Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Sticks and stones may break my spokes but dirt will never hurt me!

The Sunday Dirt Services…what a great turnout, and we aren’t just talking about the weather either! Chris, Chris, Rob, Bobbie, Joe, Uli, Charlie, Cheryl, Steve, Dan, Cooper showed up… Sundays typically are days…of rest.  But what we were about to embark upon was nothing close to rest.  Except maybe for a pro racer.  This might be rest to them!

It is nice to see such big a group of riders so early in the year.  Heck, it’s nice to see a big group of riders, period!  Our attendance thickens and thins during the progression of summer, but as of the last few rides, we’ve had at least 10 people sharing mud together.
Once everyone was rounded up at the Pleasantview Township Hall, we rolled out onto East Stutsmanville Road to roll up (way up) the North Country Trail.  Like a train pulling loaded freight cars, we lumbered up that first hill, gears changing, legs waking, lungs cycling the fresh wooded air.  Aaahhhh it’s good to be out!  The weather couldn’t have been any better! 
As we rode, it became very noticeable that someone had been out on the trail doing maintenance.  This section of the NCT was almost spotless…it was almost as if someone took a vacuum and sucked all the sticks and derailleur catchers off for us!  Great company, great weather, great trails…what could be better?
A couple of hills, that’s what!  In the middle of the next climb, suddenly, PANGGGGG!!!  What the F?!?!?  Looking around, I didn’t notice anything different, but holy cats, I sure heard it…loud and proud.  And, it came from MY bike!  And, as any of those reading this and have ridden with me know I’ve had my share of mechanicals…but that’s a blog for another time, haha!  Uli, who was trailing me at the time, said it looked like something shot out from my wheel…but I kept rolling...nothing looked different and nothing felt different.  Yet.
Benson had a route in mind this Sunday that was a little different than the usual.  Instead of crossing the upcoming two-track and continuing along the NCT, we leaned right and headed uphill.  I like it when there isn’t really a planned route, or at least I like it when I don’t know where the route will take us.  Just follow the guide…its part of the experience of Dirt Service.  At the top of this hill (did I mention there are hills in mountain biking?) we again took a right which rewarded us with about a mile of downhill.   Pretty awesome when a singletrack flows downhill and opens right up…we were flying and likely hitting low to mid 20’s on this baby.  We all saw a little humor in the 5 mph sign posted near the bottom…and boy did we hit bottom.
The trail took us through the bottom of some kind of bog or swamp!  Everyone’s tires, balance, and ground clearance was put to the test as we glooped our way through this murky muck…I was lucky enough to stay up and not put a foot down.  So was Secret Steve…although I must say he had a little extra incentive what with his gleaming white Sidi’s…ah well, there’s only ONE way to break that stuff in right Steve?!
Now that everyone’s bike was five pounds heavier, it was time to conquer the cart path.  For those of you who aren’t sure what the cart path is; meaning, if “cart path” sounds like something easy, relaxing (as in cart path:  golf, nice afternoons, coupla brews), and scenic…well, let’s just shift that train of thought, shall we?
The cart path, as it is deemed, is kind of scenic.  It is a smooth path, so it’s not very technical for us mountain bikers.  That makes it nice.  It goes past a golf course, so that’s nice too.  Now, take that mental picture.  Think about it for a second…take it in, ahhh yes…..  Now tilt it.  Put it in both hands and just tilt it.  UP…like, 50 degrees up….!!!  Suddenly, you aren’t really taking in the scenery any more; rather, you are glaring at the pavement just below you, taking in as much air as you possibly can to muster this thing!!!  And climb we did…pedal stroke after pedal stroke, foot by foot, we climbed.  The trees and shade fall away near the top and the pavement gives away to dirt…oh yea, when you hit the dirt section of this cart path, you can tilt that picture even steeper….and don’t even think about laying that picture flat until you’ve reached the ski lift.  Joe found the easy button for this one though, not sure where he hid it, but that little powerhouse cranked right past me in a sprint to the top!  Awesome!  At the top is a stunning view…on the clear days, you can see the Mackinaw Bridge from the top of Boyne Highlands!  Today, not so much; there was a little haze in the afternoon sky, but still a great view looking down at the landscape.
Once the oxygen began to even out and circulate back into my brain, I looked down and figured out what that resonant PANGGGGG!!! I heard from my bike a few miles ago; a darned spoke nipple gave away!  But luckily for me, the main body of the nipple was still attached to the spoke, and it was sort of resting inside the rim being held in place.  Score!
What goes up must come down!  From the top we followed Dirt Reverend Benson over the other side of the hill and wound our way through some very familiar singletrack, The Bridges, and snuck out the back side of Boyne on the newer, less beaten path towards Stutsmanville Road.  This part of the trail is pretty darn technical; you can’t really get much speed up because of how close some of the turns are and how close some of the trees are!  It’s nice to see this path getting some use, it’s beginning to get beaten in rather nicely and you don’t have to guess as much where the path goes.  Usually in cases like this, you call upon your skills of “Trail Braille”, where you sort of feel your way through the path when it becomes a little hard to read!  Which is totally different than using Trail Braille at night, but again, that’s another story…!
Once we spilled out onto Stutsmanville Road for the return stretch, it turned into a frantic, how fast can get my bike going, how high of a number can I get on my computer max speed indicator, race to where we started!  Any mud that held on to your tires for the last 5 miles of trail riding had no chance!  Shedding a chunk or two on the way down, the wind roared in your ears and the whizz of freewheels spinning to their maximum velocity kept everyone sharp and ready to attack once gravity’s advantage leveled out.  Everyone began sprinting as far as they could…I was so deprived of oxygen and spinning my knees off, that I cannot for the life of me remember who was out front…but I was somewhere in there and made it with the rest of the crew for another amazing Dirt Sermon.   We all reported max speeds down the hill of 40, 42, 43….and I’m pretty sure someone said 45…that’s haulin’!!!

Dirt Services, what a great way to finish off the weekends!!  Keep ‘em comin’!


Sarah said...

Who posted this?? This was awesome! Lisa? RR?

SARGE said...

Action Chuck... Nice right up, bro. Hey... isn't there a venue for nice blog posts like this at a little known place called actionchuck.blogspot.com? Either way, it sounds like you guys had a great ride, wish I could be there.

Action Chuck said...

Yes...there is an Action Chuck blog, and I haven't posted anything yet! Well, its time to HTFU on my own blog from time to time. I get that writers block thing, but during that time what I want to write about stews, then it all blows out on paper...like the last one! Haha! Look for some soon!

SARGE said...

I'll put a link from my blog to yours once we see the first post.