The Uncertainty of Spring Mountain Biking

James Knott gives a thumbs down.

Boooo…. The second XC mountain bike race of the year was cancelled because of early spring rains. It was the right decision, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t disappointing.

My best-case scenario for Saturday, April 5th would have been an OMBC XC mountain bike race at The Wilds near Zanesville, Ohio.  Second best would have been a long, endurance ride on singletrack.  But this is spring in Ohio and the best-laid plans of mountain biking men always have an uncertain outcome.

In this case, 2 days straight of monsoon rains have soaked every piece of trail within 2 hours of me and there is no chance of it drying this weekend.  The race has been postponed for a week and the trails are closed.

I see a long road ride in my future.  It will be fun.  I will try and make it an adventure.  But, it’s definitely not what I would prefer.

Learning How Not To Be a Douche

When I first started mountain biking, I was an all-weather rider.  Getting my bike muddy was a blast and slipping all over the path was seen as “honing my technical skills”.   I looked forward to going out in the slop and coming home to a long, hot shower.  A mud-splattered bike as a badge of honor.

Rain drops are hanging on a screen in spring.

The early spring rains are putting a damper on my mountain biking fun. 🙁

But I was ignorant.  I didn’t realize how damaging this riding was to the trails.  No one had told me how many volunteer hours were spent on repairing the ruts that were left.  Churning up the soil on wet days makes the drying process even longer, which creates a downward spiral of damage.

I was that guy.  I was a douche.

Since then, I’ve taken some time to volunteer with trail-building and maintenance.  There is nothing glamorous about shoveling in the wet, spring grime.  I have been indoctrinated into the courtesies enforced by the Central Ohio Mountain Bike Organization (COMBO) and the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA).

There are trails out there that handle the rain very well for most of the year.  But, spring is a tougher-than-average time in this part of the country because the freeze-thaw cycle of winter has loosened the dirt to the point that it retains moisture more easily.

So don’t be “that guy”.  Don’t be a douche.

The Indoor/Outdoor Dilemna

Rain has made the driveway moist in Central Ohio.

I see less dirt and more asphalt in the near future.

In my quest to be a non-douche, I am forced to consider other options for my training.  Saturdays are my long, endurance days.  I have built myself up to 3.5 hours on the spin bike on Saturday mornings, but that is really starting to push me to the limits of what I want to do indoors.  Tomorrow I have a 4 hour ride planned because I am trying to build up saddle time for the Mohican 100k in May.  That’s two whole Netflix movies if I stay inside!  Doh!

On the other hand, it’s going to be in the mid-30s when the sun rises tomorrow morning.  Riding outside for 4 hours might get a little chilly in those temperatures.  I still haven’t invested in winter (& early spring or late fall) riding boots.  It’s a little late to buy them now.  I don’t know if I can take having numb toes for that long.

If I do go outside, then I am planning on making it a city excursion (on my mountain bike), where I head southeast from my house into the city of Columbus and ride around casually to explore.  …at a normalized power of 165-170 watts.  You know… …casually. 🙂

That way it feels more like a fun adventure, than a 4-hour pedal-mashing session.

I’m still trying to decide what to do, but I’m leaning towards the outside option just because I have been cooped-up all winter.

Dying To Get Outside

Cory Knight rides his mountain bike at The Wilds.

Cory Knight flies down the trail. So far we have only gotten to ride singletrack twice – the first time was a race at Mohican Cabins and the second was a pre-ride for the OMBC race at the Wilds.

And that’s the frustrating part of spring – the constant tug-of-way between wanting to ride the trails so badly, but not having access to any rideable paths.

I’d love to be cruising the singletrack for both recreation and training.  I love riding out in nature for it’s own sake, but I’m extra motivated because I want to get ready for XC mountain bike races, and the best way to do that is to ride on XC mountain bike trails.  It definitely throws a wrench into the ol’ training plans.

I recently got a sweet new spin bike, but it can’t help you practice descending or floating through rock gardens.  You can’t carve sharp turns in the basement or even on the road.  You have to do that on the trails.

That’s the story of spring.  You make your plans and then you cross your fingers and wait.  Maybe it will work out and maybe it won’t.

So this weekend, and many other weekends this spring, I will compromise.  I will mask my frustrations with an urban ride that trades the singletrack for a multi-purpose asphalt path.  Instead of stopping to pee on a tree, I will lock my bike outside a McDonald’s and hit the urinal.

It will still be fun to ride the roads, but so far I have only gotten to ride the singletrack twice.  I’m looking forward to the weather getting warmer and drier, so that these rides can be a more regular occurrence.

Until then, April showers, bring _______.  (Can you complete this sentence for me?)

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4 thoughts on “The Uncertainty of Spring Mountain Biking

  1. This makes me nostalgic about the early days of MTBing.
    For those of us who’ve been at it since the early ’90’s (or even before!) – it used to be OK to ride in the mud. The trails were a little rougher and ruts and washouts were part of the game. Powerline trails were pretty accessible, and MTBs and motorcycles rode a lot of the same muddy, rutted stuff since there were no designated MTB trails. We came back covered head to toe in mud more than once. Undoing those habits was really hard.

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