NEMBAfest 2016

“You couldn’t ask for a better weekend.”  That’s the phrase I heard numerous times over the three days of NEMBAfest.   The weather was truly exceptional and bikes were everywhere.  In spite of all the rain we had during the prior week, the trails were dry, even a little dusty in places.  We had all the makings of the biggest bike party of the year.

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The expo area and nice, white, fluffy clouds.

The good weather had another side effect – it drew people out of the woodwork. NEMBAfest has been hosted at Kingdom Trails for five years now, and this was the biggest one I’ve seen.  I heard that somewhere around 1200 people preregistered, and who knows how many decided to show up and register because of the perfect forecast.  Let’s just say that there were clearly more people than last year.

As in previous years, our family got involved with volunteering to help out with the family camping area.  My daughter and I also put in some time leading or sweeping a few of the group rides.  Being involved, even just as a volunteer, opens your eyes to all the little details that have to come together for an event to run smoothly.  There are a lot of them.  While there might have been some snags behind the scenes, everything appeared to run like a well-oiled machine.

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Marshmallows too!

I was originally going to be leading the advanced night ride Friday evening, but readjusted to my new assignment taking out a large “inter-mellow” ride.   Thirty-two riders showed up with headlights, ready to pedal around in the dark Vermont woods.  In spite of my reputation, everyone seemed to have a good time.  It was really cool to look over my shoulder and see the glimmer of headlights scattered all through the woods.  It gives an odd perspective of the trails I ride regularly.  Thanks to Tim from NEMBA for showing us their 2nd man drop technique – it made keeping our large group manageable on the ride.  Also, a huge thanks to a guy named Mike for stepping up to be the sweep for our group.  I owe you one.

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Just a few of my Friday night ride followers.  Awesome group.

The next day started out a bit more laid back with a nice morning ride with my wife.  When you have kids, you savor the moments when you can get out together as a couple just to do something fun.  The cool morning was great for riding and the trails weren’t yet busy with groups of bikers.

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Old Webs in the morning.

Later that day I joined the NEMBA Racing team ride.  I’ve not been on the team for a few years now, but it was great to get out and pedal around with the group of guys that I used to race with. In previous years, I had been the one to lead the team on a large loop around the trail network.  Kevin set the route this year and he didn’t disappoint.  With the inevitable group ride attrition, we eventually were left with our core riders from several years back: myself, Shawn, Kevin, Shaun and Andrew.  Whenever Shawn (a.k.a. “Ride Bully”) joins a ride, I know how things are going to go; neither of us do well at self-regulating our desire to go faster.   I had a blast even if I was pretty much spent after our ride.  This has always been a highlight of NEMBAfest for me.

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NEMBA Racing: Turning NEMBAfest into a suffer-fest.  Well, not really; we did have fun.

Even though I was pretty well thrashed, my day wasn’t over.  I was scheduled to lead another night ride on Saturday.  Like Friday night, we had a good turnout with around 18 riders putting on headlights to extend the day with some more riding.  My daughter, Emma, filled in as sweep for the ride.  The sun was just at the horizon when we hit the trails; and it didn’t seem dark enough for headlights to be necessary.  That was true right up until we got under the thick canopy of the woods.  Someone in the group had a blinding, mega-bright headlamp on for the ride, and  I think it might have left a slight suntan on the backs of my legs.  Many people in my group rides mentioned that this was their first time visiting Kingdom Trails.  It was interesting to hear the first time impressions of an area that I am so familiar with.  It made me realize that I often take the good riding I have in my back yard for granted.

I started the day on Sunday running sweep for a small advanced group ride.  I was clearly losing some steam at this point so riding at the back was a perfect fit.  Our group was small enough that a sweep wasn’t really necessary, but I was glad to get out on the bike one more time.  I did get to meet some new people on the ride, including another semi-local from the Mad River valley and a photographer visiting from Australia.  I think he wins the prize for being the visitor from the longest distance.

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There was no shortage of riding opportunities.

For the remainder of Sunday, I mostly poked around at the Expo checking out the vendors and demo bikes.  There were so many bikes available to try out that you could spend the entire weekend just riding different demo bikes.  It was interesting to note how many “plus” size bikes were out there.  They were all over the place.  From talking with some of the vendors, their plus demo bikes were in highest demand.  That’s something I can understand being on my third season riding on 29+ wheels.

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Demo bikes came in all shapes and sizes.

I flagrantly ignored my better judgement by taking out a demo bike from Pivot.  This was seriously sowing the seeds of discontent.  They had a Mach 429 paired up with a set of 27.5 plus wheels.  The flotation of the 2.8″ tires was slightly less than what I am used to with 29×3″ tires, but the overall ride of the bike was amazing.  I take back just about everything I’ve ever said about full suspension bikes.  If this frame could accommodate full width 3″ tires I’d seriously think about getting one.  Yes, you heard that right.  If you know me at all, you now know it’s time to put your affairs in order as the end of the world can’t be far off.

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Mike Stedley making the difficult look easy.

We hung around to catch the final trials show with Mike Stedley and then packed up for home.  It’s surprisingly difficult to put into words all that made up the weekend.  More than just great riding, there were times catching up with old friends and acquaintances, hanging around the campfire, eating a long needed post-ride meal or simply enjoying the quiet of the early morning.  I ended the weekend sore, tired and more than just a little bit dehydrated.  It was great!  Now I’m looking forward to the VMBA festival next month.

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Lots of smiles.
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The schedule of events.
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The calm of the family camping area early Friday morning.

Links:

NEMBAfest 2015

We’re in the fourth year running with NEMBAfest being held at Kingdom Trails.  This was also the second year that it was hosted at the Wildflower Inn on Darling Hill putting the event right in the heart of the trail network.  NEMBA and Kingdom Trails had it all pretty well dialed in this year with everything coming together remarkably well.  The weather was a mix of perfection and the dismal but the end result was still a great weekend of biking.

The Expo
The expo Area and campground (please excuse the crude panorama stitching)

Early Friday morning started off with a good dose of rain.  That delayed our arrival a bit and had me a little concerned about conditions for riding this weekend.  As the day progressed, the skies cleared up turning it into a really nice day.  We arrived mid-day to set up our camper and get things rolling.  My family and I were volunteering by working as hosts for the family camping area again.  We enjoy being part of the event and it’s a nice way to get to meet other people.  The family camping was relocated to a new area just behind Stepping Stone Spa about half a mile from the main venue and campground.  It was a little tighter on space, but I think that might have been better as everyone seemed to interact more with each other.

Once we were settled in, I went up to the venue area to check things out.  I stopped by the SRAM tent and their mechanics pulled apart and cleaned up my freehub innards just because I asked.  The mechanic also adjusted a few other things that he discovered.  Very nice.  I visited with several people I hadn’t seen in a while, but there were many others that I missed.  Maybe next year or at another event.

Our Friday night group just before the sun went down.
Our Friday night group just before the sun went down and the lights went on.

Friday evening I was scheduled to lead the advanced night ride.  The advanced and intermediate groups were each a bit small so we combined them into one group with Chris Dussault leading.  We meandered all around the east side of Darling Hill taking in the new trails Mansion View and Worth It.  In hind sight, taking a group of predominately intermediate riders down Pines at night may not have been the best choice, but everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves.  On the way back out of the woods, we had an amazing view of the moon, Venus and Jupiter as we pedaled back to the campground.

The moon, Venus and Jupiter just after sunset.
The moon, Venus and Jupiter just after sunset.  This was the view as we climbed our way out of the woods.
Steam lifting off the pond on a cool Saturday morning.
Steam lifting off the pond on a cool Saturday morning.

Following a cool night, Saturday was nearly a picture perfect day in just about every way.  We started the day helping out around the camping area.  Later in the morning, my wife took out a demo bike and went out for a ride with me.  The Giant Obsess Advanced was probably a bit overkill for her skill level but a gorgeous bike nonetheless.  Our ride was probably the only time out of the entire weekend where the trails felt a little congested.  The groups of riders moved along pretty well, so it wasn’t a major factor in our ride.

Yup!
Singletrack!

After a quick lunch, I headed back out to join the NEMBA Racing team on their afternoon ride.  I’m no longer an actual member of the team, but it was great to tag along with some of the guys I used to race with regularly in the past.  We covered a good chunk of the trails on Darling hill over the course of that ride.  At roughly the half-way point, we stopped at the pump track in East Burke.  The new section along the tree line was outstanding.  This was surprisingly fun, but it turned out to be a somewhat dangerous with a bunch of lycra-clad racers randomly circling around each other.  After a little while and a few near misses, we decided to give it a rest.  We finished out the ride by tearing around the west side of Darling hill.  The team ride has always been a good time.

Race course... pump track - same thing.  Right?
Race course… pump track – same thing. Right?

Throughout the day on Saturday there was a LOT going on at the NEMBA venue: trials show, pit bike races, music, raffles, wheelie contests and many other activities.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to get to be part of all that as I was busy either out on the trail or eating and recovering for my next ride.  I was hoping that I’d have time to try out a few demo bikes, particularly the Trek Stache and the aluminum version of the Carver Gnarvester.  Cliff Bar gave out tons of sample bars to pretty much anyone that pedaled by and Pedros gave away some bike cleaner and degreaser to everyone who registered.  I was able to check out several of the newly available 29+ tires in real life, now that there are more options on the market.  I can clearly see some Bontrager Chupacabras in my future.

The women's riding clinic was very well attended.
The women’s riding clinic was very well attended.

At the end of the day, I was scheduled to lead another advanced group night ride.  This may have been the most enjoyable group ride I’ve ever had the pleasure of leading.  All the people who showed up for my ride were strong riders (Libby, Andrew, Phil, and Adam) and we were able to just cruise the entire ride with barely a rest stop or regroup.  100% fun.  My legs were starting to feel the weekend’s mileage on them by the end of the ride but it was all good.  Ripping these trails by headlight is a whole different experience than riding them during the day.  It’s like riding new trails, which only adds to the enjoyment.

Sunset
Pre-fest Sunset

I know I’ve commented on this before, but the trail crew, along with the entire Kingdom Trails staff, did an outstanding job preparing things for the weekend.  Many little fixes were made to the trails and signage leading up this weekend.  Overall, the event seemed to run like a well oiled machine.  I’m sure there were some hiccups behind the scenes but it all seemed to go very well.

Loaded shuttle ride.
Loaded shuttle ride.

As I mentioned earlier, Kingdom Trails reopened Worth It and Mansion View.  These trails disappeared from the network several years back at the landowner’s request but now they’re back!  I always liked those trails but their reinvention was excellent.  Worth It was rerouted down to the sugar house at the bottom of Sugar Hill.   The connection below the original Worth It route now takes a fantastic line through the woods with quite a few berms thrown in for good measure.  It’s just plain fun to let the bike go on this one.  “Swoopy,” if that were a real word.

This was the view out the window of my camper early Sunday morning.
This was the view out the window of my camper early Sunday morning.

Then there was Sunday.  I was woken up at some point in the dark hours of the morning by the sound of a driving rain on the roof of our camper.  It rained.  The rain would let up for a little while, just long enough to give a faint, false hope that it might clear out.  It didn’t.  As the morning progressed, it kept coming in waves.  All but a handful of people in our campground packed up and left along with a steady exodus of bike laden cars heading down Darling Hill Rd.  I was scheduled to lead one final group ride later that morning, but it became pretty clear that I wasn’t going to have any takers.  I was actually looking forward to that ride along with checking out some stuff with the vendors before it all ended.  It was a rather anticlimactic ending to an otherwise great weekend.  Still, we had two great days of riding, hanging out and generally enjoying all things bike related.  I hope that NEMBA continues to bring the fun back to Kingdom Trails for a long time into the future.

Also posted at MTBVT.com

Everyone packed up and heading home.
Everyone packed up and heading home.

NEMBAfest 2013

[Also on MTBVT.com]

What do you get when you take 100+ miles of trail, add a couple of thousand bikers and mix in camping, several dozen vendors, lift service, shuttle buses, demo bikes and tons of activities? One incredible weekend of fat tired fun called NEMBAfest. New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) conspired with Kingdom Trails and Burke Mountain to make this event happen again at Burke Mountain. I was surprised by the scale of the event last year and they seem to have managed to push things up one more notch this year. The dial goes to 11.

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Photo by Aaron Rohde

Even though we live only about 15 miles from Burke, we decided to take part in the whole weekend by bringing our little camper and staying through Sunday. Last year, our family volunteered, working with the registration on Saturday morning. We enjoyed helping out with that, so we decided to see what we could do to lend a hand this time around. I’m not the type of person that needs to be busy or involved. Quite often I’m very content to do nothing at all. Still, there’s something a little bit better about being involved with this event than just being a participant.

We wheeled in to town late Friday morning. The village was already busy and things were starting to ramp up on the mountain. Our task this year was to help out with the family camping area located at the Nordic Center out at the end of Dashney Rd. For the most part, we helped direct people to where they needed to go and answer various questions. I was expecting a lot more people out there but I’m not sure everyone was aware of the option. It really was a nice, quiet spot and not very far from the base lodge expo area – much easier to bike to than the main campground higher up on the mountain. Rather than getting rowdy late at night, we had early mornings with groups of small children tooling around on little pink bikes calling to one another. There may have even been a game of tag. The madness was completely over the top.

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Friday was a nearly perfect warm and sunny day. Mostly, we just hung out waiting for people to arrive. There were some late afternoon and night rides but I decided to ride up to the Burke Mtn. Campground to find some of my fellow NEMBA teammates before it got dark. I took a spin through the festival camping area just for kicks and it was already busier than I remember things being last year. Very cool.

The camping area. Photo by Aaron Rohde
The camping area. – Photo by Aaron Rohde

Saturday started out with a very early rain shower; but, thankfully, it wasn’t enough to soak things. We biked down to the expo area at the Sherburne Lodge to check things out. There were tons of things going on; more to do than we were able to take in. Being more of a cross-country type of rider, I was surprised at how busy the lift service was. The line for the chair looked more like something I would expect during the ski season but I didn’t hear much complaining, if any. I scoped out some of the demo bikes but didn’t have time to take any out that morning.

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There were all kinds of cool bikes to be seen!

My other “official” action in NEMBAfest was leading the team ride on Saturday afternoon. This wasn’t on the agenda for the event; but since we’re NEMBA’s official racing team, I think that makes it more official than most. We went out for a three hour tour that covered most of Kingdom Trails. By the end of our ride, the rain had returned and was starting to actually soak the ground a little. We stopped in at Pedro’s bike cleaning station before calling it a day. The rain was a bit of a downer but it didn’t seem to be putting a stop to the fun. People were still out on their bikes all over the place. Due to our ride, I missed the wheelie contest and, more importantly, the Huffy toss. There’s nothing like seeing the flagrant display of power required to launch a department store bicycle. I was hoping to catch the pit bike races around the expo area that evening but missed that in favor of food.

It rained.
It rained. – Photo by Aaron Rohde

As the evening wore on, the rain picked up. I’m sure this put a damper on the campground revelry, but the local restaurants must have loved it. The camping itself really is another “event” of the weekend and it was a shame to see that diminished. The weather last year was nearly perfect for the entire weekend and I wondered then how rainy weather would affect the festival. We found out that it wasn’t the death sentence I feared. The rain really pounded during the night.

Grey

Sunday morning started out looking rather grey. Fortunately, the clouds started to break up and we even saw some sun by mid-morning. My daughter and I rode up to the campground to see Kevin, Shaun and Dustin and maybe get them out of bed if they were sleeping in. They were already up. As the morning wore on, the sun came out more making it warm and humid. That’s the kind of weather I like!

Smiles Photo by Aaron Rohde
Smiles – Photo by Aaron Rohde

We moved the camper out of the campground and parked down by the base lodge for the rest of the day. This would allow us to check out the Expo area more and let the kids just hang out if they didn’t feel like doing anything. Through my own poor sense of time, I was too late to take part in the tire changing contest. I thought I might do well with this since I can usually pull a tire off the rim without any tools. I guess I’ll have to wait until next year to demonstrate my tube-swapping prowess.

Things had become quite busy by mid-day with surprisingly long lines for the chair lift. I did catch the trials show, which I alway like watching. I like trials riding. I also got out on a demo bike and tried the new trail “The Shire.” A climbing trail from the lower lodge to the mid-mountain area is a great idea, but I really do hate grassy fields. Hopefully, this trail will improve with use or something.

Geoff Lenosky
Geoff Lenosky

My wife asked why I liked this so much, I’m not a particularly social person. I had to think about it a little. I generally prefer to ride alone. It’s not just the riding, although that was great; I can ride these trails almost any time I’d like. It’s not just the events. I couldn’t nail down any one thing, but think it’s simply the sum of everything over the whole weekend. Even if you weren’t riding, there were plenty of things to do. Even just hanging out in the campground doing nothing was enjoyable.

Having a very small part of making things happen this weekend made me more aware of all the work that was done by many others. The trail crews did a TON of work over the days and weeks leading up to this weekend. Seriously, you wouldn’t believe the level of activity that was going on all over the trail system in preparation – bridges were built, mud-holes filled in, bad spots were rerouted, and probably more details that I missed. A huge “thank you” to all of the work they did along with the many volunteers that gave their time and effort. It was a great time. I’ve already marked the dates on my calendar for next year.

Photo by Aaron Rohde
Photo by Aaron Rohde

29er+++

[Also posted on MTBVT.com]

For the record, I don’t readily embrace new wheel sizes.  It took me several years before I was willing to even consider getting a 29er.  I do feel that the 29″ wheel has some real, although subtle, advantages on a hard tail.  I’m not at all interested in the 650b wheel.  Keep that in mind as you read on.

At NEMBAfest, Carver had their prototype for the Gnarvester available to demo.  This is a bike built around the 29×3″ tire, similar to the Surly Krampus.   The idea here is that the bike has all “normal” parts aside from the frame that has the clearance to accomodate the wider rim and tire.  True fatbikes either have a wider bottom bracket and hubs, or use a bizarre offset in the wheel build to accommodate the much wider tires.   Since I was somewhat intrigued by the design, I figured I’d take it out for a test ride.
Not too fat, not skinny... just right!
Not too fat, not at all skinny… just right!

After swapping my pedals and handing over my driver’s license, credit card, blood sample and giving my mother’s maiden name, they let me take it out.    What were the results after riding around on it for half an hour?  The short answer: I couldn’t stop the stupid grinning when I brought it back.

The long answer: The ride was awesome!  The tread pattern on the Knard tires may not be the greatest design, but it doesn’t seem to matter as long as you can put down a 3″ wide contact patch.  With the tire pressure somewhere around 12psi, I rode over mud greased rocks and roots without flinching.  The traction was truly incredible.

Slimy roots and rocks.  No complaints here.
Slimy roots and rocks. No complaints here.

I then took it up The Shire, a soggy grass field climb, and was amazed at how well the tires handled the soft slime.  The bigger contact patch let the bike float on top of the soft surface as well as keeping traction.  I’m not sure it would make the fields at the Catamount Wednesday night races feel good, but certainly better than any two inch tire would feel while slicing down into the soupy mud.

The Shire.  Not fun with skinny, high pressure tires.  Not at all.
The Shire. Not fun with skinny, high pressure tires. Not at all.

I expected it to be slower like my fatbike, but somehow it manages not to feel that way at all.  I was able to rip up the pavement on the Burke toll road passing people like I normally would. Yes, I’m “that guy.”  I know it’s obnoxious, but that’s how I ride.

I finished my all too brief time on the bike by taking it down a rooty single track descent followed by one of the machine trails in the Burke bike park.  In pretty much every situation, the bike corners way better than my Jabber.  It took a little while to build up some confidence with it but I found myself leaning it over in the corners  considerably more than I would have dared with my own bike.  I can only imagine how far I could push it with more time to get used to that extra cornering power.  It’s like trail glue on the corners.

Honestly , I was riding the descent faster than I do on my race bike.  I found myself jumping the rollers on Rolly Grail and generally pushing the edge more than I would typically feel comfortable with.  All of this on a fully rigid bike!  I returned the bike covered in mud and spattered with sweat.  I really didn’t want to give it back at all.

Since the bike was just a prototype, I can’t say much about it specifically, other than to say that if I had this much fun on it now, I can hardly wait to get my hands on one once it is a finished product – especially if it were built up as a single-speed.  If I owned one I could see my other mountain bike getting a lot of neglect.

My only complaint is that I’d love to see more than one tire made available in the 29×3.0″ size because, right now, Surly is the only manufacturer and they only make one tire in this size.  I haven’t been that blow away by a bike in a long, long time.

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I want one.

NEMBAfest Team Ride II

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.

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Kevin, Andrew, Shaun, Shawn, Amanda, Emma, me, Dustin

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 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.

Gratuitous Ride Bully Photo
Shoe adjustment – much better than breaking frames.

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 Route
The Route

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.

The survivors the next morning.
Some of the survivors the following morning.

Updates:

  • Kevin has a writeup on the weeked on his blog.
  • Shawn Smith should have something up soon.

NEMBAfest @ Kingdom Trails

What can I say about this event?  It was bigger, better and more fun than I had expected.  That pretty much sums it up.  I was glad that I didn’t pass up the opportunity to take part in something like this so close to home.

I started seeing a lot of cars coming through Lyndonville with bike racks by mid-day Friday.  Actually, I had gone out for a ride in East Burke on Thursday and it was already a little bit busier than normal.  When I went out to E. Burke on Friday for a brief trip, it looked as busy as any weekend only with a few RVs added to the mix.  That was the case until I went up to the mid-mountain lodge to check things out.  I would be helping with the registration on Saturday morning and wanted to see what I was getting into.  The lodge was busy.  Busy.

Part of the campground

On Saturday, my wife, kids and I were helping out with the registration.  Since I am a member of NEMBA and part of their racing team, it only made sense to contribute something.  Most people had arrived on Friday so it was relatively quiet.  Still, it was enjoyable to help out with things.  We got to talk with quite a few people and find out more of what was going on.  There were tons of group rides, the mountain bike park was open with lift service to everyone, tons of vendors, demos, contests, kids games, even trail rides at night.  I didn’t get to take part in even a small portion of what was available and still had a great time.  I heard that the campground was quite a lot of fun too.

I was able to lead a group ride with the NEMBA racing team on Saturday.  We had a blast hitting the trails for the afternoon.   After the trials show on Sunday afternoon, my daughter and I also got to do some riding at the mountain park and the Darling Hill trails.  The weather even cooperated for most of the weekend.  The whole event had a great feel to it, and just hanging out was really cool.

Jeff Lenosky’s Trials show was pretty cool.

The trail system really seemed to be able to handle the influx of riders for the weekend.  On Saturday, we had no problems at all with the crowds.  The village of East Burke seemed busy but not unmanageable.  From what I had heard, there were over 900 preregistered and a few hundred more that registered in person.  Impressive.  Thanks to everyone who made the event happen this year.  It was really well organized and tons of fun.  Hopefully, they will return next year so we can do this again.

Final note: I want to give a HUGE “Thank You!” to whoever found my helmet, gloves and glasses at the base lodge and left them on the table for me.  It is appreciated very much.

NEMBA Tents
The NEMBA Tents
More of the Campground
nembafest campground
Sunrise over the campground at NEMBAfest. Photo by MTBVT

Others:

NEMBAfest Team Ride

NEMBAfest was this weekend.  On top of all the really cool stuff going on, I managed to get the chance to lead a ride with the members of the NEMBA racing team on Saturday afternoon.  This is a great group of riders – even when we’re not out to beat each other on the race course.

The Team
From Left to Right: Shawn “Ride Bully” Smith, Matt Caron, Kevin Orlowski, Dustin DeLuke, Art Roti, Shaun Pinney, Karina Assiter, and Mark Tucker

I had planned the ride out a week or two in advance with several test loops being made in the late afternoons after work.  The hardest part was having to decide what would be left out.  Several trails I would have loved to include just didn’t fit in the flow: Tap & Die, Pines, Old Webs, J-Bar, Rim, East Branch and Burnham Down.  It’s a great problem to have.  I’ve been riding these trails since 1991; and they are so good, I haven’t gotten bored with them.  Having put this much thought into the ride really makes me appreciate how nice this trail system is and the work that so many people put into it.

DustinUltimately, I decided to run a big loop that would include all the major areas of Kingdom Trails.  The Grand Tour of KT.   I wanted to avoid running into other groups, if possible, so that factored in a little.  The other consideration was trying to avoid going up any trails where most people will be going down – we didn’t need any collisions.  This all seemed to work out well since we really saw very few people out on the trails and never had to wait for any other groups of riders.  That’s really remarkable considering the number of people here for the event.

Only One
No derailleurs here!

We met at the NEMBA tent in the expo. area.  There were eight of us in all – five on single-speeds.  After a couple of group photos, we headed out.  The big climbing would come first, so we could get the work out of the way.  I had the Ride Bully silently taunting me along to go faster for most of the climb.  I was still feeling the effects of my ride from Thursday in my thighs so it was hard to respond as I would have liked.  Once at the top of Camptown, we regrouped and crossed the toll road to descend Dead Moose Alley.  We then traversed Parrs Yard, burned a mile or so on Pinkham Rd. and rode Magill Fields.  That lead us to the never ending descent of Moose Alley.  I love the flow of Moose Alley although it can be a bit hard on the forearms after a while.  From Moose Alley we crossed over Rt. 114 and rode along White School  toward the Darling Hill area.

Cracked!
Ouch!

As we got close to the Darling Hill area, Shawn noticed that something was wrong with his bike. It didn’t take much investigation to discover that his downtube was cracked completely through.  Definitely not the kind of thing you want to have happen at any time, but especially when you’re a long way from home in a group ride.  Since we were so close to the village, Shawn, Karina, and Matt decided to return together.  I really hated to see the group break up.  Those of us who remained continued on by riding down the west side of Darling Hill and back up the east side.  With the group down to just five, we picked up the pace a bit and just wound our way around the single-track.  Troll Stroll seemed to be the favorite of the day.  Ultimately, we ended up skipping a few trails that I had originally planned on hitting purely because we were running out of water, food and time.  It’s hard to estimate the pace that a group will ride.

The Team
Notice that Shawn is NOT on his bike anymore.

Thankfully, the only other mechanical we had to deal with was when I pulled the cleat out of my shoe.  This would be really cool if I could say it was just brute force from my legs that yanked the threads out of my shoe.  The reality is that the screws must have worked their way loose over many miles.  That was quickly resolved with a few minutes and an allen wrench.

Everyone seemed to have a really good time.  I know I would have loved to get in some more riding together, if that were possible.  We really just ran out of day.

Kevin has posted data on Strava for the ride.  We rode just over 24 miles and climbed over 3000 ft.  All in a day’s fun.

The trails: Lodge Trail, Camptown (up), Dead Moose Alley, Blacksmith, Parrs Yard, (road), Macgill Fields, Moose Alley, White School, Upper Pond Loop, Lower Pond Loop, Pete’s Pond, White School, (road), Harp, Fence Line, Cor0nary, Bemis, Troll Stroll, River Run, Webs, River Run, Dry Feet, West Branch, Border, (road), Bill Macgill, Pines, Vast and you have to end with Herbs.