Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tallahassee Trails

Day one in Tallahassee started with the 11 mile Munson Hills Trail, followed by the 8 mile Twilight Trail. First photo is our group minus Paul Williams. The second photo is Bob and David on Munson. Both trails are carbon copies of Croom, minus the hills, shady oak hammocks, and technical sections thru the pits. The Munson trails one saving grace is that most of the 11 miles is a two foot wide ribbon of hard packed red clay. It is fast and smooth, but featureless. Alas, Twilight has not been clay armored.
Good for entry level, non-technical riders. OK for better riders that like to go fast.

Our day one afternoon ride was comprised of Red Bug, Cambodia and Bamboo. Red Bug was very similar to San Felasco. Swooping drops and climbs, huge root balls, and a sprinkling of purpose built rock gardens. The other two trails were similar, but with less elevation change and no technical features. Big fun for intermediate level riders, and slightly challenging for the non-technical crowd. If you were in the neighborhood, this would be a short, but fun destination. Otherwise, simply ride San Felasco, it's closer and longer.
Our morning ride was 21 miles, and the afternoon was 14, for a total of 35 miles.

Day two's ride was from the Tom Brown Park, which included Magnolia, East & West Cadillac. Trails totaled 11 miles, all of which had rolling terrain with swooping trails. For those that liked technical, there were several sections that featured steep drops, rock gardens, a huge BMX styled track for mountain bikes, and lots of banked turns.
Magnolia was built in a narrow linear park, so much of the trail folded back on itself. Lots of roll down, turn, power up, turn, and roll down. The Cadillacs ran lengthwise, so had few turns, which allowed the descents to run for awhile. 
Fully tree covered with rich dirt, traction was near perfect. The trails did have their fair share of roots, but they felt more like a technical feature than an annoyance. 
Tallahassee has three main trail systems. Two were fun enough to warrant a visit, and could be ridden in one day. My fav individual trails are:Red BugMagnolia CadillacsCambodia Bamboo 
Got to say though, our local trails are as good or better.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Surprising Health Benefits of Mountain Biking

This is an article by Helen Grayson

Few things can beat the rush of a downhill ride, or a slow ride through a particularly lush, area of our favorite forest. Mountain bikers know that what we most miss when we’re not out cycling, is the sensation of getting away from it all, feeling the freedom of speed and the thrill of a great jump, in the midst of the magnificence of the Great Outdoors. We know that mountain biking is a great workout; that it gets our heart racing and helps us obtain a leaner, stronger shape – yet there are many more hidden benefits we may not really comprehend, but which are powerful and life-changing. Some of mountain biking’s most surprising health benefits include:

  • Better Mental Health: Anxiety and depression are the two most common mental conditions in the world and both can be triggered by chronically high stress levels. Mountain biking is a great stress buster, bringing down cortisol (stress hormone) levels for two reasons: because it provides a powerful cardiovascular workout, and because it takes place in the midst of Nature. Various studies have shown that an outdoor beneficial workout is more beneficial than an indoor one, providing a greater sense of enjoyment, and reducing stress levels to a far greater extent.
  • Battling the Addiction to Technology: The vast majority of kids in the United States spend less than 30 minutes outdoors engaging in unstructured play. Most blame the heat, a lack of access or interest in Nature, and even obesity. Others are so addicted to technology, that they feel compelled to spend various hours a day connected to their computer, tablet or TV set. The statistics are a reminder of what Nature writer, Richard Louv, called ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ – basically, children have become so disconnected from the outdoor world, that they can lack the ability to concentrate, develop conditions such as anxiety and panic attacks, and can pack on the pounds, revealing the detrimental nature of their sedentary lifestyle. Louv says that we are “telling kids unconsciously that nature's in the past. It really doesn't count anymore, that the future is in electronics, and besides, the bogeyman is in the woods.” The best way to battle the trend to spend all our time indoors, is to find a pastime we enjoy outdoors – and few are quite as addictive as mountain biking.
  • Mountain Biking is Better than Indoor Cycling: You may think you are doing yourself a great favor by taking part in indoor cycling classes, but take note: people burn more calories when they exercise outdoors. Nothing can quite make up for the varied terrain we encounter when we are mountain biking – indoor bikes have a long way to go in terms of replicating the thrill of a downhill ride or the true difficulty of cycling uphill, with more impediments than mere gravity standing in our way. While it is true that outdoor cycling can do more damage to our bike than road or indoor cycling, keen bikers will say that is part of the fun – preparing for accidents and broken equipment and finding a way, by hook or by crook, to make it to the bottom of that mountain!
  • It Expands Your Social Circle: by singing up for one of SWAMP Club’s fun activities, you can meet some pretty amazing people from all walks of life! Having a wide social circle has many more benefits than the obvious. Recent research shows, for instance, that having friends or being part of a close family or community, increases our lifespan, improves our sense of wellbeing and helps us stave off diseases such as dementia in when we are older. Connection is always of the essence, but when it takes place in Nature while partaking in the fun activity that is mountain biking, the sensation is indescribable and pretty close to fantastic.

If you’ve been thinking of signing up for a guided ride or attending a fun event or festival, don’t hesitate. SWAMP is there to help beginner, intermediate and advanced riders alike reach their very best potential. Novice riders should consider the basic mountain bike riding skills workshop, which will teach you vital skills and show you how to stay safe. Learn all about mountain biking by heading for the wild, wonderful outdoors instead of learning from a book, and begin to reap the benefits of what many would say is one of the most liberating sports in the world.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Kingdom Trails, Vermont

Small World Story - first day riding on the Kingdom Trails in NE Vermont our crew stopped on an obscure little trail to check our map. We met 4 other riders and started to chat. Turns out, three were from St Pete, two were SWAMPers, and one had recently complete my introduction to mountain biking class. All this on a Monday in nowhere Vermont. 

This is our lodging, an old diary barn rebuilt as an eight bedroom lodge.
Very unique and spacious.

Our first morning started at 31°, but by mid afternoon it was 64°. Perfect weather for riding. The trails were tacky, providing great traction. The trails here were steep, twisty and root covered. We will be here for a week, riding a different trail system every day. Kingdom has over 100 miles of singletrack.

High speed drop onto a bridge.

Bob on one of the many high speed berms.

We started day 2 by riding thru a working farm with cows, horses, goats and at least one donkey. What is interesting about this trail system is that it crosses 50 sections of private land. The property owners realized that opening their land to bikers was very good for the local economy. The town of East Burke has visually benefitted from the biking community with new restaurants and rental lodges opening in support of the cyclists.

a century old barn

a working farm provided access to our trails

The older trails are hand built and more technical than the newer machine built trails.
Fortunately, there are enough trails of both variety to make most any rider happy.

Marty, Bob and one of the tour company owners, Alex, are getting ready to dig into our
lunch quiche. The meals have been healthy and very tasty, and totally home made.
Looks like I will be putting on a few pounds this week.

This guy was perhaps the most friendly chipmunk I have ever met, not at all shy.
 I don't doubt he would have stuck around for as long as we fed him snacks.

And the great trails just keep coming. Today we rode at the Stowe Ski Resort, which has some wonderful trails. A little flow, some old school hand cut, and one climb that I never fully recovered from. It was a contest to see which gave out first, my legs or my lungs. Fortunately, this old bod held together and we completed a respectable climb without self destructing. 

We have had some lovely sunsets, followed by the darkest skies full off stars. Every night I have gone outside to look at the Milky Way. In Tampa, I can see the moon and maybe half a dozen stars. Up here, the sky is full of bright stars, planets, a galaxy or two, and a horizon to horizon view of the Milky Way. I doubt there is anyplace in Florida with skies this black, so the night views are a real treat.

When we arrived, the trees were green. As we leave the mountains, color is everywhere.