When my friend TJ texted me a few weeks ago about doing a big backcountry ride in West Virginia, it was a no brainer for me. There's no better combination than friends, backcountry trails, and perfect October weather. The route was down near Richwood, WV, in the Monongahela National Forest, and it sounded like a big group of people were going to be coming.
|A great view in the WV backcountry|
I talked with some more friends and I ended up driving down from Pittsburgh with my brother, Cinderbloch, and Stick on Friday evening to camp and then do the ride. Luckily, Cinderbloch had a four-bike rack, so we were able to fit all our bikes on my car. My Subaru probably didn't like carrying so much weight, and it definitely felt different driving, but all-in-all it worked out great.
After listening to plenty of (well, I'm not sure what you'd call the genre, mebbe metal?) music and getting some Sheetz for dinner, we made it to the little backcountry campsite off a dirt road. It was called "horse camp", or at least that what TJ calls it, and Cinderbloch tells me it was a fixture in his dream the night before. I don't really know what to make of that, so I'll just leave it at that.
At the camp area, there was a little three-sided shelter with a roof, so a few of us decided to just sleep in their rather than set up our tents. Apparently, they must have an issue with people keeping their horses in the shelter, because there was a sign posted clearly indicated no equines are allowed.
Most of us spent the night hanging out by the fire and looking up at the crystal clear skies. Stick, on the other hand, spent the night preparing for his buck "encounter". After all, it is the rut, and he was sleeping fully exposed in a hammock. As it turns out, Stick's rear end was actually quite sore the following day, so maybe the buck "encounter" wasn't so far fetched after all.
By some twist of fate, TJ happened to be wearing the same shoes that I wear and that Dahn Pahrs makes fun of me for. I guess they're not so strange after all, huh Utah boy? Also, hot chocolate. Because I am a child.
In the morning, we packed up quickly and drove back into Richwood to get some coffee (well, tea for me, I don't like coffee) at a local shop that opened up early just for our big ride. I think the one ride organizer, Mike Boyes, might've pulled some strings to get them to open up early. Either way, it was a nice treat in the morning, especially since it was freezing cold when we started riding at 7:15am, just before sunrise.
The first 15 miles or so were freezing cold. Literally. Me and Rob's Garmin's were both showing about 26 degrees, and the heavy frost all around confirmed it. Luckily, there was a big climb 15 miles in, so we all warmed up quickly.
Stick's bike was making an awful noise on the climb, not unlike that of an animal being torn to shreds by a larger predator. Ok, so maybe it wasn't making that noise, but it sounded dramatic, and his bike really was making a horrendous noise.
That first climb was called Eagle Camp, and the trail we got to at the top was Kennison Trail. TJ had been telling me about Kennison, so I knew it was going to be great. Sure enough, it was a fantastic combo of leaf covered trail, mossy green sections, and epic views of the West Virginia wilderness. Stick was riding really strong, so he and I ripped most of Kennison Trail together, until his freehub blew up.
Sometime after a short punchy climb, I was following Stick down a little hill when his chain dropped. No big deal; we stopped to put it back on, but something wasn't right. The cog was all wobbly and the chain was super loose. No bueno.
Cinderbloch rolled up on us and immediately went to take a look. He quickly deduced that the freehub bearing had completely blown up, and somehow, the wobbly freehub was rubbing on the locking which made the cog come loose. There was really nothing to be done except tighten the lockring and the chain and hope for the best.
These trails are super remote and backcountry, so having a mechanical out here is not good. Luckily, Stick was able to keep riding fairly normally (only stopping every once in a while to tighten the ever-loosening lockring) for now.
The rest of the day was filled with more epic trails, more hanging out with friends, and more issues with Stick's bike.
Over the course of the day, I got to know the other guys we were riding with who I never met before. The local guy Mike Boyes was a total beast, and at 62 years old I'm not ashamed to admit he was dropping me on some of the downhills. Really, the guy is an absolute legend.
Another singlespeeder there, Joe, had done some bikepacking before and we talked a lot about some of the routes he's done, his experience overseas in different countries, and even specifically about an epic mountain bike route he made that covers all of WV.
Probably my favorite bike of the day was McKinley's titanium Why Cycles El Jefe. It was blinged out with purple accents, and man, it just looks so damn good. Plus, McKinley is a strong rider on that bike and it was fun to do some shredding with him.
But, back to Stick's bike. Usually, my brother is the one with the bike problems, but aside from a loose seat bolt, my brother's squashy bike was flawless the whole day.
On the last trail of the day, Fork Mountain Trail, Stick's bike had had enough. The freehub started skipping, and his bike made an awful ratcheting noise with every pedal stroke. The trail was super rugged and filled with countless little ups and downs, so Stick was having a hell of a time getting through it.
As usual, Stick was a beast though, and he finished the trail with a way better attitude than most would've had. Seriously, if you had seen or heard his bike, you would be shocked he made it through the trail.
|Fork Mountain Trail|
We were all super tired after the ride; after all, it was 70 miles of backcountry trails. After a stop at Subway, we made the push back to Pittsburgh. I was driving and Cinderbloch was MC'ing, while Stick slept in the back seat and my brother uploaded GoPro videos to his computer.
I'd say the highlight of the drive home was the Beastie Boys, although DMX was a close second.