Sunday, March 20, 2011


So now that I have had a week to digest, here is my recap of my trip south. First off, my trip had several purposes: 1. to accompany Art to The Sustainable Trails Conference in Asheville, and 2. to visit Art’s family only an hour or two out of Asheville. Not in my original plans, but I also got to visit Industry Nine, and pick up my wheels (see previous post). … and of course my master plan is to ride my bike as well, but you all know that.

The Conference in Asheville:
It was kind of cool pulling up to the hotel with a” Welcome Professional Trail Builders” sign. It appears that in these parts, mountain bikers are viewed as the good guys. The Conference: was presented by The Professional Trail Builders Association, and attracted people from many places including far off places like Alaska, Hawaii and Canada. Art and Mergs attended a two day “Road to Trail” workshop. They worked on the Jim Branch Trail in Dupont State Forest. The majority of the work was done by machine and they had a chance to learn machine design concepts.

The Riding:
My first few days of riding were at Bent Creek right outside of Asheville. This area is an Experimental Forest Research area with recreational use allowed. It was Saturday, and this place was jamming with all sorts of bikers and pedestrians. The trails were a mix of forest service roads and what they call single track: It is actually 4 to 6 feet wide and smooth. There was plenty of climbing, after all this is big mountain country, and the single track looked to be all machine bench cut across the hillside with berms and rollers. The trails were designed with flow in mind. They were way fast and fun. It was encouraging to see that mountain bikers had such a strong influence in trail design in recreational use planning. This is something that some of us in New Jersey are still working towards.

By recommendation of a bike shop, Art and I rode Black Mountain in Pisgah. Well, we did not 100% follow the shop instructions. They told us to do 13 miles of roads to get to 8 mile of single-track. We said “the heck with that, we will just ride the single-track out and back”. It was a beautiful area that followed along a rushing stream. Eventually, it got so steep and eroded that we ended up walking a bunch. I actually walked some down as well. Needless to say we were very disappointed in the trail design, but managed to have a good ride. However, the so called 8 miles of single-track got us back to the car in a little over an hour. We then loaded up the bikes and drove to Dupont for some more riding. Although I don't get paid, I love this job.

The riding at Dupont was really nice. The trails seemed to be very well designed, but maybe a little less technical. Perhaps that is why Pisgah gets the good reviews. I just get so many rocks at home, that I do not feel the need to ride a drainpipe to get them. I also got a chance to check out the work that Art and Mergs did a few days before, and it looked pretty cool. Once again we passed more mountain bikers on the trails and a few families as well. Perhaps the less technical trails attract more bikers. Either way it was nice to see so many mountain bikers out riding.

I was sitting in the car staring ahead and trying not to get sick while Art was driving to his sister’s house, and I realized that these roads are no different than our trails, just a bit bigger and paved. They all had the same berms, low angle climbs, and water shedding design. It took driving in a wet mountainous area to see this. To see more on this, check out my Ashevile video in my gallery:

All in all, it was a worthwhile trip. We all got a chance to speak with other trail builders and got a chance to sample some machine built trails. What impressed me the most was how mountain bikers had become professional trail builders and found a way to fund trail building projects through a seminar. It allowed mountain bikers to fund their own needs and not put that responsibilty on the forest service. As for trails in N.C., they seemed really nice, but not even close to some of what northern New Jersey has to offer. The more I travel, the more lucky I feel to live where I do. Oh, did I mention that I love my Job.

12 hours in a car makes me nuts!

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