Can you tell that a certain someone was out of town?
In the past month or so, I’ve managed to go riding with guys 25-40 years younger than me. Yeah, that’s a bit of bragging as they’re all very good riders and I’m able to more or less keep up with them, which makes me feel younger.
But putting that ego stuff aside, it’s one of the things I really like about mountain biking as a geezer: I get to meet and participate in a recreational activity with a younger crowd that I don’t normally have much contact with.
Update October 28: I’ve added several more riders, with photos and videos. The list now includes AJ Peterson, Chris Knight, David Starrs, John Gaddo, Manny Paulino, Marty Larson, Michael Guinee, and Miguel Masberg.
I last blogged about my experience of riding my skinny-tired 29’er in the snow back in late February of 2012. It was a very poor winter for snow lovers here in southern Minnesota and that day at Murphy-Hanrehan was one of the only times I got to ride my bike on snowy area singletrack trails.
In a MORC forum discussion thread this week, I commented to Lebanon Hills Dirt Boss Dave Tait about the height of the big log skinny in the intermediate out section of Leb. He had told me that when the tree originally fell, they had to lower it a bit to comply with Dakota County’s height limit of 30 inches. I used the phrase "dumbed down."
Battle Creek Dirt Boss Tom Gehring wrote:
This touched a bit of a sore point with me. I may be in the minority, but I fail to see how "lowering it" is dumbing it down. It still takes just as much skill to ride without dabing it just reduces the consequences of a fall.
Dave Tait wrote:
I agree. There was never an issue of feeling like we were dumbing down that tree ride. We peeled the bark off, prepared the ride surface to a minimum and then measured up the height. It was a little high so we put a saddle beneath it and dropped the height to our allowed limit. The end result is actually tougher than the original with bark because you slip off easier. The only resistance to lowering it was that we needed to figure out a few details and do a little extra work.
Chance Glasford, chief designer of the Eagan and Cottage Grove bike parks, wrote:
I see no issue with keeping skinnies low, the skill is in the balancing act…
A big part of any sport is managing performance anxiety. That can be danger-related or it can be stage-related.
Learning the balance beam in gymnastics can start with a harness and the beam on the ground. And then it’s doing it without the harness. And then with the beam higher. And then in front of parents or at a competition.
We all know the experience of choking, knowing that we can perform a skill when it’s practice but screw it up when it’s performance time.
I see skinnies this way. The variety of skinnies in Leb’s skills park is perfect, IMHO: some are smooth, straight and low. Others are crooked and bumpy and a bit higher off the ground. Likewise, the skinnies at Ray’s Indoor Bike Park. Both parks offer lots of progression options.
Out on the trails in the Twin Cities area, there are man-made skinnies with some height if you want to try them: some wide but higher up; others narrower and higher up. They freak some people out and others love the challenge and see them as a way to try to put those skills learned in the skills park into use on the trail "For Real." The man-made skinny at Carver Lake Park is a great example of a high skinny with options: variable widths and an exit before the most difficult narrow part.
Most intermediate riders could clean it if it was flat on the ground but its height adds the element of danger. The athletic challenge is managing one’s anxiety.
As you can see in this 30-second video, I can easily clean it but if I made a $10,000 bet on it and had to do it in front of a crowd, I’d probably choke.
The stockade skinny at Hillside (the ‘Browner’, named after the first—and thus far, only person to have cleaned, Ray Brown; video here) is the most challenging skinny in the metro area and possibly the entire state. It’s all or nothing. As designer/dirt boss Rich Omdahl wrote:
The Browner is in its own class of evil. I’ve never even made it half way across it. I designed that thing to have 8 layers of difficulty. The first one you contend with is that I built it at the top of a climb on an uphill slope with an off camber entry. Then it gets harder.
Most local expert riders could probably clean the Browner if was a foot off the ground but the danger of not making it at its current height is a big psychological barrier for most of us. Danny MacAskill and Ryan Leech would be bored with it, but they have their psychological barriers, too.
Somewhat related: A friend of mine remarked recently that he thought the arguments to legalize exploding fireworks (eg, firecrackers, cherry bombs, etc) were off-base. "Why not just enjoy the explosions that are set off by the professionals?" he asked. I said to him: "Because a big part of the fun is in managing the danger."
I had coffee at the Peoples Organic Café in Minnetonka yesterday morning with John Gunyou, Board Chair and District 4 Representative of Three Rivers Park District (3RPD). I got to know John back in the late 90s when he was head of the Office of Technology for the State of MN. Since two of 3RPD’s parks offer mountain biking (Murphy-Hanrehan and Elm Creek) and since John is a newly elected commissioner, I figured it might be a good time to catch up with him and talk mountain biking.
He completely failed my test questions (‘What is a flow trail?’ and ‘What is a pump track?’). He’s a bicyclist but not a mountain biker so I suppose I’ll eventually forgive him for that. I told him my stories on how I came to learn about both in the past two years. I also alerted him to some of the cool MTB-related activities that have been happening at Murphy (eg. nocturnal mountain bike racing) and Elm Creek (eg. off-road handcycling) recently.
Among John’s many stints on boards and commissions (see his bio page), he has served on the MN DNR’s Parks and Trails Legacy Funding Group. MN mountain bikers are benefitting from Legacy money (eg. Duluth Traverse, $250,000).
John’s quoted in a front page story in the Strib this morning, Chance to enhance Twin Cities parks clashes with cash crunch.
In much more populous areas closer to the heart of the metro area, meanwhile, the pressing need is to expensively re-engineer built-up areas for trails demanded by an aging population eager to bike and walk close to home. John Gunyou, who chairs the Three Rivers parks commission, covering suburban Hennepin and Scott, speaks of “shifting our organization from parks to trails, meeting needs a different way. There’s a huge increase in the use of our trails because of people like me, getting older, but still wanting to bike and jog.”
This is another reason to get him on one or both of the Murphy and Elm Creek beginner MTB trails this year. I want him to see how geezers like us can enjoy these trails, not just paved trails.
The Rhinos Foundation held their annual Rhino Rally (Facebook event page) on Saturday at Murphy-Hanrehan. I didn’t ride, just took photos in the morning. ‘Twas cool to have the event launched with a singing of the Star-Spangled Banner and drumming.
What’s the Rhino Rally about? From their website:
The Rhino Rally is an endurance mountain bike event, raising cancer awareness and financial support for Rhinos Foundation. Riders may participate as individuals or as a team for this five hour challenge. The Rhinos Foundation was established in 1991 to support the fight against cancer and those affected by the disease. Over the years, Rhinos has been supporting families in Western Wisconsin and Eastern Minnesota; touching those touched by cancer.
"Thanks" to all those that either put on the event, volunteered, and of course the behind the scene trail workers that kept the jungle from taking over the trail (hardly any face slappers on the rain lap)… Like I’ve typed elsewhere, nothing better than riding/ racing your bike for something greater than riding/ racing your bike. Thanks Rhino people… Cancer sucks.
See my album of 35 photos (large slideshow, recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:
In my Progress on the skinnies blog post from last November, I reported that I’d been able to clean the sloped narrow log (left photo from last year) that’s about a third of the way on the intermediate loop at Lebanon Hills.
But I hadn’t been able to get up the larger log that’s towards the end of the intermediate trail (center and right photos) just after the pond. It’s higher, steeper, and curved in a couple of places. When I got to this log yesterday, Dave Tait, one of the MORC dirt bosses, was working on another log (the log is in the background, right photo) with his chainsaw, as he’s got a plan for connecting the two.
Dave had already shaved the a few feet of the lower portion of the log (I didn’t take a photo) since the log is round and small at that point, making it hard to stay on it. Even with that modification, I wasn’t able to get very far. After watching several of my failed attempts, Dave put on his coaching hat.
He suggested 1) that I select a taller gear than my lowest granny gear, as a little more speed can help; and 2) that I pick three different points to focus my eyes as I progressed up the log, as the tendency is do it just once at the start and then revert to looking right in front of one’s front wheel. Voila! My next attempt I got past the tree at the 3/4 point. And a couple of attempts later, I cleaned it. Thank you, coach Tate!
I’ve been reluctant to attempt the high man-made skinny at Murphy-Hanrehan. While I’m confident riding skinnies at the widths it uses, I know that a momentary lapse is possible and I could easily crash. Since it’s about 4 -feet high at its peak and surrounded by small trees, I couldn’t picture how to crash in a way that would minimize injury.
If a skinny is any higher than 1 foot or so off the ground, don’t try it if you can’t bunny hop or wheelie drop. Learn those two things first so when you do feel you will slip or fall off the side, just bunnyhop or wheelie drop and ride away. If you can’t do this, you will endo (go over the bars) if your front wheel comes off…..and endoing is about the most unsafe thing to do.
I’ve got homework to do.
Trail Condition: Snow – Fat Tires Needed
Date Posted: 02-23-2012 @ 11:03 AM
Details: 3RPD opened Murphy today. Get out and enjoy it, our winter riding days are numbered!
(3RPD = Three Rivers Park District which serves "the suburban areas of the Twin Cities metro including suburban Hennepin, Carver, Dakota, Scott and Ramsey counties.")
With little snow here in the Northfield area, I was skeptical of the ‘fat tires needed’ rating but once I got on the trail early Saturday morning, it made sense. There was more fresh snow than I expected, especially on the north-facing areas. I lowered my tire pressure (tubeless) to 10 PSI but I still had to walk my 29er on a few of the uphill segments (left photo above).
The 3-4 fat bikes that had been through sometime on Friday laid down a nicely packed path (right photo above) but staying on it was challenging, like riding a skinny log or plank the entire time. After a couple of miles, I figured out that the more I focused on A) leaning, not steering the bike and B) focusing my eyes way further ahead than normal, the easier it was. I’m used to doing that in technical areas or when going fast around downhill turns but it hadn’t occurred to me to do it on the more leisurely areas. Duh.
I assumed that snow-on-wood would be slippery but I had no trouble riding up the stepped bridge (left photo above). I know, riding the bridge up is riding the wrong way/against traffic but with no leaves on the trees, it’s easy to see if anyone’s coming.
On the rocks (center photo), going down was no problem but up? Not. After several attempts at the lower section, I picked the bike up and placed it halfway up the rocks. Zeeeeeero traction.
There was great traction both directions on the larger sloped rock (right photo). I was even able to do a downhill turn on the fresh snow (see my tire tracks). Very puzzling.
I’ve yet to attempt riding the entire length of the long, curving, and high skinny at Murphy. Now that I’ve got flats with Impact 5.10‘s, I’m confident in my ability to do it but I’d rather not do it alone, just in case of a get-off that doesn’t end well. Smart or lack of cojones, you decide.
I rode the first third but took the out on the snow-covered dirt mound (left photo). When I got to the end, I noticed that one of the fatty bike riders had ridden the entire thing (right photo). No mean feat, considering that much of the skinny was icy.
Bill Nelson, Jerry Bilek, Ben Witt, and I took off on our mountain bikes from GBM at about 7:30 this morning, riding primarily gravel roads to the mountain bike trail in the Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve, just south of Savage.
After riding the 7 mile advanced loop at Murphy, we chowed down at Chipotle in Apple Valley, biked through UMore Park in Dakota County, and arrived back in Northfield in time for dinner. About 85 miles, 9 hours. Whew!