I went to the Wicked Ride Of The East on sunday. It's a mountain bike 'festival' held entirely within the boundaries of the Harold Parker State Forest and promoted by NEMBA.
I haven't been riding there in years, and when I last rode regularly there it was in the '90s. Things have changed a lot since then.
Back then, we rode what few hiking trails there were, happening upon walkers, equestrians, and the occasional homoerotic encounter (yes, HPSF used to be known for its 'trolling' activity).
Now though, NEMBA has been working diligently for over ten years to create a rather expansive, interesting, and challenging trail network. I don't know exactly how many miles of trails there are at HPSF now, but the route they had mapped out was 20 miles, and didn't cover all of it.
Saturday was my fathers 70th birthday, which I hosted. We had relatives from as far as georgia, and we stayed up past midnight eating and drinking. Fortunately, the Wicked ride is not a race. Still I got up in the morning, did the dishes from 12 place settings from the night before, then went to the ride.
Stopped of course at McDonalds for my 'endurance breakfast' of a bacon-egg-and-cheese biscuit and hash browns (amanda, you didn't read that).
Parking was an issue. They had saw horses in front of the main driveway, so cars were lining up along the park road parked directly under the "tow zone" signs. I found a driveway to the gun club with no cars in it, and no signs saying I couldn't park there. While I was getting ready A rather portly gentleman on a freeride bike rode by and commented "they ain't gonna like you pahkin' theah". (non- new englanders should click here for a demonstration of the eastern new england accent). Since there were about 30 cars all lined up under "tow zone" signs and there was no posting where I was, I ignored him.
I finished getting dressed - forgot my shell. Shit - no biggie, it wasn't _that_ cold.
I put the bike together and realized, I hadn't fixed the loose pad in the rear brake - yes, I still ride V-brakes. Unless you're going to buy me a IF Custom Deluxe Ti with disk brakes and Mavic Cross Max wheels, shut the fuck up. Anyways, I had lost the retaining wire on the pad somehow, and the pad was loose. In a MacGyver moment, I pulled a safety pin off my kit-bag and snapped it in place.
Then I realize I had brought no more food. Hmm, could be a short day between the mild hangover and no food other than my 'endurance formula'.
Now, I've been out of the MTB scene for a long time. I haven't ridden consistently in ten years. So, I know like _no_ one except for Phil Keyes - the executive director of NEMBA. I guess if you had to pick one person to know, he's probably the best choice.
I register, don't see Phil anywhere. I'm one of the few guys in actual cycling clothes. Almost everyone else is in baggy MTB chic. I see a vendor set up with a whole array of OdWalla drinks. I ask how much and he says "just take a few". Excellent - food problem solved.
I spy a group of guys in real cycling clothes, and it turns out one is Big Bikes Thom P. He doesn't know me. I introduce myself. Now he knows me. We chat for a bit. He's very nice to me, actually _engaging_. Very cool. I think he just appreciates that I was one of the people who paid to see him drink Chelada during the SSUSA.
They were just about to head out, so I said "I'll see how long I can hang with you single speeders" I don't remember the other guys names, but there was another singlespeeder and two geared bikes, one of which was a dude in a full IF Ora team road kit - Turns out it was Robbie king, though I didn't know that until much later.
At the beginning of the ride there was a lot of traffic. I came off the bike at the first vertical challange. They must have been so impressed. I didn't have much of a problem for a while after that first section, but there was a lot of traffic on the trial, so things were slow going. I managed to catch up to Thom, and yo-yo'd behind him for a while until they stopped for a re-group.
Now, Thom was riding a 29'r single speed with a 39x17. I know guys that don't ride a gear that tall on their road fixies. At one point, I see him clear this short vertical ledge. I wasn't having too much of a problem staying with them at that point so i said 'oh, that's the good line'. Well, If you have a29r with no big chainring, it was a good line. I bashed into it at full speed, and if not for the fact that the front wheel was already 18 inches higher than the rear wheel, it would have be a you-tube worthy moment, if not something on fail blog. I was lucky that I had my right pedal at about 2 o'clock so I was able to lift the bike over it.
None of these guys has crashed yet, and I was already down twice. Feelin dumb, havin fun.
As the ride progressed, I kept dropping off the pace earlier. Once we were about 1/2 way into the ride and they had stopped for me about the 3rd time, I said to them "guys, you don't have to wait for me". I mean, seriously. I was a good 15 years older than any of them, at least two are sponsored (almost pro) riders, and I had a hang over. I can't believe they were waiting for me to begin with.
So, I popped in my MP3 player and started riding my own pace. This was _much_ better. Interestingly enough, even though they were out of sight after a few minutes, I continued to pass other riders and didn't get passed by anyone. I was riding my own pace, picking my own lines, Jamming out to stuff like Violent Mood Swings by Stabbing Westward and not worrying about holding up anyone behind me.
A while later, I see Robbie by the side of the trail - flat tire. He has no tools except and inflator and a tube. Tubeless tires do not come off tubeless rims without some good leverage. I stopped and gave him mine, and chatted with him for a bit. This is where I found out he was robbie king. I made sure after we started off again that they were all ahead of me. Once again, I was presently dispatched.
I rode the rest of the ride comfortably rockin' out, passing riders along the way. I got a flat myself, and fixed it pretty quickly. Back riding again, I saw another rider stopped with a flat at one point that had a single speed and one of those eccentric hubs. Those aren't quick release. He had broken his multi-tool. I lent him mine. It had been getting steadily cooler as I rode, and now that I had stopped I had gotten a chill. I checked my watch and I had been out about 3 hours. I decided to check the map and found that I could bail on the last two miles of single track. It wasn't like I needed the workout. I made it back to the parking lot in about ten minutes. I rode over to the registration area to see if Thom et al had made it back. Didn't see them.
I checked out the free chili they advertised. There wasn't any. Instead it was Pulled Pork. That's all well and good, but it was advertised as free, and they had a sign in front that said 'suggested donation $10'. um...hmmmm....A free pulled pork sandwich....for $10. Yeah, good cause and all that (some sort of "BBQ for a cure" foundation, couldn't find a weblink), but, no. I had those two Odwallas on the ride and I wasn't starving.
I just headed home. I was tired, a bit chilly, and had a decent bruise forming on my hip from a crash.
I felt stupid, but I had fun anyways.