Category: blog

Super Bowl Sunday Adventure 2023

Getting a ride up in 2010!

Step 1: Grab your calendar and turn to February 12th, 2023
Step 2: Put the pencil down and grab a large Sharpie
Step 3: Write “Super Bowl Sunday Ride … I will be there”

What was just a mountain bike ride for a small group of enthusiast in the 80’s has now turned into so much more. On the first Sunday in February you will find more than just fat tire riders ascending the eastern slopes of Shenandoah Mountain, you will also find thin tire lovers going up the steep slopes of pavement and sneaker wearing folks making their trail flank on Flagpole Knob. Instead of just a group of 20 or 30 year olds you will see multi-generations of riders, from the young to the old. The diversity of participants seems to continue to grow which shows just how contagious this football token event has become. More and more folks seem to find themselves attracted to this winter leaderless event known as the Super Bowl Sunday Ride.

Too deep to ride but it had to happen!

So what brings folks from the warmth of their home to the unpredictable conditions of Shenandoah Mountain during the middle of winter? From some it is the challenge of conquering Flagpole Knob (highest point in Rockingham County), for others it is another chance to experience mother nature’s beauty in the middle of winter, and for many it is to live one of the oldest cycling traditions the Burg has to offer!

Tea Time on Flagpole Knob

For those who have participated in past Super Bowl Sunday rides you know first hand what I am talking about. The experience is always heavily determined by what mother nature has in store that year. You might get spoiled by a 60 degree sunny muddy Sunday or get scared from a snow/rain mixture that will test one’s survival skills. Every year mother nature brings something different which is partially why folks continually return each year, to experience the unexpected. Regardless of what the weather might bring, you will be greeted by a lot of smiles and folks who are willing to help you complete this group fiasco.

There is no real leadership to this ride but there are some general similarities from year to year that will help guide you during this adventure.

Here are a few highlights

Early departure option

There is always a group that rides from town at a chill pace. The group rolls from Mr. J’s South 42 at 8:45 am.

Special Guest on Super Bowl Sunday

Meet up and parking

The meeting/parking place at the base of the mountain is the Briery Branch Community Center. The bulk of folks getting on their bikes at 10 am with slower riders getting an earlier roll out and the speedsters playing catch up with a later departure.

Flagpole Knob 2004

Hone Quarry

There always seems to be a handful of folks who park in Hone Quarry Recreation Area, with hopes of shortening this ride a little. They seem to mix right in with the group as it rolls by the Hone Quarry entrance.

Kids abbreviated version

More and more youngsters want to participate. An easy way to include someone in the experience without a major commitment is to park at the Briery Branch saddle (the split between Reddish and Flagpole Knob) and do an out and back to Flagpole Knob.

Group photos on Flagpole Knob!

Always a crowd favorite, this seems to happen by 1 pm with the early birds probably already on the descent.

For some the ride ends in the dark!

Getting off the mountain

The weather conditions will determine most participants’ decision at this point, always know that you can escape the way you came up but this is the coldest option!

See you February 13th for the finest Harrisonburg bike tradition!

Thomas

Additional important info about the ride

Flagpole Knob 2014

Flagpole Knob 2010


Additional important info about the ride

What to expect

A cold, fun, mellow ride. Make sure to pack more clothes and food than you might normally bring on a ride. Plan on spending anywhere from 4-6 hours on the bike.

Route

All participants will ride up 257 (paved) past the dam and reservoir, to the saddle, and then continue north on a dirt Forest Service Road to Flagpole Knob (Highest point in Rockingham County).

After a group picture, riders have several options to descend off the mountain. If you are not familiar with the area bring a map (National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map #791) and or ASK SOMEONE! Most riders will descend down “Red Diamond” (Slate Spring Trail) located less than a 1/4 of a mile north of Flagpole. Others will come back down the paved road while the more adventurous and ambitions will continue to Meadow Knob and then choose from the Pond Knob trail or continue to Oak Knob. If you don’t know where you are going ASK someone for direction or better yet find someone to ride with. Just be sure not to end up in West Virginia!

Disclaimer

This is NOT an SVBC sanctioned group ride. This ride does not have ride leaders nor sweep riders. You are responsible for your own actions. This is an event with very real risks to your well-being.

The SVBC does not provide medical care for cyclists at this event. Riders are responsible for their own health, safety, and well-being at this event. No doctors, nurses, or emergency medical technicians, or anyone with any medical training are available along the ride. Physical, medical, and emergency care is the riders’ responsibility. In case of an emergency, we will endeavor to get local emergency personnel to an injured rider as soon as possible. This is an event with very real risks.

What We Ride – Madison Matthews – KONA Hei Hei

I’ve been riding this Hei Hei for the  past year. It’s a blast to ride on our local trails. I built it from the frameset up and hand picked each part. It’s my favorite bike for technical riding.

The Hei Hei has 120mm of rear suspension travel, and I chose to pair it with a 120mm Ohlins RXF36 fork up front. Normally, shorter travel bikes like this, have forks with smaller diameter stanchions, but the added stiffness of the heavy duty fork is nice to have on the more technical trails.

The RXF36 has an air spring that can be easily adjusted for more or less bottom out resistance, and although its damper has both high and low speed compression adjustments, setting up the fork is very intuitive and simple. I like the fork to have a more linear feel, and I normally run the compression and rebound all the way open.

I usually stiffen up the compression on the fork a few clicks for a little more confidence on steeper downhills or hopping logs. It can help prevent the front end from “diving” and making you feel like you’ll go over the handlebars.

The  wheels that I went with are a set of Industry Nine Enduro 315’s. The carbon rims are compliant and allow you to get away with slightly less pressure in the tires than most aluminum rims without the worry of getting a flat. I haven’t broken an aluminum spoke yet, but going with the 32 hole option means that if a spoke does break on a long backcountry ride, the wheel shouldn’t go out of true, and it will be safe to finish the ride.

I like to ride Maxxis tires, and I’ve been riding a Minion DHF up front and Aggressor on the rear (both 2.5″). Those are a great combination for the rocky soil that we have in this area.

This bike saw a few big rides this year and it has been reliable and fun to ride on pretty much any kind of trail.

If you want to discuss any type of cycling, bike engineering, or local rides, you can find me in the shop most days!

Madison Matthews

Cycle Engineer, Bike Enthusiast, and Guest Blogger

Valley Veteran’s Ride for Heroes 2022

A letter to those who pedal, from one who did:

Biking was a refuge. For so many years I approached my after-work rides as if to distance myself from the past, and from the daily reminders of “that which we do to one another.”

I found that if I pedaled like a madman, I could, at least for a while, escape the darkness of my emotions, remove the often present anxiety from my gut by blowing it from my labored lungs, and make the continual hypervigilance simply about watching for cars, trucks, and the farmer’s dogs rather than for the other shoe to drop.

I did this in a time that PTSD was just beginning to be discussed, and well prior to the life saving program developed by the Boulder Crest Foundation – of which I am blessed to have experienced their Warrior PATHH program.

I invite you to join me in helping thousands of veterans and first responders who haven’t yet found their peace. You can do this by riding in the Valley Veteran’s Ride for Heroes, an event that gives all proceeds to the Boulder Crest Foundation. This ride is in its 5th year, and has been developed and coordinated by area Veteran’s of Foreign Wars members.

The event is September the 10th, and it begins, and ends, at Stable Craft Brewing in Waynesboro VA. We veterans would love to see you there. If you cannot ride, we’re happy to share a drink with you, so come hang out. We’re also happy to accept a donation of any size through our website.

Please do take the time to watch the attached video, and please, share it and the event to as many of your fellow cyclists as you can.

Semper Fi,
From an area Marine and retired law enforcement officer

Why you should explore state parks

Aerial view of Pocahontas State Park

For most of us summer is in full swing which usually leads to more opportunities to get outside and play. When pulling out the map or tapping into your brain trust, think outside the box and research places you have yet to visit in our state or neighboring state (West by God Virginia).  One of the best resources for outdoor exploring is the state park systems within Virginia and West Virginia. This is exactly what I did with my youngest son Carter (11) last week.

For years I’ve heard about Pocahontas State Park, just south of Richmond.  This Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) park, around for a long time, has jumped onto the cycling radar over the past 2 decades because of their increased development of mountain bike trails, 43 miles in total. After some interweb digging, I was super excited when my research found yurt rentals available at Pocahontas State Park, and openings during my planned father/son escape week. Our 3 days and 2 nights of stay at Pocahontas included a little bit of everything including swimming, canoeing, mountain biking and general campground fun.

Functionally speaking, a yurt is a cross between a tent and a cabin

The mountain biking at Pocahontas is fun especially for beginners  and sometimes hard to find in our part of the state. The smooth, flat and flowing mountain bike trails were accessible from our yurt via the park’s natural-surface trail system. This meant our car never moved during our stay at the park. Because the 43 mile mountain bike trail system is compact, it is easy to escape quickly and great for kids who’s tank goes from full to empty in a split second.

I used to think since I live in Harrisonburg and am surrounded by National Forest and National Park, there was not a need for state parks in our area, but my mind has changed.  State parks have something that most National Forests do not offer, more amenities and recreational opportunities in a condensed environment. The National Forest is a different experience, as it should be, and I love it for its unique and remote recreational opportunities.

There are 43 miles of mountain bike trails in Pocahontas State Park

Why am I raving about state parks? Because the newest Virginia State Park, Seven Bends State Park, is close to Harrisonburg!  Having explored Seven Bends State Park recently, I know it is in its infancy, but like a newborn, it will grow into something great.  After our recent visit to Pocahontas State Park, I can see a future vision for Seven Bends State Park: a park with boating opportunities, cabin and yurt rentals and trails for all users.

There are two cycling-related activities that will help grow and mature the Seven Bends State Park; one is the development of the Shenandoah Rail Trail and the other is Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) assistance with trail development and the state’s Recreational Trails Program. These trail opportunities will be an asset for the Shenandoah Valley and our entire state park system.  While the projects are years from completion, I am confident with our help and support, they will come to fruition. Maybe one day, someone will take their son to Seven Bends State Park, stay in a yurt or cabin, ride the trails, and create memories of a lifetime.

Enjoy your summer and think about a state park trip for your next new adventure.

Here’s to summer 2022! – Thomas & Carter Jenkins

Let’s start building the rest of the FC Trail to connect the new high school NOW

When a great project takes way too long to complete, do you still celebrate the result? I think you must! You must celebrate what has been done and push for the next great result not to take as long.

My hat is off to the City of Harrisonburg for completing a major phase of Harrisonburg bike/ped plan, The Friendly City Trail.

If you have not been on the new trail system, I encourage you to get out and experience one — or even all — the legs of Harrisonburg’s newest bike/ped facility.

In a few Saturdays, June 11th to be exact, the Harrisonburg Parks and Rec will hold Pop Ups in the Park at Hillandale Park. This event, at the unofficial City bike park, will be a great chance to bring your bike or walking/running shoes and experience the connectivity provided by the Friendly City Trail. Unlike the remote and secluded feeling you can get in the Rocktown Trails, you will most likely be greeted by others on the Friendly City Trail. Each time I have pedaled or run a portion of this trail, I have enjoyed the experience of seeing others happily using the new paths. The one thing you won’t see is cars!

In all honesty this trail should have been built in 2005 when Harrisonburg High School first opened its doors on Garber Church Road. There were folks in the Harrisonburg bike community pushing for the trail to be built when the foundation was being poured for the high school. Unfortunately those advocates had to wait too long for their kids to be able to enjoy a safe bike ride to high school. Instead, we are celebrating the trail opening 17 years after the completion of the high school, 38 years after the middle school opened its doors, and 3.5 years since Bluestone Elementary was opened. Even though this trail is long overdue, we still must celebrate!

There is a simple question I have continuously asked through construction projects of our schools … We would not open a school that we cannot drive to, so why do we open a school to which we can not safely walk or ride? We need to make the commitment when we decide to build important destinations within our City that we make them connect for all users, not just the car users!

Unfortunately, we have broken ground on the Friendly City’s newest school, Rocktown High School, with no plans to connect this school safely for all users. This thought hit home the other day when I was driving by with my 13 year old son, Ethan. As we drove down South Main Street, I pointed out the new lights hanging above the yet-to-be-built athletic fields, and I said, “maybe you will be playing under those lights soon.” Ethan asked, “will they have a trail?” I had to tell him that there are no plans yet. After seeing how much he enjoys the new trail, I was saddened that he would not be able to pack his soccer ball on his bike to ride to his new high school.

As we enjoy and celebrate the Friendly City Trail, let’s put an arm around our City workers and leaders, give them a squeeze of gratitude, but also give them a pinch to remind them not to wait so long for the next great result.

Open PDF of Friendly City Trail

PODCAST — Mountain Biking with Thomas Jenkins

Thomas Jenkins shows VAOA podcast host Jessica Bowser their route on the Western Slope
Photo courtesy of J. Bowser

Virginia has earned bragging rights as one of the best places for mountain biking on the east coast. From the well-maintained slopes of Massanutten to over 100 miles of backcountry trails within George Washington National Forest, Harrisonburg, Virginia has something for every experienced or beginner rider.

We always joke about whether we spend more time riding or hanging out in the parking lot, eating and drinking. But that’s the mountain biking community, and that’s the Virginia outdoors. It’s about people.
~ Thomas Jenkins, SBC

VAOA podcast host Jessica Bowser enjoys a ride on the Western Slope with Thomas
Photo courtesy of J. Bowser

Fueled by his love for two wheels, Thomas Jenkins, co-owner of Shenandoah Bicycle Company in downtown Harrisonburg, has spent 25 years working to improve trails and transportation in his community. A former mountain biking competitor, Thomas shares how to access the best local trails for all experience levels. Whether you want to cruise a country road or shred on a downhill, Thomas shares the tips and tricks you need to plan your off-road adventure.

Let’s Go!

Listen through VAOA

How to pack for a trail ride starting with the essentials

Whether you’re heading for triple-digit backcountry miles or a quick pre-work rip on the local trails, these essentials are critical to keep on your bike day in and day out.

  1. A full water bottle
    It should go without saying that hydration is key for any ride.
  2. Mini pump and CO2 inflator
    Spare tubes won’t get you far if you’re without a way to inflate them. The Bontrager Air Rush Elite CO₂ Inflator cuts inflation time to get you back on the trail faster.
  3. Spare tube
    Even in the tubeless era, a spare tube can save a ride when a puncture just won’t seal.
  4. Tire levers
    Essential for changing tubes.
  5. A multi-tool with Allen keys, Torx keys, a spare quick-link, and tire plugs
    Simplify mechanicals with a sleek, integrated multitool that hides neatly in your steertube, and quickly plug flats that won’t seal on your tubeless tires.
  6. Zip ties and duct tape
    Handy do-it-all supplies that will help you fix most issues on the trail.

Gear tip

Wrap a little duct tape around the bottom of your mini pump for easy access without extra bulk, and store spare zip ties inside of your pump, if it has a space for them. Alternatively, stash zip ties inside your handlebars secured together with a rubber band to prevent rattling while you ride.

Adapt this list to your needs

If you’re asthmatic add an inhaler, or if you have allergies make sure you’ve always got an EpiPen ready to go. These are just the basics, and you can fine-tune your essentials individually.

This excerpt is part of a longer article by Christina Chappetta on the TREK website.

Learn more

An upgrade that sweetens every ride

I have been riding the same bike for decades. I shop for new bikes all the time but I haven’t purchased the dreamboat yet. In the meantime, my ride has gotten sweeter with each upgrade!

My favorite improvement is the JonesBar. This handlebar has changed my biking experience.

It shortened, heightened and widened how my hands hold the handles, instantly a better fit for my short-waisted body. My sensitive wrists are happy because the change pushes my weight onto my comfy sheepskin seatcover 🙂

I feel more in control and this is a nice bonus. The grips provide leverage so I can get a burst of speed if I need it with much better balance while riding slowly. There’s lots of attachment spots for dashboard accessories like a bell, computer, headlight and pouch.

Through the years, my bike has evolved. I love being able to get to where I’m going while having a good time. Your bike doesn’t have to be the latest model. It’s important that you ride.

by Amy, guest columnist

It’s summer time, go for a Mountain Bike bike ride …

Last week I had a text from a friend who was coming to the Burg with some old buddies to ride for a few days. I had not talked with Jesse in years and probably the last time we saw each other in person was during 24 Hours of Moab in the late 90’s. Jesse and his group from North Carolina were coming to the area for 3 days of tasting Harrisonburg trails. The crew planned to hit the lift served trails at Bryce, then spend a day on the Western Slope of Massanutten before taking their final vacation leg west of town. I was super happy that I would be able to give them more than just directions, but actually be their tour guide for a few hours on the last day.

Whenever you take folks you do not know on a mountain bike ride there are always looming clouds of questions in your mind. Mountain biking is such a broad term and folks it can mean so many different things to different folks. I would soon find out what mountain biking would mean to this group of friends.

Not knowing what type of riding the crew of 4 wanted to experience I picked a meeting location with options, Braley Pond. From this part of the forest there are a handful of 3 hour loops that usually do not disappoint. If you are open to letting rides be more of an outdoor experience, an adventure and less of certain ride expectations you have so many more offerings.

After quick introductions the guest stated they were up to anything that had them back to the car in 3 hours so they could hit the road to home and family. I rolled the mental ride dice and it landed on Crawford Knob hike-a-bikes/Chimney Hollow. Knowing this might be a tough roll and even harder ascent I smiled and told the crew the down hill does not disappoint. Note to reader: if your guide ever tells you this it means there will be some tough goings before you get to the “does not disappoint” part.

The first several miles of the ride consisted mostly of paved and gravel roads that slowly tilted upwards, giving me the opportunity to warn them of the Crawford hike-a-bikes. My warnings of the pitches ahead seemed to bounce off them. Their minds were taking in the beauty of the forest, they were only concerned about what we were doing now not what laid ahead. I had now become the student, the client, as these veterans of off road riding were reintroducing me to the full experience of mountain biking. With every pedal stroke this crew was taking in the surrounding forest and enjoying each word of conversation. Mountain biking is more about what is around than what you are on.

When we arrived at the top of the gravel climb we took the left and were immediately greeted by the first Crawford Knob pitch. These pitches are steep and long, soul crushing regardless if you ride or hike the faces. As we topped out of the first pitch I awaited for a barrage of foul language directed towards me, instead I had 4 veteran riders laughing at this experience. Even though each was past their riding prime they still knew what it meant to enjoy the woods, regardless of what the trail brings. Two miles later we finally arrived at the top of the downhill, this is the time for any guide to pump up their crew, tell them they now will be rewarded for all their effort. What came out of their mouth next is something I have never heard at the top of Chimney Hollow, “this is awesome”. We had yet done any descending but this crew was happy, enjoying just being in the woods with each other mountain biking like they have for the past 30 years.

The next three miles of the ride consisted of 1700 vertical feet of loss which was enjoyed by all. Six inches of dirt and rock is what held us onto the mountain, any fall would have been padded by overgrowth that comes in May. The rocks on the upper slopes of Chimney Hollow are not stable, but move under the rider letting you know the mountain is in control. The final gentle slopes of the trail twist through the drainage bringing you down gentle from the down hill high.

The final paved roll back to the car was all smiles with high fives being passed around to all. This tour guide breathed a sense of relief, the clients were happy. “That was a mountain bike ride not a trail ride” was words that came out of one of the crew. This brought discussion for the next 30 minutes about mountain biking and how a mountain bike ride is different from trail riding. Even though their previous 2 days of trail riding was great this they said was their first mountain bike ride of the trip.

A good mountain bike ride does not stop when the wheels quit rolling, it continues for hours if not the days to follow. A mountain bike ride is more about the beauty of forest than the trail which holds your tires. A mountain bike ride is about exploration, the unknown of what lays ahead. As I write these words some 48 after the Crawford Knob pitches the ride is still living in me, like any good mountain bike ride it will last for days if not a lifetime. Take some time this summer to go for a mountain bike ride, explore a new part of the forest and take the time to enjoy it with others.

Happy Summer to each and all.

Whaa??? Learn from a crazy man??

 
 
We have a few left …

Friends Of Tom Society t-shirts.

If you received the unforgettable hug from Tom, consider this shirt to be a forever hug. Tom will walk the streets of Harrisonburg for eternity. This campaign is as old school as Tom himself, cash only with a minimum donation of $50 per shirt. 100% of the proceeds offset costs. A great gift.

Please share Tom-isms!