Category: blog

The future of the Western Slope trails on Massanutten Mountain

How can we preserve a vital partnership?

The Western Slope is taking its annual hibernation nap, not a full sleep all winter but a rest during most daylight hours. The resting of the trails might depress some but I challenge you to use these two months as a time of opportunity.  Use this break as a chance to get out of your comfort zone and explore other forests and trails in our area.

Take a trip to our beautiful natural forest or visit other local trails systems like Blue Ridge School, Douthat State Park or Hillandale Park.  The Western Slope is only the tip of the iceberg for our local and regional trails. Consisting of a thousand acres, the Western Slope could fit inside one of the scores of hollows that make up our public playground, the George Washington National Forest.  Also use this break from the Western Slope as a time of reflection, a chance to increase your appreciation for what is a truly symbiotic relationship between Massanutten Resort and our community.

It seems like a lifetime ago when riding the Western Slope had a sneaky edge to it, that feeling of constantly looking over your shoulder waiting for a security guard to jump out and bust ya.  For years those living outside the resort and who rode the Western Slope wanted to keep the trails a secret. The reason behind this selfishness was not due to keeping great trails to yourself (the trails were not that great) but due to the fear that if too many folks were seen on the trails the Resort would beef up security and close them to the locals.  Times have changed for the Western Slope and now our community has the opportunity to access the hundreds of acres and the maze of trails tucked within.  The incredible opportunity to access this playground does not come without responsibility, the responsibility of being a good steward to the land and a responsible partner.

This multi decade old relationship is incredibly unique and like any long lasting relationship it takes work, compromise and a lot of giving.  The marriages and partnerships that are around for generations sometimes need the help of others to guide and counsel them through the busy times. Well this is a busy time for the Western Slope, it has seen more user growth in the last four years than anytime in its 40+ year history. COVID, more beginner friendly trails, easier access to trail information, shuttles, and ebikes have all contributed to the growth of usership. All of these reasons listed are part of the change, some you may or may not like but change is always happening. Now it is our time to guide and give this change direction. Thus the partnership is seeking counseling from professional trails planners, Applied Trails Research.

As the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) and Massanutten Resort are going through counseling we are asking for our family’s (you the community) help and participation. We want you to ask yourself a few questions: “What do I want to see with the Western Slope over the next 5, 10, 20 years?”, “How do I use the trails?” “What do I like or don’t like about the Western Slope?”, “What do I know about this partnership?”  Use your honest feelings, thoughts, reflections and crystal ball to guide you through the Western Slope survey. The vital partnership that opens the Western Slope access is asking for your help so we can create something for everyone and help preserve something magical.

There are going to be a lot of “I want” which is great, exactly what SVBC and Massanutten are asking for you to communicate.  Do you want more beginner trails? Do you want better trail signage? Do you want more jump lines? Do you want a downhill only trail? Do you want an easy trail to access the ridge?  Do you want more places to walk? Do you want more backcountry trails for solitude?  The question I want is not just for the current trail users but also for those who may not have used the trail in the past, so please share the survey with anyone.

There is so much to gain in the future but we need to plan or the current usership wave is going to crash on us.  We have the ability to create an incredible resource that is rarely seen in any trails community. But we also have so much to lose, something that I think most of us all take for granted, ACCESS. Let’s not go back to the fear of looking over our shoulder.

Can we take a bunch of “I” and spell “we”?
Can we be patient?
Can we compromise?
Can we give a little?

I believe WE can!

-Thomas

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

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!

Deja Vu … The past and future colliding

Deja Vu Mountain Bike Relay is a fitting name for this event on so many levels. The idea of riding a lap over and over again in a set amount of time might make one think they are playing Bill Murray’s role in Groundhog Day. For me, the Deju Va portion of this event was the reliving of so many mountain bike team relay events from my past while creating many new memories, and seeing what the future might look like for this awesome event. During all of the 24 hours of Canaan, Snowshoe, Moab and Big Bear events in which I participated, I never once thought I would be doing a similar event with my family. Bringing the family aspect to such a fun event is the brainchild of event promoter and friend Dusty Burchnall.

The originator of 24 hour mountain bike team relay racing was Laird Knight. Laird, an early mountain bike pioneer, fully understood the camaraderie aspect of mountain biking and wanted to bring the team aspect to the early 90’s race scene. Until one does a team relay mountain bike event, they don’t understand the attraction or addiction some riders gain from such events. Unlike most mountain bike races where the course is the attraction element for riders, the team aspect is what made mountain bike relay races blow up 25 years ago. I remember passing on the opportunity to do the inaugural 24 hours of Canaan in the summer of 1992. On that June evening Chris Scott and I sat in a booth at Sirianni’s Pizza in Davis West by God Virginia, making a stop over on our travels to a race in Ohio. We sat there eating pizza with Laird Knight while listening to the riders in the booth behind us talking about their unknown upcoming adventures. The feeling that Chris and I were going to the wrong event was growing inside, history was being made and we were about to drive away.

Team Jenkini at Deja Vu Mountain Bike Relay 2020

Now I jump ahead almost 30 years later with two boys (Ethan 11, Carter 9) who I would not classify as mountain bike lovers, but they are sport enthusiasts who like fun events. I was not sure if the Deja Vu event would spark their interest enough to get them to register, but after my initial invite, Ethan jumped on the chance to do any sporting event. Carter was not far behind with excitement, especially after we went out to pre ride the fun 5 mile course that traversed the lower western slope trails of Massanutten. Any parent of a sport minded kid knows that youth have not been able to scratch this itch for the past 6 months; for many kids this was their opportunity.

I was not able to talk my wife Julie into riding with us, but she was a vital piece of our team. Julie had the experience of being a part of mountain bike relay adventures in the past, she just had to Deja Vu back 20 years. That is the thing about mountain bike team relay events, it involves much more than riders themselves. These events allow and encourage others to participate and have as much fun as possible. The early years of 24 hour racing was jam packed with fun, spectators figuring out any way to participate, those creative juices were stamped and signified so many great events. Dusty’s event encouraged any family member to participate, riding or not is the heart of the Deja Vu. Having the whole family do something together goes to the core of what Dusty believes.

Team Jenkini at Deja Vu Mountain Bike Relay 2020

When race time came and after much strategizing between the two brothers, the decision was made for Ethan to be the kick off for our team. Thinking I would be next was a mistake, for there was no holding back Carter’s excitement, he “had to go next”. For the next few hours, my afternoon involved sitting in the lawn chair encouraging riders, enjoying conversation and watching my boys taking turns conquering the 5 mile loop. The time was right for me to sit in a lawn chair and watch history unfold. When it was finally my turn to ride and the baton, or wrist band in this case, was swapped, I got transformed into a competitive junkie from the past. For me the competition is within, pushing myself to my limits and encouraging others to do the same.

As we watched the sun begin to set from one of the prettiest spots in the Valley just above Hensley’s Pond, riders began equipping their bikes with illumination tools. Night riding has changed a lot in the past 25 years. Today’s technology has removed some of the surprises and tunnel vision that used to come with your night lap in the 90’s, the 50/50 chance of your light lasting your lap has been replaced with thousands of lumens packed in small self contained sticks. No more duck tape, flashlights and the constant turning off of your light to save your system. I know this technology helps any parent send their child into the darkness of night riding.

After a majority of riders and support folks left to the warmth of their home, a few of us huddled around the fire pit. Stories told, beverages drank and the feeling that we just experienced the start of the new Harrisonburg tradition grew inside. Next year, maybe my kids will stick around late enough to hear some stupid tales of 24 hours of Canaan.

Hope to see you and your family next year for a Deja Vu weekend.

Thank you Laird and Dusty!

Thomas Jenkins – Team Jenkini

Thank you Massanutten Four Season Resort for supporting the Harrisonburg Community with access to the Western Slope!