The park has two mountain bike trails called Phase 1 and Phase 2. The guys at the shop said that Phase two was the more advanced trail so that's where I was. It's about a 7 mile loop of very tight singletrack, weaving around in a thick forest of rolling hills. There wasn't much climbing, nothing sustained at least, but the technicality of the trail kept it challenging. The trail was littered with roots, which I don't have much experience with out here on the west coast. They can really break your momentum and you have to hit roots at an angle as close to 90 degrees as possible since tires can slip on them very easily. The trail also had a ton of logs to hop and man made ladders and bridges. It was a sweet trail.
I chalked off one lap and had enough time to rail another. The dirt was really dry hardpack so it was quite fast. I was really enjoying the Niner as well. It had quick handling for a 29er and was great weaving around the trees and for the quick adjustments I would have to make on the obstacles. I was even getting used to the fact it was a hardtail too. I enjoyed the quickness and 100% pedaling efficiency. But hitting a big section of roots was still jarring, there's only so much the big wheels can smooth out. My second lap was a blast as I knew what was coming on the trail and could really push the speed and rail it. A half hour road ride back to the hotel and I was done, with a big smile on my face from 2 hours on a sweet bike on new trails.
I decided I was going to get my money's worth out of this bike demo, so I rolling on the bike at 6:30am the next morning (after fixing a flat! Did I ever mention I hate tubes?) to see what fun I could have on the trails at the park across the street. It wasn't quite light out yet... ok it was dark... but close to a full moon! I had hiked a lot of the trails on my first day there and studied the map so I knew where I was going for the most part. The sun eventually came out and I got in a good half hour or so of spinning so I was happy.
After work that day I set off for Alum Creek again. As I came outside I noticed a couple rain drops fall. Oh this could be interesting. And then I looked to the west and the skies were dark, really dark, with the wind blowing it all my direction. Oh well, at least it's not cold! A little midwestern thunderstorm to ride in. So I set off anyways. By the time I got to Phase 1 trail, which was closer, it was starting to rain steadily. I pulled into the trees and set off for a lap around this 6 mile trail. Phase 1 trail was supposed to be the beginner/intermediate trail, but it was still challenging at speed. It was littered with even more roots than Phase 2 in my opinion, but didn't have as many big logs and ladders. The forest provided shelter from the wind and rain, but things were still getting a slick covering as I went along. So I got to experience WET roots! Those are tough! You can't hit them with the bike leaned or at any acute angle or you slip off and can easily be on the ground. The hard pack dirt also just turned slick instead of muddy and the rain and wind were knocking leaves onto the ground which also added to the slippery conditions. Oh and anywhere there was a man made ladder or platform, well you can guess where I'm going here. Just look at the sheen on this:
So all this slowed down the ride and just made for a few "oh #%*" moments when I hit a root I didn't see. Or ride across a ladder with the timidness of a tight rope walker. But I finished up Phase 1 trail and set off for the 10 minute road ride to the north for a lap around Phase 2. With the wet conditions it was nice to have the trail knowledge, but it almost felt like a different trail than the day before because I had to ride it so cautiously and at a lower speed. The rain did stop about half way through the loop but things were still wet. There were a few really narrow board crossings that I cleared the day before, but in the wet I decided to walk because the risk just wasn't worth it. Slipping off a wet wood bridge or board is not fun, I've done that before, and it hurts.
I finished up Phase 2 and headed back, and the storm had passed. It turned out to be an epic evening of riding with the storm conditions, lightning and thunder, wind and rain. I had a great 2.5 hours on the Niner and I was really comfortable with it. It's a great handling bike and would be a good racer for sure. Even though it was an aluminum frame, it wasn't overly harsh. I would love to try out the Air 9 Carbon.
Then, I found out later that the tornado warning sirens were going off at some point. Oops! I never heard those. :-)
The next morning I didn't have to fix a flat so I was on the bike at 6:15 for one more ride in Highbanks Metro Park across the street since I would have to return the bike in the afternoon. The skies were clear and the moon was shining bright to give me a little bit of help seeing in the early morning darkness. I explored a few different trails while dodging downed tree limbs from the strong winds the day before. I can't really describe the peaceful atmosphere that I was riding in. It was really cool. In complete silence except my bikes freewheel whizzing through the trees in brisk morning air and passing through moonlit patches of fog and seeing moon-rays through the trees. Just an amazing way to start the day.
I'm so thankful that I was able to take this trip and experience everything as I did. Just another awesome story to add to my blessed life.
Oh sorry for the bad picture quality, I forgot my camera so my cell phone was the only thing I had.