If you plan it, they will ride.
"I don't like the cold," I answered, and then I laughed to myself because I was planning to spend the following day mountain biking in whatever snow covered the Berryman Trail.
My friends from Team Virtus had thrown out the suggestion of a group Berryman ride back before Christmas, and it quickly snowballed (see what I did there?) as other teams signed on.
My initial Berryman experience, in September's Berryman Adventure Race, was marred by some serious mountain biking regression on my part, and since then my brother and I have been planning to return and get in some time so Wimpy Kate can't hold us back in 2012. I jumped at the chance to combine practice with good company and spent the next two weeks happily anticipating the ride.
Unfortunately, Thursday's trip to the bike shop for minor adjustments revealed that my rear shifter was broken. This was a surprise to me since I'd been on my bike twice over the past weekend and had no problems with the rear derailleur; it was the front that had been misbehaving. Since they had to order the part, basically I'd be stuck riding a really heavy singlespeed. The guys at the shop asked if I was still going to go, and of course I was. Wouldn't have missed it.
I tried to spin it as a built-in excuse for having to walk my bike on the hills. Still, with this unwelcome news in addition to the cold, the snow and ice, and the memory of my general lack of ability the last time I was on this trail, by Friday's drive home my happy anticipation had shifted to something more like sick dread.
|Luckily, I had a friend to talk me down from the ledge.|
|Photo credit: Luke (do I still have to |
call you Capt. Awesome?) Lamb
We had a great time hanging out and talking, and since I was the only girl of the crew I got a bedroom to myself (and thus happily missed the fart-off) while the boys slept on the floor or couches. In the morning, Luke's grandma got up and made us a big breakfast, too. She was absolutely wonderful, so welcoming and gracious. It was really great to meet her.
About 30 people had responded that they planned to come out for the ride, so we were all curious how many would actually show up. We thought it was very possible that the cold and snow would keep some people, so I don't think anyone expected what we saw as we pulled into the parking lot. It was packed.
|Photo credit: Jim "Everything's Better With" Bacon|
I hung back as the ride started, knowing I'd be there before long anyway. I felt pretty tentative as I headed down the trail, not sure how the snow was going to affect my traction and having visions of sliding on icy rocks and bashing my head.
Being in the back was something of an advantage because it was really easy to see the lines of the riders in front of me on the snowy portions. Other parts of the trail looked more like the above picture. Once we'd been riding for a short time, it was clearly time to shed a layer, so I stuffed the jersey into my pack and switched the hat for the ear cover. We rode on and came to a good-sized root followed a few feet later by a rocky step. I made it partway up the root before having to put my foot down and then chose to walk the step after watching Jim kind of flip off his bike after hitting it wrong. He wasn't hurt, but it would've been a good picture.
|Luke also had problems with that spot but opted to reride it.|
Luke, Bob, and Travis ended up basically spending their whole ride with us. I definitely appreciated the company though I worried that riding sweep behind me was making for a much slower day than Luke would've had if I'd stayed home. Gradually I started feeling more confident on the trail, though I was never able to get clipped in consistently. I think I'm destined to ride Berryman with one foot; last time it was the mud that clogged up my pedals and cleats, this time it was the snow.
|Enjoying a trailside drink, courtesy of the Hoosier Daddies|
|Hanging out with Jake and Ryan|
|What a beautiful day!|
|Oh, tree...thank you for being here and holding me up!|
Because Bob's regular mountain bike was missing a bolt or something for the rear suspension, he was riding a rigid (no shocks) singlespeed. Even so, he still managed to show us a thing or two about riding over obstacles in the trail.
He and Travis split off from us around the ten mile mark or so (?) to head back to the campground where beer, burgers, and brats were waiting.
|Checking how exactly to get back.|
The first few miles made me really glad that we didn't stop. The trail was great, and right now I'm remembering more downhill than uphill. I stopped my bike at a tree across the trail. "I know I could ride that..." I told the guys. "Well, go ahead and try," Luke told me. The best of my three tries (none too impressive) was the second.
Jim, on the other hand, cleared the log on his third try.
I still know I could ride it; I just couldn't that day. I've ridden over logs that size, so I'm not sure what my problem was...maybe the turn in combination with the tree? Anyway, not this time. I redeemed myself slightly later in the ride. I was following Jim, when he ended up stopping on the other side of a smaller tree. I had to stop so as not to run into him, but I went back to reride that spot. It took me two tries to clear it without putting down a foot, but I made it. Incidentally, you'll notice that it takes me forever to start; that's because I couldn't get my first foot clipped in. I swear, when I replace my pedals it's going to be with something easier to engage in crappy conditions.
The lower parts of the trail were nice and easy to ride because we weren't having to ride up hills, but we started to come to some soggy parts where we had to walk our bikes. Berryman is a multi-use trail, and you can see from the picture below that horses have been through recently.
|What horses do to soft trails|
As we got closer to the campground, though, we hit softer trail and walked that section. I went from confident to nervous in no time. Because we were going to leave the singletrack around 15 miles in and ride the roads back to our starting point, we had to cross the creek.
While we felt good riding, this wasn't a day you wanted to soak your feet, but luckily someone had put rocks across the creek. Turns out a bike makes a pretty good handrail.
|Remember, the rule of hill pictures is that they never look as bad as they are,|
so the very fact that you can tell this is steep is a huge signal that it's awful.
BTW, the look on my face is a direct result of the photographer telling us to "think of [something gross]". I laughed, then actually thought of it and made that face...right as he took the picture. Figures.
|Berryman, I like you better this time around, no matter what my expression says.|