Two Wheels Off the Ground w/ Rae Gandolf & Heath Boedeker

Most of the XC mountain bikers that I ride with like to keep both wheels on the ground.  They aren’t into tricks and jumps.  They are trying to log as many miles as they can as quickly as possible.  I am guilty of this in my own riding.

I’ll try some of the obstacles here and there, but I’m not doing anything worthy of being on the cover of Dirt Rag magazine.  I’m not going to win the Red Bull Rampage or go viral on Youtube.  I steer clear of taking chances that will lead to season-ending injuries.  Because of that, as a general rule, although there are a few exceptions, I usually try to keep my tires on the dirt.

So it was a refreshing change to meet up with Rae Gandolf and Heath Boedeker.  Heath and Rae are a married couple who love to ride together and they aren’t afraid of a little air time.

Flat tire on I-70

Not a great way to start the day. I had a flat tire on I-70 East on the way to Zanesville, Ohio and my jack was initially stuck in the car. I spent more energy getting my jack out out of its holder than actually taking off the tire.

Map of my car breakdown.

My car broke down at the blue dot.

We had plans to meet up at the Wilds, which has a good assortment of man-made launching sites, but our plan was derailed about an hour before we were supposed to meet.  I ran over something on the highway and got a flat tire.  For a brief second I thought my riding might be cancelled for the day.  But, I was able to use the spare on the back of my Rav4 to fix it and get back on the highway in under 30 minutes.

During the ordeal we decided to change our meeting spot to Dillon State Park, which is closer to their house and to the spot where I broke down on the highway.

I had met Heath before.  He gave me a tour of the Wilds before the OMBC race two years ago.  He is the owner of HWB Cycles in Zanesville, Ohio.  His riding that day left an impression on me, he was way better at downhilling than anyone I had ever ridden with.  His bike hopped from feature to feature like a white-tailed deer frolicking through the forest.  I could keep up with him on the climbs and flats, but he left me in the dust when the trail started dropping.

It was my first time meeting Rae.  She is a professional downhill racer and IMBA-certified mountain bike instructor.  You can learn more about her coaching service at  You can also get a little introduction to her and her training regimen with this video from Youtube:

Rae Gandolf and her trusty trail dog Timber in the parking lot at Dillon State Park.

Rae Gandolf and her trusty trail dog Timber in the parking lot at Dillon State Park.

We met up in the parking lot at 10:30 am.  Their trail dog, Timber, was along for the ride.

My mountain bike race season is essentially over, although I’m still doing some CX races, so I didn’t really have a training agenda for the day.  I was just looking to have a fun ride.

James Knott and Rae Gandolf at Dillon State Park

James Knott and Rae Gandolf at Dillon State Park near Zanesville, Ohio.

We rolled out at a relaxed pace with Heath in the lead.  It was clear that he knew the trails at Dillon way better than I did.  Not only did he know where to go, but he knew which rocks were good for jumping off of.  I tried to follow his line, but with the wet fall leaves, I was more focused on keeping my bike upright in the rubble than on catching air.

Rae and I took turns following Heath.  I didn’t like being in front of them because I felt like I was holding them back on the downhills.  Plus, I thought it was a good learning experience to watch how they tackled the terrain.

One of the greatest things that has come out of Quickdirt is that it has allowed me to meet and ride with a lot of cool people that I probably would never have otherwise.  This was one of those cool rides.  Our riding was laid-back and we were talking as we went.  I learned that Rae and Heath have been together for 15 years and about many of their mountain biking adventures together.  They’ve ridden in Europe and out West, with a list of destinations that would make most riders I know envious.

I also learned that they recently bought a house.  It’s an old barn that held horses and they are currently renovating it.  It has 18 hilly acres and they are planning on building some cool trails for training.  After our ride they were heading back there to work on it.

Every once in a while we would stop to give Timber a break for water or to take a photo.  The picture I really wanted was of them doing stuff at Dillon that my regular riding buddies don’t do.  We headed to a trail on the “far loop” that had a double jump, so that I could try and capture a photo of them airborne.

Rae Gandolf hits a jump at Dillon State Park.

Rae Gandolf hits a jump at Dillon State Park.

Heath Boedeker jumps a ramp at Dillon State Park.

Heath Boedeker jumps a ramp at Dillon State Park.

After watching them a few times through the screen of my iPhone I started to get the itch to try it myself.  The jumps didn’t look too big and seemed manageable.   I asked if they minded getting some video or photos of my attempt.  Rae loaned me her bike, since it had a dropper post and full-suspension, and I hiked it up to the starting point.

All of sudden, from the top of the hill, the jumps seemed much bigger.  I tucked my fear into my jersey and started riding towards them.  But, when I got close, I freaked myself out and put on the brakes.  No jump.  I rolled it.  That’s so XC of me.

James Knott jumps his mountain bike at Dillon State Park

I definitely want to work on this skill some more. It would be awesome if I could use jumping to find faster lines in racing. Thanks for the advice Rae!

I told Rae I wanted to try again.  I hiked back up the hill and took a deep breath.  Go.  …again with the brakes and controlled roll.

Let’s do it again.  Rae went in to coaching mode (remember her web site –  She gave me some advice that got me mentally ready to leave the ground.  I knew this was within my abilities.  With her encouragement, I got microscopically airborne.

There was more advice, more hiking, more attempts.  Each time, there was a little more confidence and my bike flew a little further.  It felt great.  I was so stoked.  I could have stayed there practicing all day.  I was hungry for more air.

The ride back was as casual as the ride out.  Heath ran into several people he knew.  It felt like I was with a local celebrity.  He is active in the trail group that takes care of Dillon – Appalachian Outdoor Adventures.  Between that and the bike shop, he meets a lot of local bikers.

The casual ride back.

The casual ride back.

More casual riding.

More casual riding.

The trail runs parallel to the shore of the Dillon Reservoir, so we stopped to enjoy the view.  The colorful foliage reflected off of the surface of the water for a beautiful fall vista.

Heath Boedeker and Rae Gandolf at Dillon State Park

Heath tries to identify a bird that he sees on the Dillon Reservoir. It was a beautiful fall day with nice warm weather.  This was a day meant to be savored.

After dinner, we went to their new house that they are renovating for stew, beer and kombucha tea. The house is an old barn that used to hold horses.

After dinner, we went to the new house that they are renovating for some stew, beer and kombucha mushroom tea. The house is an old barn that used to hold horses.

Rae and Heath's new house

It was fun seeing the inside of their new house and the construction that they are doing. One feature that stood out to me was the exposed, wooden timbers which really gave the place some nice character. They are going to have their hands full for a while. Hopefully they will invite me back to see the finished product.

After the ride, Heath invited me over to their new house for beer and stew.  Stew?  This wasn’t your grandma’s old-timey gravy-filled concoction.  This stew was full of veggies and ground turkey and was not just delicious, but healthy as well.  Rae served me some home-made kombucha mushroom tea which I had never heard of before.  Despite it’s name, this tea does not actually have mushrooms in it.  It is made with tea, sugar, and a culture of bacteria and yeast that looks like a mushroom and floats in the tea.  Some people claim that it has health benefits, but I mostly focused on the refreshing ginger-infused flavor of the beverage.  It was fun to taste it and learn about the Rae’s process for making it.

Kombucha Mushroom Tea

Rae brews her own kombucha mushroom tea. She keeps several cultures and was setting up two big jars of it while we were hanging out.

After a brief tour of the house and the land where they want to start building trails.  I headed home.  It was a fun day with an interesting couple.  I hope that we can go out and ride again sometime.

Until then,  Don’t forget to like Quickdirt on Facebook for more slice-of-life mountain bike stories in the future.  Also, check out Rae’s coaching website and HWB Cycles in Zanesville.

James Knott drinks a beer.

Cheers! To a good ride with good people!