Last weekend, Brendan and I hit the road and drove down to the St. Louis area for a weekend of mountain biking. I had no idea what amazing trails there are in that area–it was truly a treat.
On Friday, we hit Castlewood State Park and rode just about all that there was to ride there–some pretty fun up and down action in bluffs along the river, including some nice climbs, a few challenging drops, and some beautiful scenery.
On Saturday, we lit out for the Ozarks–we rode the Berryman trail and portions of the Ozark Trail. All in all, it was over 40 miles of mountain biking, ranging from gravel road to technical single track, with just about every type of mountain-biking in between.
The weather was beautiful; it started in the 40s and warmed up to about 60, with clear, blue skies overhead. The trail conditions were nonetheless challenging–the oh-so-numerous trees had dropped their leaves, and the trail was covered. It was impossible to discern what lay beneath the leaves, and occasionally was impossible to discern where the trail was. You’d round out a corner, and find two paths diverged in yellow woods…both that morning equally lay in leaves no tire had trodden black. Seriously, the trails were beautiful.
I had planned on 25 miles of riding, so when we were about 15 miles in, I figured we’d stop and have a bite to eat. We had both packed snacks and sandwiches in our packs, and we found a nice log to sit on for a few minutes.
By the end of the day, the sun was getting low in the horizon and we were both ready to be off the bikes. Berryman and Ozark were challenging because they were not flow–they were constant climbing and descending. They were surprise corners, with off-camber, decreasing radii excitement. They were mid-descent, hidden in the leaves obstacles. They were amazing. In the parking lot afterwards, whilst enjoying a delicious adult beverage, we sat in the sun and talked about the things that cyclists talk about after a good day in the saddle. We delighted in the soreness of our legs and the shared experience of a day on the bike. We talked about how beautiful it must be with leaves on the trees, and clear ground to shred. We laughed.
The next morning, we hit the Chubb trail. Riding out of the parking lot, just the thought of sitting on the saddle was painful, and my legs were reluctant to turn the pedals. Just a mile into the trail, my mind was filled with the scenery and the challenge of the rocks, and the pain was a distant memory. Chubb had some fantastic climbs and descents, and some truly technical components. I successfully rode some pretty significant drops (but did skip the major, several-foot drop mid-trail).
I did suffer my first flat with the Bontrager tubeless tires I have on the Fuel. It was a neat little puncture wound, but even the fresh Stan’s in the tires wouldn’t seal it up. We had a heck of a time getting the tubeless valve stem out of the wheel (we didn’t have any pliars, and the nut that locks it in place was pretty firmly gunked to the valve-stem with some drops of Stan’s), but after a concerted effort, it was removed. (An old leatherman has now joined my tool kit for mountain biking). Tube inserted, CO2 puffed, we hit the trail again.
The trail was beautiful, including some great river bottom riding and some of the most technical rock action that we had seen on this trip.
Prior to this trip, my favorite mountain biking has been Steamboat–and more locally, Brown County. This drive was about equal to Brown County. I will say that Brown County is a lot more flow–you can cover a lot more ground, a lot faster. St. Louis was more technical, more challenging, and in some ways, more engaging. I look forward to heading back.