It is a widely accepted scientific fact that mountain bike miles count double against road miles, but after riding with Chris Scott and his friends from Shenandoah Mountain Touring, I’m thinking it might be more like triple, or possibly quadruple.
That’s particularly amazing when you consider that these guys are experts at putting on the Shenandoah Mountain 100, part of the NUE (National Ultra Endurance) series. The men and women who race in that series have got to be the most skilled, best trained, and possibly the craziest human beings on two wheels. They have my respect.
Now, let me put this into a bit of perspective. I thought I was a pretty good bike rider. I have no idea why I thought that. I am without a doubt the the slowest of my friends. Still, I have done a bunch of long road rides, Ironman, marathons, all that, but the Virginia boys took me to school before we even got to the trail. I was huffing and puffing and pushing my bike on the fire road climb that takes you to the actual climb. Embarrassing? Oh yeah.
If you took the most technical sections from the trails I am used to riding near Atlanta, in the North Georgia mountains, and just factored in the rock garden sections, then stitched together all of those technical sections into a single megatrail and wrapped them in some gorgeous hardwood forest, that would be comparable to one of the easier trails in Virginia. In fact, Chris told me that Trail Dynamics, the company responsible for the trails we were riding, used their trails as a show piece to prove that, yes, you can build machine-cut trails in rocky conditions.
I spoke with Ed Sutton of Trail Dynamics via phone this morning about the challenges of building trail in Harrisonburg’s rocky soil. “Well, we didn’t know if it was possible either,” he said. “It was a riverboat gamble.” Sutton said they stayed at the Stokesville Lodge and commuted to the trail sites by bike each morning. He added, “If you’re not riding what you’re building, how do you know if it’s any good?”
Well, I’m here to tell you, the trails those guys built are better than good. They’re amazing. It’s clear that every inch required many man hours and heaps of thought. What they’ve created are certainly the most technical trails I’ve ridden on. Ed went so far as to describe them as “the most technical trails in the southeast,” and that’s coming from a guy who really knows his trails.
Don’t misunderstand me, though. It’s not the trails’ fault I am slow. I’m just trying to express how impressed I was with the technical skill of everyone we rode with in Virginia by describing the terrain they ride every day.
It’s easy to see why they do it, though. First of all, challenges are good for us humans, and secondly, the scenery is outstanding. We rode through hardwood forests and were treated to views that are on par with anything I’ve seen out West. You might get higher altitudes in the Rockies, but not prettier views.
Get yourself over to the Shenandoah Mountain Touring site right now and book a weekend of riding in the area. You can stay at the Stokesville Lodge, right at the base of the trails we rode, and ride to your heart’s content, or do one of the guided tours, which I recommend. Chris is a gracious host and a great guide. We even talked about his favorite steak preparation method after we got done. His steak prep pro tips: Lea & Perrins worcestershire and hand-chopped garlic.
I can’t say enough good things about mountain riding in and around Harrisonburg in general, but I’d be doing my love handles a disservice if I didn’t take a moment to talk about the food and the beer. Everywhere we ate placed a huge emphasis on farm-to-table food, using locally-grown ingredients whenever possible. We stopped by the Harrisonburg farmer’s market and saw more delicious vegetables than you could shake a stick at. Later, we stopped by Three Brothers Brewing and never wanted to leave.
If you want to have the perfect mountain biking weekend, here’s what to do:
- Get some buddies together and arrange travel to Harrisonburg, Virginia.
- Get in touch with Chris Scott of Shenandoah Mountain Touring, rent out the Stokesville Lodge, and have him guide you if he’s available.
- Grab a growler of Three Brothers “Hoptimization” beer. All their beers are good, mind you, but this is my list and that’s my pick.
- Put in a day of riding on the the most challenging trails in the Southeast.
- Put your feet up and have a cold one.
- Go home with the irrepressible urge to tell everyone you meet how amazing it was (this is what I’m doing now).
The Enduro Supremo
Okay, so now you know how killer Harrisonburg is as a mountain biking destination, but what if you want to be in those gorgeous woods (you do) and you want to do one of Chris’s races (you should) but you don’t want to be timed on the climbs? Well good news, partner, because coming in 2014 is Shenandoah Mountain Touring’s Enduro Supremo. It’s going to be a three-day event held at the SMT campground and Stokesville Lodge, the same location as the Shenandoah Mountain 100.
For those of you who don’t know what Enduro racing is, it’s basically XC and downhill racing mixed. You need the technical skill to descend, but you also need the fitness to get yourself and your bike to the tops of the climbs and then down them quickly but safely. The descents aren’t guaranteed to be all gravity, either. Expect to have to pedal a few times if you want to be competitive.
From this rider’s perspective, you’re also going to want to pack a big ol’ set of brass balls, because the trails are challenging. On top of that, the Virginia boys aren’t about to let anyone take a win in their back yard without a fight. Chris has a crew of his favorite local riders he refers to as his “dream team,” and I’d put money on them to figure highly in the Supremo standings.
Personally, I can’t wait to see how the 2014 Enduro Supremo shakes out. If you’ve got the skills to go against the best on what might be the toughest trails to be found in the Southeast, look no further. This is your event.
Stay tuned for more on mountain biking in the Harrionsburg, Virginia area.