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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?

Reality Bikes Pinarella Dogma
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Bike Shop Build: Pinarello Dogma 65.1 Think2

The thoughts and details during a bike build are what make a great bike shop a resource and a dream factory for bicycle geeks like myself. These custom bike builds are what keep me inspired and excited to continue to work within the industry. Few more bike profiles over yonder.

Pinarello Dogma 65.1 Think2 from Reality Bikes in Cumming, GA

 Photo credit: Duncan McGuire

Reveal the Path
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Reveal the Path in Charlotte

Pretty bummed that I won’t be able to make this as I’ll be off in the sunshine and warmth of Minneapolis, Minnesota for Frostbike.

Reveal The Path will premiere in Charlotte, NC, at Theatre Charlotte, 510 Queens Road, on Thursday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $11 in advance at www.imathlete.com/events/revealthepath ($10 base plus a $1 service fee). Tickets the day of the event will be $15 at the door. This event is a benefit for the Charlotte Area Bicycle Alliance (CABA).

Share the event with your friends on Facebook.

Glory Cycles Orbea Occam 29
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Bike Shop Build: Orbea Occam 29

The thoughts and details during a bike build are what make a great bike shop a resource and a dream factory for bicycle geeks like myself. These custom bike builds are what keep me inspired and excited to continue to work within the industry. Few more bike profiles over yonder.

Orbea Occam 29 from Glory Cycles in Greenville, SC

 

Victory Bicycle Studio Parlee
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Bike Shop Build: Parlee Z5SL

The thoughts and details during a bike build are what make a great bike shop a resource and a dream factory for bicycle geeks like myself. These custom bike builds are what keep me inspired and excited to continue to work within the industry. Few more bike profiles over yonder.

Parlee Z5Sl from Victory Bicycle Studio in Memphis, TN

Photo Credit: Clark Butcher

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.

Mountain Goat FKR
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Bike Shop Build: Mountain Goat FKR

The thoughts and details during a bike build are what make a great bike shop a resource and a dream factory for bicycle geeks like myself. These custom bike builds are what keep me inspired and excited to continue to work within the industry.

Mountain Goat FKR from First Flight Bikes in Statesville, NC

Photo Credit: Jeff Archer

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.

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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:

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and this sign:

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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.

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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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