Monday, July 16, 2012

Return to Stonewall Farm

It was another good day for Team 2-Adventures/Bikeway Source yesterday at the races. We both not only finished but managed podium presence in the mean time. This year's edition of the Bikes for Bovines at Stonewall Farm MTB race saw a totally new course comprised of some good old fashioned tight and twisty New England singletrack. There was a ton of up and down and countless switchback corners. Having built a little trail in my day I could appreciate all of the work and craftsmanship that had gone into the trail system.

It's great to see more courses popping up that consist of actual MTB trails designed for MTB's. This is a new paradigm and one that is making the racing exponentially more fun and interesting. Back in the day, virtually all of the race courses and in fact all of the trails in the region were ones that had started their life as something else, be that jeep road, hiking trail, or more likely than not, old moto trails.

While sometimes novel, by in large, moto trails suck. They typically run straight up or straight down a slope, are rutted out and have miserable flow in general. There are some exceptions but those are few. In the past ten to fifteen years though there has been a big surge of MTB specific trail that is well designed, sustainable, and has excellent flow. The Grafton Pond race was a prime example of trails the climb via rolling gradual up-slope traverse which when done right, make the climbs virtually disappear despite gaining elevation all the while.

 Cathy and I had raced at Stonewall Farm in Keene, NH once before. That was in 2009 on the old course. That course consisted of a long climb up a loose, rocky, washed out jeep road, some freshly logged slash which led to some rutted out logging road climbs. When you finally got to the trails in the woods, you suddenly wished you were back on the rutted logging road again. Oh, and there was a long railroad bed as well. All in all not the worst course but certainly not remarkable. The course just wasn't a whole lot of fun and as such, we hadn't felt the need to venture back since.

A few weeks ago at the Grafton Pond race Chris mentioned that he had totally redone the trail system for Stonewall Farms and although he wouldn't claim that they were on par with Grafton Ponds trails, he thought they would be a pleasant surprise for all. With that Cathy and I decided to give it a go and see what it was like. I'm always happy to ride something new especially when the trails were purpose build for MTBs.

We are currently in the midst of a bit of a heat wave and yesterday followed suit with the temperature steamy and hot. There has been no hint of rain in what seems ages as well which means we are also in a drought. As we got out on course for a warm-up lap the extent of this became evident. The trails surface was primarily loose and silty. They still afforded traction by the dust was persistent. The new trails were very well built and laid-out with solid and stables bridges as needed. Chris was being modest when he said that his trails were not on par with the Grafton Pond trails. They were different yes, but the spirit was very similar. The Stonewall Farms trails had climbs that were much more evident as well as descents that were also more pronounced but there were excellent trails nonetheless.

By the way, the GPS was way off in terms of course length. The actual laps were almost 4.5 miles each and we did four of them. I need to get the Ant+ integrated trip meter for the MTB, which is based on wheel revolutions, a much more consistent and accurate way to measure distance in the woods. This corrects the distance for the GPS unit. One more thing to get I guess.

Many thanks to Jill and Chris from Root66 as well as the folks at Stonewall Farm for putting on another great event. This is our fifth year back racing MTB, which is primarily with the Root66 series. All I can say is that it's as much about the people as it is the events, which is why we keep coming back.

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