kingdomexperiences

Biker’s Backache

By: Marie Vaine

You may have felt that horrible lower back pain as you hop off your bike after a long ride. You know, that lower back pain that makes you feel like you are ninety years old as you to take an extra minute or two to stand up straight. What you’re feeling is biker’s backache and believe it or not, you don’t have to endure the pain just to ride your bike. Here are a few tips to help ease that pain and keep you riding for longer!

Most of the pain that you are feeling begins with the tightness of your hip flexors, glutes, and piriformis muscles. This tension lessens the mobility you have in your hip and causes your lower back to compensate for the movement. By increasing hip mobility, your lower back can stay more stable and will prevent it from taking all the pressure.

Be careful how much you put in your backpack. It’s easy to plan for the worst and load up on water, snacks, lunch, clothing layers, spare bike parts, and tools, but every ounce you put in your pack puts a little more pressure on your mid back. As you lean forward, your lower back has to work extra hard to hold up your backpack. A lighter pack means less pressure on your lower back.

A few extra lines of defense that you can do are to build core strength and stretch! It takes a lot of core strength to stay bent over on a bike, with or without a pack. Strong core muscles support your lower back on those long hours of leaning forward. Stretching helps increase mobility throughout the body and release tension in the muscles. Yoga is a great way to stretch, build core strength, and relax those muscles that work hard all the time. Here are a few suggestions for poses that are great pre- or post- ride:

Reclined Butterfly
Reclined Pigeon
Sphinx
Bridge
Half Split
High Lunge Twist
Low Lunge Twist

Italy Calls! (Post-trip update part I)

Kingdom Experiences, Mountain Bike Skill Camps and Tours in Vermont
Kingdom Experiences, Mountain Bike Skill Camps and Tours in Vermont

By: Karen Wilson

Part 1 of the follow to up to “Italy Calls”

Seeing farmland dotted with sheep as we were approaching the runway in Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci’s Airport was the first of many beautiful and surprising images of Italy. Our two week journey in southern and central Italy had just begun fulfilling a dream and sparking a passionate appreciation of this land, people and culture.

Here’s a reflection of the first stage of this adventure along with the ups and downs of planning your own trip and driving over 1200 miles in a foreign country finding secluded airbnb’s far from the luxuries of hotels and organized trips:

Following a red eye to Rome with a four hour drive south past Naples and Pompei was a stretch, but the adrenaline was flowing strong along with the espresso! Our silver Fiat Panda and a hard copy map in hand with a few tips from our airbnb host miraculously brought us to the town Centro of the small village of Agerola that sits high on the cliffs overlooking the Almafi coast. Driving on the autostrada was an adjustment from I91 in Vermont! I think Italian drivers all have race car driver’s blood with a fierce determination to pass anyone in their way. Staying alive and keeping the rental car in one piece became a priority. Figuring out the automated toll system was a fun hurtle too, but the icing on the cake was when we hit the last stretch of narrow (and I mean narrow) hair pin turns taking us up to the cliff towns and Eric’s slalom turning skills kicked in. As the passenger, that’s when my breathing froze and my stomach turned. I couldn’t help but think this is why people take trains or guided tours with vans. We left our car peacefully parked for our two day visit here and at our next one in Ostuni.
 
Juan Carlos, our host in Agerola walked us along the amazing vistas and introduced us to Pasquale who arranged our first Italian dinner in his home restaurant. Most of the food and wine including his amazing limoncello came from his farm and kitchen. His teen-age daughter served us while his wife cooked and in the middle of this delicious four course meal Pasquale came in with two glasses of warm goat’s milk fresh from the udder. It was hard to tell if I was in a dream or if this was all real. Later Pasquale took us down to his cellar where he had his meats curing, wine aging and jars of homemade preserves stored. Then he proudly shared a painting of four generations of his family painted on the stone wall of the cellar like a modern day fresco.These are just some of the results of traveling off the beaten track and searching out stellar hosts in magical places.
 
Our first full day in Italy took us along the cliffs of the Almafi coast on “The Path of the Gods” . The views were unbelievable! The terraced gardens, small inns, and simple dwellings with the backdrop of the Tyrrhenian Sea brought us down to the seaside town of Positano which was swarming with tourists. After lunch we took a boat north to the town of Almafi where we had a swim and a gelato and caught a bus back up to Agerola. It was an incredible loop that Juan Carlos suggested. Getting a seat on the bus was shear luck as the weekend crowds didn’t want to miss the last ride up the long, very narrow twisty road that only a seasoned Italian driver could maneuver. Oh, and who would know that bus tickets are often sold out of the tobacco shop. Just some little details in adventurous, independent expeditions! That night the meal and wine tasted extra good or “molto bene”. Planning the next road trip for the following day involved a technology growth spurt that I’ll share later….
 
Stay tuned for Part II’s follow up to “Italy Calls” when we drive across the country to the east coast in Puglia….
Kingdom Experiences, Mountain Bike Skill Camps and Tours in Vermont
Kingdom Experiences, Mountain Bike Skill Camps and Tours in Vermont

A Close Encounter with a Bear

Kingdom Experiences, Mountain Bike Skill Camps and Tours in Vermont

By:  Marie Vaine

As I rounded a raspberry-patch-covered corner, I slammed on my brakes as I saw the berry-eating black bear sitting ten feet in front of me in the middle of the trail. It took all 5’2’’ of me to speak sternly to the bear that was at least twice my size as my hands and knees shook. I slowly unclipped my foot from my pedal and that slightest click startled the bear, as it stood up on its hind legs, towering over me.

I talked to it as I slowly placed my bike on the ground between us and backed away slowly. It grunted and pawed the ground. When I was twenty feet away it took a few quick steps toward me, the first bluff charge. My palms sweat as I continued to walk backward. “One foot at a time,” I said to myself, “Just one foot at a time.”

Twenty-five, thirty feet of distance between the bear and I. Apparently not far enough because it ran at me again, this time taking six steps before stopping and watching my reaction. My knees buckled and I looked around for something – a stick, a rock – anything to save me, but found nothing useful and I just kept walking backward. The bear took one more step toward me and then turned and ran away. “One foot at a time,” I whispered, as I walked backward for another quarter mile.

Bear sightings are not uncommon on Kingdom Trails, though most encounters end quickly as the bear runs away. It is important to know what to do in the case that you do come across a berry-eating bear on KT. Here’s a few tips about biking in black bear country:

First, make noise when you are riding, either by talking or singing (my personal favorite) loudly as you round blind corners. Bear like to avoid people so if they hear you coming, they will most likely get out of your way. Riding in groups is another great way to avoid bears as they are usually much more intimidated by numbers.

If you do come across a bear, stay calm and give it space. A bear can run much faster than you so while running or biking away might be your natural reaction, resist. Stay calm, talk to it in a clear voice, and begin backing away slowly. It might stand up on its hind legs to smell you better, but continue to back away. Bluff charges, such as the two that I experienced, are just a bear intimidation factor so don’t run or try to play dead. Just stand your ground or continue to back away. Eventually it will run away.

We not only share the trails with other bikers, we share it with all the wildlife around. Keep your eyes out for bear, deer, moose, squirrels, and everything else, big and small, that live with us in the Kingdom. Remember, a perfect berm for you might be a perfect spot for lunch for someone else!