Best and Worst Rides of 2016

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    • #203417

      With the year nearly over, I’ve been looking through my rides of 2016. I put in an above average amount of miles this year, and I’m happy to say that an even larger portion of those miles were off-road than in 2015.

      It’s really hard to whittle it down into just a couple rides, but if I had to pick two…

      Best ride: Taking Helena (our contributor), John Watson (, and Kyle Kelly (Golden Saddle Cyclery), on the Brutal Loop up in Ellijay, GA. Helena lives in PA while John and Kyle live in Los Angeles, so they had never been on these trails before. It was a chilly, foggy morning in early spring and we had some free time before a press camp with Maxxis. It was a weekday, so we had the forest to ourselves. We didn’t see any other people for over 5 hours. Everyone was blown away by the trails and just had great attitudes. Nobody even complained about the 13 miles of gravel!

      Worst ride: Without a doubt, this dubious honor goes to my failed attempt at the Off-Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell in Western North Carolina. ORAMM is in late July, so it’s inevitably hot and humid. This year was no exception. I started out way too fast. In fact, I was with the very front of the race for the first 10 miles or so – somewhere I had no business being. I plugged away for the first 30 miles much faster than my target pace. The course was around 64 miles this year, and I was going for a sub 6-hour time. Around halfway through the race you get to an extremely terrible 10-mile long gravel climb on Curtis Creek Road. The first five miles of the climb went by quickly, but soon after I bonked harder than I ever had before. It took me three hours to ride 35 miles, in the next hour, I was only able to cover TWO MILES! I tried to get off and walk, but it was too late. My legs were cramping and my heart rate would not drop. Eventually, I decided to pull the plug. I decided once my HR dropped to a normal level, I would ride down the hill and back into town. I felt so shitty, that I threw my bike and helmet into the woods and laid in a ditch. Thankfully, a stranger rolled up and asked me if I wanted a ride back to town, which I took him up on.

      That ride sucked any remaining competitive drive out of me for 2016. I didn’t do any other mountain bike races and I skipped the entire cyclocross season. Only fun rides. I’m just now starting to get the urge to race again.

      So, those are my picks! What about all of you?

    • #203487

      Easily my #1 was the run down the Game Creek trail from the top of Vail Mountain to the town of Minturn.  Wicked fun descent through brilliant fall colors on a perfect sunny but cool day.  The first lap was almost perfect, and would have been so except I had to stop and get pics for this article:

      “UnVailing” the Aspens in Colorado’s High Country, Part 1: Vail Mountain and its Extensions

      But the second time I did it, I had some idea of the terrain and no need to stop, so it was totally perfect flow under equally perfect conditions.

      As for the worst, that would be a rather unappealing afternoon spent in the Placitas Open Space north of Albuquerque, NM.  The trails were mostly soft sand, nothing special, unmapped and not at all signed.  I normally like ungroomed trails without signage as it gives more of a “natural” feeling experience, but this was the most dreadful hodgepodge of forking, merging, crisscrossing trails and it was impossible to tell which were the legit trails, which were social or bandit trails, and which were just cow or antelope trails.  While it was impossible to get lost in the barren desert with a constant view of the Sandia Mountains as a directional reference, there was more time spend doubling back, retracing strokes, and just trying to figure out where to ride, and not a whole lot of time just spent riding.  On the rare long stretches of continuous trail, that’s where I’d hit the super soft and deep sand.  Oh, and it was about 35 degrees (ambient) and very, very windy, which kinda took the fun out of all that route finding.  .

    • #203495

      The Best: The Whole Enchilada

      The Worst: Uhhh…umm…I dunno.  I did some hard rides, some challenging rides, some uncomfortable rides, but the worst of them was still pretty OK  compared to what I could have been doing that didn’t involve a bike

    • #203514

      The best: Leah and I rode Daniel Ridge in Pisgah on our wedding anniversary this year and it was awesome. The trail itself was great but what really made it “the best” was riding it with Leah! With young kids it’s hard for us to get a chance to ride together but this ride proved we’re both still in love with mountain biking.

      My second best ride was actually the ride I did today, again with Leah but also Aaron and Greg. The weather was perfect (65 degrees in December!) and the trails at Jake Mountain were in excellent shape. Funny how who we ride with is often just as important as where we ride.

      My worst ride: Also at Jake Mountain, but with a loop on Bull Mountain tacked on the end. I couldn’t get the idea of riding Bull Mountain at night out of my head, and after my first attempt was rained out, I was determined to make it happen the next time. When we arrived, it started pouring rain so we sat in the car to wait it out. This meant we got a late start plus the trails were super wet and slick once we got out there. Not only that, it was hot and humid as could be, and I cramped hard on the final push to the top of Bull Mountain. I basically limped back to the car, deciding to never tempt my fate on Bull Mountain in the heat (or rain) again.

    • #203515

      The best: Enchanted Loop, Santa Cruz, CA. Santa Cruz demos and an Endor-like environment created one of the best biking experiences I’ve ever had.

      The worst: Sapphire Crest, Hamilton, MT. Blown down stands of trees as far as the eye could see, pitch black darkness, severe dehydration, and incredibly worn out feet made for an experience I never want to have ever again.

    • #203521

      My worst ride of the year was actually a blast.  It was a snow ride on the third of March in Mongolia (on Shargamorit Hangait Hills East Trail north of the capital).  I went with a bunch of Mongolian friends.  It was our first trail ride of the year.  The mountains were still full of snow, and we were having a blast just being stupid in all the snow.  As we returned to the car, the valley below was quite melted and muddy, and we are blazing through it, mud flying everywhere.  BUT the valley was/is also heavily grazed by horses, cows, goats and sheep.  Only after the third time that I ingested a good chunk of rich dark mud did I realize I might pay a price for my carelessness and forgetfulness.  A price I did pay.  I got Campylobacter, and my bowels went through several vicious cycles of diarrhea and constipation for a couple of months before I got better.

      Best ride of the year?  Tough call, but probably it was on the afternoon and evening of June 24th.  I took several expat youth on a ride.  They wanted a little adventure and wanted to explore an area that none of us had ever ridden before. Using Google Earth, we choose some apparent trails just east of the capital.  The initial climb was big with some hike-a-bike sections, but everyone did great.  From the top of the mountain ridge, it took us a long time to find the trail in the forest back down the other side of the mountain.  It ended up that the old trail was severely overgrown with tall grasses and small shrubs, and it was full of fairly large rocks and deadfall everywhere.  Instead of complaining, everyone just got totally goofy and started plowing through the chaos, taking whatever random lines they could find.  Finally, we lost any semblance of a trail, but we were not to be deterred and just took the fall line straight down the mountain.  We all “endoed” at least once, and one youth “endoed” seven times.  When we finally worked our way out of the forest, we found a blazing fast trail in the little valley below the ridge that led back to the cars.  The youth and their playful and venturesome attitude made what could have been one of my worst rides of the year, actually one of my best.

    • #203524

      My second best ride was actually the ride I did today, again with Leah but also Aaron and Greg. The weather was perfect (65 degrees in December!) and the trails at Jake Mountain were in excellent shape. Funny how who we ride with is often just as important as where we ride.

      Aww, shucks Jeff!

      Lots of great stories in this thread already! My best ride of the year was also largely because of the people on it–an overnight bikepacking trip through some massive stands of aspen trees that were at peak fall colors. While the riding was great, probably the most fun part of the trip was watching the sunset, building a campfire, drinking beer and whiskey, and hanging out with good people in the forest! Neil posted a photo journal of our ride, here:

      My least favorite ride? Well, I didn’t have any absolutely horrible rides this year, which I guess is a good thing! But my biggest let down on a ride was actually one in Switzerland, of all places. Here’s why: I was told to follow one of the recommended ride routes that was marked on the map as a quality mountain bike ride, for an easy XC loop down in the valley. The entire loop was about 15 miles, and I kept waiting to reach singletrack… but the singletrack never came! It was graded, gravel doubletrack, gravel roads, and even some pavement. Technically I did do about 3/4 mile of singletrack descending, but it was only because my guide the previous day had told me to look for an unmarked trail off the main route. Without that advice, I would have gone out expecting 15 miles of rad singletrack (because, Switzerland!) but I actually would have ended up doing gravel grinding the entire time. Sure, the views were amazing, but if I could pedal my road bike on the entire thing, it doesn’t really count as a mountain bike ride.

    • #203541

      I got Campylobacter, and my bowels went through several vicious cycles of diarrhea and constipation for a couple of months before I got better.

      If we’re rating the worst of the worst rides, I think mongwolf deserves a prize! Or, maybe just some Cipro. 🙂

    • #203557

      Well, you’re right Jeff.  I finally went on cipro to shake the Campy.  I’m just always slow to take antibiotics — far too slow in this case.

    • #203587

      Worst ride is easy, last January riding an easy trail with some intermediate sections with my wife. She got hung up going over a section of multiple roots and flipped over the bars. Trying to catch herself as she hit the ground it twisted her arm under her and completely tore her rotatory cuff.  Took eight months of rehab after surgery for her to recover. And now she will only ride the easiest of beginner single tracks.

      Best ride, I’ve several really good rides this year. Superbowl Sunday Champion Cycle’s bike ride and BBQ at Santos, A week at Markham Park for spring break, Santos Fat tire festival Back in March, three day weekend riding in Tallahassee with a group in the summer, The Alafia Fat tire festival in November.  Hard to pick one.

    • #203610

      Enchanted loop is pretty cool.. yeah..

    • #203618

      Sorry to hear about your wife’s injury Alvin.  I tried to get my dad into mountain biking once and he fell and hurt his shoulder. He’s never had any interest in going with me again. 🙂

      I bet the Alafia festival is fun, I did the Santos FTF many years ago and had a blast!

    • #203637

      Since I moved this year, I’ve had the opportunity to ride a ton of new trails so it makes it hard to pin down the best/worst rides. But that’s also good news, since it’s hard to pin down the worst ride, that means no major injuries!

      The best ride would be between the South Trails in Marquette, MI and the Merrell Trail in Rockford, MI. Marquette’s trail system was AMAZING. I spent a weekend up there for a skills clinic so I worked on skills during the first day and had a quick ride afterwards. The second day was mostly working on skills while on the trails. A great group of people to ride with and some great trails on top of that! Merrell is a close second due to the timing. I haven’t enjoyed riding as much this year (scenery change FTL) but riding Merrell helped get the enjoyment back.

      Worst ride I can’t pin down. I had quite a few trails that I rode just to check a box and hope to never ride them again. That said, a crappy day on the trails is better than a good day at work!

    • #203662

      Rode a lot of mountain bikes this year but not too many exotic locations.

      Best- Mag 7 in Moab.  Rain and freezing temps cancelled my Whole Enchilada shuttle trip and didn’t get to ride Ahab either due to time constraints (I was at Outerbike for work).  So Mag 7 was definitely the best ride of the year.  2nd best was Piedmont/Brewer in Duluth, MN.  Just perfect XC trails with some fun features, even the climbing is fun there.  3rd best was Balm Boynette in Florida, which should be on anyone from the midwest/east’s winter radar with Alafia being only 5 miles away.

      Worst- I didn’t have a worst ride.  The two rides I most wanted to do were cancelled (Whole Enchilada due to weather and Santos due to food poisoning) and the Rays MTB an hour and a half away closed so those were the bummer things.  I didn’t have any spectacular crashes.  So while not a ride per-say, I had three notable mechanicals this year and all three happened at the same trail system, exactly 1 mile from my house.  Seminole Trails in Fitchburg saw me crack my hardtail frame, tear a tire and break a chain.  And since it was close to home, I was less prepared than normal, rode the cracked frame home, walked back the torn tire and walked and coasted back without a chain.  No other notable problems.

    • #203922

      Best: Riding the trails around Steamboat Springs in late September on a trip to Fruita

      Worst: The Laramie Enduro. Awesome scenery and race atmosphere but man I tanked right past the 50 mile mark. So much wind, sand and dirt roads!

    • #203924

      One of my best ride though not very long or technical was a bikepacking trip out to a very remote beach in Scotland. The weather was exceptional for Scotland too.

      Sandwood Bay Scotland

      Spending week cycling trails on the aisle of Skye again in great weather. Finally riding the  Quaraing

      Have a few more… The worst ride was 31/12/16 Grisburn Forest with a cold. Haven’t felt so crap for a long time! The ride was fun but towards the end 🙁

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