Mountain Bike! Virginia
by Randy Porter (Menasha Ridge Press)
© Randy Porter/Menasha Ridge Press. All Rights Reserved.
Just recently did the Big levels ride for the first time. A good friend of mine was my personal tour guide and led the ride the whole way. By the way thanks Metro. we started on this what looked to be fire road which was a gradual ascent which was a great warm up. that part was a mixed bag of road and single track with some Creek crossing and rock gargens thrown in for good measure. once your out of there it is a short climb up to what is called the switchbacks or what i refered to as the Heart Buster. as we started the ascent up the switchbacks my very fit younger friend shot right up the trail, Me on the other hand made it about a Quarter of the way and it was walking time. Very steep the whole way up especially the last switch back which was very difficult just to walk. Once up at the top we took in the Vistas and had a celebretory Beer we packed for the ride up. Refreshed and ready to go we left there and took a left on the fire road climbed maybe a half a mile and there was the first downhill to the left. After dropping my seat we started the Descent and what a descent it was Very fast and Technical as well, most of the descent was like that with some Very long and hard Rock Gardens thrown in there. All i can say is what a Ride and looking forward to doing it again.
I live near these trails, and they never get old! The trailhead is located in a little parking lot about a mile down coal road, which also marks the lowest point of the whole ride. From the beginning the trail goes gradually up...which provides for a nice 45 minute warm up. On the way to the switchbacks there are 3 or 4 sizable creek crossings, some are more technical than others, all of which are sweet. There is also one rock garden which stretches for a 100 yards or so and proves to be pretty tricky! After the lower slopes of this trail are behind you, its time for the SWITCHBACKS...there are 8 of these bad boys...all of which can put the unsuspecting rider into a state of cardiac arrest. These things are long, rocky, and STEEP. From the bottom, with no breaks they take about 15 minutes..barring the last part of the last one which is so steep it usually requires hiking. After making it up these tortuous "switchbacks" i usually inspect my bike for a dragging brake...or 2 flat tires, or possibly an anchor tied to the rear wheel..bc im thinking that on a perfectly rolling bike there is no way those things should be so hard! At the top there is a beautiful overlook of the valley, where you can take pride in the number of vertical feet you have just cranked up. At the top there is a fireroad which, you will want to make a left on. This goes up for another half a mile or so until the road forks. Stay to the left if you want to ride the trail the whole way down the mountain..i believe this downhill is flagged with a piece of tape. The other option is a right at the fork and a left onto the parkway..After a couple miles on the parkway enter the first turnoff on the left and pick the trail back up. By doing this you skip the steepest most technical part of the downhill and still have your forearms left for the sweetest part of slacks trail! All in all these trails are physically demanding, but very rewarding.
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