Trip Hints for the Weekend Warrior

November 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

Every weekend warrior loves the chance to plan a trip to a unique location and break out of their riding routine. Last weekend, I had the chance to take a group of eight guys out of Atlanta up to Currahee Mountain to bike the Frady Branch trail system for 20+ miles of riding, deep in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Leading a mountain biking outing is a ton of fun, but also entails a lot of responsibility. Whether you’re meeting a few friends at a new hot spot or taking a big group to a destination, there are some helpful guidelines that will make things go more smoothly.

Take some initiative and do some planning:
Nothing sucks more than driving multiple hours to a place only to be turned around because you didn’t check to make sure the location was open for business. The following are all reasons that I have been turned away from entering a wilderness or recreational area that I otherwise would have been able to enjoy:

  • Trail work: the place was shutdown for the week due to maintenance.
  • Fire: Forest fires were in the area and they had not been letting people in for some time
  • Hunting season: The trail shared a section with a National Wildlife Area and was closed for hunting season
  • Bear Kill: A bear had made a kill (not human) in the vicinity and the ranger’s policy was to quarantine the area for one month until they moved on.

Any one of these situations could have been averted if I had simply picked up the phone and called the National Forest service, local ranger, or area bike shop. And I wouldn’t have wasted a weekend or a tank of gas for nothing.

In this case, I learned from my past mistakes and called up the local ranger who explained that, while it was hunting season, the area would be open. However, he did suggest that we not venture off the main section of trails. He also jokingly suggested we wear construction neon orange. After convincing myself he was kidding, I concurred it was an acceptable risk.

currahee mountain bike trail damaged rear rim 300x225 Trip Hints for the Weekend Warrior

Sometimes bad stuff happens on the trail. Plan for what you can control and try not to sweat the rest. Even when your rear rim looks like this...

Be prepared for the worst
The card -carrying, neckerchief-wearing Boy Scout would tell you to always be prepared. A more pessimistic attitude is that Murphy’s Law will be in effect. I just always make the assumption that most people will ignore the former and get slammed by the latter. That’s why it never hurts to be a little over prepared. Sunny forecast? Pack the rain gear anyway. Toss a couple Cliff bars, a first aid kit and more than the typical maintenance supplies in the car, just in case. Inevitably, someone forgets a helmet or water and it’s nice to have a spare.

On this trip, I expected the morning to be much colder than the forecast had predicted on account of being in the mountains. I brought along an extra set of gloves and hat that I very much appreciated having while we tried to warm up after we arrived.

currahee mountain bike trail making a game plan 300x225 Trip Hints for the Weekend Warrior

Making a game plan and make sure everyone knows what it is. The bigger the group, the higher probability for error.

Make a game plan before you get on the trail
Are there people of different skill levels in the group? Is there a way to divide up and meet back up? What is the rendezvous time? Where will you wait for people to meet/catch up? All these things should be discussed before you clip in and start twisting down the trail. A five minute discussion before you start can save hours of frustration later. Our group had a spectrum of skill levels and rather than take a homogenized path we decided we stay together for awhile and then break into smaller groups. I printed out maps for everyone beforehand and passed them out that morning. We agreed to break at every major intersection to keep everyone together until we split up.

Have fun and don’t sweat the things you can’t control
Even with the maps and directions, part of our group still got turned around in the maze of trails and got stuck going the wrong way up a mountain until a nice man with a machete pointed them back in the right direction. We also had one guy blow out a tire and rim, single-handedly converting his bike to a unicycle. We just laughed it off and dealt with it. There was really no other option. We took lots of pictures and spent a lot of time agreeing that we’d rather be doing this than pushing our lawn mowers.

For weekend warriors, like myself, the occasional trips are beacons on our calendars and are anticipated like Christmas to a 10 year-old. Sprinkling in a bit of preparation and smart principles go a long way to insuring that the waiting and salivating was all worth it.