Our dualsport ride on the blue ridge trail a couple of weeks ago turned out to be so much fun, we decided to go again on Saturday.
Once more, we zipped 100 miles up the highway (as much as one “zips” on an air-cooled 230cc motorcycle), to pick up the trail where we left off.
Into the woods:
After exploring the turn off for the scenic lookout in the first pic, Tub Run Rd. off of Rt 311 was the start of the Section of the BRT for the day.
I really enjoyed Tub Run Rd., although it was so well graded, I’m pretty sure my Monster could have made it without much trouble. However, what Tub Run lacks technical challenge, it makes up for in scenic beauty and wildlife.
(Sorry for the dust on the lens of the helmet cam. I wiped it off whenever we stopped, but I’m not sure there’s a lot I can do about that.)
We saw no less than three deer on Tub Run, although catching them on camera was difficult. It takes a minute for me to dig out my regular camera, but once the young buck below scrambled out of the road and up the hill, he stopped long enough for me to catch some photos with the helmet cam. The wide angle fish-eye lens that is so good for capturing landscapes and a wide field of view while riding, is not so great for capturing wildlife. The deer in the middle of the pic below looks much further away, and is much harder to see than he really was.
The weather had called for temps in the upper 80s or even 90, and a small chance of thunderstorms. Despite some mixed cloudy skies, what we ended up with was the perfect day. Maybe it was due to the 1000 to 200o ft or so elevation, but the temps were not too hot, and we never saw any rain. It was pretty much awesome to be out riding around in the mountains.
After the first non-paved section, the trail dumps out on roads like this for a few miles before heading back into the forest.
It even crosses briefly into West Virginia, although you wouldn’t know unless you were looking at the map. None of the usual crossing state lines signage is present on such small roads (or dirt paths :)
Back into Virginia, we both thought this valley was beautiful.
Off the pavement again, the trail climbs back up onto a ridge. Below is where the BRT crosses the Appalachian Trail. No bikes on the AT of course, but we took a picture of the sign, as we may need to go back and hike that section sometime.
At this point, we were both having a blast, enjoying some pleasant, scenic riding through the forest, climbing over the mountains. Why don’t we see anyone else riding the trail? This is fantastic.
After we crossed the AT however, we turned onto a much less well traveled trail, and my pleasant, easy ride through the woods came to and end. Until this point in our ride, the trail had been well graded paved and unpaved roads that definitely qualified as “un-paved” riding, as compared to “off-road.” For those not aware, there is a big difference.
While technically doubletrack, this next section was more like 1.5 track, and was basically either washed-out, rocky (like a dry rivered), and rutted, or had deep puddles, and thick, greasy, wheel trapping mud. When the trail leveled out, we contended with mud, when the trail went up or down, it was more like a rock crawl. I think a high clearance 4×4 Jeep could pass this section, but it would be slow going. Regardless, this section of the BRT is not noob friendly, and definitely above my skill level. I compensated by slowing down, and taking a lot of breaks. (Also, I pretty much stopped taking pictures at this point).
I wish I’d gotten a picture of the rocky, washed-out sections (I was pretty busy, and it was hard to just stop and take a picture, especially on sloped, uneven ground). These sections were definitely a lot less like trail riding, and a lot more like “motorcycle assisted hiking.”
In some places, I got a little braver, and stood up on the pegs and rode over rough sections with washed out ruts and large rocks. In others (mostly downhill, as that’s a lot scarier :) , I chickened out, and sat down and dabbed both feet (thus the hiking reference).
The mud puddles varied in difficulty as an obstacle. Sometimes, we could just ride around them through the woods. Other times, we splashed through. Sometimes there is more traction through the puddle than around it, sometimes not. Riding along the edge to try to avoid the unknown depth was almost worse than riding through it. The edges are where the really deep, thick, greasy mud is. By all rights I should have fallen into the mud in one of these. My tires are completely inappropriate for these conditions, and I was sideways and sliding around more than once.
This tire? Not a good choice for these conditions. I’m actually not sure how I didn’t get stuck in the mud.
This is a road biased tire that was on the bike when I bought it, and it does work nicely on the street (as compared to true off-road knobby tires, which do not grip well on pavement). However, its pretty useless off-pavement, which is what I bought the bike for. Given the amount of street I will be riding with this bike, I know I don’t want full knobbies, but I think its time to shop for an actual 50-50 tire.
Anyway, despite my lack of skill and having the wrong tires, I made it through this entire section without falling once. I’m sure this has less to do with skill, and more to do with luck, riding as slow as 5mph in places, and my ability to reach the ground and prop up the tipping bike with my foot.
Needless to say, I like this part a lot less than the first part of our ride, or even the previous 50 miles of trail. Despite recent efforts over the last couple of months to improve my level of fitness, I am completely worn out. True off-road riding is so, so physical, and while this isn’t news to me, I am amazed at how tired I was at the end of the day. I’m not sure I quite see the appeal of riding in those conditions. Perhaps if my skill level improves, the challenge of riding more difficult obstacles will be fun, rather than just difficult. I’m just glad neither of us fell or were injured, and that I’m not bothered by a little dirt and mud all over everything :)
6/26/2013 – 271 miles. 50 more miles of the Blue Ridge Trail. This 50 miles was both easier than our first ride, and also had a section that was much, much harder.