Sunday, June 17, 2007

John Muir MtB Trails

Another day of cross-training. Yesterday, Nick and I drove out to the southern unit of Kettle Moraine State Forest for a few hours of mountain biking. After a brief "detour" courtesy of Google Maps being a bit outdated, we found our way to the trail head. Pro tip: Just use the directions provided on the park's website (or use WORBA's resources), they're much more straight-forward and the drive along Hwy 12 is far more scenic than taking I-94, which we did on the way out.

The John Muir Trails are one set out of two (including the Emma Carlin Trails) maintained by WORBA within the southern kettles. They are superbly cared for and extremely fun to ride. There are trail loops for all skill levels, too, though once again we managed to accidentally wander on to one of the intermediate trails. Overall, it's a different kind of ride than Blue Mounds. Here, the emphasis is on maneuverability and speed, whereas at Blue Mounds it was all about obstacles.

The trails vary from nicely hard packed, smooth dirt (with excellent rock and dirt embankments along steeper edges and curves) to patches of rocks and roots and the occasional sand pit. I hate sand pits. For a novice like me, maintaining your line through soft, movable sand is near impossible. I ended up doing a lot of swerving, putting my foot down for stability and just plain walking it whenever we hit a significant stretch of the stuff.

But my most glorious moment of the ride came when my ego and sense of a good time up and blackjacked my ability to see the trail for what it was. At one point, the single track split into a "high road" and a "low road," with the latter being a regular path and the former being a small drop. Naturally, I wanted to make full use of my awesome bike and take the drop. Unfortunately, I failed to notice that the bottom of the drop was nothing but a big sand pit. So I built up some speed, picked up my front tire and went for the jump. My front tire planted hard in the sand and the whole bike simply stopped moving. Thankfully, instead of doing a full-on endo, which is what my body was trying to do, I threw myself off to the left at the last second and took the fall on my leg and arm. I much prefer some scrapes there as opposed to landing on my head.

I dusted off as much of the sand as I could and we continued merrily on our way. There were a few nerve-wracking descents over roots and rocks that nearly toppled us a few times, but I'm happy to say that my panic instinct is slowly but surely being crushed under a sense of challenge and joy. If I put enough power into the bike and then just let it do it's job, things tend to end well.

A word about the bike: I am extremely fortunate to have the ride at all. It's a Mongoose Amasa hardtail, a model usually only available in Europe (I know, I'm just so dang fancy). We were very, very lucky in knowing someone with connections to a bike-related company that did a sort of year-end clearance on show-room models for employees and their families and friends. I won't tell you the price we got it for, but suffice to say it was an insane deal. And it's a great bike. The tires on this thing are huge.

After getting good and sweaty/dirty (it was a solid 86 degrees out), we made our way over to the nearby La Grange General Store for refreshments. I can't recommend this place enough to anyone who comes out to the park. Whether you're there for the mountain or road biking, hiking, whatever, a stop by this place is a must. I can only assume the store is run by health nuts of a sort. There's a small bike shop (to buy and to rent) attached, and the store itself sells various local brews, wines, organic juices and snacks, tofu, etc., and there's a deli where you can buy sandwiches and baked goods. I tried the cheese pita, made to order with my choice of veggies and cheese. The thing was absolutely delicious. You can also get ice cream there, but after an onslaught of boyscouts there wasn't much left.

It was a great day. Hot but not too hot, awesome trails, improvements in my ability to ride them, a good wipe out, delicious food and, as always, top-notch company. You'll need a state parks pass (generally just good to have) and a trail pass. The trail passes are just $8 for a single person for the day. You can buy both of them at the trail head.

Today is supposed to be my first ride on my new road bike. At the moment, I'm waiting for the radar to clear up and then I'll head out to tackle the longer version of the Capitol City Loop. Then, next weekend, it's time to up the ante and go for the long distance action.

1 comment:

Nick Null said...

Actually, it was $8 for the both of us. Day passes for the trail are $4 apiece.

The Lost Albatross