Browse Category by Mountain Biking
29+, Advocacy, Alaska, Bicycle, Cordova, fat bike, Mountain Biking

Trail Talk: McKinley Trail ride

Another day, another trail that needs some TLC. McKinley trail has some of the best potential in the area for a good MTB trail, even as a loop- as it connects with the Pipeline Lakes Trail to the west. Who knows- there could be a possibility to extend the trail up to McKinley peak, or at the very least to the 610′ knob to the NE of the lake. A trail does already extend beyond the McKinley Lake cabin, up to the Historic Lucky Strike Mine- but its mostly a creek and needs some serious attention.

Though not designated as a MTB trail it’s (mostly) rideable, full of really fun sections that are linked by sections needing quite a bit of work. Much of the trail has turned into a narrow & deep rut full of very slippery roots and log waterbars. Pedaling in these sections is difficult or impossible. In it’s current state most wouldn’t consider it suitable for bikes. Though I’ve talked to a couple people about riding it, I have never seen anyone else on a bike while on it. It showcases many examples of why a trail SHOULDN’T be built a certain way in the rainforest. Much of the trail has become a creek, and there standing water (mud) in many places. A good indicator that a trail needs some revamping is when new trails are made. Hikers are blazing new trails to avoid mud pits and bogs as well as slippery stairs and rooty sections like that below.

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That’s one hell of a way to sell one of my favorite trails in this area isn’t it? All that said- a lot of the trail has been hardened with rock and literally TONS of gravel have been brought in to make a solid trail. These sections have good drainage and are a lot of fun to ride. There doesn’t seem to be any good reason why the whole trail isn’t built in this way. It would make for a super great flowy trail. The USFS is currently in the process of replacing the old “corduroy” with bridges and new sections of trail for safety in some areas and to protect the old trail built for mining in the early 1900’s. After one of their first bridges was installed I spoke with the local USFS trail coordinator about how a taller bridge required dismounting the bike and that kinda sucked. In riding yesterday I saw a couple new bridges- slightly wider and low enough to ride over without having to get off the bike to get on the bridge. Well done.

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Relive ‘McKinley Trail’

When the trail was originally built I’m sure the stairs and waterbars worked fine- but it’s time to revisit the techniques used and while that’s happening it seems like a good idea to expand the opportunity for other non-motorized users groups.

I’m curious how many folks out there are riding in Cordova and what trails they think have potential to become a flagship trail for mountain biking in our National Forest. Where do YOU ride in Cordova?

A link to the trail on GaiaGPS can be found HERE.

 

29+, Advocacy, Alaska, fat bike, Mountain Biking

Cordova Cycling Coalition is a thing

Last week was a big week for cycling in Cordova. There was meeting for the brand new “Cordova Cycling Coalition” as well as the PTA Bike Rodeo! That may not seem like a lot to some of the big city dwellers, but for Cordova it’s a pretty big deal. Our little fishing village has limited options for cyclists. You’ve got to be an adventurer, making the most of our limited bicycle infrastructure. Many kids here start on push bikes, graduate to a bmx and move onto a motorcycle or 4-wheeler as soon as they can. We’re a town predominately propelled by petroleum but let’s face it, most of the United States is. So I’m glad we have opportunities, as infrequent as they are, to celebrate the bicycle and get people riding.

20180414_103834Turning wrenches at the PTA Bike Rodeo, Cordova.

Many communities base their cycling effort on commuters. As an example, 3.4% of commuters in Seattle use a bicycle to get to work or school (2014.) Their smug neighbor to the south (Portland, OR) ranks number one in the US with 7.2% (2016.) The national average is way down there at 0.5%. That means if 11 or so people commute by bike in Cordova, we’re right on the national average. I think many here in Cordova would agree that the largest barrier to cycling here is the weather. It can be shitty. Shitty on a level that few people that don’t live here could understand. So shitty that it can be dangerous. Biblical amounts of rainfall, high winds, heavy snow… shitty.

When I moved to Cordova I was a proud non-driver. I was living in Austin, TX working as a bike messenger. I hadn’t owned a car in 8 years and didn’t see any reason to… but Cordova had other plans for me. After a year, I bought a 4Runner. Things I took for granted living in the city like public transportation, pleasant riding weather, and proximity to trails; I no longer had. Cordova requires a little more independence. There aren’t droves of people parked at the trailhead out mountain biking. If I wanted to ride, I went by myself. No big deal really. I’ve been playing with myself most of my life. 

Though access might not be as easy as in a larger community, Cordova does have quite a few opportunities for those that want to get out and explore on two wheels. We’re home to about 20 miles of paved roads, plus quite a few gravel USFS roads, trails and easements, as well as old logging roads and trails that are infrequently used (and free to access if you have a permit from the native corporation.) The hardest part about riding those trails, is knowing where they are. I started mapping them on my own, and then through some friends that run a guide outfit in Oregon, found out about the GaiaGPS app. There is a pretty badass layer you can put on the maps called “USFS Classic” which as far as I can tell, contains all of the logging roads in Prince William Sound. Pretty damn handy if you’re looking to ride on the Copper River Delta, especially if you’d like to incorporate some loop trails.

Many of the USFS trails contain what they call “Step & Run” trail building techniques- which consist of pressure treated wood stacked on top of each other as stairs- not great for walking and near impossible to ride. It is an effective technique to put in miles of trail on the cheap, but it’s kinda shitty if you want to ride a bike around this beautiful area. Some of the best riding that I’ve found is on this old system of logging roads from when the Native Corp was logging here in the early 1990’s.

Below is the Stuck Lake-Boulder Alley Loop trail. If you look just north of where the red route is, you can see the jumbled little wad of logging roads. That is a hill that the kids in town call “The lookout” and I can see a lot of potential to ride up the hill and make some sweet singletrack down. 
Stuck Lake Boulder Alley loop

Here is a fun little ditty that I put together from the ride. Pro tip: check the wind when you go out there. If you ride it clockwise, the wind won’t suck so bad if it’s blowing easterly. Riding Against The Wind is for Bob Seger songs.

Relive ‘Lunch Ride’

We’ll see what happens with the Cordova Cycling Coalition, but I hope it keeps some steam and maybe, just maybe, we can get Cordova on the map as a cycling destination.

Bicycle, DIY, Mountain Biking, Seattle, Washington

On the Cheap– (Don’t?) Try This At Home: Rockshox Coil to Air Fork Conversion

Full and utterly not shocking disclaimer: The advice in the forthcoming article WILL (not maybe, probably or might) void any SRAM/RockShox factory warranty on your fork. If you’re not comfortable reading service manuals and/or if the thought of beating your forks with a mallet makes you ill, don’t try this at home. If you’re ok with those things, by all means, try this at home.  

I recently purchased some stickers from AHTBM which read, “My Life Is a Cautionary Tale.” Those words echoed in my head as I stood on the deck of my apartment beating the lower legs off my 2014 RockShox XC 32 29er forks. Up until this moment, the forks had another year left on their factory warranty.

Let me back track to explain how a man in his late 30’s gets to the point where he feels the need to take a plastic mallet to a perfectly good suspension fork:

I purchased a squishy bike on clearance from my LBS late last summer. Obviously, a budget bike isn’t going to be spec’d with a high end menu of parts. In the case of the Fuel EX 5, that means a  fantastic Monarch R  air shock in the rear and a coil XC32 fork up front with a 15mm thru axle. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of those products on their own, the mix of a tunable air shock on one end and a basically non-tunable coil on the other end makes the bike do sketchy things when the terrain gets sketchy at sketchy speeds.

I’ve been a fan of RockShox products for years, mainly due to their easy maintenance. In the case of the XC32 coil, there is basically no maintenance to be had and changing spring internals to help “tune”  the fork to the rider’s weight is a 10-15 minute process with spring kits running about $25 from my LBS. Changing the firmness of the springs on this fork really does make a significant difference. You can even adjust travel from 100–120mm by adding or removing the rubber spacers included in the spring kits, which is a nice feature on such a wallet friendly fork.

But I was also aware that RockShox makes a Solo Air version of this fork, which I could purchase for a couple hundy. However… I heard rumors on the ol’ interwebs that any rider worth his blood alcohol level could convert one of these babies for around $70. Since the Solo Air system is a self contained cartridge system, it appeared to be a simple plug and play process as the IT nerds say.  I found out that it really is pretty much plug and play, but with fork oil and hammers involved.

Things you’ll need:

1) A copy of the SRAM/RockShox service manual

2)  A SRAM/RockShox Solo Air cartridge for the XC32 fork (DUH!!). I managed to finagle one from Bikewagon for about $55.

3) A long handled 5mm hex wrench, or in my case, a ratchet with a long extension and 5mm hex attachment. More on tool length to cum.

4) A 2.5mm hex wrench

5) 24mm wrench or socket.  An adjustable Crescent style wrench will do the trick as well since this is just used to remove the top caps from the fork.

6) 15wt fork oil

7) Graduated fork oil syringe with about 5″ of rubber tubing. Brake bleed kits work great for refilling this fork. I tossed my brake bleed kit because I’m an idiot, so I used the body of an old ball point pen to get all up in there.

8) Not a requirement, but I also recommend a seal kit because you’re going to have the whole fork pulled apart anyway, so why not rebuild the whole damn thing, Capt. Halfassington?

9) A bike stand or at least a good bench vise. Remember, you will be beating things off with a mallet, and everyone knows that beating off requires good grip.

10) A rubber tipped or plastic mallet

11) Last, but not least: a drip pan. There won’t be a lot of oil that comes out with this procedure, but you probably don’t want fork oil all over the floor. But if you don’t mind a little floor lube, who am I to judge?

The Plan:

In hindsight, I recommend removing the fork completely from the bike. Just makes shit easier to work on. I kept the fork attached to the bike, so it’s definitely possible to do it, but I think it would have been easier to remove the fork before proceeding.

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Bicycle, Events, Gear, Mountain Biking, Travel

Comes with Baggage

Sea Otter is just around the corner and bike nuts are getting ready to head to Monterey to enjoy some sun, salty air and bicycles in California later this month. Oh- it’s also the 25th anniversary!

Blackburn will be there, along with a number of companies offering ways to get off the beaten path to explore the great outdoors. Blackburn is hosting a debut screening of a moving showcasing the history of bike travel. If you’re there, check it out. I’m sure they’ll also have some of their bikepacking gear around to play with as well.

COMES WITH BAGGAGE FLYER (1)Here’s a little trailer of what you’ll be watching

Bicycle Racing, Mountain Biking, Washington

Downhill and Dirty in the Desert

 

 

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I spent enough years drinking cheap booze and “attending” classes at Eastern Washington University to be called “Doctor.”

During that time, I enjoyed the awesome and flowy trails offered by the dry side of Washington.

For anyone new to the area, most of Washington state lies east of the Cascade mountains where it rains little more than it does in Arizona. Thus, lots of fast and fun desert off road riding. One of the pinnacles of the early mountain bike racing season is the Hubapalooza downhill race and the People’s Enduro, the first stop on the All Gravity race series.

The trails are located at Beacon Hill/Camp Sekani park. This year’s event offers free camping for registered riders in the Camp Sekani parking lot. In addition to downhill and enduro racing, there is a fun night ride for registered riders and a jam session for dirt jumping enthusiasts.

If you’re looking to get out of the rain and clouds, come on out for some dusty fun.

I will be racing the enduro on Sunday, but I’ll be hanging out at Camp Sekani sampling the offerings of Evanson Handcrafted Distilling all weekend.

Come on out for fun in the sun!

Neal