What is the measure of greatness? Is it unmatched skills at an event or task? Is it a trophy case full of medals? Is it concurring a feat not thought humanly possible? Maybe each or all of them, but what if someone could do those things and still be humble enough to enjoy the company of relative mere mortals and just ride a friggin bike.
Saturday in the blistering summer heat nine of us joined a ride with ultra-endurance pro mountain bike rider Sonya Looney. The goal was to have a fun ride and learn some things about endurance mountain biking from a pro. Some of us met with her the night before at Hop Valley in Eugene to share a few pints and bs. Saturday morning was a fantastic breakfast at the Westfir Lodge and prep for the soon to follow ride.
We chose to shuttle up to Kate’s cut-in and head out to Chrome toilet. We arrived a bit past 11am and temps had already surpassed 80. It was going to be a long hot day. A quick loop around Chrome Toilet and back to Kate’s and we were back to Alpine and our trek to Tire. Smiles were everywhere because of the incredible hero dirt. Love riding OROR after a week of rain!
From dropping the old growth forest in tire to grinding back up the Windberry and North Shore Tie trails…this was an extreme test of endurance due to the heat. Some of us were bonking hard…but in the end we made it back to the Shiggy shack where ice cold Ninkasi awaited us.
It was a great day on the trails, spent with great people. Sonya may be a pro, but some of her greatness is not in her physical on bike abilities but more in how she is as a person. We all are great at something, and we all are people…so why not strive to be great people. If I took anything from her this weekend I hope it was that.
We mountain bikers love a trail that goes on for miles through lush forests, tests our skills, pushes our boundaries, takes us away from civilization yet is fairly close to home, and has scenic beauty right? I am sure each of us have that perfect trail in the back of our mind that we long to ride again and again. What if though you scaled that trail down in size…for say a 6 or 8 year olds skill and endurance level. What would that trail look like? Where would it be?
Well, my challenge as a father of three little shredders as of late has been just that. How to find a trail that will not only push my 11 year old and his growing abilities, yet also allow the 6 & 8 year old to enjoy the trail and gain confidence on a bike without getting discouraged because it was too difficult.
Well 13.5 miles west of the town of Monroe in a place called Alsea Falls I may have discovered such a place. I have been here many times passing through on the way to the coast. But never really to fully explore the trail system until Sunday.
Upon arrival I noticed a map marked by the BLM. To my surprise there is no equestrian designation anyplace on the map. While there is some hiker only trails, the distance is short and the vast majority of the trail system seems to be biker only or a small section shared with hikers.
This day however I chose not to ride but to hike instead to thoroughly check out this trail and relax in some much needed sunshine that blessed the valley Sunday. I parked my Subaru and started hiking and noticed right away that the ground was in great shape. Having just spent the day before in sloppy trail building conditions on Goodman / Eagles, it was amazing to not even see a hint of mud here.
On this trail that is maintained by the BLM and a voluntary youth core, you will eventually cross two large metal bridges that span the slow flowing Alsea River and five smaller wooden bridges that cross over the smaller tributary streams. There is a hundred or so foot board walk that crosses over a very marshy section, but on the approach and exit is completely dry.
The entire loop that I completed was approximately 3.9 miles and in it I gained a whopping 167’ of elevation. While most of the DOD faithful might find zero joy in that minuscule amount of climbing…if you have little 6 year old legs it is a big deal. Thankfully the trail is mostly flat and rolls up and down five feet here and twenty feet there. It gives the youngest rider the skills to look down the trail and prepare for the upcoming hill climb yet they are small enough that little kids can actually make it up and over and not be discouraged by failing the summit.
While the trail system is mostly sanitized, it is not a sidewalk. There are occasional small roots to traverse, and the trail does meander through the forest as it ebb's and flows up and around the many trees.
There is plenty to do and see on this short section of trail as well. Most of it runs parallel to the Alsea River so you always have the gentle sound of water flowing in the background. It is my personal experience with young minds that learning the herbology of the forest is fascinating, so pointing out the many plants can be fun on the ride as well. Of the plants that call this trail home, there are ferns (Sword, Licorice, and Bracken), berries (Thimble Berry, Red Huckle Berry, and Oregon Grape), moist forest plants (False Lily of the Valley, Bleeding Heart, False Salomon’s Seal, and my kids favorite Skunk Cabbage), all tucked under the canopy of trees (Douglas Fir, Pacific Yew, Big Leaf Maple, and yes even the Vine Maple) dappling the rays of the sun on this voyage through the woods.
The parking lot for this system is paved and large enough for many users. It has two double occupancy permanent pit toilets, a multitude of picnic benches and fire rings, as well as at least one spigot for running water. There is of course a small fee to use this area, but for the amenities I find it well worth it with the kiddos.
The waterfall is small falling maybe twenty feet vertical before turning into a slide of sorts that goes on for a hundred feet or so. You have to park your bike to view it, but it is a very short hike to the water’s edge and you can get right up and personal with this waterfall.
All in all I think I may have discovered the perfect mountain bike training trail for beginning youth mountain bikers. Four miles might not be enough for advanced kids, so encourage them to take another lap. But it may just be the right distance for some soon to be shredders waiting to get the confidence in their bike handling ability nailed down. I can’t wait to take my team of three there and spend a day in the forest, on bikes, enjoying a single track trail.
Said goodbye to an old friend over the weekend. Tough duty. Been a steady and faithful friend...providing more joy and entertainment than I deserved...but none of us are meant to be here forever. We get to see, feel taste this place and then...and then...what? Heaven, purgatory, nervana, do the lights just go out? Do we get magically transported to a land where we ride unicorns that shoot Skittles out of their butt, the trails are somehow downhill both ways and every switchback has a plate of fresh chocolate chip cookies?
Whatever happens...my friend is not there. It's hanging on my garage wall.
Yep...my old Raleigh John Tomac edition mountain bike is done. It's been like that pair of jeans you can't let go of. Holes here and there? You patch them. Pocket is coming off? Sew it back on. Cuffs are frayed? Trim 'em. They just feel so comfortable...it's ridiculous...they're well beyond their prime and now relegated to only getting worn around the house or out on walks in the trees. They don't see the coffee shop anymore...but man aren't they the perfect pants at 6 AM when you're having that first sip? Then you realize it's not the room that's drafty...it's a huge hole in the rear of your pants and the folks aren't laughing at your joke...they're laughing at your He Man underwear.
My Raleigh was like that. It was my first real mountain bike. Not my first...but the first bike I ever lusted after, ever. When I saw those gawdawful tan Tioga tires...anodized bits and Tomac's signature...Oh man oh man! Had to have it! I found reasons to go into Board and Buckle (quaint little bike shop in Grand Junction ran by a rad family) almost weekly just to look at it. Damn...had to have it. It took a year to save up some dough...and at least a year to convince my Ol' Lady (not so old at that point...but still my Ol' Lady) I *needed* that bike and the loan to augment my savings. But, that day came and I rolled away from Board and Buckle with that shiny new rig in my truck...and straight to Gunny's and Holy Cross...wow! What a ride!
That was my rig...my main squeeze for a long time...we did *every* trail in GJ...Gunnison...Moab...all of 'em. The ones the rags now proclaim require 6" of travel and the latest in hydraulic damping to ride. Whatever. I abused that rig...and it came back for more. Loved that bike...and it rewarded me with horrible traction, skeery steering precision from the Mag 21 and some serious pucker factor performance out of the DiaCompe centerpulls. But...we owned what is now called Lemon Squeezer...before it was legal. The views we saw...the blood we saw...awesome.
The upgrades came...first: Shimano XT v-brakes...legit. Stopping was no longer a proposition my hands made to the levers. Finally...Marzocchi came out with their Bombers! Z2 BAM? I think I will thank you! Speed springs upgrade? Heck yes, I'll rock 100mm and own the DH! Then...oh yes...some years later...the Ultimate upgrade: Spin's three spoke wheels! That was my gift to myself when I finished college at Mesa and we were packing up the wagon and heading west young man...Oregon or bust! Speaking of bust...those awesome wheels lasted about 30 miles until the hub shell exploded. At least they gave me my money back.
Then...well...the top tube died in a semi-tragic accident. Bent.Dead frame I was told...stay off it. Good news: Brockelman gets a new full suspension, a Santa Cruz Heckler, brand spanking new: 1998's finest rig. The old Raleigh pined on the shelf...collecting dust. Kept only as a token of the good old days. Then...that fateful meeting with a framebuilder who says he can fix it! Really? Done! Tomac lives!
All is well. I have my Raleigh back as my secondary bike...awesome. Singlespeed, disc tabs added on the back and back from the dead. Then the upgrades continue: disc brakes...new suspension fork...yep! Still killing it, but the SS conversion isn't awesome...too much fiddling and skipping. Framebuilder, add Paragon sliders please. Done...and awesome. No more skipping or fiddling. Great winter SS rig. But...the party can't last forever. The long loved and steady companion was fading...time was short.
I took the Raleigh out for one last run. A slog around Whypass. The short classic XC layout and geometry and ride of it was painful. Not suited for my nu-Skool habits and mannerisms...preferences...demands. The bike was clearly asking me to slow down in the berms...wanting to back off on the lips of some gaps and tables as I pushed it through. "Please...please...it's OK Brock...let go...I'll be OK...I need to rest. My time is over. We've had our fun. Let me have peace in my final moments, please." rang clear as I rolled down Tree Hugger at 30% of normal velocity. So...we went home. I washed it down. Carefully rubbing the dirt out of the creases in the paint. Running my fingers across the faded paint...I remember that ding! Oh my gawd...that was the best day EVER! Buffing the bike...finding a long scratch in the paint: Ah...my first gap jump...man I was pissed I stacked and scratched my bike. It was almost ritualistic...primal. Saying goodbye the only way I know how to say goodbye to a mountain bike.
It's in the garage. In a place of honor. Able to watch as new bits go on new bikes. Bikes with more aggressive angles, longer forks, stronger tubes shinier bits and fancier whatever...none of whom will ever match that lust factor the Old Raleigh had for me.
Believe it or not...I'm not one to mind being by myself. Although I do enjoy the company of all different manner of folks. That's not to say I enjoy the company of *everyone* mind you, but still...I'm no hermit, yet. I'm told I'm working my way into being a hermit...more on that another day perhaps. I ride with a small crew of buds most often and as small as that group is, I rarely ride totally alone...and even more rarely alone at night. I don't enjoy riding at night, I really don't. I have bad depth perception these days (and it's getting worse) in the best light conditions and it's downright ridiculous at night. Darkness makes high-tech descents I clean in daylight seem like something out of the Redbull Rampage...not necessarily always fun even though I do love a good pucker factor.
Because of that most of my night riding is done on pavement. It's a relatively safe alternative to pinballing off trees at 25mph in the dark and blowing through turns you thought were 6' further out...relatively safer. The Ol' Lady appreciates it when I ride with buds and so I make the effort...for her you know, not because I *like* my buds or anything...the sacrifices we make to stay with the ones we love. I had a couple good friends I enjoy being around lined up for a ride up/around Dorena last night. Nothing big, 30 or so miles of mellow pavement riding under an almost full moon on a crisp fall evening followed by pancakes and camaraderie? Sounds damn fine to me!
Wouldn't you know it...one gets called to work and the other has a fatal bike issue on the way home from work...I'm riding alone tonight. At least I know the company will be good...err, wait.
It was as foggy as a Jack the ripper novel at Rancho del Brocko when I took off. Kind of awesome and kind of spooky...I like it. My HID light didn't help though...like driving in fog with your brights on...but it's the Row River trail, no surprises...right? My seizure light in the back was awesome looking in the dense fog. No speed records were set, but I felt pretty good (for a fat guy) and just found a pace and maintained it, kind of shut my brain off and stared at my front wheel...until that depth perception issue showed up. Fog+my vision+leaf cover=Brockelman ran off the side of the pavement at about 19mph. I held it together in the mud and didn't lay it down...pucker factor.
Once I regained my pace and composure I fell back into the front wheel trance, contemplating my deficiencies as a parent, friend, guardian, superhero...the usual. Interesting note, a deer can maintain about 19mph on pavement pretty well. Also of note, when you're totally "alone" and absorbed in your own self, hypnotized by chain/tire whirr and cloaked in your own fluffy white tunnel...a deer jumping up next to you and pacing you in your fluffy tunnel at 19mph can create a chamois staining moment, just so you know.
I started paying a bit more attention at that point, kind of. There were some interesting moments with the cracks and bumps in the pavement and then those freaking radioactively reflective poles at every junction are always fun for me at night...but I stayed on the path and bike. As I payed attention...I wasn't alone. No, not talking about the voices in my head. The wildlife was out in full force. I think they were enjoying my comedy of errors...silly human, in your tights. Above the reservoir the fog lifted and it really was a gorgeous night. Chilly as hell but a beauty. I missed rapping with those cats I had planned to ride with but the solitude of that fluffy white tunnel and the whir of the chain ended up being good juju for me. I did a good reset of the grey matter and the thighs got tired. That's gotta be a good thing, right?
Alone...it's not so bad, if you do it right.
The Great Pumpkin Rides!
Yes indeed the Great Pumpkin does ride... he also crashes... but best of all he sure knows how to throw a spooky-fun party in the dark, dank woods of Whypass.
More than 25 ghouls & goblins gathered Thursday evening for the Vth Annual Haunted Forest Ride where conditions were perfectly spooky! Days & nights of pre-event rain left the forest soaking wet and trails a bit sloppy but fortunately night skies were dry for this terrifyingly fun event.
Early arrivals cautiously explored the deadly darkness in small groups until the official 7:30pm meetup at the Yellow Gate where a huge crowd gathered. Some riders lent a festive air to the event by decorating their bikes &/or bodies with lights or by wearing inappropriate clothing (uh... "Paulette").
The huge assembled group then divided in half... well, a big half and a little half anyway... to venture onto Whypass' booby trapped trails at varying speeds. Shortly after the ride's official start dense fog rolled in, providing an appropriately scary ambiance. Riders rolled past trailside skulls & spiders & jack-o-lanterns and other frightening nighttime surprises but stayed together for the protection of the collective -- nobody wanted to get lost off the back... forever. Before long a huge yellow moon arose, smothering Whypass in a horrifyingly Halloweenie mood. Nice!
Back at the pile post-ride, a bonfire warmed the assembled crowd as the group consumed snacks & brews. The Great Pumpkin decorated the pile with jack-o-lanterns & candles -- perfect! Jokes & lies were told, there was laughter in the air. Nobody wanted to go home but gradually the realization that tomorrow was a working day dawned on the crowd... so it dispersed into the foggy darkness... and another Haunted Forest Ride was history.
Thank you, Great Pumpkin!
Photos by Shawn Litson, DOD PR & Communications
I liked this article from Bike mag so much I am posting it as my blog with minor edit:
...take, for example, the question of how to ride past another rider who is going the opposite direction down the same trail. While old-school guideline dictates that climbers have priority, this general rule of thumb can be taken to ridiculous extremes, such as climbers insisting on the entire trail when it's wide enough to pass. This blind rule following invariably leads to the interruption of a fun descent for no good reason- apart from thoughtless obedience to MTBs traditional rules.
...in the case of climbing versus descending priority one could argue the descender should have priority since they are going at a higher speed, are having more fun and have marginally less control of their mountain bike than the climber, who can usually put a foot down and step out of the way. In that case. the descender enjoys the Flow, and the descender just restarts and continues.
I know plenty of people already on this program when climbing some of our trails. I guess the best bet is to make eye contact and enjoy the ride.
Now...I consider myself a fairly cool cat. Pretty even tempered when I'm not being a raging asshole.
I don't get skeered by a whole lot...don't get too excited by a whole lot...don't get too down about a whole lot.
After a particularly hairy moment some time ago a person involved in the mayhem said he was stunned by my calm...my focus...my nerves of steel. At the time I just thought: "Stop being a pussy and learn to take care of business." Now I'm thinking: "...but steel, while being a pretty strong and semi-resilient material rusts really really easily and takes a lot of care to last in most circumstances."
What brought this on you ask (or not)? I've been in a spin getting ready for our trip to Whizzler for the last couple days. Bike issues had me worried...but I got them fixed (I think...). A bud's passport issues had me worried...but he got it finally. Equipment issues had me worried...but I got it replaced. Old man body issues had me worried...but it's not gonna get fixed so...why worry? Now...Brockelman being a spaz when jumping big has me worried. Remember, steel is pretty tough and resilient but I'm not exactly known for being easy on things...especially me.
Anyway, nerves of steel? Maybe. Right now I'd prefer nerves of carbon fiber...with titanium inserts and unobtanium support brackets.
Hang on tight...it's gonna get hectic.
We're pretty lucky here in the Willy Valley.
I mean, we have green hills all around...bike trails to ride in those hills...pretty decent bike trails, not much traffic, we're not getting shot at (trust me, the excitement of getting shot at is way overrated), decent living to be had...we're pretty lucky. Now, I'm sure one or two of you grumpy types (yes, yes you) are zipping through your rolodex (remember those ya old bastard?) of complaints, shortcomings and myopic reckonings of the good old days thinking how wrong the BigTattooedBastard is. OK fine, it's not perfect...but you and I don't deserve perfect, but we're getting a pretty good deal here.
I've always thought that, it's why we moved here...settled down here...started a family here...moved our family here...planted roots, planted them deep. Once in a while though I let something get in front of that for a moment. Saturday it was the 100 degree heat, a redlined heartrate, aching joint and near cramping thighs while catching my breath after playing pingpong between groups of clients on a ride of Alpine. It was a great ride...great...with a really fun and enjoyable group...but I rode about 5 miles more than everyone else so I could go between groups, check on folks, etc. I like that...it's fun...but it was HOT and I was running out of water after giving half of mine away to someone ill prepared for the day. As I rested my head on my handlebar trying to not puke after pegging it on a particular steep and challenging section to clear and an extended "catch me" section I hear clients coming around the corner laughing, cussing, enjoying the day and as they walked up and asked me if I cleard the section (I did, thank you...).
As we regrouped and caught our breath they were sharing stoke on the day and talking about how big of a PITA it is for them to ride and all of the barriers in their locations and lives are in the way for them to ride as much as some of us do. Now, we all manufacture our own barriers to unlimited riding (jobs, mortgages, relationships, eating...) and those are our decisions...yes: our decisions (I'd love to debate that if you like). But where we live can also add a whole crapload of barriers to our riding opportunities. That's another way we're pretty lucky here: we have tons of places to ride. Most are not too far away. Hell, I'm 25 minutes from Crawfish, Brice and Whypass...that's pretty decent! Even driving 49 minutes to Oakridge isn't bad compared to some "poor folks" living elsewhere. We've got it pretty good.
It's getting better too. We did some buffing, primping and such at Bloomberg last night. Thanks to Taylor's determination and a dedicated crew of locals there's a really fun little loop out there. We're lucky he's got a plan. We're lucky there's locals willing to come out after work and dig, dump, pull, chop, whack, work. We're pretty lucky. It's getting better every time I go out there too.
Anyway, next time you're lamenting how much it sucks to do/not do/start/stop/finish/go/not go...remember: the Willy Valley rocks...and you live here (unless you don't live here...! Hahahaa...but you could!).
Disciples...come out and play!
Some people would say that the Crown Jewel is located far up forest roads 1910/1912 and is formally known by the name Alpine. While this would in fact be correct…I have another thought of what the term Crown Jewel is. I feel that the actions of the Disciples of Dirt in partnership with GOATS, USFC, and CCP has shown character in the face of certain adversities and that warrants in my mind the status of a “Crown Jewel” bike club.
Leading up to the annual 100 mile CCP race for instance, several teams of volunteers readied the course and made preparations for this event. Even when some disgruntled local “CAVE” people attempted to sabotage the event, the quick thinking of Chris and Scott made safe this event by notifying law enforcement instead of taking into their own hands this situation. The July 1 event was held in almost perfect race day conditions…however the trail was very muddy and some of the sections, even though properly prepared, were subjected to severe wear and in need of some serious help.
Almost immediately following the event, members from the conservation group Oregon Wild made a trip up to “survey the damage” done by the mountain bikers prior to their scheduled wild flower hike. Through an email OW reported, "I have to say I am pretty impressed it did not look worse after all the use and all the June rain. A testament to the maintenance work that goes into the place." While OW was satisfied with the trail conditions, we were not and so a work party was formed.
Through techniques learned at a recent IMBA training held at Whypass, we flagged a heavily damaged fall line section of Alpine for repair. The two local IMBA chapters, DOD & GOATS, along with CCP, USFC, and Oregon Adventures spent a weekend hauling rock, digging drainages, and closing off sections permanently to avoid further wear. Kevin and Benjamin brought up a Ditch Witch and two powered haulers and Randy hauled rock from the quarry to the trail head. Many of us cut trees, pealed bark, and created a permanent sustainable solution to this extremely problematic section of trail just below Windy Pass.
While all this work was going on, a large group of Oregon Wild hikers on their way to Tire Mountain stopped and gave thanks for all the hard work that was being performed by the mountain bike community. Following posts left on FB and the DOD website by those that have ridden Alpine in the weeks following this project, nothing but happy thoughts and experiences have been reported.
Hats off to all the hard work of dozens of people and to the sponsors that provide the needed tools. This trail and many more are still open today and in fantastic condition because of the dedication and hard work volunteers continue to put into them…so keep up the great work!!!
Now it's time to Let us Ride!!!