I had an inspired weekend of riding, at Brown County State Park, in Indiana. Everywhere you went, it looked something like this:
It was just stunningly beautiful.
We lit out of DeKalb around 7:30am. After a mid-drive stop along the way for some lunch, we rolled into BroCo early afternoon. We were all wearing street clothes, and had to change into riding gear, so some quick calculations were done. The goal was to get into riding gear as rapidly as possible, so we didn’t want to immediately stop to set up tents. I grabbed my gear and braved a pit toilet to change. Bob busted out his trusty changing kilt–a brilliant piece of kit. I think MattWHNN (MattWhoHasNoNickname) changed in the bathroom as well–and I have no idea what Chad G did…I was too distracted by the horror of what greeted me upon my return to the cars. You see, I was only gone for a few minutes, and upon my return, I saw that a giant caterpillar had jumped onto Hand of Midas and was 90% through consuming him.
Oh, the horror. Here’s HoM in his death throes:
A moment of silence for the dearly departed.
Ok, that’s enough. Apparently, HoM thought that an upside down sleeping bag was a suitable replacement for a changing kilt. You might ask why his pants are around his ankles, and why he is standing on a picnic table. Well obviously: 1) he’s mid-change; and, 2) he didn’t want to get his feet wet. D’uh. This cocoon eventually metamorphosized into a beautiful mountain biking bro-tterfuly. (Yes, there were lots of words inappropriately used with bro-prefixes).
The group mounted up on their respective steeds. I was rocking the Superfish:
Here’s the whole group:
Four out of five Broco Brodeo riders prefer Salsa mountain bikes. You should too… All of the Salsas shown were from North Central Cyclery–in fact, HoM’s El Mariachi is a demo bike that you too can try out.
Here’s the bad news: I don’t have ride pictures. There are two reasons. First, no picture I could ever take would live up to the glory that was seeing HoM’s metamorphosis in an upside down sleeping bag. I shall never be able to convey just how funny that was, in person. My sides still hurt from laughing that hard.
Second, I’m having a hard time with ride photos. I really enjoy writing the blog, but I don’t want blogging to get in the way of riding. I don’t like the thought of stopping a ride to take pics. I don’t like the “hey, that was cool, go back and do it again.” There was a ton of spectacular scenery. There were amazing features, and some awesome bike handling. I could stage some shots and look like a mountain bike god. But I didn’t. I just rode, and had an awesome time.
The first day, we rode about 25 miles, and then headed into town for dinner. It was a chilly night, but after dinner we had a great campfire and talked. I slept well in a down sleeping bag, and woke up to temps just over freezing. This next part is so I remember what to wear in such temperatures: next time you’re mountain biking in temps that start at 34 and move up to 53, wear a tight, synthetic base layer, a long sleeve bike jersey, and a Gore Phantom jacket with zip-off sleeves. That provided perfect temperature moderation. As the day (and I) warmed up, I unzipped the jacket and removed the sleeves. I was comfortable all day. If you stopped for too long, you’d get chilly…which was a perfect reminder to keep riding.
In all, we rode ~60 miles, with just under 7,000 feet of climbing, in 2 days. We rode every single foot of trail in BroCo State Park, and rode most of it in both directions. The trails there are truly amazing–they are IMBA recognized as EPIC, and epic they are. They make the most of the elevation change available…there’s probably only a couple hundred feet of total elevation difference in the park, but the maximize it. You put a little investment in the altitude bank by depositing a moderate climb, and then you make an extended withdrawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwl as you fly down some rollers, through banked corners, and through the woods.
As always, my mantra needs to be “brake less.” When HoM was in front, he’d shout “no brakes”, to encourage me to bomb corners without scrubbing speed. When he did so, I trusted his direction implicitly. When he wasn’t there, I did my best to trust my tires and lines, and push just a little harder. I had one low-speed low-side, where I washed out in some mud, but otherwise, no cornering-induced calamaties. We were worried that it would be wet, but as it was, the clay-ish trails were just a bit tacky…perfect for riding.
I did say that we rode all of the trails…and that includes Schooner Trace. Schooner is an “expert” level trail–think double black diamond. In retrospect, I wish we hadn’t done it. There were significant chunks of trail that I walked. In some areas, I walked because the trail appeared to be wholly unrideable–spots that even HoM walked. In other areas, I walked obstacles that I could have ridden, because I made a judgment that the consequences of failure were too severe. Misjudging a rock crossing and plummeting 30 feet into a pile of rocks is a risk I’m not willing to take, on a 12″ wide clay ledge. Seriously–unless you’re a trials rider or like to walk, skip Schooner.
Some may recall that I used to ride a Rumblefish. The Rumblefish being a little more All Mountain oriented, you may wonder if it would have been better suited to Schooner than the Spearfish. The answer is no. The Superfish is lighter and easier to carry…so it was a better bike for Schooner. In fact, the ideal bike would have been a Brompton, so I could have folded it up, heaved it into my backpack, and just hiked the darn thing. Seriously. It was not fun. I did not enjoy Schooner. I can’t even say that I’m glad I saw it in retrospect. I could go the rest of my life without seeing it again. It’s just not my kind of riding–I’m decidedly XC.
The Superfish performed amazingly. I don’t know what I could ever change about it to make it better. Maybe a dropper seatpost (so I could extend the post for climbs?) 80mm of rear travel was all that was needed–blazingly fast on the climbs, and totally in control on the descents. Let’s be honest: I’m rarely content with bike setups. I’m always looking to change things, and try new components. I wouldn’t change a thing. This trip made me reconsider going from 2×10 to 1×11, too…having the extra 2×10 range on top and on bottom was a good thing. I maxed out my gearing options at both ends of the spectrum. The Superfish rails corners, leaps tall logs in a single bound, climbs like a billygoat, and does the one thing that few bikes can do: it makes me a better rider. There is no doubt that I’m faster on the Superfish than I would be on many other mountain bikes.
One more bike-oriented detail: full suspension vs. hardtail. I was in a group with a softtail, 2 hardtails, and 2 FS bikes. The Superfish’s rear suspension was the best in the group for BroCo. Enough cush to take the edge off of roots and such, and keep me in control, without any pedal bob to impede climbing. In following HoM on the El Mariachi (which was an amazing bike in its own right), the benefits of FS were clear. HoM does a great job of being one with the bike, but I was able to stay in the saddle and pedal through roots and obstacles that he had to stand and coast over. I was able to add power at many times that he had to drain momentum. I was able to sit and pedal efficiently over roots and rocks when he had to stand in order to absorb bumps. I nearly got a hardtail when the Superfish was built. I’m incredibly glad that I did not. FS is the right call for me, for my riding.
That said, it was amazing watching HoM on a mountain bike. He has a way of making fast look slow–just good clean riding that looks effortless. Everyone rode insanely well, and had an awesome time. I had never previously ridden with Bob, but he proved to be a very capable rider as well–great bike handling skills, great legs.
Speaking of great legs…the New Glarus ride gave me incredible confidence in long climbs. At BroCo, whenever the trail turned uphill, I’d head to the front and pedal my heart out. It’s truly awesome to be able to do that. I’m seeing the benefits of all of the hours I’ve put in the saddle over the past couple of years–my riding is getting stronger all over.
Brendan Gore-Cik posted on facebook a couple of weeks ago, and said that he was really appreciative of the fact that his wife understands his need to go and turn himself inside out on a bicycle from time to time. That’s about the perfect verbiage. On the hardest, longest climbs, when you’re pushing to go as fast as you can, it’s turning yourself inside out. Everything is at work: the core muscles you’ve been working to strengthen are taut, the lungs and heart you’ve been building up are pumped, the legs you’ve been straining to build are screaming. I can’t explain why it is fun–but it is. Especially with good friends. I try to keep my family out of the blog a little bit, to give them some privacy. But I would be nowhere without the support of my wife, whether you’re talking riding or anything else. As with all of my travels, I had a cooler full of gluten/dairy free foods to gorge. She’s amazing–and her patience in letting me have these adventures does not go unnoticed.
Last year, we took this picture on the Chad-wich BroCo trip:
This year’s reprisal:
I am truly regretful that MattWHNN wasn’t in that pic, so here’s a gratuitous shot of him:
It was an amazing trip. It’s funny how much things have changed–and stayed the same–in the past 11 months. Great rides with great friends on great bikes. What more can you ask for?
The BroCo Brodeo is in the bag. I could wax bro-mantic about the riding there for days.