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An Introduction to the 2013 Swobo Fillmore

A guest post by Laura of Loose Nuts Cycles in Atlanta, GA

I love a good mountain bike ride, but if I can’t make it out of the city, there are few things better than cruising around town on a beautiful, warm day with a great bike underneath you.  Atlanta had it’s first glimpse of spring this past weekend.  It was sunny, almost 70 degrees, just a little breezy, and quite literally the perfect day for city cycling.  I had several errands to run and was looking forward to being out and about on a new machine.

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Fat tire wheelie courtesy of Chris
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Frostbike–A bicycle non-professional at a bicycle industry trade show

A guest post by Laura Colbert of Loose Nuts Cycles in Atlanta, GA

So, I know my byline up there says that I represent Loose Nuts Cycles when I write.  The truth is that I am by no means a bicycle industry professional.  I ride my bike to work and around town, love a mountain bike ride, help out at the local velodrome and am marrying a bike shop owner, but I have never been paid to ride or work on bikes or to be knowledgeable about bicycle-related things.  I am a bicycle non-professional.

This weekend, my partner (owner of Loose Nuts Cycles) and I flew to Minneapolis so that he could attend Frostbike 2013–QBP’s annual conference and trade show.  I originally signed up because I have some family in the city and wanted to visit with them, but I was also curious about what went on at bicycle industry gatherings.  I’m in public health, so I’m used to peer-reviewed abstracts, break out sessions, suits, and networking events when I go to a conference.

Before we even left Atlanta for the frigid northern lands of Minnesota,  I knew I was in for something different than the expert-packed, abstract-ridden, brain-overwhelming days of public health conferences.  Chris forwarded an email to me with the subject line “2013 Frostbike Beer Hunt”, which described a scavenger hunt-type activity that you could complete at the vendor expo in order to earn “a 22oz. bottle of limited-edition Frostbike beer that was brewed and bottled by the QBP Vendor Sales Team”.  It’s not that we public health folks don’t have fun at our conferences, but we’ve certainly never hosted a Beer Hunt.  I could tell that Chris’s “professional” trip was going to be a very different kind of professional than I was used to.

Essentially, our schedule was this:

Friday–arrive in Minneapolis and find hotel.  Go to All City Bikes party (via a party bus called the Night Rider) and have beer- and bike-related fun.

Saturday–Go to QBP headquarters.  Check out the vendor expo for the morning.  Eat delicious lunch provided by Thompson and QBP.  Ride Surly fat bikes in the snow.  Back to expo.  Return to hotel for dinner.

Sunday–More expo. Take tour of QBP headquarters.  Eat more delicious lunch.  Ride more fat bikes (Salsa this time).  Win stuff at a raffle.  Back to hotel.

Monday–Sit on butt.  Fly back to Atlanta.

After4 bicycle packed days, these are the things that stuck with me:

  1. Fat tire bikes are awesome, especially when used for their intended purpose–snow.

    fat tires

    fat tires

  2. QBP likes girls.  My name tag said “Dealer” which probably helped, but all of the brands and bike professionals with whom I spoke treated me very equitably, like I knew as much as Chris did.  They made sure to look at both of us when talking about products.  I liked the feeling of not being talked down to and treated knowledgeably, even if I wasn’t actually knowledgeable.  I hope that Frostbike 2014 includes seminars for bike shop owners about how to make women cyclists feel like that in their shops.  It seems pretty rare in the bike world.
  3. The bicycle apparel industry apparently hates women–I’ll rant more about this in a later post, but women’s bicycle clothing continues to be made to look exactly like men’s cycling apparel but with an added flower or ruffle.  I saw not one piece of clothing at the entire show that I would be excited about wearing.
  4. POC Helmets look awesome–awesome enough to reduce how dorky I normally feel when wearing a helmet.
  5. Brooks still makes beautiful, drool-worthy leather products–I fell in love with this Brooks bag.  Oh yeah, and this bag is pretty amazing in the grape color.
  6. The Surly display.  They had obviously put a lot of thought and design into their space, even though it was just temporary.  Plus, the new Big Dummy cargo system premiered, which was exciting.
    Custom painted Moonlander just outside the Surly display area

    Custom painted Moonlander just outside the Surly display area

    New Surly Big Dummy bag and top plate

    New Surly Big Dummy bag and top plate

     

  7. There is a common sense of purpose between the Frostbike attendees.  Even though people didn’t know each other, they shared a priority and experience that connected them.  It sounds like hippy talk, but it made Frostbike feel welcoming and warm.  The feeling helped to re-energize a lot of attendees (including myself) about riding, even in the middle of winter.
  8. Kenda’s new tube vending machine–this is being tested in several pilot areas before it will be available to the mass market.  Pretty fun product.

    For all those times when you need a tube and your local bike shop isn't open to help you

    For all those times when you need a tube and your local bike shop isn’t open to help you

I was prepared to come back and report that professional bike trade shows are just an excuse to have a good party and talk about bikes all weekend.  While partying and talking about riding bikes and actually riding bikes was essentially all that we did for 3 days, I was surprised at how much actual business got done.  Vendors with whom I spoke were really excited and helpful when talking about their new products.  Bike shop owners were stoked that these new products met the needs of their customers (with the exception of women’s cycling clothing–ugh! Still unreasonably pissed about this).  Everyone wanted to ride bikes and generally the atmosphere at Frostbike fueled that fire.  It was fun to come home and be stoked to get on my bike and know that thousands of other people were doing the same thing as they returned home from Frostbike too.

Lights on the trail
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Mountain bike night rides

A guest post by Laura Colbert of Loose Nuts Cycles in Atlanta, GA.

I am planning to do some mountain bike racing this spring and thus have been trying to get some extra miles on my mountain bike.  Living in the middle of Atlanta makes this difficult, especially during the week.  Luckily I’ve discovered a local Tuesday night no-drop trail ride.  I’ve ridden this ride a couple times recently and am pretty happy about the added miles that I’m getting without having to go too far or change my schedule too much.

I would like to say that when I first started riding a mountain bike, I thought that only insanity and a love of medical bills would cause someone to try this in the dark.  It was a challenge for me to make it through an entire ride in full sunshine, so why would someone make it harder by limiting what they can see?  As I’ve ridden more and mountain biking has become more intuitive for me, I’ve figured out why some cyclists choose to ride at night.  Night rides are great because:

  1. Winter days are short and dark.  Night rides provide the opportunity for mountain bike fun despite the short days.  Just make sure to bundle up, because the temperature gets colder the later into the night you ride.
  2. In the summer, when daytime temperatures are unbearable, riding at night decreases your chances of being disgustingly sweaty and getting  sunburned, thus increasing your chances of actually enjoying the ride.
  3. Weekends fill up quickly and 9-to-5 jobs leave little time for day time rides.  Night rides fit nicely into a busy schedule.  (I do get a little less sleep on night-ride nights.  I guess something has to give.)
  4. It’s a new challenge.  With just ambient light and a headlight to guide you, your brain has to adjust it’s depth perception and you have to react to the trail more quickly.  It requires you to step up your game.
  5. It’s fun to roam around in the dark woods.  It feels a little like being a high school hooligan (yep, I said hooligan), a little mischievous.
  6. (Don’t tell anyone that I said this, but it gives you the opportunity to ride trails that you might not be able to ride during the day–trails labeled “No bikes” or some private property trails.  Sshhhh…that’s a secret…I’m not saying it actually happens.  I’m just saying that it could hypothetically happen.)

I still consider myself a night-ride beginner, but every time I finish the Faster Mustache Tuesday night ride, I come home with new advice for myself, so I thought I might share some of that with those of you thinking about trying it.

  1. Plan ahead– I was planning on a night ride a couple weeks ago and got home to discover that I had forgotten to charge my headlight battery.  No light, no ride.  No plan, no ride.
  2. Be prepared–During a recent night ride I broke my derailleur hanger.  Luckily someone else had come prepared with zip ties and a chain breaker.  Otherwise, I would have had to walk the several miles home.  You should be fully prepared for every ride you go on, but the risk of walking home/back to the car in the dark and late at night underscores the importance of preparedness.
  3. Double check that your light is fully charged–Having ridden with a dying light before, I can tell you that it’s not fun.  Riding at night is already a challenge.  Not having a light makes it just plain dangerous.  Charge your light and if you think that your ride might outlast your light, bring an extra one.  I ride with the Niterider MiNewt Pro 750.  My night rides are about 3 hours and it hasn’t failed me yet.
  4. Know the trail or ride with a friend who knows the trail (and is the same speed as you)–I’m new to the in-town Atlanta night ride.  The other cyclists have generally ridden these trails hundreds of times or are pretty quick and can keep up with those who are familiar with the trails.  I am neither familiar or quick enough to keep up with the group (only girl on the ride usually…).  This makes for some frustrating moments sometimes.  I often get to trail intersections and have no idea which way to go.  I’ve discovered that I’m pretty good at either picking the wrong direction or not seeing the turn at all.  One of the guys usually comes to track me down or makes loud enough noises so that I can find my way back to the group.  I try to laugh about my adventures alone in the dark, but it can be frustrating.  That said, if you’re going to ride at night, pick a trail that you know pretty well or make sure your riding companions will ride at your pace or come find you when you get lost.
  5. Don’t give up after the first time–Night riding is hard.  Your brain will have to adjust its depth perception skills.  You can’t see as far ahead as you can in the daylight, so you have to react to the trail more quickly.  You might get lost at some point.  Don’t let those things convince you not to try it again.  Give it another shot.  It gets easier and more fun, I promise.
  6. Find a local late-night eatery–You know how hungry you are after every mountain bike ride? Night rides are no exception, so know where the closest late-night joint is located.  We always end our ride at a local pizza place and when we roll up at 11 pm, we’re always the last people in there.  A beer and some slices make the perfect midnight snack before we all split up to head home and go to bed.

For those of you who are night-ride experienced, did I miss anything?  What other advice do you have?

A weekend away together on bikes
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St. Valentine rode a bicycle

A guest post by Laura Colbert of Loose Nuts Cycles in Atlanta, GA.

Hey love birds!  It’s Valentines Day and while I’m not a big fan of this day, I am a fan of going on dates on other days of the year.  I also like giving/receiving romantic gestures on days that are not explicitly prescribed for that purpose.  So, in the spirit of St. Valentine, I thought I would provide those of you last-minute Valentine’s Day planners and others of you who plan dates year-round with a couple of fun bicycle-related date ideas.  Let’s do this!

  1. Bicycle picnics–Required supplies:  weather that both you and your partner enjoy, portable food,  a bag of some kind, and a place to which you will cycle.   Good picnic foods include: a nice block of cheese, fresh bread, some pretty grapes, a fancy salami or other no-refrigeration-required meat, and beverages.  (Don’t forget your picnic accessories–cups, pocket knife, eating surface like a paper napkin.)  The critical part of a romantic picnic is the location.  Traditional choices include parks and scenic overlooks.  I have friends who like the tops of parking garages.  Scout out fun, private locations in your city.  Get creative.  You could even make it a fancy occasion by getting dressed up for your picnic and bringing flowers for your significant other.  There are so many fun ways to make a picnic extra romantic or fun (whichever you’re going for), so let your imagination run wild.
  2. Dinner and a race (or other bicycle-related event)–My partner and I regularly visit Atlanta’s Dick Lane Velodrome for a fun Saturday evening.  One of us treats the other by buying the tickets.  We pack beer or coke, buy dinner from the concessions stand, and we picnic in the bleachers.  It’s a unique twist on dinner and a movie.  You could do this with a lot of cycling related events.  Criteriums and cyclocross are good for dates because of the shorter, repeated courses.  Bicycle parades (think Halloween Critical Mass in any major city) are also a good opportunities.  Sometimes even an alley cat stop can make for some good spectator fun.
  3. Ride your bicycle to somewhere together–Both my partner and I ride bikes, but we often comment that we don’t ride many places together.  Ride to dinner at your favorite restaurant or ride to a movie together.  It doesn’t have to be a long ride.  It’ll give you the chance to chat, comment on the funny/weird things you see along the way, and otherwise enjoy each others’ company.
  4. See the city tour–Spend an afternoon on your bikes together.  Don’t plan a route or even a destination.  Just get on your bikes, pedal at a comfortable, no-sweat pace, and go with the flow.  Maybe you’ll find a cool bar that you didn’t know existed.  Maybe you’ll pedal around the park.  Who knows?!?!  Take your time, make a couple stops, and have fun.
  5. Try a tandem–Find a bicycle shop near you or a friend that owns a tandem and you borrow it.  I guarantee that you’ll learn something about each other while you’re straddling a tandem.  A couple tips for those of you who haven’t ridden a tandem before: Captain (person on the front)–be a good listener and compromise with your partner.  Stoker (person on the back)–Trust your partner because they don’t want to crash either.  Good luck!

I think the most important things to remember for a bike-related date is that it’s not a race and you’re doing it to spend time together.  There’s no need to be serious or competitive about it.  That takes “date” part out of it and just makes it another bike ride.  Enjoy each other and your bikes–whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not.

What other good bike date ideas or advice do you all have?

 

P.S. Saint Valentine did not actually ride a bicycle.  Historians think he lived around 200 A.D., when the bicycle was not yet invented.  Still, I bet he’d ride a bicycle if he were alive today…mostly because he was deeply religious and would probably live a minimal, car-free life.  Just a guess….

Lead group
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Louisville 2013: Imperfect but awesome

A guest post from Laura Colbert of Loose Nuts Cycles in Atlanta, GA

There are a lot of Cyclocross World Championship race reports floating around the internet by now.  I think that other people have done an excellent job covering the technical details of Saturday’s races–who won, by how much, and what were they riding.  (If you didn’t watch it live on cxmagazine.com or haven’t read the race reports yet, check out these: Bleacher Report or Bicycling.com.)  As I said in last week’s post, I was looking forward to attending CX Worlds and planned on reporting back.  Rather than rehash what’s already been done by others, I thought I would provide a review of the event as a whole, from the fan’s perspective, rather than a sports reporter’s.

Last week, I wrote that the first time for anything is fun and special and challenging.  A first kiss, a first win, a first job.  Those firsts may not be what you thought they would be, but they hold a special charm that will always be remembered and felt.  That’s how this weekend felt in Louisville.  It was a first and because it was a first, it was imperfect but charming, and challenging but better for it.

The first and probably biggest challenge of the weekend was the Ohio River, next to which Eva Bandman park is located.  Due to recent storms in the northeast, the Ohio River swelled causing hydrologists to predict the park would be flooded by late Saturday night, making Sunday racing an impossibility.  So the organizers compressed the race schedule into one day.  Racers and coaches reportedly took the news angrily or ambivalently depending on their country of origin.  As a fan who was planning on standing in freezing temperatures for two days, I was stoked to hear it would be just one day instead.  And once the races got started, I can’t imagine having the event any other way but compressed.  There was only 30 minutes to 1 hour between races, so it was just enough time to get in line for beer, visit the restroom, and find another good spot on the course before the next race.  Plus, it added to the excitement to have 4 championships in a day.  Each race built on the previous one and by the men’s elite race, you couldn’t have found more excited fans even if you had moved the races back to Europe.  The men and women of the Louisville Municipal Sewer Department deserve a big thank you for the work they did to hold back the Ohio River.  They were literally building temporary levees and piling sandbags next to the river through all of  the day’s events.  I don’t think we would have made it much past the women’s race if they weren’t so damn good at their jobs.  Thanks Louisville MSD.

Thanks to the Louisville Metro Sewer Department for the sandbags, temporary levees, and water pumps.

Thanks to the Louisville Metro Sewer Department for the sandbags, temporary levees, and water pumps.

The second challenge was the weather.  It snowed about 2 inches on Saturday morning before the races started.  Despite Kentucky’s historically bad handling of winter weather  (Yes, Kentucky gets snow every year, but for some reason it can’t quite get a handle on what to do when that happens…every year….  I’m a Kentuckian.  This is a fact.), the roads were salted and clear.  The races started on time and never fell behind schedule.  To add to the snow, Saturday’s temperatures proved difficult for cyclists, but made for a fantastic course.  Early on, in the Juniors race, the course was frozen which made for tricky run-ups, extra sliding around corners, and pit stops to pick up fresh bikes whose gears weren’t frozen.  As the day warmed up, the snow melted into the dirt, creating Super Mud Fest 2013.  The U23 and men’s elite cyclists all look like creatures from the Black Lagoon they were so muddy.  I’m not sure how the cyclists felt about that, but it made for an awesome spectator experience.  Oh, and maybe my favorite weather moment of the day was when it started to snow as the elite men began their race, the last race of the day.  Anticipation was tangible, camaraderie abounded (partly due to intoxication levels), and snow started to fall at almost the same moment that the race began.  It felt like cycling magic.

A snowy, icy course made the juniors race extra exciting.

A snowy, icy course made the juniors race extra exciting.

The amount of mud on the course increased exponentially for the U23 and the men's elite race.

The amount of mud on the course increased exponentially for the U23 and the men’s elite race.

 

A challenge for every race organizer is how to keep crowds under control, whether at the ticket line and entrance gates, the concession stands, course crossings, or restrooms.  With 10,000 estimated attendees, the Louisville organizers did a pretty good job.  All of the volunteers, race officials, and other people in “Louisville 2013″ high-vis vests were courteous, professional, and for the most part, fun.  I was especially impressed with the course crossing guards.  They did a great job making sure people got through the limited crossings efficiently, but also made sure the course was safe and clear for the riders.  That said, the one sour spot in the day was the concessions.  There was only one concessions tent and two smaller beer tents.  The snack line at one point was an hour and a half long.  You might miss 2 races if you got stuck in it.  Beer was supplied by Sierra Nevada and their supplies were gone by the end of the women’s elite race (only half way through the day).  They were able to bring in a new shipment, but the entire U23 race was a dry one.  In the big scheme of things, concessions are probably a small detail, but when spectators aren’t allowed to bring in their own food and drink, race organizers should make sure supplies are plentiful and lines are short.  Grumpy, hungry, not-drunk-anymore fans are no good.

The hour and a half long snack and beer line.  The line snaked several times in the tent too.

The hour and a half long snack and beer line. The line snaked several times inside the tent too.

 

Thank god Sierra Nevada delivered more beer supplies before the men's elite race.

Thank god Sierra Nevada delivered more beer supplies before the men’s elite race.

One thing that makes or breaks a big event for me is the crowd, the fans.  If fans suck, the event sucks.  Lucky for me, the Louisville fans were amazing!  The event organizers report about 10,000 attendees, which doesn’t compare to European World Championships, but exceeds naysayers’ expectations.  Those that came to the races proved that American fans can be just as enthusiastic as European ones and that there’s a growing group of us–enough to support a World Championship.  There were amazing costumes, coordinated outfits, and homemade clothing.  Best of all, everyone was super nice, stoked on cyclocross, and ready to have a good time.  Check out my favorite fans:

Check out those awesome bald eagle jackets!

Check out those awesome bald eagle jackets!

What do you think is under that kilt?

What do you think is under that kilt?

That girl made that dress by hand.  It was beautiful and well-made, but mostly perfect for the occasion.

That girl made that dress by hand. It was beautiful and well-made, but mostly perfect for the occasion.

 

U-S-A! U-S-A!

U-S-A! U-S-A!

We saw lots of jumpsuits, none more high-vis than this one.

We saw lots of jumpsuits, none more high-vis than this one.

First times are special and this one was no exception.  I am stoked that I got to be a part of this event.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was a success despite the challenges.  I think that Louisville showed Europe that the US can handle a CX World Championship.  I hope we’re given another chance to prove it.

So much fun!

So much fun!

Female cyclocross rider in Georgia.  Photo by Nathan Bolster.
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Preview of Louisville 2013–Cyclocross World Championships

A guest post from Laura Colbert of Loose Nuts Cycles in Atlanta, GA

Normally, I’ve just started making my weekend plans by this time in the week, but I’ve had this weekend planned for months…maybe longer.  This weekend I’ll be traveling to Louisville, KY for the UCI Cyclocross World Championships!  So stoked right now!

This weekend in Louisville is sure to be amazing for several reasons:

1. It’s the first time that the CX World Championships has been held outside of Europe.  Last year, UCI gave Louisville a practice run with the Master’s World Championships.  The masters returned to Louisville again this year and brought the rest of the World Championship events with them.  The first time for anything is fun and challenging and special.  This weekend will set the bar for US-hosted world CX events.  If it goes well, maybe the World Championships will come back to the US.  If it doesn’t, you can bet that Europe will be hosting all the major CX races for years to come.

2.  It’s taking place in Louisville’s Eva Bandman Park.  Bandman Park is the only park in the U.S. that is specifically dedicated to the sport of cyclocross, which means that the course should be great.  If you want to preview the course, check out this guy’s blog.  If you want to know what cyclists and officials think about the course, Velo News has a great article with thoughts from a lot of the top cyclists that have ridden it.  If this weekend goes well, maybe other cities will consider building their own cyclocross specific venues.

3.  European-style excitement about cyclocross!  The event organizers say that they’re expecting 5000-6000 people to attend each day of the event.  In addition to massive crowds, I fully expect that we’ll see some amazingly ridiculous cheering and fanaticism.  Cyclocross is not exactly America’s national pass time, so American cyclocross events don’t often elicit the same enthusiasm that they do in Europe.  That will not be case this weekend.  The U.S.’s biggest cyclocross fans will be out in full force, with some back up from European visitors and guests from around the world.  Expect awesome crowds, creative fans (I bet we’ll see some face/body paint despite the cold temperatures), and lots of noise.

4.  The possibility of home court victories for the American cyclists!  If you’re not familiar with the US’s world champion roster, check out USA Cycling’s report and 22-person roster here.  I do not usually shine with national pride, but I inexplicably swell with patriotism during sporting events.  I can’t help it.  The world championships are here, at home, and may never return to US soil.  Our American cyclists have to make the most of this moment and capture some podium spots.  Win on their home court.  Prove to the Europeans that America can produce cyclocross champions.  Velo News has a good analysis the American chances of winning this weekend.

If you have a weekend with few plans and live in any state that borders Kentucky (or are otherwise reasonably close), you should cancel your plans and make your way to Louisville.  If you aren’t able to make it this weekend, no worries.  CX Magazine is live streaming the event right here.  Also, check the Louisville 2013 Facebook page for updates.

I’m going to be taking lots of pictures, checking out the course, pits, and venue, and talking to as many cyclists and spectators as I can.  Next week, I’ll be reporting back about the weekend and the races.  Leave a comment if you want me to try to chat with a specific cyclist, or get a picture of a particular part of the course, or whatever.  I’ll do my best.

Photo credit to Nathan Bolster of Bolster Photography.

SDC10047
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Trail Review: Coldwater Mountain, Anniston, AL

A guest post by Laura Colbert of Loose Nuts Cycles in Atlanta, GA

Since Monday was a federal holiday, it was one of the rare days when both my partner, Chris, and I have the same day off of work.  After a week’s worth of rain in Atlanta, we needed some outside play time, so no idea seemed better than a day on our mountain bikes.  Chris had been talking about these new trails in Alabama for a while, so we decided to head west to check them out.  I have to admit, I was skeptical about driving to Alabama to go mountain biking.  Living in Atlanta, we usually head north to Tennessee and the Carolinas for the best trails.  Alabama didn’t seem like an intuitive place to go for awesome trail riding.

All of the reviews that I found of the Coldwater Mountain trail mentioned a 1.5 mile beginner and a 9 mile intermediate loop; however, when we arrived at the trail head we heard from some locals that they had recently added an optional loop off of the beginner loop, adding another couple of miles.  Starting from the parking lot, we descended immediately at that great angle that looks flat but is just downhill enough to make you feel extra fast.  The trail builders didn’t hesitate about including jump opportunities from the start, so be ready as soon as you clip in/put your feet on the pedals.  After about a mile , the trail splits 3 directions (from left to right): beginner loop extension (new), intermediate loop, beginner loop.  We went left and continued our jumpy, smooth descent, with the added benefit of some wide, easy berms.  So fun and so fast!  When the downhill ended (as it inevitably does…), the uphill was pretty reasonable.  It didn’t take too long to get back to the gravel parking lot.  Total extended beginner loop–a fast, fun 2.5ish miles.

SDC10031

After getting some directions from a local dad with a lot of unsolicited advice, we headed out for loop on the longer intermediate loop.  We began with the same quick descent as before, but this time took the middle fork.  We descended a bit more and then began the 6 mile climb that you’ll find mentioned in almost every online review of this trail.  I have a habit of getting grumpy during long uphills, so needless to say, I was not happy by uphill mile 4 or 5; however, now that I’m not looking ahead at more uphill trail and breathing hard while trying to drink water, I would like to note that the climb wasn’t hard.  It’s just looong….  I think most people who have some time in a mountain bike saddle will be able to find the right gear and spin it to the top.  There’s nothing too technical to get in the way, just a lot of pedal strokes.  When you do get to the top of the mountain, you ride through a section of flat baby-head rock before getting to this sign:

SDC10043

and this sign:

SDC10045

Then the descent starts. :D  The descent splits not too long after it starts: left–intermediate, right–most difficult.  I chose to go right, knowing that Chris had probably made that same decision 30-seconds before me.  I was a bit nervous at first to pick this option, but it turned out it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. There  were no sudden drops, no rock sections, no roots or generally sketchy sections. There were jump opportunities from beginning to end of the 3-plus mile descent.  As a girl who is just beginning to get comfortable jumping, I stayed on the ground most of the time, but the trail flowed well, whether grounded or airborne.  The most difficult part of the “Most Difficult” trail was just knowing what speed was right for me going over the manmade jumps and berms.

Unfortunately, this downhill doesn’t spill right out into the parking lot, so we did find ourselves about 2 miles from the parking lot with another long uphill to climb.  It takes away a little of that 3 mile downhill buzz, but definitely not all.  After climbing back to the parking lot, Chris and I unloaded our water and snack supplies and did one more fast lap–just the extended beginners loop–to finish off the day.

SDC10042

While writing this review, it took a lot of effort not to overuse the word “fun”, but if asked to summarize these trails in one word, “fun” is exactly what I would say.  Coldwater Mountain is a great place to be if you want to spend some time jumping and riding around berms, but it’s also built so that it’s fun if your jumping skills are limited/non-existant.  The fun to work ratio is pretty spot on.  I wouldn’t go to Coldwater Mountain to hone my technical skills, but I will be back when I need a fun, fast day on a mountain bike that I know I’ll feel good about.

The other thing I really liked about our visit to Coldwater Mountain is that there was a great mix of skill levels and types of riders on the trail.  We saw families with kids on scoot bikes on the beginner trail.  We saw overweight adult dudes trying to get back in shape by riding the extended beginner trail.  We ran into guys who ride trails multiple times per week.  Most impressively, there were many more women of varying abilities than I usually see on our trail rides.  It really seems like NEABASORBA, and Alabama’s Forever Wild organizations have done a great job of promoting this trail system and including the community in its development.  Even after a bunch of fun jumps and long downhills, the different trail users might have been my favorite part of our visit.

I’ve read that the goal is to make the Coldwater Mountain trail system the next mountain bike mecca in the southeast.  The plan is that within about 5 years, the current 15 miles or so will expand to 60 miles.  Sure enough, we saw evidence of construction and heard from locals that more miles are already in progress.  You can bet that if the remaining 45 miles of trails are as fun as the first 15, I’ll definitely be back.

Bonus feature of Anniston, AL: It’s home to the U.S.’s tallest chair, formerly the tallest in the world.

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Race Report: Atlanta AlleyCross

A guest blog from Laura Colbert of Loose Nuts Cycles in Atlanta, GA.

Saturday was a beautiful day in Atlanta, one of those occasional Southern winter days when it feels like spring–the opposite of what cyclocross weather should be.  Other parts of the country have muddy, sloppy, cold cyclocross races.  In Georgia, the weather always seems to provide us with boring, but beautiful race days.  This pattern held true for Saturday’s 4th Annual AlleyCross race.  It was 70 degrees and sunny, the kind of weather that’s perfectly suited for looking cute while riding your city commuter, but not so much for cyclocross.  Luckily the 2 days before the race had been pretty rainy, so the course was sufficiently sloppy, even if the weather was behaving itself.

AlleyCross is organized by No Hipster Left Behind and is a fun combination of cyclocross and alley cat races.

The event started with mandatory parade lap to familiarize everyone with the route.  That turned out to be fortunate, because it took the better part of an hour to complete (8.5 mile route…so slow) and included a couple wrecks.  Parade laps are not usually that eventful.  However, the extra time also gave us spectators plenty of opportunity to find a good spot for photos and get a head start on beer drinking.  When the racers returned from the parade lap, they left their bikes at the mouth of an alley and were sent down a gravel hill for a Le Mans start.

AlleyCross

The race consisted of two laps along the 8.5 mile race course, and it started and ended at Loose Nuts Cycles.  The route sent cyclists through city parks, gravel and cobblestone alleys, grass run-ups, the relatively new Atlanta Beltline, and regular city streets.  There were several notable obstacles/stops along the way:

  1. The cobblestone alley—I’ve ridden and run up and down this hill.  It’s steep and cobblestone-y, and there’s no visibility to check for cars at the bottom of the alley.  One Saturday, it was also extra slippery from the previous days’ rain.  It’s no joke.Atlanta AlleyCross
  2. The whiskey stop—Down an alley in Grant Park, the racers had a choice: 1. Take a whiskey shot and be on your way; 2. Shoulder your bike and run through a 30-second pine straw section.  I know which choice I would have taken… (whiskey!)

Atlanta AlleyCross

            3.  Barriers—traditional cyclocross barriers (made out of PVC instead of wood planks
4. The Beltline—a neutral zone for the race.  Racers were not allowed to attack in this section.  The Beltline is full of children on bicycles, dogs on and off leashes, roller bladers, skateboarders, and a woman who walks her dog while playing violin.  Even if it wasn’t against the rules, the Beltline is so crowded on nice days that usually it takes most of a cyclist’s attention to just avoid hitting anyone.

The race brought out a great mix of people–serious cyclocross racers, cyclists who have never raced before, and everyone in between.  The 49 race entrants (including 6 women) showed up in everything from full race kits to jeans and tshirts. The spectators were just as diverse–Grant Park and Inman Park residents, other cyclists, friends of cyclists, and future cyclists.

Atlanta AlleyCross

The race went smoothly for the most part, with relatively little drama (only one emergency room visit).   There were comments from experienced riders and new racers alike about how challenging the course was.  It was a well-designed course that really pushed everyone. Even cyclists who just rode the parade route commented on how much effort the route required. Race organizer, Dustin Morado said, “After organizing most of the city races in Atlanta for the last year and a half it was so rewarding to see so many people come out to really push themselves, go fast, and get competitive.”

At the end of the 2 laps, Gary Gomez (male winner), Elizabeth Lee (female winner) and Tim Barrett (single speed winner) beat out everyone else to earn the $40 payout for first place. (Second and third places earned $30 and $10 respectively in all categories.)  Their success was celebrated by everyone by emptying a keg’s worth of Fat Tire beer cans (Thanks Chip!) and then floating another keg in addition.  Needless to say, at the end of the day, lots of bicycle fun was had and everyone needed a beer recovery nap.

Atlanta AlleyCross

Luckily we don’t have to wait too long for another great event like this.  Here are the next race events from the  two race organizers.:

Kyle is running another, easier alleycross in March alongside SoPo’s BHBP 9 weekend.
NHLB will be hosting a fixed course road race in April.
Photo credit to Wil Hughes.  Thanks to Dustin of NHLB for providing me with some extra details about the race.
On the way to the trail
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Night Ride Fail

A guest post by Laura Colbert of Loose Nuts Cycles in Atlanta, GA.

Arleigh mentioned in her New Year’s Day post that she wanted to focus on keeping people riding when the weather is crappy.  I don’t know what your definition of crappy is but mine involves cold temperatures and darkness.  It’s hard to be excited about being on a bicycle when it’s dark and cold outside, but it seems like a winter necessity if you want to ride any time other than the occasional warm weekend.

In an effort to stick to that theme, I was going to write a fabulous post about my first night mountain bike ride in several years, my third night ride ever I think.  I had even typed up an introduction and parts of the post already (I’m a planner…).  I guess my planning had tempted Karma too much because about half way through the ride I rode over a large stick which stabbed into my derailleur hanger, breaking it completely.  The result looked like this :

Broke bike mountain

Luckily, a fellow night mountain biker had come super prepared with a toolkit that included a chain tool, master link, zip ties, and an entertaining story with which to regale us as Chris converted my bike to a single speed in the middle of the Atlanta woods.  Thanks C.K. for being super-prepared.  I was able to single-speed it home rather than walking several miles across the city with a bike in tow.

Single speedy

So, my original plan was to provide you all with some of my lessons learned or tips for night mountain bike riding.  Instead, all I can say is be prepared with tools or be prepared to walk home.  I’m going to try the night riding adventure again in the coming weeks, so if you have any questions about it that you’d like me consider as I bumble and stumble through the dark, let me know.

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