Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: More On The Trails

Last week I wrote about the legendary beginnings of the trail network in our local State Park. More on that now.........

So whatever the real story was on the beginnings of the trail making in the late 80's/early 90's, the fact was that by 1993 trail making was happening almost year round in the State Park. Of course, in 1993 the area was hit by the biggest flooding since 1961. That made for approximately a year of zero activity in the park since it was mostly underwater at that point. After the flotsam and jetsam of that natural disaster had subsided, a curious and legendary feature of the trails in George Wyth was discovered. The "Pit Of Death".

The story goes that two Advantage Cyclery wrenches were the ones to discover the pit. It was Troy and Duane, who were intensely competitive individuals. Neither was about to give the other any quarter in even the most meaningless of rides. So it was that these two were speeding through the fitness trail leading to the Campgrounds from the West. Nose to tail, heads buried in an anaerobic drunken state, no doubt. Always trying to prove who was fastest, to hell with everything else. Damn the torpedoes and all.

So, as they were blazing along at Mach I, Troy in the lead, they suddenly found that the trail had disappeared beneath their wheels. Seconds that must have seemed like an hour passed before the next thing you know, the two riders and their bikes were lying in a heap at the bottom of a 15 foot deep pit. A pit eroded by flood waters during the Flood of '93 that no one knew was there. Well, we heard all about it afterward!

Duane and Troy never did settle who's fault it was that they crashed that day, but they told the story oft and loudly for months afterwards, and it never ceased to make me laugh. Those two together were a constant comedy team, although they were being deadly serious about it all. Too good!

Anyway, the "Pit Of Death" was as I said, a 15 foot deep and 10 yards wide gaping hole in the trail that was carved out by swirling flood water. At first, it wasn't really ride able, however, enough people were "dropping in" on it that the edges became less severe and we found that if you could dare not touch the brakes, you could clean the obstacle. Down in and pop back up the facing bank. It was a heady move for most of us since the bulk of the terrain was really tame in the park. Not many could clean it in the beginning.

By 1994, "The Pit Of Death" was claiming about two rigid forks a week, sometimes frames along with them, and sending numerous people to the hospital. Budget constraints and red tape prevented the Park from doing anything about the hole, amazingly enough, and we had the feature all through the '94 riding season. By '95 it was being eroded down to a point that it was beginning to be more novelty than anything, but yet it was still claiming a fork, frame, and the occasional tooth until the State had it filled with sand late in the year.

The Pit sent Advantage Cyclery a lot of repair work, and I learned how to cut new fork threads, remove and replace crown races, and install lots of headsets due to that hole in the ground. It was a good learning experience on that front as well.

One final story about "The Pit Of Death", and my favorite: When we were doing the weekly night rides, we would occasionally talk new folks into coming out and trying the scene. Once we were able to talk a very lithe, pleasant looking red headed gal into trying out the night lights. It had rained earlier in the day, but we assured her the trails wouldn't be too bad that evening.

Well, she showed up on her Bianchi Nyala in a white t-shirt, cut offs, and a helmet tipped back on her head, graduation cap style. Once we had her helmet on straight, and her lights set, we took off. Of course, the first real "check" in the ride was "The Pit". We all dropped in as she waited looking rather nervous about the whole ordeal.

She was going to bail around the cutoff trail that had developed to avoid "The Pit", but I think we all shamed her into trying it. After about five minutes of coaching, (more like badgering) by the "honch riders" in the group, she dropped in.

Well, as you have probably guessed, she bit it. Right over the bars she went, landing face down, arms sprawled out to her sides in the muddy bottom. Then the kicker: Her bike landed front tire first right in the middle of her gleaming white t-shirt, leaving a perfect tread print on it. As the bike bounced away, we all gasped and stood in horror waiting for signs of life.

I recall that a hint of a giggle wafted up out of "The Pit". Then there was no mistaking it. She was laughing! We all busted a gut simultaneously at the evidence of her embarrassment. We helped her get out of the pit then and put her back on her bike, none the worse for wear.

And you know- she finished that ride!

Next week: More On The Wyth Trail Development

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