With NEMBAfest coming up, those of us on the NEMBA Racing Team had a few email exchanges about getting together for another team ride this year. I really looked forward to this last year and hoped we could pull it off again. Last year’s ride was a blast even if we did run into a few snags along the way.
The plan this year? Actually, I had none. Well, maybe I didn’t have a plan but I had been thinking a lot about the possibilities for several days. I definitely had some trails I wanted to include but, with that, I had several conflicting goals. Some trails I would have liked to done in one direction would also make it difficult to ride others as part of the same loop. I wanted to include Farm Junk and Skydive since they are relatively new and somewhat out of the way. I also would liked to have descended Burnham Down but that wouldn’t fit well without making the ride into a death march covering ridiculous distances. With this group, I probably could have gotten away with that but instead opted to keep things flowing. I also considered adding Culvert Cut to the mix since it is lightly traveled and one of the oldest trails in the system. I ended up with a brief agenda of trails that I wanted to include but left things more open so we could adapt depending on the group consensus. I did suggest riding up The Shire at one point but that idea was shot down pretty quickly.
We had a little smaller group than last year but definitely a good showing. This group included myself, Andrew Schnellinger, Kevin Orlowski, Sean Pinney, Shawn Smith, Dustin DeLuke and his wife, Amanda. Matt Caron also joined us for part of our tour. My daughter, Emma, joined us for a brief distance but bailed out at our campsite knowing that we would be going harder and further than she would enjoy. While there is no shortage of people who ride at Kingdom Trails, I don’t often get to ride with others who like to ride at the same pace that I do, never mind getting with half a dozen or so who can work me over on a ride. We were pretty much all Expert level riders with four of us on single-speeds. It was interesting to see that how we rode as a group was more equal than when we’re on the race course.
The ride itself was a blast. It had threatened to rain most of the day but, thankfully, had only managed to produce some light sprinkles early in the morning. The trails were still dry when we headed out. We took things a little more gently by starting up Dashney Road and then climbing Trillium. Last years haul up Camptown turned out a bit more aggressive than I anticipated so I thought this would be a better way of warming the group up. Everyone seems to enjoy a long descent, so we rode down Moose Alley. Personally, I like climbing that trail but there was no way I was gong to attempt that feat on a weekend this busy.
One of the things that was noticeably different from last year was the number of people out on the trails. We encountered a LOT more people out there. Last year we rarely had to pause for anyone where this time around we had frequent stops to allow other groups to pass by. It wasn’t enough to be a problem of any sort but not what I expected. I think that NEMBAfest had grown substantially but I haven’t heard any attendance numbers to confirm that, at least not yet.
As we rode, the light rains returned starting out as little more than a mist. The rain intensified very, very slowly throughout the afternoon – like someone turning up the volume on a stereo so slowly that you never notice at what point it actually became loud. Fortunately, the trails never really turned muddy, even by the end of our ride. The humidity, on the other hand, went off the charts and I was soaked with sweat by the middle of the afternoon.
Overall, the three hour tour was just a good time. Our ride produced no Strava KOMs, although perhaps a few personal records. There were no broken frames either. Amazingly, nobody in the group got even a mechanical to deal with. Now that’s unusual. We convened by the river behind East Burke Sports debating what to do next. Swim in the river? Just ride back up to the campgrounds? Whatever the options, one thing was clear: riding the shuttle bus back up the mountain in the team jersey would be grounds for open ridicule. In the end, we rode our way back up the soggy road to the Pedros bike cleaning station and called it a day.
The trails: Trillium, Moose Alley, White School, Farm Junk, Sky Dive, Swan Dive, White School along the river, Herbs, Beat Bog, Riverwood, East Branch, Connector, Bill Magill, Bemis, Troll Stroll, River Run, West Branch, up Old Webs, up Darling Hill Road, Bill Magill, Sugar House Run, VAST, and the requisite drop into East Burke on Herbs.