How Not to Ride a Mountain Bike Trail

Laura and I finally rode the much-vaunted Warrior Creek trail in Wilkesboro yesterday. We had just spent a fun but frigid couple of days in downtown Asheville, visiting art galleries, museums, coffee shops and good eateries (including a pretty good siouxshi joint). But holy jesus, it was cold. Monday promised sunny skies and warmer weather, so off we went to Wilkesboro, which is only about 80 or so miles from Asheville. We had a little trouble finding the trailhead, but luckily, a fellow MTBer pointed us in the right direction. He also warned us that there was a “quarter mile section that’s still a little muddy.” I shrugged this off as Laura and I eagerly made our way to the trailhead, which, according to the same friendly cyclist was “about two-thirds of a mile” down the paved road. It was only about 1/8th of a mile, as it turned out. I thought that that¬†little inaccuracy would bode well for the “quarter mile” of muddy section as well. If his sense of distance was that poor (and if he erred in the same direction), then the muddy section may only be a few hundred feet.

It wasn’t. As the day warmed, the thaw quickened, and suddenly we were mired in long sections of gooey wet clay that stuck to the tires like dog poop. And matters worsened when we would ride over a bed of leaves. Now, not only were our tires and drive chains caked in mud, but they had a lovely layer of fall foliage stuck fast as well.¬†Soon our wheels would not even turn, making riding impossible and pushing the bikes downright comical. We had to stop every few feet and use a stick or flat rock to scrape off the mud. This all began well into the ride: probably about mile 5 on a 12-mile route, so turning back would not have helped. We pressed onward and we were able to ride short sections of dry trail, only to be flummoxed again and again by stretches of muddy singletrack. What should have been a 1:20 ride turned into almost four hours. It was easy to tell that this is a dynamite trail with dozens of banked turns and roller coaster features throughout, but it wasn’t happening this day.

I think I need to pay attention to freeze-thaw cycles a little more closely. One really helpful clue may have been that there were no other bikers on the trail or anywhere near the trail, for that matter (save for the one cyclist at the beginning, but his ride was probably not bad, since the ground was still frozen when he rode).

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