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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Racing: What It's All About

The Big Bear Lake Classic XC Race, in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia is coming up in less than two weeks, and I'm looking forward to it. I heard the trails down there are great. Got my new bike, been training all winter and hoping to finish better than I did at the end of last season but none the less I'm giving it a go.

Now I never thought I'd ever finish last in a mountain bike race. This was years ago but my first race ever I kicked ass. I entered the first timers category in the Buffalo Creek Race in Colorado. Placed 5th out of 100 beating the crap out of a ton of sand baggers; this only a few weeks after my first time on a a mountain bike. I followed this up with a my very successful race season 'one of the top novice class riders in the area.' Ha ha ha, my big mountain bike claim to fame, woo hoo, local rookie of the year with two 5ths, a 2nd at Seven Springs, a first at the Raccoon Township race, and a myriad of DNF break downs.

So several years of dormancy and spending most of my work and leisure time behind this keyboard, I'm in such sorry shape. Me poor aching body too weak to support me bones. A race schedule was exactly what I needed to keep me riding and get my awful pitiful self back into some kind of shapeliness.

So only ten weeks after my feet clicked back into peddels I was at the starting line of the first month of mud series race in Mammoth, PA. I'm obviously at a cyclo-cross with race with a mountain bike, here with the wrong equipment but why not, what the hell, a lot of other month of mudders out here with their mountain bikes.

Now my retro Raleigh John Tomac had been pretty good to me all summer but this would be the exact hour, the exact minute that my middle chain ring teeth decided they didn't have enough metal to hold against the chain torque. Repeatedly they let go of the chain and leaving my knees to slam into the stem. Ow, ouch, ... ow! Quit the race?!?! Really now, I had a perfectly good granny gear and a big ring. It was clumsy trying to switch between them, and the course went up and down constantly, and the derailer just didn't want to kick all the way over leaving me climb in too big of a gear or just stall out, but I gave it hell anyway. Now I've never been in last place or anywhere near it, and now not for a minute was it my bikes fault. My bike had nothing to do with the sorry sappy rider in sorry sappy shape sitting on top of it. I own up to my sport class last place and I gracefully accept it.

It was just good to be back in the saddle, pushing myself as hard as I could go. I love the adrenaline; I love the rush; I love training for races. I've always ridden to race. Every ride pushing myself physically, pushing my skills, searching my limits and crashing a lot. It's my incentive to go out and give it hell every single ride that I do.

Shift ahead four weeks later and I am riding the legendary rock gardens at Moraine State Park in the last Month of Mud race. Doing better but I'm still among the back of the pack. I have total respect for every rider that gets out there and gives it a go. I see these guys back there and I know they are not the most technical riders to grace this trail and the course is brutal; but they are there giving it hell anyway, smashing down on rocks, slugging it out all the way, not giving in. These people earn my respect, every one of them.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Roaring Run Apollo


Roaring run is a great place to ride. There are at least 15 miles of trail in the Roaring Run area with a ton of fantastic single track. The trails run along side the steep and rocky slopes of the Kiskiminetas River and offers a challenging as well as scenic ride. Zig Zag Trail the start of the Blue loop is one of those trails and offers miles of technical and challenging terrain.

This trail is not for the faint of heart; Roaring Run features one of the most rugged single track loop in the region only rivaled by the mountain bike trails at Moraine. The loop trail at Roaring Run does not let up. It's an unrelenting eight mile mountain bike slug fest.

When I say technical I'm not talking about five foot drops or ultra steep slopes; ! though there are a few cliffs along the trail !The best way to describe RR's technical nature, is just rugged. Tough sections of trail that require good bike handling skill coupled with strength and endurance. Lot's of interesting features to steer your bike up over and through; Roaring run is my favorite trail system in the area.

Roaring Run Apollo should not be confused with Roaring Run in Champion Pennsylvania near 7 Springs. Roaring Run in Champion is a protected watershed and designated wilderness area and is closed to Mountain Biking.

Roaring Run Park is managed and owned by the Roaring Run Watershed Association. A non profit group that oversees the park.

Getting There
Roaring Run is along the Kiski River about two miles outside of the downtown area of Apollo. If you are coming in via route 66 North, cross the bridge into Apollo make the first right onto Astronaut Way. If you are coming in the other direction make a left on the last street in town before you cross the Kiski River bridge. After a mile the road will veer left up the hill and become Cherry Lane Road, instead of going up the hill keep right and go along the river merging onto Canal street. Canal street continues for another mile and ends at the Roaring Run parking area.

The Blue Loop
Roaring run has some the most well marked trails in the area so it's easy to come out and find a great ride even if you are not familiar with the park. The most well marked and easiest to find is what's know as the blue loop, as it as well as other trails in the area are demarked with little plastic blue squares and flags.

Getting to the blue loop is easy, follow the rail trail up river for about one mile, cross the bridge over Roaring Run and turn left. The first thing you'll see is a trail off to your right. This is where the blue loop ends; continue past this and you'll find the well marked trail head straight ahead of you. Though it might be compelling to just jump on the trail off to your right and ride the loop backwards, the signs posted recommend riding the loop clockwise the way it was designed.

The ride starts off on Zig Zag trail and starts out climbing a set of switch backs.

After a few miles a climb takes you up to Red Town Road. Across the road is Cave Bear trail. This is marked expert. There is a marked bypass that takes you around this section but I recommend you check this trail out. Even if you walk your bike don't miss this section. The trail weaves between rocks, boulders and along cliffs and is quite scenic. It's a very neat kind of place.

After about 300 yards the bypass trail meets back up with you. Another quarter mile and the trail doubles back and begins a downhill taking you back down to the rail trail. Take extreme care and resist the urge to bomb this section. In places the rocky trail runs only a couple feet from a cliffs edge.

At the bottom of the downhill, take a right on the rail trail and start heading back down towards the parking area. Look for a dirt road entering the trial trail and make a right. Look for a trail on your left. From here on out, in several places the blue loop will join back up with the rail trail and then divert back into the woods.

The Trail Leading to the Loop
If you head straight up the rail trail to the blue loop you'll be passing up a great trail. There is great trail that takes you right up to the blue loop trail head. This trail runs parallel to the left of the rail trail and heads for the blue loop trail up the left of the rail trail.

To find this trail, start up the rail trail and look for a double track service road off to your left. Head up the road for about 200 yards and just as the grade begins to let off a little there will be a trail that cross over the road. Make a right onto this trail. It will take you down a very steep rocky section of trail; it's an intimidating slope, walking down this section is not a bad idea. This trail levels off about half way down and then runs along a bench between the rail trail and top of the river hill ridge.

This trail runs along the rail trail for about a mile until it enters the Roaring Run valley; at this point it turns left and follows the valley contours. It continues up the valley for about a 1/4 mile until it doubles back on itself on a steep down hill. After this it runs beside a paved chipped walking trail that runs down the valley, eventually dumping you out onto it. Continue down the chipped trail a few yards to where it intersects the rail trail. Make a left and cross the bridge over Roaring run to the blue loop.

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