Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bear Brook Boogie

Another fine day for outdoor activity. A hardy bunch of mountain bikers (redundant, as all mountain bikers are hardy) converged on Bear Brook State Park early Sunday morning for The Boogie. I rarely miss this organized NEMBA fun ride. I hooked up with the core riders of the Central NH chapter of NEMBA. We headed out early to verify the hero loop markers were in place. It was about 35F starting out in morning fog. Fall colors still haven't reached peak here.

Ron and the NEMBA crew just after 8am

On, I list Bear Brook as one of my favorite and most frequently visited places to ride. This was my first visit this year, sad to say. To my surprise, I was treated to a couple tasty sections of "new" singletrack. Due to neglect over the last several decades, some trails have been reclaimed by the forest. NEMBA worked with the park service to take back from the forest one of these trails in an area that hasn't been visited for a long time. I don't know if this trail has been named yet. It is on the east side of the park and climbs high above Bear Brook on a ridge. The trail was reminted with wheeled use in mind, so it has buttery flow to it.

The knee I tweaked hiking yesterday was a bit temperamental. Any out of saddle hammering (lifting on pedal) or awkward body English on the bike (twisting motion) sent shooting pains up my leg. Definitely have a minor tear of some sort in there. As long as I stayed seated and went straight, I could mash quite hard with no pain.

This year the Boogie route went around Spruce Pond. I hadn't ridden back there in years. I couldn't clean it then, and I can't clean it now. Some tough stuff. We proceeded to climb to the next section of singletrack on doubletrack when a mishap occurred. There is a small stream crossing on Broken Boulder Trail. I usually clean it, but this time it was much chunkier than usual. No crash or even wet feet for me, but another rider in our group didn't fare so well. Word is Kelly stuffed front wheel and got a little too intimate with a rock. Broken teeth, cut lip and a leg injury. We had to call a truck in to pick him up. Hope he'll be alright. I rode uber defensively after that, as did some of the other riders. Risk of injury is higher riding off road than on road, but risk of death is much higher on road due to cars and much higher cycling speeds.

From here it was almost all singletrack for the remainder of the ride. The route took us on Hedgehog Ledge Trail. That trail strikes fear in me. Another rider told me how he broke his hand on one of its granite staircases a while back. Great. First Kelly bites it, then I hear this before attempting the section that gives me the greatest willies. I decided I would walk the scary stuff. When I saw the first rider bomb on down, I rode the staircases anyway. Funny how when you are being observed, that happens.

Dave Penney was on a singlespeed. Not just an ordinary singlespeed, mind you, as that is so cliche these days. He was on a FIXED GEAR singlespeed. I don't know anybody else that is riding a fixie in the woods on technical terrain. This is just off the charts nuts. He also races the VT50 and Hampshire 100k with the fixie. Dave was seriously contemplating riding the staircases with his fixie. I thought great, this time we'll all have to wait for the paramedics to arrive. I think he came to his senses, as there were no sirens and he made it in one piece to the end of the ride.

Dave coming down finishing stairs on fixie

Where Hedgehog Ledge Trail ends, we normally have to climb a doubletrack back up before picking up more singletrack. Here I was treated to a second, lengthy section of new singletrack that gracefully climbed the flanks of Bear Hill. It was here where another large group, the Exeter Cycles gang, caught up to us.

The ride finished up on Carr Ridge Trail, an old favorite that has been a staple of mountain biking at Bear Brook for as long as I've lived in New England. If finishes down another staircase, this one built out of large logs. I remember racing here years ago, the first year this staircase was built to fix a serious erosion problem. I didn't dare ride it as a sport class rider. There was a sizable crowd of spectators there to watch the carnage. I got booed for running down it. I would have gotten cheered attempting to ride it and having a yard sale. People are sick, aren't they? Today I was well off the front of our gang and I rode these steps. Then I pulled out the camera to see if I could capture some carnage. I'm as sick as the next guy.

Nearly everybody rode it flawlessly. I heckled one rider cyclocross style for not riding it (sorry Beth). Nobody biffed. Amazingly, Dave did not hesitate with his fixie. How he does it is beyond me. I level the pedals and drag ass on rear wheel. He can't. He has to pedal all the way down, and he has no way to sync his pedals to the logs. They either hit or they don't.

When we got back to the parking lot, it was nearly full. Not sure how many came out for the Boogie today, but I bet a couple hundred. The pulled pork BBQ afterwards was supremely tasty. Sunny, about 60F now, what more could you ask for?


Anonymous said...

I think caution on the staircases is well warranted - I was with a group that had to call paramedics when there was an accident on the first staircase on Hedgehog. I want to leave everyone anonymous, so I won't give any other details (nothing life-threatening, I will say that), but I wanted to say - yes, caution there is very, very good! (This was also at the BBB yesterday).

plum said...

Bear is a funny place like that. I've absolutely bombed along at night with reckless abandon, blasting through streams just like that without a scratch. And then I've crashed climbing Little Bear, getting pitched straight over the bars and onto my head after catching a root, and spent the night in the hospital. I've concluded that in the end it really isn't up to you, try as you might. Ability helps, but sometimes circumstances line up just right and just out of your field of vision.

Anonymous said...

Being related to the person who fell and got to go to the hospital, I can speak with certainty when I say "Carry FIRST AID with you when you ride."

It is a must, and is something that up until this weekend, I would have never even thought of.

It seems wildly naive to worry more about a flat tire, carrying a tube and a pump, than to prepare for a fall and carry a FA Kit.

I won't be that naive again.

Be safe guys and gals.