Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Brown County Beat Down, and Winter Sucks.


Chirpitty-chirp. Bring Spring!

 It has been a while, I know. Life has been busy, what can I say? Vegas Bob and The Fuzz back in CA have been racing 'cross like crazy bastards, Tookie has been working on a new high school team in Kentucky, and Mark has moved to Montana with Matty-Ice.

Mark feels my pain, now in Montana.

Fuzz and Vegas Bob prepping for Spooky Cross L.A. under the SIGMA tent.
Sean and Tookie in Lake Hope last year.

 Sponsor contacts have changed (as they seem to constantly as a sales rep for a bike industry company) and I have been frantically trying to get all the team sponsor stuff set up for next season. Most importantly, I am dealing with a cold and early winter that be honest...making me surly. The sun just came out for the first time in six weeks and I feel like I just won the f*****g lottery, but it is still twenty five degrees outside and all the roads are frozen. Great. What is it, NINETY DEGREES back in CA?


Brian Schultz in action.

   Despite my hatred of early winter, I did manage to sneak out to a highly regarded trail system in the middle of Indiana. Thanks to a manager retreat courtesy of roll: bikes here in Columbus, it was on.  Driving with my navigator and 'cross/mtb racer Brian Schultz, the trip took about three hours. Brown County has been working hard it seems to draw the mountain bike set in to it's park system. Joining forces with IMBA and local cyclists/shops, the folks down there built an extraordinarily well designed thirty or so miles of singletrack near the town of Columbus, inside Brown County State Park, Indiana. Thirty miles doesn't sound like much, but with numerous loops that interconnect, and each one having a different degree of could rearrange each day of a three day trip to provide a unique trail experience every time.

Think Slim Pickens riding the bomb.

Paul Carter's "Head-Neck Special."

   Use of the topography is second to none here. This is where IMBA came in and made the difference. Unlike the trails in and around Columbus (where the topography is very similar), the trail builders masterfully worked fun and flow in to every single mile of these trails, and it is evident within the first ten feet. It helped that our cabin rental ( through the Abe Martin Lodge was nestled in the woods just off the trail system. These cabins were spacious, albeit hard to find..especially at night. I recommend getting down there in daylight hours so you don't waste time getting lost in the park.

Beer always helps legs. Always.

   A short pedal out of the cabin led us to North Tower Loop. What better way to start a ride than with a blistering singletrack downhill? Tight, flowy and featuring pressure-suit-necessary banked turns the trail is a great way to warm up. The thing is..none of the climbs are ball-busters in here, so even if you decide to push it and extra mile or two..or three..ending the ride on the cruise up and out North Tower Loop is a breeze. Once inside the trail network, you can mix and match loops out to Hesitation Point, a popular look-out and rest stop for riders and motorists alike. You can choose to head to the more technical Schooner Trace Trail (bring the A game here, the rock gardens are fun but no joke), or turn around and BLAZE back down one of the longest descents in the park system. You will have just climbed up it, so you hopefully will have paid attention to the few hazards and switchbacks on the way back down. Trail map is here

The overlook from Hesitation Point.

Oh hell to-the-YES! Look at that sexy Sigma ROX!

    Humidity in this part of the country is pretty bad, so if you have a 100 oz. HYDRAPAK and a bottle, fill them and use some Sport Legs and Amino Vital Endurance to keep the cramps at bay. A double handful of chamois butter wouldn't hurt, either.  My good ol' Titus 26er hardtail (and Paul's 26" steel framed rigid bike) destroyed the fun, fast and flicky trails here.
Yes it's old. Yes it has 26" wheels. Yes it's freaking fast.

 We did have access to some amazing test bikes courtesy of, like the Felt black-ops NINE FRD hardtail in a 1 X 1 set up, and a fleet of Giant carbon hardtails in 27.5 and Anthem's in the same wheel size. I LOVED the Anthem far my favorite new bike of the 2014 season ( The biggest issue you will have riding here is deciding which way to go at the various trail intersections!  If you are too exhausted to cook, it is a short trail walk down to the Abe Martin Lodge, where meals are served throughout the day at the resort restaurant..and they even have an indoor "waterpark" complex!

The amazing Giant ANTHEM suspension set up is as good as it gets, even in the base model.

The FELT FRD, Stuart Hunters' weapon for the weekend. Stupid light.

   Of course..that trip was back in October. It has since devolved in to a sub twenty degree sunless wintery shithole here in Columbus, Ohio. All the bike shops have already started their indoor trainer nights, and the rest of humanity just bought their community center passes so they can at least hit the pool for some laps. My decision to take the mountain bike out for a road ride after a huge freezing-rain-storm a couple of weeks ago was smart. Smart in that I took the mtb, since the roads were frozen and full of clumps of hardened leaf-balls mixed with ice. REALLY stupid because the actual temperature was in the single digits, and  by the time I arrived in the small town of Galena my feet were beginning to turn black.

Near Galena along the 3C Highway. It was about 9 degrees that day.

   Wool socks. Shoe covers. Am-Fib thermal tights. Black toes. Thankfully, the diner was open for breakfast and graciously allowed me to clomp in all horsey like and place my toes on the nose of the heater grate in the dining room floor. Metal grate belching forth hundred degree air was a win, and allowed me enough blood flow to mount the Titus FCR and pedal my Otter-Pop ass back home.

 If I were an Otter-Pop, my flavor would be "Cracker-Assed-Cracker." The weather has changed little since November, and although the occasional foray in to single-digit-crapweather is fun, looking at five months of it is getting me down.

Galena mudflats just before everything froze.

  That is where beer comes in. Thankfully, I have a steady supply of Mission Brewing Company (   beers in the fridge, and even some Sam Adams Latitude 48 to keep me warm. Yay! With 'cross racing in the bag for the year, some of you will be rolling right in to the Southridge Winter Series....for Sean, Jeff and I...we are just rolling in to winter.
Snow on frozen wooden bridges are an ideal thing to ride on. Or not.