By: Karen Wilson
By: Collin Daulong
Recently road biking has seen fewer and fewer riders participating, and for valid reasons. Roads are getting more congested and drivers are becoming increasingly distracted by the accessibility of technology. In light of these two facts, many road riders are seeking quieter roads for a safer, more enjoyable ride. Gravel (riding on dirt roads) has recently taken off in popularity because it offers the solitude and safety that riders are looking for, and generally good routes are closer than you think.
Below are 3 ways to better prepare for your next gravel (dirt road) ride:
When dirt road riding you will usually find yourself amongst riders who are simply interested in the enjoyment of the beautiful natural surroundings. While escaping the concrete jungle you will often find that services along your ride will be more sparse and you may even run out of cell phone reception, so it is important to be prepared in the event of a flat tire, getting lost and the dreaded bonk (getting very very tired). In previous years, I have been a minimalist when it comes to being prepared but recently I have fully embraced being ready for whatever my adventure brings me. I wear a Thule Hydration pack, their smallest model, and carry essentials like a Pedro’s multi-tool, extra high-energy food, plenty of water, a few extra layers, a fully charged cell phone and some cash for the mid-ride market stop for a home baked cookie! It is way cooler to be over prepared than underprepared when it comes to adventuring out on dirt roads.
Have a plan but let it evolve:
I love both having a plan and not having a plan, as a tour owner and operator it is important to have a plan at all times but you also need to be able to evolve due of the energy of the group, weather and many other considerations. When setting out for your adventure do the same, generate a plan that you will want to stick to but do not be afraid to let it evolve or find yourself exploring a new dirt road you may not have seen before. When heading out on these rides it can be a great way to experience the local culture of an area so add in some local coffee and pastry shops to fuel up mid-ride (and use their facilities if you need too). Also, let a friend or loved one know where you are going and when you will be starting and finishing just to be safe!
Soak it in:
Cycling can be an amazingly cathartic experience, it allows you a physical and emotional release from the twitter, facebook, instagram, instant gratification culture we live in. Finding dirt roads near you means that you are experiencing an area that many do not (hence the roads not being paved) and there can be a lot of hidden and not-so-hidden beauty there, so soak it all in and enjoy the view. I can nearly guarantee that if you go and find yourself on an adventure via dirt roads you well come back to the craziness that regular life can bring with more clarity and a better sense of presence.
I think Ernest Hemingway probably said it best “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” If you are a cyclist or non-cyclist we strongly encourage you to give riding on those quiet dusty roads a try for your health, happiness and general well-being!
Looking for a great way to try out dirt road riding or an adventure for the seasoned gravel rider? Check out Gravel & Gastronomy on June 2nd!
By: Quinn Campbell
I went on my annual fat bike excursion last weekend and was reminded how wholeheartedly puckering it is to ride in slippery and unpredictable conditions. Kingdom Cycling Experiences owner, Collin Daulong and I met up for a quick loop on a particularly warm March day. Pedaling through patchy snow and ice, we left the office and rode to singletrack at the woods edge. The Kingdom Trails, which I’m used to seeing dry and sheltered under a canopy of leaves, were draped in snow and exposed to overcast winter skies.
Breaking into the forest and slipping our way downhill, I felt as if I’d been transported to a mid season muddy trail ride. The melting snow caved beneath my tires, mashing and sliding unpredictably. I might as well have been traversing an off camber hillside, laced by roots and coated in greasy Vermont mud. As Collin and I drifted, feet out, and back wheels loose, I was forced to use all my wet weather riding techniques in order to stay right side up and keep on rolling.
With spring rains and fresh trails just around the corner, or incase you too decide to venture out for a warm winter ride, I figured it would be a good time to offer up some tips to make slippery trails more manageable!
An aggressive stance will improve your bike control during any conditions, but it’s that much more important when riding on slimy or unpredictable trails. When it’s time to descend, change your body position in three ways. Lower your chest, bringing it closer to the top tube. This drops your center of gravity and makes you more stable. Bend your elbows and bring them out like you’re mimicking chicken wings, and then do the same with your knees, bending and opening towards the outside. This will allow your bike to move freely beneath you as it deflects off rocks and wet roots, without throwing your body off center. Your bike can wiggle and squirm as much as it wants, but with your shoulders and hips pointed in the direction you want to go, you’ll ride out on your bike rather than under it.
Proper brake control will dramatically change your wet weather riding experience. The most important thing to remember is to avoid pulling those levers while corning. I’m constantly reminding myself to stay of the brakes when turning, whether the trails are wet or dry, and it’s a lot harder to do than you might imagine. Grabbing the brakes fights your bikes natural ability to turn, and counteracts your already reduced traction. Practice doing all your braking before entering the corner, even if that means you enter the corner slower than you would normally. Once you begin to lean the bike completely release the levers and stay off them until you exit the corner. This will give you gobs more traction, and provide an overall increase in cornering speed. I also pay more attention to what surface I’m actually doing my braking on when riding slippery terrain. I try to look ahead and pick areas with the most traction to scrub speed. More traction while braking means less skidding. And believe me, I love a good long skid as much as the next guy, but it’s actually not the most effective way to slow yourself down. A powerful pull of the levers, without actually locking up your wheels, will slow you down much quicker and help to maintain traction.
3) Heads Up
Almost all of us could stand to look farther down the trail when picking our lines. Lifting your eyes to scope a few more feet of single track will give you extra time to prepare for the terrain ahead. When riding wet or slippery conditions the extra distance you look and the few more seconds it gives you will help to establish good braking areas and identify and avoid particularly slippery obstacles. In addition, having more time to plan your line let’s you relax on the bike and loosen up– making slipping and sliding a little more manageable.
I regularly try and implement these three techniques while riding in any conditions. However, dry conditions give a little more wiggle room for error, and these skills become essential on slippery trails. The next time you head out for a pedal and find yourself unexpectedly sideways in soft snow or greasy muck give one, or all of these pointers a go!
By: Chris Mehlmen
Sometimes, mountain biking, and biking in general, is painful. I’m not talking about the crashes or the occasional bashing of your knee on your flat pedals. I’m talking about the leg pain, the hard breathing, and the other physical and mental suffering that is required on most rides. Whether you are chasing a fast riding partner, or dragging a 30 pound trail bike up a long climb so you can rip an epic descent, you likely will ask yourself “why am I doing this?” a few times over the course of your riding life. Usually, these thoughts are brief and you soon are having a great time again, but it can be hard to push through the suffering so that you can reach the more enjoyable stuff. Here are five tips to help manage the suffering.
1) Break down hard sections or long climbs into short segments
Breaking down the less-fun parts like long climbs can help make them more manageable. If you constantly think about a 30 minute climb you have looming ahead of you, you are going to feel overwhelmed, and your body will begin to react to these negative thoughts. You’ll begin to feel as if the task is impossible and never-ending. If you break down that climb into shorter segments, either by time, or by landmarks, it will feel much more bearable and you will be able to conquer it quicker. By saying to yourself “I’m going to push myself to the fire tower at the top of the first fire road section” you will be able to focus your effort on that one part. You won’t feel as overwhelmed, and chances are, you will be able to ride harder because your mind is only thinking about that one shorter section. Once you reach the end of it, shift your thoughts to the next section. You’ll find that the climb will go by much quicker and will feel less daunting.
2) Much of your fatigue and your “limit” is in your mind
Fatigue is a complicated phenomenon. Physically, it can be because of glycogen depletion, muscle breakdown, overheating, and a myriad of other factors. However, modern research has shown that your mindset also plays into fatigue and performance. If you go into a section of a ride thinking that you are on your limit, and that you won’t be able to make it, you will essentially put a limiter on your body’s potential. Your body, in reality, can usually push quite far beyond this mental limit. Eventually, it will reach its physical ceiling, but even the best athletes can be held back by their mindset about fatigue more than by their physical limits. Try to think about each pedal stroke, and not the overall feeling of suffering. One thing I do when I am in the middle of a hard interval is think about how much I am selling myself short, and how much more I could give. Try to focus on the trail and your breathing. Much like what I discussed in my first tip, you can push yourself harder and raise your mental fatigue threshold if you don’t dwell over how long an effort is.
3) Think about the reward to come
Chances are, there is a reason you are suffering. Maybe you are in a race, trying to beat a competitor, or maybe you are getting to your favorite descent. Whatever the reason, use the end reward as a motivator. Think of it as a treat hanging in the woods at the beginning of the descent, or at the finish line of a race. Imagine yourself ripping the descent and the pain will take a back seat. You will be able to push yourself harder since you know there is a big reward at the end. Realize that the hard work will make the reward taste that much sweeter. Speaking of sweeter, if you are just on a hard ride, with no amazing descent or race finish line, think about a food or beverage reward you will get at the end. Will it taste sweeter if you just tried to make it through the ride, or if you know that you really pushed yourself?
4) Don’t stop pedaling!
I cannot stress this one enough. Pacing is hard, and it can be easy to overcook oneself and feel the urge to stop. However, when you stop on a long climb or on a long section of fire road, your legs will block up, your heart rate will drop, and you will get out of a mental rhythm. It is much faster and more comfortable to set a manageable, steady pace that you can maintain for the entire effort. Even if this means getting dropped by your friends for a short time, you will thank yourself for doing this because you won’t be spiking your heart rate, then stopping, then spiking it again, and then stopping. If you are going to stop, plan it out before so that you have a set goal to reach, and have something to look forward to. For example, maybe tell yourself you can have the cookie that has been in your pocket if you make it to the top without stopping.
5) Even if it’s type II fun, it’s still fun in the end
In the end remember that mountain biking is a mixture of type I and type II fun. Type I fun is fun that you feel in the moment, like the feeling you get on a flowy section of dowhill. Type II fun is the type of fun you feel afterward. It might not feel fun during it, but you will remember it as being a good experience. This could be on a long fireroad climb that leads to your favorite descent or one that has amazing views. Occasionally, there is some type III fun (not fun at all), but I hope that doesn’t come too often. After returning home and putting your feet up, you will probably soon forget about most of the suffering you incurred to get to the type I fun parts of your ride. You might have a laugh about how winded you were, or how you almost threw up, but chances are, you’ll be back at it again the next day. Our mind has an amazing ability to forget about the painful parts of exercise. If we didn’t have this ability, I have a feeling very few people would run marathon or ultra-endurance races, and everyday mountain bikers would not ride up the same “terrible” climb — the one that they feel like they are about to die on — over and over during the course of a season in order to ride their favorite descents.
Caitlin grew up in Ridgefield, CT and was bitten by the travel bug very early on in life. Starting out as a francophile, Caitlin spent a summer in Minnesota going to French immersion camps (definitely not nerdy at all) and dreamed of living in Paris one day. Fast forward to freshman year of college in Boston, Caitlin decided to transfer to the American University of Rome on a whim and finish out her college career there. She then became a tour guide and started a tour company with a friend. After living in Rome for 7 years, she moved back to the US and met Collin, and the rest is history! Always knowing that she would incorporate her passion for travel and tourism into whatever she did, she and Collin started Kingdom Cycling & Experiences to merge their passions into one collaborative venture.
- Why is traveling so important to you?
Because it literally changed my life! Moving to another country opened my eyes to so many things and changed me more as a person than anything else I have experienced as of yet.
2.What do you look most forward to in your travels?
Traveling anywhere (even to a city near you that you’ve never been to before) is an opportunity to kind of try on another way of life so to speak. Can you be a New Yorker and live in one of the busiest cities in the world? What would life be like if you did? Or what about moving to a tropical island? Somewhere where you can’t speak the language? Going to new places and really experiencing them is such a great way to learn more about yourself.
3.Why is working in travel and tourism your dream job?
There is nothing better than being able to transfer your passion and love for a place to other people who are experiencing it for the first time. I get so into researching a new place I am traveling to (or even places I have been to before) – nothing gets me more excited than planning a trip. I’m also the non-official travel agent for most of my family and friends; I absolutely love putting trips together and customizing them towards what I know a person would love. To an extent, this is exactly what I do with KC&E.
4. If you could travel anywhere at any time past, present or future where and when would you travel?
Too hard! I would go pretty much anywhere. Italy is my adopted home country so literally anywhere in Italy – even places I have been to a million times. Some of my favorite places to explore in Italy so far (besides Rome) have been the coast of Calabria (specifically Scalea and Tropea), Sicily and the Aeolian Islands, and little hillside towns in Umbria and Lazio, such as Civita’ di Bagnoregio. The middle east/central Asia in general fascinates me – still hoping to get to Petra in Jordan as that’s been on my bucket list forever. But really, anywhere and everywhere.
*If you have any questions about Italy (most specifically Rome) please feel free to email me (email@example.com)! I love assisting in trip planning in any way I can. *
5. What is your most favorite outdoor adventure?
Hiking in Turkey was pretty cool! My friend Julia and I trekked through Goreme (specifically “Love Valley” – named for it’s phallic rock formations) and it was incredible. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience!
Collin is the co-owner and grand master of good times on two wheels at Kingdom Cycling and Experiences. He was born in Florida but quickly moved to Connecticut where he developed his love for being outdoors and cycling. He graduated from Miami University of Ohio with a BS in Exercise Science and then proceeded to move to Colorado to, you guessed it, ride bikes!
He lived just outside of Boulder, CO in a small town called Nederland. He finished his tenure out west with a short stint living and working in Moab to ride one of his most favorite trails on repeat, The Whole Enchilada. After Moab, he moved back to CT where he worked for GT Bicycles traveling as their demo driver covering a massive territory from Amarillo, TX to Maine. During that time at GT he fell in love with Kingdom Trails, trying to schedule as many demos he could in that region. A little while into working for GT he met Caitlin, his now wife. He knew when he met her that she was “the one” so they decided to change career paths and start their life together in Northern VT.
For the next 4 year Collin helped spearhead the Village Sport Shop Trailside operation while nurturing their side hustle – Kingdom Cycling & Experiences. The business showed promise but needed some real time and effort put into it so both Caitlin and Collin decided to focus on their business full time. Over the next couple years they put their full attention to KC&E and as they say “the rest is history”…
- What does biking mean to you, and how does it impact your life?
Great question! And where to begin…Well biking means a whole lot to me and it will mean different things to me on different days. On some days cycling will be a way of processing a tough emotion or feeling, on another it will be out of the pure excitement of going fast through the woods and to challenge myself, and on another it will be to simply enjoy the breathtaking scenery that I am riding through. The one constant with cycling for me is that is one of my favorite mediums to connect with myself, friends and strangers; I can’t think of a more positive environment to get to know someone or yourself.
Cycling impacts my life pretty heavily, I mean we’ve created a business around it! Cycling started as (and continues to be) a passion of mine that drives a lot of the decisions I make but don’t let it rule my life. I think how it impacts my life most dramatically now is finding new and fun ways that helps others find/grow their love of cycling that will help make positive life changes towards their health and wellbeing all around.
- How did you get into cycling?
You remember that heavier set kid with glasses and braces, who was unmistakably awkward and not good at team sports in elementary school? Well that was me, in a big way,haha! I started riding my bike at an early age because I found that cycling was something that I owned and was not judged on. I could enjoy being out in the woods just for the sake of enjoying it and it was not something that was tied to accomplishments.
- What is your dream cycling destination, and why?
Tuscany or Umbria! As you will find out in 2 questions, I love food equally -if not more than- cycling! I especially love cheese, pasta, espresso and pizza, so what could be better? Honestly anywhere in Italy where there is some mountain biking, vacant dirt roads and non-touristy food culture.
- What has been the biggest adventure you’ve gone on in life so far?
The journey of life hahah! But seriously, this is a tough one, I’ve had a lot of great adventures but I think the greatest one so far is having our own business. Having our own business has been kind of like learning to ride a bike all over again. At first you fall down a bunch, have some bumps and bruises but the more you keep with it the easier it is to remain moving forward. Everyday I am humbled by how little I know but excited and encouraged by the challenges ahead of me (us). Having this business teaches me something new everyday, takes me to amazing places and allows me the opportunity to meet new and exciting people constantly! Ohh ya, it is also highly encouraged that I ride my bike and find amazing food sports often, so that’s not too bad.
- What are 5 things that people may not know about you?
- I have no feeling in the left side of my face and have a hard time hearing in my left ear (as well as no feeling in the tip of my tongue, so sorry for the lisp sometimes!)
- I love food equally if not more than riding my bike, especially Italian food
- I meditate, journal and write gratitudes everyday to assist in being present, grateful and just to enjoy life to the max!
- I watch franchise movies on repeat (haha) especially, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and James Bond
- I am finding that I actually really enjoy small cities.
- Of all of the places you have lived so far, where would you choose to live again?
We already live there…well at least for half the year! Burke, VT; that place is magical. Beyond having stunning bucolic beauty, I have met some of my best friends up there. Being in Burke is really like having a little slice of serene calm in what seems to be an increasingly divisive and chaotic time (or at least the way the media makes it seem). I would love to live in some sort of city as well, I’ve always lived in small towns and enjoyed that but recently we traveled to some cities where we would walk everywhere and I really enjoyed that. I think there is a lot to be said for being less and less reliant on motorized vehicles and slowing down the pace of life a little to enjoy the views – figuratively and literally.
By: Karen Wilson
Words and Photo by: Quinn Campbell
One of the best ways to become more comfortable and capable out on the trails is to improve your jumping skills. However, it’s essential to leave the ground both confidently, and more importantly, intentionally. Whether you’re a seasoned rider looking to refine your technique, or someone who’s just tapped into their love for two wheels, here are three ways you can improve your jumping skills.
1) Start Small
I’ll begin here because safety is key. I hate to break it to you, but mountain biking is inherently dangerous even before you leave the earth, there’s no sound reason for your practice jump to be the biggest thing around. To start, find a jump you feel reasonably comfortable on and begin to familiarize yourself with the feeling of catching air. How does body position affect your takeoff and landing? How does your bike respond in the air? With a little repetition on the same jump you can move up in size and begin pushing your boundaries with more confidence.
2) Hit The Pump Track
Do a little research and find a pump track near you. Each time you hit a jump your body does a very similar motion to “pumping” a roller. You push the bike into the takeoff and pull upwards into the air while leaving the lip. It all happens in a matter of seconds, each movement practically indistinguishable from the next. Laps through the dirt rollers and tight berms will dramatically improve your timing and additionally cultivate an understanding of how your bike moves beneath you, both of which are essential components for a graceful takeoff.
3) Hone The Bunny Hop
This is the most difficult, and consequently, the most beneficial skill to learn. The bunny hop will allow you to properly control your departure and trajectory. It also gives you the ability to make jumps out of natural trail features, rocks, roots, and rolls will become opportunities to lift your bike off the ground. Don’t worry if you haven’t quite mastered the bunny hop, with a few pointers and some practice time it’ll become effortless.
Learning on flat pedals will help build proper technique. If you were hopping with clips before reading this, I’d change out your pedals and give it another go! There are three main steps to complete a proper bunny hop. Begin by lowering your chest and bending your arms and legs, essentially preloading your body. Next, in an explosive motion, move up and slightly back, pulling the bars toward your lap while pushing against the pedals. Your hips should be just behind the rear axle. Then, once your front wheel is off the ground, point your toes at a downward angle and scoop the pedals with your feet while bending your knees. This will pull the back wheel off the ground. If may feel awkward at first, but with repetition the motions will begin to blend and before long you’ll have both wheels off the ground!
When spring rolls around, or if you feel ambitious and want to haul out the fatbike and get some preseason practice in, take these three tips and put them to the test. New lines will present themselves on old trails and your confidence and bike handling skills will increase. Before long your rides will be filled with newfound airtime, greater control, and a propensity to show off.
- The sheer volume of unpaved surfaces and the population density (or lack thereof). Vermont boasts an impressive paved to unpaved surface ratio, there are about 8,000 miles of unpaved surfaces versus only 6,000 miles of paved roads. When you couple that ratio with a population density of 48 people per square miles versus 742 and 858 (!) to its southern states, (Connecticut and Massachusetts respectively,) you can see why it is easier to find your sliver of solitude in the bucolic Vermont countryside.
- There are amazing and world renowned gastronomic gems hidden in the hills. You will be amazed where the most unsuspecting dirt road will take you and what sort of gastronomic experience will present itself. In a little town called Greensboro Vermont, a town that you could ride through and not even realize you just rode through a town, you will find one of the most recognized brewery and cheese makers in the world (yes I said the world!) Hill Farmstead brewery has been named “Best Beer in the World” by RateBeer.com 5 times in the last 6 years. Right down the road from this acclaimed brewery is The Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm. These cheese makers, similar to their bubbly and hoppy brethren down the road, are no strangers to world’s best awards. Owning accomplishments such as: “World’s Best Unpasteurized Cheese” and “Best in Class” from the World’s Cheese Awards and World’s Cheese Championships, respectively, are only a small tasting (no pun intended) of their accomplishments. These cheese and beer makers are only a sampling of what the unique Vermont countryside offers. Having gems like these in the hills offers the most delicious proverbial “carrot” at the end of the stick for your rides.
- It looks just like the brochure! To put it simply: the views are positively breathtaking. Speaking from my own personal experience while spending a lot of time on the dirt roads, there is not one ride that goes by where I am not floored by the uninterrupted beauty that the Vermont countryside has to offer, even if I have seen the same view hundreds of times before. Vermont does not have the tallest or most dramatic mountain peaks in the world, but what it does offer is a landscape that is stunning in its own way and calming to the soul. You will find yourself transported back to a simpler time not engrossed in technology and unsolicited tweet storms, when it was just you riding your bike for the unadulterated love of being outside with yourself or friends.