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Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I feel compelled to comment on the 29ers just because a lot of what I've been reading is speculation by folks who have never had the chance to ride one.

Don't be a doubter until you've ridden one; until you've actually taken one out for a ride on the trail. Before then I had my doubts about how much a bigger tire would make. Yeah yeah 29" the next big thing something for the bike shop guys to talk up and get all excited over; angle of approach, rolling resistance, enhanced geometry blah blah blah.

I had the opportunity to experience the Gary Fisher Paragon and I've got to say that bike seriously rocked.

Ok first for some background. I've mountain biked for years and back in the day I put a couple of serious race seasons under my belt. To sum it up, I'm an experienced rider.

I got to ride the 29er on familiar trails so it was easy to compare the way it road compared to my 26" wheeled bike.

This is how the bike felt. The roots and rocks on the trail felt 50% smaller and when I road over them, it seemed that I kept 50% more of my momentum. Things that the 26" would hit hard on and sap my speed the 29er seemed to roll right over. Big log piles seemed effortless and they were 50% less scary. 3 ft log pile; not scary. I have a bike that rides over big stuff fairly easy, and it's the kind of bike that allows you to power through the rough stuff.

I realize that is a lot to say about a bike with just a bigger wheel. It's not that I didn't expect their to be a difference, I would have never dreamed that that extra wheel diameter would change things so drastically. Whatever Fisher did with that bigger wheel and bike geometry all I have to say is it was amazing.

Something else with the 29"; being stuck in the wrong gear on the steep uphills wasn't nearly as big as of a deal. It was easier to ride the 29" slower. The 26" was much more likely to 'stall' if you ended up in too big of a gear.

Draw backs. I could take really tight turns, I'd say maybe 20% faster on the 26". I only noticed this only when riding fast and when the turns were really sharp. Also taking a sharp turn extremely fast the bike was more likely to wash out. It's a much bigger bike so think leverage and that center of gravity thing.

So over 95% of my ride the 29er proved to make a huge difference. About 5% of the trail the 26" bike held a small advantage for me but give me some time to get used to the bike. The advantages the 29" has are so drastic that for me any of the advantages of the smaller tire are far outweighed.

I'm definitely sold on this bike. There are some bike shops that will let you demo their bikes. Get on a 29er and give it a try.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Bavington Trail Report Update

Stopped in at the Hoppery after a South Park ride and got a chance to talk to John from P.O.R.C. He told me the trails around Knolton are clear. Talking to him I can say for sure the figure 8 loop is clear and he indicated the other trails in that area should be clear also.

This report is an addition to my original trail undergrowth report. This one for the SE section of the park. This time of year some of the trails become overgrown giving riders a lot of arm and leg lashings from riding through the under growth.

Some great trails maps for Bavington can be found at the Friends of Raccoon site

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bavington 5 Points Road Extension

Over 20 miles of single track run through Hillman State Park, located in the state game lands in and around Bavington, known by mountain biker's as just Bavington, it's one of the most beloved mountain biking trail networks in and around Pittsburgh. The five points area also know as the 'new' trails is probably the most popular section in the park.

New Updated Material: Check out the Bavington resource page for other maps and trail guides

The Trail

These trails feature tight winding single track and rooty trails through young pine forest.

These trails are fairly smooth with tight turns with some roots thrown in. The trail offers enough variation to make the trails interesting for advanced riders, novice riders will find these trails a challenge.


The trails follow flat tops and ridge lines and generally have a low grade making them fast both going up and down. You will encounter a few steep climbs but these are fairly short and all of them are ridable. The trails are up above the wet low areas and they generally stay dry. Pine needles covering the forest floor in many areas also help with the water.

Trail Head [Google Maps]

The trails are located near Bavington in Hillman State Park on Pennsylvania State Game Lands. This is east of Burgettstown and Stark Lake Post Gazette Pavillion. There is a parking area at the intersection of Haul Road and 5 Points Extension Road. If you turn onto Haul Road from Old Steubenville Pike, this will be the second road on your left. Don't confuse 5 Points Extension with 5 Points Road, which will be the first road on your left.

The Route

[Link to Original Maps]

This is around a six mile loop, it's an easy route to follow and involves only three turns.

The trail head is at the north end of the parking area. Enter the trail and head up a steep set of switch backs, this is a short but certainly challenging climb. After about 1/3 mile the trail will turn south and cross Five Point Extension north west of the parking area. After the trail crosses the road you head up a short steep climb.

In this section the trail is very windy and often circles back on itself but never crosses itself. A grassy double track cuts down the center of this open loop and the trail crosses it several times.

Eventually the trail again crosses Five Points Extension Road again; this time at the north west end of the road. Cross the road and head up the switch backs.

After about a mile the trail will go through a short field as the trail enters the woods it makes a sharp left, instead go straight up the hill. This is a short circuit trial that cuts out a not so fun weedy field. As you go up the short climb you'll notice the trail is s a little weedy. At the top it descends quickly and takes you to a 'T' insersection. Make a right and continue.

Follow the trail for about a quarter mile until it leads you to Haul road.

After you come out onto Haul road you'll see the trail continue directly across the road. Don't take this trail but instead make a right and head south down the road. Immediately on the right you'll see a tall orange pole marking a fiber optics line. After this look for a steep trail off to your left. It's about 50 yards down from where you entered the road.

This trail starts off very steep and will require you to push or carry you bike up a short section. (It's worth it there good riding ahead). At the top get back on and get going.

After a half mile you'll see to another trail empty into your trail, keep going.

Next you'll cross Van Gross Road.

After another 1/2 mile the trail ends at the intersection of Van Gross and Haul Road just a few yards south of the parking area.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bavington Gets A Trim

UPDATE: Map of Known Cleared Trails

Just want to say much thanks to the guy that trimmed up some of the trails around Bavington. (Sorry I forgot your name). He spent the better part of his week off with a pair of hedge trimmers and a machete clearing up the trails around the five points parking area. I believe people refer to these trails as the new trails.

I could only guess at what trails were cleared up. I didn't lead the ride so I wasn't completely sure where I was at for the first half of the ride. I split off from the main group and got drug around by Travis Saelor for a while. Wow he's in shape. I thought I was going to puke. I asked for hard pace and he dished it out. Travis's Blog: [].

The second half of the ride I hit some trails out by the RC Airport. Part of the route definitely suffered from undergrowth.

If you take Haul road north past the RC Airport road there's a 90 degree left. This trail goes East towards the RC airport is pretty over grown. It still ridable but only if you are willing to receive some lashings. After you find the trail head go about 75 yards and start looking for the trail that goes up the hillside off to your right. It's easy to miss and I don't know what kind of Jungle you'll get yourself into if you continue straight.

I took this trail over to the loop around the airport. I skipped the left half of the loop that goes around the airport. If the airport field was 12, I skipped 7 - 12. I made the mistake of riding that section last month and it was super choked and over grown.

The trails starting at 1 o'clock to 6 o'clock were mostly clear. Here's how I road it: at the 7 o'clock intersection I took a right and b-lined it to the airport field entrance gate. I went up the airport driveway and entered the visitors parking lot. Take the trial off to your left that heads up hill. You'll hit a couple weedy sections but after you enter the woods everything clears up. The trail will join up with the loop and bring you around clockwise back to the airport gate entrance. There's a lot of nice trails back there.

From there I crossed with plans to make my way back to the five points parking area. By no means were the trails clear but they were certainly a lot better than the West side of the airport.

I road the trails off to the left. Take the double track off to the left. You'll come to a log pile directing you to the single track off to your left. As you follow the ridge eventually you'll see a mega steep trail off to your left. Make this left down the steep section.

After the windy downhill you'll come to a small creek crossing. Immediately after the creek crossing take the trail to the right. If you immediately come to a wider creek you've gone the wrong way.

Eventually at the top of a climb you'll come to a mud pit followed by an old oil well. Come down off the hillside and start looking for your turn. The trail goes over a stream crossing a culvert. The trail will be this immediately to your right and starts with a very steep climb. If instead you reach the gravel road (Van/Gorder Road), you've gone too far. Turn around and find the trail, you're not too far past it. (Alternately this gravel road will lead you back to five points).

This section definitely had some undergrowth problems but it wasn't terrible. Alternately you could take a right and go up Van Gorder Road (up the hill).

Next you'll come to a 'T'. I went left. Next you will cross a gravel road (Van/Gorder Road).

After you cross the gravel road this next section of the trail is pretty clear. It takes you to the gravel road just a few yards south of the 5 points parking lot.

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