Monday, November 22, 2010

A Little Rum in the morning!

By: Brent

So after a great time at T.K. Lawless last Sunday Jeff and I were on a mountain bike high. We needed more. The next logical place was Rum Village in South Bend. My personal concern was that this is a much shorter course in comparison to T.K., 5 miles compared to 10 miles.

Jeff and I were being joined by a friend of mine. We all met at the trail head and got suited up for a fine 50 degree morning. As we pulled onto the trail, the first thing I noticed is it is obviously a year round trail. the leaves were well ridden on making following the trails a lot easier. In comparison to T.K., the trails felt wider and a bit easier to get around on. Still with year round riding on these trails the leaf coverage over roots and branches and garden gnomes still makes for some tricky riding.

When you arrive on the trail head, you are greeted by a map that shows that everyone starts off on the "Beginner" course, then it breaks off later on to the 2 harder trails or you can stay on the Beginner path. Problem is from time to time you ride up on a literal "fork in the road", but you don't know where the paths are sending you. As the three of us kept riding along things kept getting better and better. The course a little tougher. The jumps a little taller. We pushed a bit harder the further into it we got. Jeff had a rear derailleur issue so Rob and I kept on riding. Then Rob and I ran into the hub of this riding paradise. In this small area there were about 6 trail entrances surrounding a fallen tree. This tree was maybe 40' long and of massive width. Along the top of it lumber had been placed across so it was a great spot to ride across. What added to the excitement was under this tree was a space of 7 feet that another track ran under. The gap was a hard corner than when you ran into it, you had such speed that you rode what felt like at an angle parallel to the ground. I had seen a picture of this creature but had forgotten about it, and honestly didn't know if it was a generic picture or just folklore. As best I can recall it may be called "The Ladder", or least it is now, according to me.

So the recipe to ride across such a sweet obstacle? Not tons. 1/4 cup Confidence. 3 tablespoons Control. A splash of speed. So while Rob and I waited for Jeff we rode around to the high side of this beauty. I set up first and with out giving myself enough time to think about it, I went. It started pretty wide. Maybe 36" but as it stretched out you notice that it starts narrowing up on you. By the end of the trip its down to 18" or so. As it starts its downward but quickly comes up on a tree that also serves as a support and also creates a nice little weave. At this point it banks up and to the outside a bit which causes you to start to think a bit and get a bit nervous about whats left. Keep in mind at this point you are about 10' above whatever is going to catch you. Past that tree now it's all downhill, which comes the next part, the transition from tree to ground. Needless to say when Mother Nature knocked Goliath over and made a very cool mountain bike trick, she forgot about our dismount. Man made up for this by adding a 2x6 piece of lumber. Now that only covers a small part of the transition but its enough to get your front tire over and your back tire just kind of gets beat on a bit to land you back to Earth.

Flawless. Now Rob took his turn and like 2 seven year old boys hearing a new episode of the G.I. Joe cartoon was on we flew back to the top to do it again. We ran it again and knew we had to try Russ's Roller coaster, that stretch that runs under The Ladder. At that time Jeff arrived and said he had found a good drop off so we went in search of that. Once we jumped off of Jeff's little treasure we headed back to the Disneyland of Rum Village. Upon our return to the Ladder, Jeff had apparently made a decision to give this a shot. As I noticed him at the mouth of The Ladder I yelled up, "Back up so you have enough speed!" The purpose here is if you are going fast enough, you won't need to pedal and wobble your center of gravity or tweak your body's movement in anyway, just follow the curve. Jeff backed up to the point where Rob and I had previously started.

Brent riding the ladder

He started well. Maybe a notch slower than Rob and I had gone but nothing to shake you off. He conquered the hump and started his descent. As Jeff was ending the ride he then lifted his right foot apparently tweaking his balance and things started downhill from there, literally. Now realizing the transition wasn't as obvious as he was wishing, bad things started happening. The front wheel missed the 2x6 and with good speed he went head over the bars and used his face and body to serve as a replacement brake pad.... on the dirt... and roots... and everything else.

Nice execution. Poor dismount. As he propped himself back up against a tree he had come to a rest by, he was declaring he had his breathe knocked out of him but that he was okay. We evaluated the bike and it was in okay shape but the combination of Jeff and the bike, Jeff would be walking back. As he headed back by foot Rob and I got ourselves turned around and somehow did some odd loop, but eventually, by way of the "Advanced course" we got out. You could tell the difference between the "advanced" and the "beginner" sections. We had a couple sections that in the middle of nothing you had these 24" drop offs, at slow speed, up hill, both ways, and try to not mimic Jeff's dismount. We finally got to the end and we were glad to be done.

No question in my mind, other than looking for new trails, Rum Village will be visited many more times over T.K. Lawless. T.K. does single track well. Rum Village does obstacles. Both are fun but the other advantage Rum Village has is year round riding... at your own risk.

By the Way, the X-ray of Jeff's hand is due any moment now. Very exciting!!!!
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Single Track Lawlessness

Mountain biker gets air in Mount Hood National...Image via WikipediaBy: Jeff

 Last Sunday Brent and I decided we would like to do some Mountain Biking.  Now again I will mention that we live in a fairly flat portion of the world, so let's call it trail riding.  We had heard about a park not to far away called Dr. T.K. Lawless Park.  It has about 10 miles of meandering single track through the woods.

It is about a 45 minute drive for us to get to this park. We had done our research and knew that there is a $3 charge to get into the park, however we had also heard that no one is ever there to collect the money.  So being that it was an early Sunday morning we pull into the parking lot and we are the only car there.  No person to collect money.  The next thing we see is a sign that clearly states "all bike trails closed Nov. 1, see you in the spring".......ummmm it is Nov. 14 and their website clearly stated "all trails are open".  So we pondered for a few minutes as to what to do.  This place is in the middle of nowhere, and no sign of anyone coming around, so we decided [as if we were breaking a law {lawless is in the name of the park}] to go ahead and ride the trail anyways.
Now Brent has been trail/mountain biking before, I have not.  I've always owned a mountain bike, but never did any actual trail riding.  So I let Brent lead.  I immediately take note of how much more concentration it takes compared to riding on a road.  Now mind you there are no big hills on this course, but you are never going flat either, it is up or down.  When going up your pedaling hard, when going down you are concentrating on the terrain.  Essentially you never get the break of coasting like you do in road riding.  We pass the first mile marker, which seemed to take forever to get to, and I am all ready starting to get into the red.  Just when you think you are making progress on your fitness, there always seems to be something to humble you.  Brent seemed to be handling all this just fine, me on the other had, not so well.  I have to admit it was a lot of fun, but it embarrassingly kicked my butt!

The trail at the park is very nice.  Obviously this time a year it was covered with a lot of leaves, but it provided for a lot of different obstacles and turns.  I look forward to riding it when it is officially open in the spring! It will  be a place we visit often.