Friday, November 11, 2011

Love & Hate; Chestnut Ridge Trail.

**The 26" wheels on the hardtail (blasphemy, I know) were the right tool for the job at Chestnut Ridge.**

A 9a.m. visit to the chiropractor should clearly be a sign that I am aging rapidly. Having a rare Friday off (and with weather holding in the near-forty-degree range) I decided to make the trip out to the new jewel in the crown of the central Ohio mountain bike trail system. With expectations low (it's Ohio..what do you want..CLIMBING for Christ's sake?) I loaded up the truck with my newly re-organized spine and hit the road. It's a rare occasion that I struggle to find a place, or wish I had a GPS unit. I made the woeful assumption that there would be some trail of breadcrunbs a-la-a-sign-somewhere near the freeway that would guide me in. I was armed with a map. A very useless Google Map.

After a series of wrong turns through a somewhat isolated section of Canal Winchester, I finally found Winchester road and drove east. Pulling into the park, I couldn't help but notice the complete lack of cyclists/cars with racks. I came across a ranger who less than politely told me I had to exit the park, drive back a mile or so to a non-marked, unsigned and totally innocuous street off of which the mountain bike trail was to be found. Grrrrr. At least this lot had some familiar signs of dirt-bag mountain bikers....although the tall-grass field had no visible signs to indicate where the trail actually started. I rode around for a minute or three and found a large clear-cut that rolled out and down into a gulley. There may have been a sign post, but I never saw it.

**The Formula R-1's saved my ass numerous times today on the often-ridiculous sharp-turns-for-no-reason.**

The wide, fire-road style cut in the field quickly yielded to a well packed and mostly root-free singletrack. A FAR cry from the abjectly shitty and worthless Alum Creek trails, this one seemed to have some semblence of enjoyment embedded into it's freshly hacked dirt. "What is this..a SMILE?" I said as the bike darted deftly between the saplings. I was actually ENJOYING an off road bike ride in central Ohio. Was it the spectre of lowered expectations...or something else? was genuine happiness. One of my many bitches about riding dirt here is the lack of climbing. There are also few natural technical terrain aspects, lending the builders to add often odd man-made features to "spice things up." This trail didn't need any of that crap!

A couple of miles in, I was met with gruelingly steep switchbacks..the kind that make you jam the nose of your saddle so far up inside your chocolate starfish to keep the front wheel down, you may have to wipe the fecal matter off the seat once the turn is made. It reminded me of home, and that made me happy. I haven't ridden a single, reasonable switchback in the entire time I have lived here..and now I have ten of them back to back. With the 80% sheer joy I was feeling, I had a 20% frustration rate with this section. Let me preface what I am about to say with the fact I have built a butt-load of trails in California.

I understand it when someone who didn't help bitches..I get it..I really do. That being said, the pitch on those switchbacks was only do-able because of the recent rains, and very, VERY tacky dirt (and 2.1 Slant Six Kenda tires at 30psi). This trail network is brand new, and they had the ENTIRE park to build this thing. Why make this section so steep that in the spring, the rains will make it unrideable, and in the summer the ruts that will have developed from the spring rains will create 6' deep troughs to constantly fill in? There was no need to make such an unsustainable set of turns...and that's coming from a man who found them to be the most favored portion of the entire 7.5 mile trail. They'd be allright out west, where it's all granite and rocks, but slick and greasy mud will make that section useless for most of the year.

The trail reminds me a lot of a long cyclocross race...a ton of loops and turns to maximize mileage in a relatively small area. I actually found that up until about mile 4 or so, I was VERY pleased with the vast majority of this trail. At a certain point, you reach a hilltop on the western slope that borders the road you take in to the parking lot. It gets really fun there thanks to a handfull of technical rock outcroppings that appear out of nowhere (take the INSIDE line on the first one, the outside line has a pretty unrealistic right turn apex that is mostly unrideable without trackstanding..which sucks..because you essentially have to stop moving to clean it.)with hidden baby-heads lying in wait under the leafy detritus.

**Jeff Williams pictured actual size.**

There is a Yin & Yang thing here though.
While I thoroughly enjoyed watching my heart-rate spike, and having to force rock-pile navigation when I least expected it...the rare chance we get around here for our computers to exceed 20mph is completely blown to shit thanks to some of the least intelligent design I have ever had the misfortune to ride through. Long meandering meadow descents are met with off-camber (except for a small handfull of properly banked), rotor warpingly abrupt 90 degree turns that force the rider to all but completely stop the bike to make. Again..for no reason..plenty of space out here on the blank canvas to let the wheels run for a bit longer and make more sweeping, gradual turns. The severity of the tree-lined cuts will prove a disaster later next year when deep braking bumps will fill with water and create epicly large G-Outs that will certainly end a number of riders' cycling endeavours for the summer. Some were so bad, I found that at this point all the good JuJu I had felt was starting to be stripped away layer at a time by what can best be described as a movie that ran out of money and just had to be finished. I'd rather see a mile less trail winding back on it's self and have a longer, more flowy set of descents to bring some much needed speed to the trails here.

The tight-turns-for-no-good-reason aside, the trail was in stellar shape. With rarely a root to deal with, my 26" wheeled hardtail (THE HELL YOU SAY!)was actually of great service. With the steep incline of the switchbacks, steep drops, and needed ability to quickly accelerate out of said turns, the 26er was just the ticket. Blasphemy, I know, but a 29er would have changed my whole thought on the trail is it was today. Around mile mark 5, there was a butt-puckering little drop that hits your medula oblongata after a reasonably quick descent. BAM! With the saddle supporting what will one day be my chest, and my hairy bean-bag being rattled by the small but frequently-placed knobs on my Slant Six tires I threw the bars out in front of me in an effort to bias the weight out back. It was over quickly, but a gnarly little up-tick on the other side of the wash took every ounce of momentum I had to clean. Fun for sure, but there has to be a better way to make that transition.

Another fun, well constructed and rolling section follows until one of the
most forehead-slappingly, astoundingly stupid sections of trail I have ever seen looms in front me. A hard right at mile mark 5.5 takes me across a water filled stream and up one of the greasiest, steepest pieces of work I have witnessed...again for no reason. All the room in the world..a chance to get it right the first time..and then EPIC fail right near the end. The severity of the ascent coupled with wet tires/mud mean a completely unsustainable trail feature. Such a shame. I really have such mixed one hand I had the best ride I have had since moving here five years ago..and in the other I was dumbfounded by the thoughtlesness of certain sections given the blank slate that was handed over for trail creation.

My hope is that the trail is new, and that with time the lack of needed bridges in some spots, more sustainable gradients in a few pockets, and about 15 turns that were horrid in design and execution can be "adjusted" and make Chestnut Ridge a race and ride destination that will inspire future Ohioans to take their cycling to the next level. I'd have to say I'm 70 to 30 like to dislike, but that's far cry from the 98% dislike of Alum Creek. Will I ever go to Alum Creek now that I have Chestnut Ridge? Nope. Will I work with the trail builders whenever I have the chance to make the whined about improvements? Yes, indeed.

I won't be able to bitch if I haven't done any of the work...MAN I hate that. :)


At 7:25 AM, Blogger rushman said...

"My hairy bean bag" you are a F-ing mess my friend! but it was a kick right up you sound like you want to jack off then you want to kim someone then back to jacking off and back.....well you catch my drift. go work on the trail make it better then rename it "Chris's ohio masturbation trail"!

At 8:03 AM, Anonymous Eric said...

By far one of your greatest posts. True poetry! Man that was vivid, albeit almost a bit too much.

At 8:38 PM, Blogger Sharpie said...

Livin the dream Klaw..livin the dream...


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