Riders slowly straggled in for NEMBA's annual Wicked Ride of the East at Harold Parker State Forest this morning. I think many were waiting for the sun to come out to begin the drying process from the overnight deluge. From the looks of things when we finished, there was an excellent turn out.
I hooked up with teammate Steve G. (whose two year old Yeti still looks brand new), Dave P. (on a singly geared bike of course), Peter D. and several other southern NH NEMBA chapter riders. Harold Parker (HP) wreaks havoc in good conditions despite a fairly tame appearance on the surface. Seems every time I go there with a group of skilled riders, one or two go home hurt. Last year I nearly broke my hip crashing on rocks. This year things were as juicy as they can get with fresh leaf drop. Double trouble.
The nice thing about HP is it holds up well when wet. It is all rock, gravel and roots, so things really don't get muddy or trails rutted even with standing water in places. But just because the trails hold up well doesn't mean riders hold up well. I never dabbed so many times in my life. Part of it was running higher pressure than usual to avoid the dreaded group ride pinch flat, part of it was trepidation last year's crash left in me.
Steve was cleaning almost everything starting out. I've probably logged more trail hours in one week in Colorado than he has in two years. Nice to see he hasn't lost his touch after a couple years of riding 333m circles at the track.
The first couple hours of riding was all methodically picking your way through Vaseline covered roots and rocks. This is a great equalizer. HP doesn't have much in vertical change. Possessing big cardio base doesn't make up for lack of skill. Guys I'd normally wait for riding other places were waiting for me today.
At the 15 mile mark, most of the group decided to shortcut back. Steve and I pressed on, hitting a mix of double track and more tasty bits of tech stuff. Steve really lit it up on a few faster sections. Having done 4.2 hours in the mountains yesterday, I was holding on for dear life. Steve hasn't exactly racked up a lot of 5-8hr rides this year though. Towards the end of this outburst, we came to a modest climb. Steve must have popped a circuit breaker, because the motor stopped. Fortunately we were only a mile or two from the finish. At nearly 3hrs riding time, I was just getting warmed up.
I logged 22.0mi in 2:57hrs. I was happy to escaped unscathed with no crashes. When I crashed hard there last year, I was on my singlespeed which has very steep head tube angle for handling agility. Today I used my Ellsworth with a more relaxed geometry. Despite a cushier ride with gears, my riding time was almost a half hour slower than 2006 in drier conditions on a singlespeed. The post ride chili, hot dogs and kielbasa were excellent, and the weather transformed into a brilliant, summer-like day. One more organized fun ride is on the books for me this year, the FOMBA Turkey Burner. I've been hitting this one the day after Thanksgiving for many years now. About 300 other riders do the same.
Dave wussing out. Straight down and slimy. I rode it, but only because rider in front of me dropped out of sight and I didn't know what was coming. Once you commit, it's a done deal. An Incline Training woman nailed the white birch hard but kept going.
Unknown rider showing Dave how its done