April Fools’ Trial, Gold Bar, WA April 5, 2009

The day began with dis­ori­en­ta­tion: April in west­ern wash­ing­ton, clear skies, pre­dict­ed high of 70 degrees. WTF? oh well, guess we just deal with it as best as we can. For a long time north­west­ern­er, this was seri­ous cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance territory. 🙂

the day before, i’d done some prep on the bike (clean air fil­ter, check tires and flu­ids, etc.) and then tak­en it for a quick ride around the place. This was of course the time that i mis-judged a log cross­ing and snapped the front fend­er off, right at the brace. a quick ses­sion with some scrap plas­tic and a few pop-riv­ets set things right. I had every inten­tion of order­ing a new fend­er, but the fix worked so well that i might not.

any­way, on to the event. nor­mal morn­ing rou­tine, faith­ful read­ers (both of you!) will know it by heart now: dri­ve up, find a park­ing place, unload, pre­flight the bike, warm up, then off to sign-up. signed up, and when the mar­shall asked me if i could observe, i said “sure”. saw him write my name down for sec­tion 1, but did­n’t real­ly think about it too much. of for some more warm up. found most of the morn­ing sec­tions, then went look­ing for the after­noon sec­tions. found 2 and 3, but no oth­ers. 2 and three were both steep hill­climbs, with the exits nor eas­i­ly reached with­out rid­ing the course (a ‘no-no’). so i walked through 3 and on up the trail. found 4, and fig­ured out that the rest of the sec­tions were laid out along a trail on the side of the moun­tain that would give a moun­tain goat sec­ond thoughts. ‘rugged enough to make a rab­bit crash’ is one phrase i’ve heard. walked back to the bike, and found sec­tion 1; hmm, that looks like a cake­walk. well, sec­tions (the ones i saw, at least) aren’t going to be the tough part of this tri­als, but the loop is going to take a toll. back to the pits to get ready to observe. morn­ing rid­ers meet­ing com­mences, they are call­ing off observers, but my name is not uttered. rrru­uh? i let the com­mo­tion ebb a bit, then go talk to the mar­shalls; ah here’s the con­fu­sion: when i singed up, he wrote me down to observe in the after­noon, for­get­ting or not real­iz­ing that i was rid­ing in the Advanced class, in the after­noon. well, looks like they aren’t short of observers, so i’m off the hook. so i head out for a bit of seri­ous practice.

i resolve to focus on things i’m uncom­fort­able with: steep drops, turns over jumbly rocks. I man­age to re-teach by body a few things about stay­ing loose in the bike, and lean­ing the bike over; don’t try to keep it ver­ti­cal all the time, it real­ly does turn bet­ter when it’s leaned over!
after about 45 min­utes, back to the pits for a snack and water. while i’m relax­ing, a friend wan­ders up and is exam­in­ing the back tire of my bike, from the look on his face, i’m guess­ing he’s about to point out a giant hole in the tire, or a torn-off knob or some­thing. but no, he points out that i’ve a bazz­il­lion feet of rusty wire wrapped around the rear sproket, hub, and brake disk! exple­tive. i quick­ly bor­row a stand and a BA cres­cent-wrench, whip the rear tire off and start in with the wire cut­ters. a few min­utes of cut­ting and pulling, and it’s all gone, and no dam­age done. we spec­u­lat­ed that it was the wire belt­ing from a tire that some ass­hat prob­a­bly burnt in a ‘camp­fire’ in the area. 

a bit more prac­tice, some on the big under­cut log (which result­ed in one of slow­est ‘over-the-bars’ i’ve ever had) and i feel like i’m ready. around noon, we get the sig­nal for the rid­ers to meet up at the scor­ing trail­er. get our instruc­tions (yel­low rib­bon marks the loop, it starts over yon­der and ends over that­away, ya got 3 hours, now git!), and away we go. off to sec­tion 1, looks like a cake­walk, sure enough start off with a clean. nice. on to 2. sec­tions 2 and three and laid out par­al­lel to each oth­er, up a steep hill­side. 2 is a mixed-media climb, dirt, a big rock step, and the rocky dirt on to the exit. 3 is about twice as long, starts in the water, makes a sig­nif­i­cant right turn 12 way up, and has a piece of old log chok­er cable about an inch in diam­e­ter across the line, about 8 inch­es off the ground. the cable has some give, so it’s real­ly not much of an obsta­cle, but it makes ya think. back to 2, watch a clean and 3, decide on 2nd gear, and go for it. good trac­tion, i do a lit­tle ‘trac­tion bounce’ just after the rock bit, and get out clean. down the hill and attack #3. 2nd gear, con­cen­trate on get­ting through the turn clean, and then get­ting a bit of momen­tum built up before the cable and the steep steps after it. a lit­tle foot­peg lever­age just after the cable, and i made it out clean! you can see a pho­to here. (notice the wire cable just under the bike’s front wheel.) yee haw, start­ed off with 3 cleans! but now we get to the meat of the trail. it’s vis­cious­ly steep, both uphill and down­hill, and requires near­ly as much effort to ride as a sec­tion. #4 has a sharp left fol­lowed by a steep climb, 5 has a nasty root-filled uphill left that caught near­ly every­body for at least 1, etc. etc. 8 and 9 were a bit note­wor­thy in that they were a con­tin­u­ous sec­tion; 8 has a dev­il­ish lit­tle turn with a per­fect­ly placed din­ing-table sized rock right at the apex at foot­peg height, forc­ing you into exact­ly the wrong place for the exit. very tricky! 

fin­ished the first loop in about and hour and 15 min­utes, the entire loop could­n’t have been a half mile long. but it was work. I’ve been rid­ing events over the past year and tried to keep track of what my heart-rate was doing at var­i­ous times and what my calo­rie burn was. One of the things that i’ve learned is that if i’m sit­ting at the entrance to a sec­tion, and my heart-rate is over 145, i should take a lit­tle rest break until it comes down to about 130 or 135. I ride much bet­ter, giv­en the extra 2 min­utes it takes for the rate to come down. so on the sec­ond and third loops, i paid atten­tion to this; the loops was so short and so chal­leng­ing that unless i gave myself forced breaks, i’d just wear myself out. by doing this, i man­aged to get through the event with­out once arriv­ing at the end of a sec­tion and not being able to get my hands unclenched from the grips!

fin­ished out with 39 points, which turned out to be good enough to ace Cur­tis Mann out of 3rd by 1 point. Michael Jor­dan schooled all of us though, with 24 points, topped off with a 4‑point loop 3!. Nice ride, Michael. Kyle Lar­son also put in a good ride to take second. 

Next event is May 3rd, at Deer Flats, above Gold Bar. Great place to ride, nasty place to get to. about 5 miles of rough, rocky road.
If you’d like to find out what observed tri­als are all about, let me know, i’ll get you detailed direc­tions and you could come up and spectate.

keep those feet up!

About the Author

Jim Harriger