the setting is pristine. Fortunately, Top Acres was at the TOP of a hill (go figure) so I thought it would be fun to ride the ~10 miles from the farm down to the start of VOMAR. This, shockingly, turned out to be a pretty good idea. It was downhill the first bit, then I just followed RT 106 to RT 12 to Pomfret and bingo, there I was.

On Wednesday night prior to VOMAR, I installed a Schwalbe G-One tire on the rear wheel, set-up tubeless. The same night I fought and wrestled and argued with a Soma Cazadaro to set it up tubeless on my front wheel. Soma says this is not recommended, but I say hog wash! Actually, based on how difficult it was to get set-up, I would agree, it's not recommended.

In the end, both tires performed admirably, I rolled out at the very front of VOMAR, only to find myself drifting backwards on the first climb. Come to find, these #dadlegs are quite heavy.

So listen, dirt road season is upon us; stop taking it so seriously, pack a sandwich, pack a flask, call some friends and go get lost.

I'm slowly catching up on things... Next up: Ronde Rosey, Rasputitsa, modding a fender to fit a Slate and starting Recon for #IRR6