Yes, it’s been ages since I’ve posted any updates here, but hey, I’ve been busy. And it hasn’t exactly been downhilling weather.
To see what I’m up to now, head on over to pumptrackproject.com I’m jazzed about being able to take my love of biking and do something for a community that lives on a lot less than most of us can fathom.
Also, don’t forget to register for the 2nd annual Mayhem Enduro! Last year was mint!
Over the past year I’ve come to some grim conclusions. I’ve had to face up to the fact that despite what we make of it, Ohio will never look like this…
Not even close. If I had to choose a picture that exemplifies Ohio, then it would be something more like this:
When I moved back, I already knew this, but I figured life is what we make of it! I want to keep doing stuff like this:
I had a lot of enthusiasm when I first moved back!
We put in a quite a bit of effort, built some fun new trails, ran some races. But in the end, let’s face it, when you show up at one of Ohio’s downhill spots with a full on downhill bike, you kinda have to put one of these on…
In the end, downhillers stuck in Ohio are all just a bunch of mis-led crazy nuts in the back of a pickup truck.
By this point, you’re either depressed, or you think I’m just mumbling away pointlessly…
…which is true. So what did I decide to do? If you can’t beat em, join em. I bought a 29er hardtail. Perhaps the first bike I’ve ever owned that was actually well suited to Ohio. BORING you say. Not this bike! It’s almost as awesome as kittens trained as ninjas…
…and cooler than this…
…but not quite as cool as this…
I’ll post up some pics and a ride review in the future.
So what is the future of Ohio Downhill? It will go on as it always has…a rag tag handful of fun loving guys bouncing around some small hills with trails kept open with good hard graft. I’ll join you a few times a year if I get free weekend…
The planets finally aligned for AOA. After 11 dreary years there was no rain in sight for their big annual fundraising event. This year the Mayhem would be all new, a first-of-its-kind-for-Ohio multi-stage Enduro. For a gravity addict such as myself, this was not something to be missed (in contrast to the previous 40 mile mud slogs). The master artist for this event was Heath Boedecker and his canvas was the Wilds near Zanesville, OH. Decidious jungle has mostly reclaimed the undulated stripmine wasteland terrain of the Wilds, but Heath and the AOA crew did some hard graft over the winter and turned this average XC trail into five unique and slightly downward traversing sections containing some fantastic suprises – real expert options and technical tests that were intended to up the fun factor but also sort the wobbly lycra-clad thunder thighs from those stylishly skilled slackers.
Indeed, this was the main question after our recon ride on Saturday – who will this event favor? It wasn’t nearly as downhill as some of us expected, these were definitely XC sections and those with protein diets and strict training regimes were definitely going to put major time into the average joes. But then there were occasional bits of gnarly nougat that would take you and your 22 lbs hardtail XC knife and dump you in the middle of a Blackhawk Down gunfight. OK, I might be exaggerating, but what do you say to a gap jump in the middle of a rock garden with trees 6 inches from each handlebar plug? Or step-up to boulder to step-down with a tree riddled landing? Or steep, loose off-camber to g-out? Or the various double jumps, some 5 feet high and 16 feet long? You say go around if you don’t have the skills. I say pin it ya fairy!
Of course, anyone with a brain would have realized that the podium would be topped by those who had both fitness and skills in equal measures. These guys are few and far between, but they pretty much annihilated the field. Guys like single-speeder Adam Mallett, my own teammate Jeff Cochran, and the hands down winner Tom Herman who had the timers double checking their stopwatches. Then there was Josh Clark, that insane bike handler from the hill country who did his fair share of damage on the XC crowd. The all-arounders did well too, like Nick Devore, Jim Crowley, and myself. It took some discipline to get myself into some semblance of moderate physical condition, but in combination with the blinding speed and effortless control of my Banshee Prime 29er (shameless plug), lead to some solid times on the more skill oriented sections. Jeff Cochran held up our team on the pedally sections and we walked away with a load of swag and some really good-looking 2nd place plaques. In the end, fitness was not enough to win it, your team had to have a balance of power and finesse. Exactly as an Enduro should be.
I really can’t say enough about this event. The folks were friendly, the trails were a blast, camping on-sight, an awesome cook-out with cold beverages afterwards, and prizes for miles. There was a great core of volunteers running it – this wasn’t no side show. And the racing experience was really fun. I always get nerves before racing, but as soon as we were off, they disappeared and you could actually enjoy the riding. It wasn’t over in 3 and 1/2 minutes like a donwhill race and it wasn’t 1 and 1/2 hours of suffering like a XC race. Enduro distills XC racing to just the fun parts. And you could make mistakes and your team mates had you covered. We made a fair share…Blanton tangled with a tree and smashed his head and shin, Jeff taco’d a wheel in the same spot, I went off the trail at mach 3 and threw a stage away, and Dave…well he was the only one that stayed on his bike, which would have saved our team had we all blown up on the same stage. Cletus and the Slackjaws will definintely be back next year!
Special thanks to 331 Racing who teamed up with AOA to make it all happen. Results can be found on their website (click results tab at bottom).
With Ohio’s first Enduro race about one month away, you might be contemplating what is the best machine for an Enduro race. And even if you’re not, I’m still going to tell you. Mostly because I just happen to be one of the few riders lucky enough to be riding a prototype Banshee Prime 29er trail bike, and I want to brag about it a little bit.
What we have here is a 29er designed for the aggressive rider. It’s got 130mm out back damped by a Fox DHX Air shock and a 140 mm Fox 34 up front sitting at 67.5 deg. 720mm wide carbon bars sit on a short 60 mm stem for a very DH oriented cockpit. Fast rolling but hard cornering 2.4 Maxxis Ardents with the EXO casing are mounted ghetto tubeless for less rotating weight. 180mm rotor XTR brakes from e-bay handle the stopping. And the Enduro racers best friend – a Rockshox Reverb dropper post.
The hard-knocks build does come with a price, mainly more weight. The prototype frame (think non-butted tubes, etc.) also weighs 700g more than the production frame will weigh. Add in the heavy dropper post and I’m coming in at 34 lbs. But all that disappears when the bike is pointed down.
The Ride: Since I’m a tall gangly fellow, I opted for the XL frame size (and a short stem). This sucker is a bit of a limo, with a wheelbase of over 48″. That’s longer than my DH bike. Combined with the 29er wheelsize, it took a few rides to come to terms with what essentially felt like a semi-truck. But on the third ride, something clicked. I anticipated the turns a bit more and started leaning this thing over a bit further, and wow. This thing blows away my 26″ trail bike in the corners.
Point it downhill and the wonders keep on coming. The long wheelbase, lateral stiffness, slack angles, and inherent stability and grip of the big 29 x 2.4 tires translates into lots of speed and lots of control. I’m talking downhill bike levels on moderate slopes. Only when things turn rocky or steep does it start to feel like a trail bike again. Oh, and it jumps too. Better than my DH bike. Just don’t plan to throw any massive whips, because it’s a 29er and it doesn’t like that kind of thing.
Point it uphill and you can feel the weight, but apart from that it’s no slouch. It pedals great and has good acceleration. It’s only on the flat and tight single track that the size of this bike starts to wear on you a bit. It doesn’t like going slow. But we aren’t talking slow, we’re talking Enduro – and what we’ve arrived at is a bike that descends singletrack trails with all the capability of a DH bike. It pedals, jumps, and corners well and offers incredible high speed control…everything you want for your timed stages. And it gets to the top just fine for the next stage.
I had never ridden a 29er before this bike, but I’m converted. The trade-offs are worth it in my opinion, and the Prime has got the geometry and toughness to take everything I can throw at it. There is no doubt I’m faster on this bike. 29ers…they are 3 faster!
This may not be a downhill race, but it might well be the future of gravity racing in Ohio. 331 Racing and AOA are putting on a multi-stage enduro race at The Wilds on May 20. AOA, lead by frontman Heath Boedecker, have been hard at work putting together five mostly downhill sections that will test bike handling skills and fitness equally. This is a team event and will emphasize fun over competition, and seeing as climbing sections aren’t timed, we can all chill out and chat in between pinning the timed singletrack sections.
Click here for a link to 331 Racing’s website where you can find out more details and register.
Fortune has not smiled on the mountain bikers who like to use the trails at Mohican Wilderness. Two weeks ago much of the hillside to the East of Tree Frog’s canopy tour was logged, and you know what kind of mess logging leaves behind. From what I understand, both the XC and DH trails were affected. While the Rock trail was spared, Powerline and Trail 3 were in bad shape.
Thankfully, we have a couple of good folks in our corner. Word from the internetz is that Powerline has already been cleaned up. And even better, Kent Schaffer from Kim’s Bikes in Loudonville has been talking with the land owner to see what’s next for the trails at the Wilderness. You can catch up with the latest in this thread on OMBA’s forum.
I don’t know the official status of whether the trails are open or not at the moment. Regardless, we should not do any trail work without the consent of the land owner. If you do want to help restore the trails, it seems the best point of contact right now is Kent (email@example.com). Hopefully there will be an official trail maintenance day scheduled for this spring.
Hopefully this beloved spot, which most consider Ohio’s best downhill trails, can be restored or better yet improved to benefit everyone. Your support would be greatly appreciated!
If you create a team, go to “Enter New League”. The PIN for the Ohio Downhill league is 411. Join up!