Interview with Mike C / 331 Promotions
Mike Colonna along with four other guys run 331 Racing and Promotions, which is a cornerstone of mountain bike racing in Ohio. You might think 331 is all about spandex and Sidis, but Mike is actually equal opportunity shredder and loves a bit of downhill. And if you’ve been to Vulture’s Knob lately, you’ll have seen just how serious 331 is about gravity riding.
Tell us about Mike C, how long you’ve been riding and how you became a certified mountain bike nut.
Well, I started riding mountain bikes in the late 80’s and began taking it a bit more seriously in the early 90’s. Probably from about 1994 to present, mountain biking has pretty much defined my lifestyle. I entered my first XC race in 1996 at the inaugural Race at Camp Manatoc, which ironically, is now our (331 Promotions) biggest event of the year! I was there racing in the early days of Vulture’s Knob, Mickey’s Mountain Challenge and Tom Hayes’s Velo-Z. I’ll still enter the occasional XC or Endurance race and I even did my first ever DH race this past season. But for the most part, riding for fun, promoting, building and advocacy consume the majority of my time in the sport today.
Regarding my passion for mountain biking- From the early days of riding and racing, and still to this day, I’ve enjoyed all aspects of the mountain bike lifestyle. From the people I’ve met and the life long friendships that have followed, to the epic rides and remote locations traveled and all the parties and good times enjoyed after long days of riding with the crew. From the simple beauty of the bicycle itself, to the technical marvels that they’ve become. Even down to bicycle maintenance (yes, I love to build, work on and meticulously maintain high-end bikes, it’s a bit of an obsession). Not to mention the challenges and competition that this great sport has to offer, and the fit and healthy lifestyle it supports. It’s something that can be enjoyed by the whole family, young and old. I plan on doing this, at some level, for the rest of my life! So I suppose if you add it all up, I could be considered a “certified mountain bike nut”.
If you won an all expenses paid trip and could ride anywhere for one day, where would it be and what bike would you take? (You can only take one!)
That’s a good question! You know, mountain biking originated here in the states, and there are countless mecca’s of singletrack here that I’d love to ride. And I know Europe has a ton of epic riding to offer as well. But I think BC, Canada would be the place. I haven’t been there yet, but it looks to me like the best combination of rugged terrain, flowy features and challenging ups and downs, that make it so appealing. As for the bike, It would have to be the Yeti ASR7. It’s a big travel bike with surprisingly well-mannered climbing capabilities, especially when things get steep and nasty. And when the trail points downward, it just devours everything in it’s path.
I heard you did the US Open last year even though you were pretty new to proper downhill racing and had barely ridden an 8″ bike. What was that like? And have you got plans to race DH in 2011?
That was a pretty crazy experience…my first ever DH race! I’ve been curious to give downhill racing a try for a long time now. Over the years, I’ve always been confident in my technical riding abilities, so I thought DH racing might come easily for me. Man, did I have a lot to learn! Things like taking the time to walk and study the track to help dial in your numerous line options. And finding that the fastest way through the rock gardens, is to gap big sections of trail with perfectly timed, yet sometimes blind, leaps of faith. Then there are the drastically higher speeds you’re carrying into turns, jumps and obstacles. These were all challenges, that on the bike, I had never really faced before. All in all, it was a great time! I had a lot of fun hanging with, and learning from a fast group of Ohio riders. I even made the finals and finished mid-pack on race day, so I was pretty stoked!
We’ll have to see about racing in 2011. I plan on doing the local DH races (V-Knob, Horns, Mohican). As well as the Windham WC and the US Open again. But beyond that, I think if I’m traveling, it’s going to be more about kicking back and enjoying the ride with few good friends on epic terrain.
So you and the guys at 331 Promotions have taken over operations at Vulture’s Knob. How is that going? It must be a load of work!
Things down at Vultures Knob are going very well! And yes, it has been a load of work for everyone involved. But all of us are very passionate about this, we do it because we love it! What a lot of people don’t realize is that Vulture’s Knob is one of only a few, privately owned mountain bike destinations, that are open to the public year round. And our goal is to make sure that we can continue to enjoy this place for many years to come.
We’ve made a ton of changes and improvements during our first 3 years of operation there. And we plan to continually add and improve the trails and features to enhance the riding experience for all abilities. Some of our visions and ideas don’t become a reality as fast as we’d like them to, but we are definitely making progress. And we haven’t had to do it alone. We’ve been extremely lucky and very grateful for all of the fine folks who have lent a hand in making all of this happen. From all of the volunteers that help out on race days and trail days. To those who have had input with course design and trail construction. As well as all of our gracious sponsors and supporters and all the open riders who donate cash when they come down for a ride. Then there’s the handful of people that keep up with general maintenance, mowing and trimming, etc. And let’s not forget about the racers that throw it all out there on race day! None of this would be possible without everybody involved!
We welcome everyone to come out and enjoy a ride, a hike, a race. You can challenge yourself on one of our many trail features, camp out with friends, compete against the areas best mountain bikers on race day, break a sweat building a new trail section, even enjoy your first mountain bike ride with your son or daughter. This place truly exists for everyone to respect and enjoy.
It was a blast to shape Vulture’s first DH line last year, and you guys really pulled out the stops when you brought the digger in, so it looks like you guys have some big plans for us adrenaline addicts at the Knob. Can you give us a hint of what’s on the horizon?
Yes, it was a blast Aaron, and I’d like to thank you for your input and efforts on this project. As you know, we are really working hard to create legitimate gravity assisted trails and features down at the Knob. We are well on our way to completing the first phase of this trail system and hope to have it open for riding by the end of April. This first trail starts at the shale pit and will finish at the oil well down near McAfee Road. It includes several berms, rollers and jumps as well as a nice rock garden and a little creek gap. We’ve been trying to get down there and put the finishing touches on it for the last several weeks, but as you know, mother nature has not cooperated. Once the season gets underway, we plan to move forward with the second phase and would hope to have it dialed in by mid-July. The second phase would include the completion of two additional lines that would offer more advanced features, such as drops and gap jumps.
After that, the sky’s the limit, really. We have plans for a slalom course, dirt jumps, Super-D and even huge slope-style features! All of this will come with time, money and effort.
So if we’ve got a bit of time, money, or effort, what’s the best way to get in touch?
We schedule several trail days throughout the year, typically in the spring and late fall. We advertise these dig days on our website, Facebook page and through Gamesnake. We like to think that when you come out and help, you’re not only giving back to the sport you love, but you’ll also receive some good ole’ trail karma!
Finally, rumor is that there is going to be some DH racing of some sort at the Knob, starting this spring – give us the scoop!
Yep, we’re going to take a shot at putting a couple of downhill races on the schedule this year. Our first will be held on Sunday May 1st, which will coincide with our first XC race of the season on April 30th. So there will be a festival of sorts going on all weekend with bike demos, kids races, camping, the Muddy Paws Bonus race and of course, our big party with bonfire, DJ and frosty beverages on Saturday night. We’ll hold the second DH race on Sunday July 17th with the idea of having a second course completed and utilized to create our Double Down event. Each racer will get to take one run on two slightly different tracks and we’ll combine the times from each run for their overall score. It’s going to be a lot of fun and shouldn’t be missed!