Last night I joined Peter Weldon and five of his brethren for a ride in the Mohawk Agreement Forest. For those of you who havenít tasted this Escarpment delight, itís a mix of rocks and trail. By XC standards, itís quite flat. There are some small climbs, but they are more notable for their technical difficulty than for their endurance-testing character.
Mohawk is definitely a medium-travel paradise. Good riders can probably fly through there on a kidís tricycle, but most folks show up with 120mm or more of full suspension on burly ďAll-MountainĒ-ish bikes. The old hands seem to be evenly split between flats and clipless. Nearly everyone wears some form of armour.
Riding there is year-round, the locals even snowshoe the trails on winter week-nights to make them passable for week-end riding.
So about last night.
Riders gather in the NE corner of the racetrack parking lot. The locals have a good relationship with security, who never bother them about using the track as their staging ground. There is parking for a few cars at the trail head, but the cars are out of sight and there have been break-ins.
I arrived about 6:55 for a 7PM start, so I hurried into shorts and fumbled with my lights. I have one set on the bars and one on the helmet. Good lighting is a joy on uneven ground, I strongly recommend having at least one powerful light for night rides there. I had forgotten my knee pads, a mistake that would cost me later in the evening. Most folks wear standard ďhair netĒ XC helmets, but I bring the brain bucket for this terrain.
I was the only singlespeeder and the only hard tail last night. There are a few others with this same lack of intelligent forethought that ride Mohawk, but last night I was the lone minimalist.
We cast off in a group of seven. Of the others, I would say there were four guys super-comfortable, and two guys who consistently trailed. It isnít like a typical XC ride where someone just might not be as fast, or at least not the same way. Itís more like everyone rides at roughly the same speed, but some folks are more likely to put a foot down or come right off the bike when dealing with certain obstacles than others on a given ride, so they tend to lag a bit.
The group was really good about having someone wait at every intersection for those trailing. I found myself doing this quite a bit. Lagging behind geared riders is comfortable for me, as my rhythm over rocks and trees clashes with people who have granny gears. I tend to speed up to get up and over things, instead of slowing down and spinning. No value judgment, just noting that itís different and Iím more comfortable not being right on somebodyís wheel when going over lots of rock piles or loggy sections.
Speaking of which, I loved the numerous ride-over logs. The trails have big logs, usually with smaller logs piled alongside to make riding them easier for a conventional bike. I prefer to hop onto and off logs, but when you have the suspension, this setup is great. I could editorialize about braiding and chainsawing logs, but hereís the ďskinny:Ē Getting rid of logs on these trails makes no sense because youíre going to have to ride over rock piles any ways.
Speaking of which, the rocks are the star attraction of this ride. Itís rocky, but groomed. By this I mean that the trail builders have strategically planted some rocks in such a way to improve the trails. There are gorgeous places where a trail of flat rocks leads through mud like stepping stones in a garden. There are places where rocks are piled up to make a ramp onto and off of a bigger rock to ride over. Itís gnar, but well-behaved gnar.
There are some wooden stunts (especially on a trail nicknamed ďThe stunt trailĒ), but the emphasis is on maintaining the character of the trails in a very natural way. Itís aesthetically wonderful.
We rode in twilight for about forty minutes, then the lights came on. We would through a number of great rocky trails, but that wasnít the only delight on the menu. Some trails weaved through grassy pastures, providing the back and thighs with some respite. There was some fun doubletrack (used by snowmobiles and XC skiiers in winter) with great pump action and rutted turns that provide perfect micro-berms. And we spent some time in a pine forest, very twisty and pump without a rock or log to be seen.
Thanks to my riding style, I had spent two hours out of the saddle gyrating like a man with St. Vitusí Dance. I didnít have any major crashes, although I dabbed or ran my bike a fair bit. The main trouble I have is that I hop the bike to get over big rocks, and when I run out of momentum or mis-time things, sometimes the bike stops dead and I jerk forward, rapping my knees on the handlebars. It doesnít cause a crash, but kneepads are a must even when you arenít falling.
Back at the car, I was ready to relax. Fortunately, this group heads to the nearby Mohawk in for beer and food after night rides. The conversation was as interesting as the trails, touching on ice climbing, women who ride harder than their mates, firearms, and of course bikes. All in all a very congenial group on and off the trails, very welcoming of newcomers and a pleasure to be around.
If you are interested in trying something a little different, they usually ride on Tuesday nights and take advantage of 1/2 price wings at the Inn, although it switches to Wednesday from time to time.
Mtbr's 2016 Winter Biking GearReviews and Roundups
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Thread: Mohawk Wednesday Night