Since this was an Enduro, we figured it best to go down and pre-ride the 5 stages on Friday. I thought this was a great idea, as I had never ridden big drops, roll-ins and other rock features we would face that weekend. Once I picked Jim up, we made a relaxing trip down to Bruceton Mills, where the Big Bear Lake campground would host the event. On the way Jim mentioned that he wasn’t sure he’d ever met Travis. I reminded him that Travis was the guy who had Elvis at his team tent at the Vulture’s Knob 24 hour race and roasted a whole pig! Immediately Jim remembered and got even more excited for the adventure to come!
We arrived to the parking area around noon and began changing into the appropriate EnduroTM attire. It just so happens, with no discussion between us, that Jim and I bought the same helmet. In the same color… EnduroTM Blue… For the past 2 weeks months we had been taking flak from everyone we rode with about how we were matching EndurBro’s and how the helmets matched nothing about the rest of our kits. Before we pedaled off, we ran into Jeff Simcoe. He is the main person maintaining the trails at Big Bear. He gave us some helpful tips on which stages were important to pre-ride and help prevent us from getting lost.
After riding stage 3, we met up with Travis, Kyle and Mark from the Blazing Saddle crew. The group of us then headed up to stage 1. This was probably the 2nd most technical stage of the race. It had a few drops right at the beginning, then a bunch of pedaling with some more rock features towards the end. Apparently, during our pre-ride we missed a turn and skipped a big rock drop in the middle of the stage. Jim and I both found it during our timed run on Saturday and are still debating how big it really was. We both agreed it was the biggest drop of the weekend! We then rode stage 2, which had a long steep rock chute that required a lot of brakes to keep everything under control.
At the bottom of that stage I pinch flatted my tire, but the problem was quickly remedied with a couple of tire plugs and a few pumps of air.
Saturday we were all up early going thru our morning routines. As such, I found myself in stall #3. I will state now, that the campground gave each campsite a roll of TP and didn’t keep any in the bathrooms. As I finish doing my thing I hear: “Hey you, in stall #3, do you have any TP? I’m about to lose a sock!” This is a new experience for me. Do I quietly sneak out and let the guy go sockless the rest of the day? That just seemed wrong so I handed the roll over the door and asked if he could drop it off at our site. A few minutes later a guy comes strolling up to our site and says, “My socks thank you!” Wow, if this is a sign of how the day is going to go, today is going to be interesting…
We make it up to the start area and get registered. Then the Wenger’s show up and Cary begins unloading his bike. Jim about dropped from laughter! Cary said that since they had a hardtail class he figured the trail couldn’t be that bad… We would later find out that he rode the entire course and made it to stage 3 before it was ready. Then he was the first person to complete all 5 stages and ride back to the start area. Most everyone else took a shuttle back! I think someone forgot to tell him that only the downhills were timed… Later he heard that there was a keg at the end of stage 5 and was upset because he pedaled right past it!
Stage 2 was also very pedally, and by the rock chute at the bottom, I was drifting all over the place on the rocks that had been kicked up from previous riders! Love drifting! Now the big climb up to stage 3! Almost as fun as the downhills, but judging by the many riders walking up the hills I was really starting to realize the advantage having some fitness. On the ride to stage 3 we stopped at the car to refill and grabbed a coke and m&m’s before heading to the start. The majority of stage 3 was directly next to the main road which was a transfer to stage 4, so there was a constant barrage of “motivation” from riders pedaling by. That also meant that the big rock roll-in was crowded with on-lookers. Can’t hesitate now! I rounded the corner, slammed my post and let the bike roll! Immediately after the roll-in was a left hand corner, my specialty, so I let go of the brakes and gave a big 2-wheel drift for the crowd, who erupted with more cheer! Luckily I was out of sight when I dabbed and had to run thru the same rock garden Jim personally inspected and showed how not to ride the day before. Wish I would have paid attention then… When I finished the stage, Jim was nowhere to be seen. Come to find out he dropped his chain. Twice! This leads perfectly to my newest piece of gear. On Thursday before the race, I installed an Absolute Black Oval ring. I noticed the difference in the ring for about 3 pedals around the block and I never noticed it again. Glad I tried it and have since installed them on my other bikes! And to top it off, I never dropped a chain all weekend, and after 2+ months of use locally, at Rothrock and Pisgah, still have not had an issue!
On to the final stage of the day. We didn’t preride this and were told that there isn’t anything difficult. It was a very gradual grade, especially compared the other stages, and required a great deal of pedaling. Two very hard days were beginning to be felt in the legs. We both finished with only a couple of near-misses and Jim grabbed a beer from the keg that wasn’t available when Cary went by at least an hour earlier.
At this point one would think that the adventure was over, but there was quite an experience still remaining. Due to the distance back to the staging area, a shuttle was planned to take everyone back to the start. Jim and I threw our bikes on and grabbed a seat on the back of the trailer. Just as the trailer began to leave, a couple of kids came chasing after the shuttle. We threw their bikes on and one of them sat on the edge of the trailer directly behind me. About 30 seconds down the road, the trailer hits a big bump and I see air between his ass and the trailer deck. I grab one arm and drag him back against my knees while Jim grabs the other. Now that he is sitting on my lap he feels compelled to introduce himself as Nate. I was getting to be very close to Nate. Jokes about the shuttle trip keep flowing between him and Jim, before the topic of how you shouldn’t mention this to your mom until you are at least 25 (guessing he was in the 15-17 year old range??) to keep her from getting upset. Well, not 30 seconds pass and a car goes by the other way. Nate starts yelling “Hey, that’s my mom!!” Jim and I look at each other with the ‘what are those odds’ stare and make sure we have an extra tight hold on him so he doesn’t fall off then get ran over by his mom. Luckily, Mom doesn’t look to be too worried and follows us to the drop-off point.
Now all of the adventure was officially over. We turned in our timing chips, got cleaned up and made our way back home. I ended up in 8th in the sport class, while the dropped chain cost Jim a few additional spots. He finished out in 18th. I would personally like to thank Jeff Simcoe, Ben Klimer and all the others who put on a great event!! And once we get into the summer and past some of the big races, there is definitely going to be a KSD field trip to Big Bear to go check out the xc trails and maybe even hit some of the enduro stages. And now the WVMBA Big Bear Ultra is on my radar for August!!