2022 — Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!
On February 13, 2022, the annual Super Bowl Sunday ride took place. All were welcomed on the ride, and all showed up. There were fat-bikers, gravel riders, and mountain riders … all enjoying the frigid pedal up the Reddish Knob Road. Those willing to brave the previous night’s snowfall experienced a delightful snow-coated landscape. The Shenandoah Bicycle Company crew met at the Hone Quarry Recreation parking area and ventured out to meet up with several enthusiasts enduring the elements. Several groups began to combine once we reached the Saddle and headed out toward Flagpole Knob. The pedal from the saddle to Flagpole would have been nearly impossible if not for the help of some off-roaders who packed in nice tracks for us to pedal through. A pursuit commenced of who could stay up the longest in the tracks, laugh the loudest, and we all encouraged each other to keep going.
Once we reached Flagpole knob, more riders from different routes met us, conversed, and shared lots of trail snacks. We all prepared to descend down Red Diamond (Slate Springs), a challenging black diamond descent with technical off-camber sections, sharp turns, and steep shoots, made more difficult by the several inches of snow on the ground. A brief doubletrack ride from Flagpole places you at the start of Red Diamond. From there, we all experienced the loudest laughs and biggest smiles of the day. After Red Diamond, we made the brief pedal back to Hone Quarry, immediately jumping in the car to warm up. Following the ride, the SBC crew all met up for pizza and beer at our favorite spot and regaled each other with our riding stories. Anyway, who won the Super Bowl?
Super Bowl rider and guest blogger
2021 — Shenandoah Mountain – offering plenty of space to social distance!
With the past year being anything but normal, it seemed more important than ever to try and keep one of the local annual cycling traditions alive. To keep the most un-normal ride going for another year seemed only fitting in these un-normal times. The Super Bowl Sunday ride had to keep living. It had to go on for another year like it has for the past 35+ years. I wanted to make sure the spirit of the folks who started the annual Super Bowl Sunday ride crested the mountain even if their bodies did not. Those spirits are what keep me and others going back to Flagpole each Super Bowl Sunday, regardless of what Mother nature or the mountain has to offer.
Ever since my first Super Bowl Sunday ride in 1991, the ride has felt like an assault on the big mountain, Shenandoah Mountain. That first year I was scared and intimidated of riding with folks who had a lot more experience than I, folks who I respected in the bike community. Little did I know what really deserved the most respect was the mountain that loomed ahead. The warmth and welcome the riders shared with me that first year inspired me and gave me the needed confidence to climb the mountain. When the road went from pavement to long stretches of ice, I realized we had little to no control, regardless of our riding resume or lack thereof. Watching rider after rider slip and slide along the forest service road to Hone Quarry Ridge made me laugh and wonder what the hell we were doing on this mountain.
That first year of my Super Bowl riding history quickly taught me how much easier it is to go outside of your comfort zone when there are other trusting souls by your side. I learned that the Super Bowl Sunday ride is about battling the mountain as a team, being an army to try and make it to the top of the mountain. Not every year are we victorious; some riders make it to the top and some do not.
Watching out for each other, regardless of knowing the rider, is another part that makes this annual ride so special. I can count on two occasions where riders deviated from the posse, did not take the buddy system to heart, and ended up staying on the mountain well after the Lombardi trophy was lifted. I think this has taught a lot of folks that you don’t mess with the mountain, you don’t assume someone knows where you are, and that you have tools for the elements. We need to do this assault together; socially distant or not, we can look out for each other. But regardless of what happened in the past, a team of old and new riders will come out each year for another assault of Shenandoah Mountain. The 2021 ride had to happen!
In this year of Covid, I know of only seven bike tracks to make the final pitches to Flagpole on Super Bowl Sunday. There is another confirmed case of an assault from the Northeast but that rider had to turn around well before Flagpole. One element that excites me every year on this ride is the rider who is new to the Super Bowl ride tradition. This rider is usually filled with fear, excitement, and unknowingness of what lies ahead. Usually, those new to the ride are not prepared for what the mountain has to offer, but that is why we attack the mountain as a team. It is a group ride, not a race. We win when we are all off the mountain safely.
This year only two of us rolled out of the Briery Branch Community Center together. With snowflakes coming to an end and the shimmer of light beginning to shine through the clouds, David and I began our assault on the mountain. Once past Hone Quarry rec area we were joined by fellow SBC’r Jack, and the army grew by 50%. Your first indication of what the mountain has to offer is at the VDOT line where the plows turn around and you learn of the conditions that lay ahead. This VDOT line, ½ mile past Tillman Road, would be our last pavement siting for the next 4 hours. As we slowly made the grind in the tracks of previous 4 wheel vehicles, we felt the peacefulness of snow while soaking in the visual contrast of black and white that blanketed the mountain. When you get to the Briery Branch Dam, the mountain looms ahead, standing tall at 4300+ ft. The time to adjust your wardrobe is now, before you begin the 4 mile wall that takes you to the intersection.
When you get to the intersection (the split between Flagpole, Reddish Knob and WV), the mountain gives you another glimpse of what is in store. Here the truck tracks ended and the fresh blanket of snow gave evidence of two riders ahead, forging their way to Flagpole Knob. At this point, our ride went from on the bike to 50% traction control and 50% trudging on foot, but we were not to be stopped. As a few 4×4 vehicles passed, they gazed and wondered. We waved and knew that their tracks would only make our slow going that much harder. The final ¼ mile pitch to Flagpole is when the mountain puts up the biggest battle, but when you have made it this far you will not let 2′ snow drifts stop you from the summit.
The summit can be an hour long layover or a quick 5 minute break. For the 3 of us in our troop, we knew our time on Flagpole would be short.
The wind was picking up and the temperature made you wish for the warmth that the Valley offered. Fortunately we were on Flagpole long enough to be joined by Ken and Eli, whose assault on the mountain started in town. Regardless of your time spent at the highest point of Rockingham County, you always make sure you grab a quick photo. Like Everest or the Moon, you must take this snapshot of time. It will serve as a reminder of why you do the hard stuff.
When it comes to descending off the mountain, this is where many mistakes can be made. The body goes from being a heat generator to a vulnerable creature with a cold fan blowing in your face. The warmest way off the mountain is the quickest and steepest, Slate Spring Trails, aka Red Diamond. Through fear and excitement, this 2 mile elevator shaft will warm any body, making this the best route for the cold and tired. Red Diamond in the snow is a mix of mountain biking, surfing and snowboarding. Like all these sports you need to find the balance and strength to stay upright. For me, these slippery uncontrollable conditions are special and go to the core of what attracted me to mountain biking. To share this descent with David and Jack is another great page in my history of Super Bowl Rides.
When we finally got to the bottom of Red Diamond, where the pitch instantly goes from 30% to 0 we caught up with the first two souls who made tire tracks on the mountain that day. They had just returned from the waterfall trail and were happy to know others were on the mountain. At this point of the ride you pedal out with a sense of camaraderie, a sense of victory, another assault of Shenandoah Mountain on Super Bowl Sunday in the books. The fireroad to Hone Quarry Dam usually offers south facing warmth with a backdrop of Flagpole Knob. You look back and know what a different world it is up there. If you look hard enough I swear you can see 35+ years of mountain bike spirits and souls circling the mountain.
See ya next Super Bowl Sunday on the flanks of Shenandoah Mountain, where we will squeeze in tight for a non socially distant photo!
Super Bowl rider and lover of Shenandoah Mountain
The Confident City Cycling class will be held on Saturday, May 20 at Westover park. It will be led by League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructors. I took this class last year and it was an awesome experience. I had just bought my bike and I was still nervous about riding it around town.
This class gave me the confidence I needed to get out of my shell and to make good use of my beautiful bike. I was a beginner, but the amount of experience each student had varied. The instructors were very helpful and answered all my questions.
Among other things, we learned about the importance of checking our bikes over before each ride to make sure everything is ready to go. We did exercises that prepared us for situations we may face while driving in traffic and in trails (such as roadkill, angry drivers, and rocks). I was also taught how to change a flat which helped me feel less anxious about riding long distances.
Take this class! It’s freaking awesome. Here’s a link with more info!
Don’t let the couch eat you this time of year
With the days being shorter this time of year, sneaking in a post-work ride can be tricky. Luckily, bike lights have drastically improved over the past decade. With the bursts of spring-like weather we’ve been having this week, night riding is a very viable option to prevent the beer belly from growing too much. Here are a few more reasons you should consider snagging a light and heading out under the stars this year.
The ability to ride year round here is a major bonus to living in Harrisonburg. It’s not uncommon to find yourself getting burned out at some point though. Take a trail you’ve ridden hundreds of times during the day and it will completely change at night. The same features are there, but it’s incredible how different the trail appears when the only light you have is much more focused. If you find yourself getting tired of the same rides, grab a light.
There’s no better vantage point for a sunset than on top of one of the many ridge lines west or east of town. It’s hard to beat cruising up a mountain as the sky changes colors without feeling rushed for time. Sunsets around here worth watching and some of the best places to enjoy them aren’t accessible by car. Grab a light for the descent back down the mountain.
On a clear night the sky puts on an incredible show of stars. I guarantee it’s much better than the latest Netflix drama. Hone Quarry was my destination of choice last Wednesday night with a great wide open view above the reservoir. At some point in your ride turn your light off and look up.
A Few Tips
If you’ve never ventured out onto the trails at night, here are a few tips:
- Get a reliable light. There are many cheap lights out there that are very bright; however, the batteries are generally unreliable. I use Light and Motion’s Imjin 800 on my helmet and have been more than happy. It’s super light-weight and relatively inexpensive compared to other lights out there.
- Depending on what type of trail you’re riding, it doesn’t hurt to have two lights…One on the helmet, one on the bars. Your helmet light is crucial for scanning ahead into upcoming turns. I typically put my brightest light on my helmet, but that’s something to play around with. The bar light is helpful with depth perception because you can direct it downward more to fill the gap where you’re helmet light doesn’t hit.
This time of year especially, bring extra layers. As the sun sets, the temperature drops a good bit.
- Find some friends to ride with. Motivation is much easier to find with a group of people. Thomas leads a night ride from the SBC parking lot every Monday night around 8:30. If you don’t have any night-riding experience this ride would be a great intro. Massanutten is another great place to start. Don’t let the lack of sun get you down.
Our good friends Paul and Owen Johnston spent part of their summer vacation riding bikes together. We always love hear our customer stories of their riding adventures, this is the first, but not last, of Owen’s bike riding tours.
My Dad and I started our journey on the Cumberland Gap trail on 7/26/2016. The Cumberland Gap trail is a 150 mile rails to trail from Cumberland, Maryland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and a great ride for the family. The trail is well maintained with great places to eat and camp. On the way up the mountain to the eastern continental divide, I was surprised at the gradual grade going up. Although it’s not a big grade, you can still feel the downhill after you get to the top. When you’re on the trail you can see some of the best sites I have ever seen.
There are many beautiful bridges and big tunnels. Big Savage tunnel was one of my favorites, it is the longest tunnel along the trail, over 3,000 feet long! This particular tunnel was in built in 1911. Each day my Dad and I rode about 45 miles. Except for the last day, because we didn’t have to set up camp, we road about 60 miles. On this trip we decided to camp with a tent but we now realize it’s easier to camp with hammocks. We decided to camp the two nights in Adelaide and Husky Haven campground in Rockwood, PA. When biking through neighborhoods, I was surprised about the generosity of the people who live along the trail. Although there were lots of them, two families stood out to me. In Rockwood, one family turned his dog’s play space into a camp ground and provided showers, water, and bathrooms along with fun games like pool and darts. He even had a phone charging station. The other family who lived along the trail in Van Meter, PA offered us home grown vegetables, cold beverages, and made us bacon and eggs for a good price.
The first two days were nice, sunny, and cool. However, on the last day there was a terrible rain and trust me, when the rain stops, you will feel so much better if you change your clothes. It may seem like a waste of time, I was skeptical too, but do it. It is worth it. We finished the ride on 7/28/2016 at Point State Park in Pittsburgh where we were met by my mom, my brother Peter, and my Grandmother and Dave. We had a great experience on the Cumberland Gap trail and would love to do it again.