The Breakdown was this past weekend. It was amazing.
I went down Friday afternoon, making a 5 hour trip in just under 4 hours, and spending 3 of those 4 hours on the phone. Arghh. I arrived to find my good friend Brendan, and my new friend Matt, with a great campsite. I set up my tent, threw on some kit, and we hit the trails. The trails were dry, the light was low, and the temps were about 80 degrees. It was perfect–they were hard, fast, and tight. We rolled out and did a brief trail ride, and it felt good to get loosen up my legs a bit. I was rolling my Superfish, and she was rolling fast.
After some trail-time, we had some dinner, and then hit up the tent for IMBA/HMBA provided beerz and music. I skipped the Beerz (gluten), and rocked some single-barrel bourbon. It was great.
Saturday morning, we helped Brendan set up for his demo, and checked out the demo tents. I spent an appreciable amount of time on a Specialized Epic Expert, a Trek Fuel EX 29 9.8, a Kona Wo Fatbike, a Diamondback FS 29er, and had a quick jaunt on a few others. Details on those bikes in the days to come. Saturday evening, we hit the trails again and did some ripping. Brown County trails are amazing. They’re fast, flowy and fantastic. We didn’t want to hit it too hard, because we knew the big event was going to be Sunday. We cleaned up, and wiled away the night listening to music, enjoying the festivities. We engaged in some epic ‘footdown’ battles with a taped off battle arena, and generally had a great time.
That lead to Sunday. Sunday morning, the temps were a bit cooler, and the forecast called for rain. I popped on my Windstopper singlet and Windstopper armwarmers, threw my Goretex Oxygen jacket in my hydration pack, and got ready to head out. Brendan offered me a set of 3/4 length Goretex pants to throw in my pack (more on those another day), and we blasted outta camp. Here’s camp (after I pulled down my tent):
My setup was perfect for the pre-rain conditions. It was 60ish and damp; the windstopper singlet and armwarmers kept me comfortable notwithstanding the cold, and made my short sleeve jersey and bib-shorts the right choices for gear. Very shortly into the ride, the cool dampness turned into drizzle, then rain. We stopped and I pulled off my arm warmers and threw on the Oxygen. When it turned to a downpour, we stopped again and I threw on the 3/4 pants.
Here’s Brendan, rolling in the rain.
Did I mention it was raining?
Here’s Matt, riding his custom-build full-suspension 26er.
12 miles in, we hadn’t hit mud…just wet. The Superfish was dirty, but fast.
I bet you’ve never seen a Fleming frame.
Pictures don’t do what happened next justice. After a few more miles of trail, the mountain bike trails turned to horse paths. They were prepared for mud, and we rode areas that were not going to be damaged by hard use in the rain. I should have taken more pictures.
Miles 15-20 were just mud. Descents were mudslides. Climbs were muddy struggles. The flat areas were squishy, and you’d slip and slide all over, trying to maintain forward progress. There were ruts from vehicle paths, and you’d slide in and out of them. Frankly, a couple years of fatbiking were good prep for this, and I was comfortable with the bike moving all over. The Superfish performed supremely well, the Schwalbe Rocket Rons cut down to find traction where possible.
Quick note on bikes: from time to time, I contemplated wanting lower gearing on the Superfish (lowest gear is currently 34/36), but otherwise, it was perfection. The XTR brakes worked in conditions that I never could have expected them to work in, the Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires worked perfectly, the ENVE 29XC wheels were amazing, the bike had the perfect amount of travel and excellent geometry, the Ergon SM3 Pro saddle was comfortable through 43 miles of mud and rain… I love this bike.
At mile 21 ish, we hit the hidden cabin. The last mile before that stop was insane. Slippery, off-camber downhills, leading to a straight-down descent of a hill that was too slick and rutted to stop. Brendan had an off-trail excursion into a tree, and I somehow managed to slip and slide my way down past him. We refueled, warmed, and hit the trail. Here’s the motley crew (photo courtesy of HoosierBen).
And here’s the Superfish, a bit muddy…
When we were stopped, I started getting cold. I zipped up the zipper and sleeves on my Oxygen jacket, and it helped me warm up almost immediately. When we started riding out of the hidden cabin area, it was uphill through the mud, with constant slippage. Constant slippage. We pedaled and pedaled, and for five miles, it was a constant struggle. As we warmed up, I adjusted the zippers on the Oxygen and stayed perfectly comfortable.
The bikes were covered in mud…the bottom brackets were stuffed, the chainstays were stuffed, we were stuffed. We stopped and scraped out the mud. Shortly thereafter, we found a hose to use. I neglected to get a picture of: 1) the bikes packed with mud; 2) riding through 10″ of quicksand-like slop; 3) riding up and down rutted trails sideways; 4) heavy downpours; and, 5) general pandemonium. I was working too hard, and having too much fun. It wasn’t a mountain bike race–it was an epic endurance ride. I don’t know why rides turn into this for me, but it was, and it was awesome, and we were riding hard, and fast, and fun.
I did get a few pics when we stopped to hose off. This was after we had already done our preliminary scraping off…so the pictures don’t do it justice, sadly.
We headed back onto the trail, and pushed hard, fast and fun. We finished out with around 4,000 feet of climbing and 43ish miles. Post ride, we prepared to hose off selves and bikes again.
I took a shower, topped off on some delicious pulled-pork, and pointed the car back home.
This ride. It was unlike any other ride I’ve ever done. It was amazing. The Breakdown was a great time, with great people, great bikes, great gear. Many, many thanks to Brendan for the invite and Matt for the hospitality. It was a ride and weekend that’s hard to put into words.
It was fun. Challenging. Amazing.