17 Jun 2010
Gravity & 2 Bikes
This last weekend I was down in S. Oregon for the Ashland Super D. What’s a Super D you ask? Think of gravity assisted XC racing. I love the term “gravity assisted.” Having never had the chance to do a Super D, I went with an open mind, 2 bikes, and more gear than you could shake a stick at since I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
This race starts at the Mt Ashland Ski Lodge and takes you 12 miles into downtown Ashland. Littered with every kind of trail you can think of, including a 15 minute climb and some other portions that don’t feel like going down, this network of trails is fun, fun, fun. That’s right. Triple fun.
It starts with a grueling, chatter your teeth out of your head, double-track that makes you think you’ll never live through 12 miles before it spits you out at the base of a pretty short climb that hurts a lot since you’ve just lost all your teeth and your arms feel like rubberized jello. I call it Gumby Syndrome. You shouldn’t feel as crappy as you do on the climb but hey, everyone’s feeling like that so it’s ok. Until the burrito you wolfed down on the way up the mountain starts to re-wrap itself in your stomach… bad burrito.
Once at the top of the climb, it opens up into a very exposed and very skinny single track that skirts the side of the mountain for a little while until you get pitched into the forest on trail that is super fast, swoopy, rocky, rooty and hard to see on because of the light coming through the trees at weird angles. This is where “point and shoot” comes in handy. Trying to avoid all that stuff is dangerous and it’s better to close your eyes and go for it.
From there it’s a couple of miles on fire road that is extra-scary fast, loose, and apparently had the habit of catapulting riders off into the forest. I happened to witness this actually happen to a girl who had just passed me going mach 5 or so and instead of making the turn in the road, she just went straight and then she flew and then she was tumbling. Very dramatic. She was fine and popped up off the forest floor as I slowed to make sure she had all her pieces still attached.
It’s hard to remember what came next but my favorite part was a section of bermed switchbacks. Long flowy trail broken up by extra tight switchbacks. You know the kind where you dive the front wheel into the corner as fast as you dare, let the rear end loose for just a second before you lose it completely and the hope like hell you can pull it out on the other end? Yeah, these were perfect one’s of those. Ah, I loved that part.
Next comes the big rollers through the forest under fallen trees, over rocks and then some more long traverssing switchbacks. This brings you eventually to the UBI Trail (the only trail name I caught) where you literally follow a ridge line down off the mountain dropping many very vertical feet very rapidly. Things open up a bit and you hold on tight for a long series of doubles (jumps) before coming to a ridiculous 180 degree turn onto the last bit of singletrack. Whoa nelly…
As you meander through Lithia Park, you take stock of your epic mini-adventure and hope to catch another shuttle back up to the top of the mountain. I did a run both on a 4″ and 6″ bike. While the 6″ is definitely heavier, it was the preferable choice as it was beautiful at smoothing out the bumps and I was still capable of pedaling the thing. Funny thing is I didn’t even race. I spent a good deal of time being a shuttle driver for a couple of pros so I got to hang out at the top of the mountain in perfect 70 degree weather for a few hours. Then I got shuttled back up once all the racing was done. Not too bad of a deal if you ask me.
If you ever find yourself in Ashland, I highly recommend the riding there. The town is pretty neat, there’s good food to be had and weather can be sublime at the right time of year, like right now.