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Mountain Biking at Brown County

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Saturday afternoon I spent a couple hours mountain biking with Dave. Nothing epic, just a few trails at Brown County State Park, including the Aynes Loop, which has a long climb. This is a climb that both of us have ridden many times, so it’s always useful as a benchmark of what kind of shape we’re in. Let’s just say it was an eye-opening experience — it took longer and hurt a lot more than it should have. We made it all the way up without stopping, but it was rough. I really have to get back in shape, but it was a really fun ride.

One fun story: my rear tire had been slipping around a bit and I was riding along somewhat absent-mindedly, thinking about what was going on with my tire when I stuck my knee out too far in a turn and smacked it on a tree. I heard a CRACK! sound echo through the woods. Oddly enough my knee is fine, so I guess I broke the tree …

Mountain biking at Brown County with Tim and Dave

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Tim and Dave and I had planned a mountain biking excursion at Brown County State Park. We were going to ride on 9/25, but it rained for several days leading up to that date, and just poured on that day. Usually, we’ll ride in rain, but the mountain bike trails were too muddy to ride without damaging them. Plus, frankly, it would have been a miserable day. The rain was coming down constantly all day.

So, we pushed the ride back a week, to this past Sunday. This time, we lucked out. It was chilly in the morning: 38 degrees Fahrenheit according to my car. Later in the day, it would warm up to 66 degrees or so. That’s a pretty wide range of temperatures, but it was a beautiful day all the day without a cloud in the sky, and deep blue skies. A chill in the air is ideal, to me, especially for mountain biking.

Tim had never ridden these trails. For Dave and I, these are our home trails, so we knew Tim was in for a treat. By the way, Tim has an excellent writeup of the ride on his blog, complete with some pictures.

When we rolled out, I was in the lead. I wasn’t sure what kind of pace the guys wanted to ride, and it took a few minutes for me to find a ┬ápace that seemed comfortable to me. What I discovered was, I was feeling really good. This surprised me a bit, since my training has been a bit lacking lately, but no complaints here!

The way we rode the trails, they started out easy and more or less get progressively harder. This allowed us a good warmup before we had to deal with rock gardens and other technical features. Also, the easier trails are extremely fun. Even the easiest trails have challenges, really, but for the most part you can open up and pick up some speed.

Since I was feeling strong, I pushed it a bit, and on these trails, any extra energy you put into your riding is well-rewarded in the form of extra fun. If you can keep your speed up a little, a fun rolling ride through the woods becomes more of a roller-coaster ride. That’s exactly what happened. I hope the pace wasn’t too fast. I wasn’t sure how long I could keep it up, but I was having a blast.

Pine Loop, North Tower, Aynes, and Green Valley were all a ton of fun. Tim said they kind of ran together in his head, and I think for me they did too, even though I’m quite familiar with them.

These shots are from somewhere along the Aynes loop.

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Here, Dave and Tim and navigating some rocks toward the top of Aynes.

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And there they go!

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As I said, I wasn’t sure how long I could keep up the ambitious pace. Up through this point we were still moving quite quickly. Most of the way up Hesitation Point was the same way. I love how it feels when I’m riding strong.

Hesitation Point is a “black diamond” trail, one of the harder ones we would encounter. It’s two miles, mostly climbing in this direction. It has a lot of technical features along the way, including tight switchbacks, rock gardens, etc. I made it up the two rock gardens, amazingly — I almost never clear those on the way up.

I felt great! Then, we approached the “rock waterfall,” which is basically a really big rock garden. It looked absolutely daunting. But I thought, “what the heck, I’m on fire today, I’ll give it a shot!” Unfortunately as I entered, something, probably my pedal, got caught on a rock, pulling me to a stop. I knew I was going to lose my balance, and tried to fall in such a way that I wouldn’t get hurt. Unfortunately, my kneecap landed right on a sharp rock.

I got up and walked it off for a couple of minutes. It looked like it was going to swell a bit, but it really wasn’t bad. It hurt, but I walking on it helped. I hoped that riding would help even more, so we got back on our bikes, and I did find that it felt better as I rode. I guess it helps that I basically came to a complete stop before falling.

As we rode on, I had lost a little bit of my edge. I still did well on most of the rest of the HP features, though I did skip the large boulder. I’ve never really figured out how to muscle my way up that one. Everything else went fine, and soon we were at the top, taking in the view, having a snack, and taking some photos.

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Now we continued on and on the next trail, the Walnut Trail, I did OK for a bit but once we hit the technical parts, I lost the flow, and my nerve. There are a number of really difficult technical sections on this trail, sometimes several features one right after another, and I just couldn’t do it. I ended up walking large sections of this trail, and getting quite frustrated in the process.

Eventually we reached the end and got on the Limekiln Trail, which is an easy trail, but with sections of pump track, it’s incredibly fun. Here I found my groove again and we kicked ass the rest of the way to the end of the trail. It felt good to get the flow back.

We took a break and refilled our Camelbaks, ate some unappealing Clif bars and such, and then headed back. I felt pretty good as we rode Limekiln again, but we skipped the hardest part of Walnut, and I was glad we did. That trail just isn’t fun to me, and I was getting tired. Tired and technical aren’t a good combination.

By the time we reached Hesitation Point, I was slowing down considerably. I was nervous about the technical parts on HP, since I had messed up on my way up. I was also finding that while I like to keep a loose grip on the bars to allow bumps to be absorbed by the bars, rather than my body, as I got more and more tired, I couldn’t keep a loose, fluid grip. I was gripping the bars too tightly, which made some things more difficult, but I couldn’t seem to help it.

So, I just went slowly and cautiously down HP. I did clear most of the technical features on the way down, but not as fluidly as I had earlier in the ride. Somewhere around the bottom of HP, Dave’s leg started cramping.

Fortunately we were on the home stretch at this point and made our way back to the parking lot. Tim was on fire now, and showed no sign of slowing down. He was just flying. I was struggling to keep up, but still, the return trip was a lot of fun. It helps that it’s mostly downhill. We hit Pine Loop on our way back which is just such a fun way to end a ride.

By the end of the ride, we had ridden every trail in the park except for Schooner Trace, which is an “Expert”-level trail. Too technical for us.

After the ride, we headed into the small town tourist trap of Nashville, IN, and hit up the Big Woods Brewing Company. I had heard a lot of great things about them. I enjoyed an excellent stout and a good, but not great, burger. It was a great end to a great day of riding.

The ride was Sunday. It’s now Tuesday, and I’m still stiff and sore. I forgot the extent to which mountain biking takes its toll on your body, much more than any other kind of riding. But it’s a good soreness, reminiscent of a fun day on the bike. The knee that I smashed is a little bruised and sore, but it’s not bad at all.

More Brown County Mountain Biking

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Last weekend was my last weekend before school started back up, so naturally, I wanted to ride. I thought about a long, solo road ride, but when the weekend arrived, I wasn’t really feeling it. Instead, I got a hold of Dave and we went to Brown County for some more riding there.

Dave called this our “bizzaro ride” because we did several trails in the opposite direction from the way we usually ride them.

We rode down North Tower Loop, then rode Green Valley, Aynes, North Tower Loop, and finally, Pine Loop, all “backwards.” Here’s a map of our route. I’m not sure if the map is quite right, as I was having GPS issues.

Even though it was a short ride in terms of mileage, this was the best mountain bike ride of the year for both of us. We were in the zone and pushed the pace more than usual during much of the ride. These trails are always a blast but at a faster pace, they’re even more fun. You really appreciate the flow of the trails better when you’re carving turns, bombing down hills and pedaling up more vigorously.

Green Valley was, in this direction, incredibly fun. The first half or more was downhill and with a few great switchbacks, minor ups and downs along the way, flow, and views of ravines, creeks, and even a lake in the distance were stellar.

In the photo below, you can see the trail coming down the hill on the other side of the ravine. As you can see, the trail is rather narrow. What you can’t see are a bunch of rocks in the trail surface as well. The trail comes around a bend, goes down into the ravine, switches back and then climbs back out again. It’s beautiful and exhilarating.

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However, we would pay for all that sweet descending. There were a couple of tough climbs toward the end of the trail and it also got more technical maybe 2/3 of the way through. The climbing and more-technical trail interrupted the flow a bit, but it was still a lot of fun. And the technical parts are tricky enough to be exciting and push the limits of what I’m comfortable with at times, but never over the line.

After Green Valley, we took a break and I got some shots of my bike. It’s so great to have the 29er rolling again!

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I had Dave take my picture with the bike. You can tell we were both thrilled to be out in the woods.

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We got moving again, debating which way to go. We decided to ride Aynes “backwards,” which we had only ever done a couple of times, a long time ago. It was more fun than I remembered, and I made it up a tough rock garden that’s tricky when going downhill (the way we usually ride it), and even harder going up. Dave and I both walked over one large root, but I think I may attempt it next time. It’s in a tough spot, but I think I can do it.

Most of the rest of the trail was just wonderfully flowing.

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We also did the North Tower Loop backwards on our way back and once again, pushed the pace more than usual … and had a blast.

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As we were rolling downhill back toward the parking lot, the flow even better than before, neither of us wanted to stop. Dave suggested we ride Pine Loop and it was just the right thing. Some more flowing, swoopy trail, and a few opportunities to catch air, and we reached the bottom of the hill. Then we had a bit of climbing to get back to where we had parked, but we had really let loose the rest of the ride and soft-pedaled back to our cars.

What a great afternoon in the woods!

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