--Someone once asked George Mallory why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest. His reply, ‘because it’s there,’ rings as a simple yet ineffective explanation. Along those same lines then, why do we love to ride our mountain bikes? Most days it might be a difficult question as well, but not today. We just spent a weekend at the Syllamo Trail System near Mt. View, Arkansas. The weather was exquisite and the trails…well, the trails reminded us of our love of the bike. It wasn’t a gentle handed reminder like a soft caress to the cheek. No, it was more like a welcome punch to the face.
The newly fallen leaves were laid like a fresh carpet, obscuring all but the biggest rocks. One could have been nervous about the hidden obstacles, but if you just let loose, relaxed and rode the trail, and let the bike do its work, the sensation was magical. There was a discernable comfort on those leaves. Where one leaf was friable and delicate, millions/billions lay against each other and offered support for our tires and seemed to provide some degree of suspension from offensive geomorphic features.
Those leaves were dry and crunchy after a beautiful week of spectacular fall weather, but the familiar crunch, crunch, crunch of footsteps isn’t what we listened to. Instead it was a sonorous chorus of thousands of leaves per second, yielding to the penetrations of fresh knobs on our ‘ready for fall season’ tires as we ripped ’round sweeping bends and floated over roots and rocks on perfect benchcut singletrack. Although, we could be reminded why we ride in a number of different ways, Syllamo never disappoints.
--We did our duties on Saturday, as adopters of the Bad Branch loop at Syllamo’s. Our trail maintenance consisted of a bunch of limb lopping and good ol’ fashioned chainsaw work. After the devastation of last year’s ice storm, several concerted efforts have been made to get the trails back into rideable shape -- (A) Professional saw crews were contracted to cut downed trees to make the roads and trails passable. Estimates for the Bad Branch loop alone numbered 250 downed trees. (B) Volunteers spent hundreds of hours continuing the saw work as trees, broken and bent by the ice, crept down into the trail corridor. Much of this work was done in preparation of May’s Syllamo’s Revenge marathon race event. (C) Contracts were given to professional trailbuilders to repair the tread, where fallen trees ripped cavernous holes in the trail rendering it unrideable. The Bad Branch loop alone had over 40 such holes. (D) The Competitive Cyclist crew and friends finished it off this weekend. We’re proud to claim that it is very much back into its former shape. Although there are a handful of not-so-tricky log crossings left, it’s in very good shape. We plan to continue our volunteer efforts throughout the fall and winter. Organized event plans will be advertized here.
--DT himself, David Turner and his wife, Christina, were in attendance as we held a Turner Demo Day in conjunction with our trail work. It was the second time Dave has ridden here in Arkansas, and we think if we keep inviting him, he’ll get used to riding trails he can’t see. In all seriousness, it’s always good to have him. As usual, he gave us all a good schooling in the rocky portions of the trail.
He was on hand to fine tune the setup on our dw-link Turner demo bikes and explain to any and all just how it was that they worked. Most of us here have ridden Turner bikes for a number of years, and the new dw-link bikes are the best yet. We’re looking forward to our 2010 models (Flux, Spot, and Sultan) arriving over the next week or two.
--It was a dw-link extravaganza at the trailhead. As mentioned, all the Turner dw-link bikes were there, but we also had a few Ibis Mojos on hand as well. For sure, there are differences between the two brands, but the heart and soul of the rear suspension comes from Dave Weagle, the dw in dw-link. The old saying ‘don’t knock it ’til you try it,’ is a good one. Some of us had our first ‘real’ impressions this last weekend. For starters, let’s go on to say that the dw-link website makes a prophetic statement about the function of the suspension design. It’s a good site, and although it may seem like normal propaganda, the benefits of the design and the function on the trail are exactly as stated by the chief propeller-head, Dave Weagle.
It’s also interesting to see that Weagle embraces the idea of triple chainrings while other suspension designers hide behind them as a regrettable excuse for why their suspension designs fall short. I personally don’t climb in the big ring. I was weaned on the idea that cross-chaining was bad and that the same gear ratios are available in better combinations that wouldn’t lead you down that road to frequent parts replacement. That said, the dw-link bikes are made to climb in the small and middle rings. In these two rings, the anti-squat traits are more pronounced and the bikes feel amazingly stable as you labor up the hill. All the while, the rear end soaks up bumps seemingly regardless of the pedal input force. The result -- constant traction and a responsive ride.
It wasn’t until I was on the way back to the cabin out on the highway that I realized Weagle’s total vision. I ended up in the big ring going down into a gentle saddle. After my coast played out I jumped out of the saddle and simultaneously punched the thumb trigger to swing up to a bigger cog. Where I found myself was nearly big-big. The bike felt suddenly squishier than it had been all day as I chopped away with my haggard cadence. I sat right back down, grabbed the middle ring and dropped it down a few cogs towards the 12. Back out of the saddle and it felt remarkably different -- suddenly firmer and my bouncing-butt-induced-monkey-motion all but disappeared. All the dw-link info about weight transfer, uphill vs. downhill, climbing and descending, and selecting one of three chainrings, all made sense. It would be too cumbersome to explain, and Weagle puts it all right here. Read ‘single chainrings and the detrimental effects…’ and enjoy. It would be my suggestion to get out on the trail and try one for yourself.
--DR power equipment burned through a lot of advert dollars a few years ago during the tour coverage. I didn’t see any of it as DVR capability enabled me to simply fast forward through the commercials as if they didn’t matter. In retrospect, one did. The DR Brush and Field Mower is tops on my please-someone-get-me-this-for-Christmas list. I missed the commercials, but saw one in action this weekend. Sweet Jesus! This is a must have for anyone that likes a hard-working machine. Not only will it chop through a three inch sapling, it has the off-road capability of a custom rock-crawler. The 24′ brush hog deck swivels independently of the main chassis and the super-low gear and lockable differential make it an unstoppable trail clearing force. It was awesome!
--I deserve more respect than this after a weekend of hard work!