kingdomexperiences

2018 KT Retrospective and planning for the 2nd Annual KT 100K & 50K

There are not many places in North America where you can link up 75 miles of nearly continuous, pristinely made and maintained singletrack, but Kingdom Trails is one of them. Situated in the bucolic countryside of northern Vermont, Kingdom Trails was created out of passion but sustained and grown by necessity to balance a dying agriculture industry in Northern VT.

In 2017,  Kingdom Cycling & Experiences, a locally owned and operated mountain bike instruction and tour company, had their first annual KT 100K (62 miles) Guided Trail Challenge. There were 20 hearty riders who embarked on the challenge, but only 13 who finished the full 100K. Groups departed from KC&E trailside headquarters around 8 am and finished between 4 – 7pm. Along the route, the riders were supported mechanically and nutritionally with 3 aid stations packed with maple glazed donuts, homemade brownies, maple syrup, coffee and a fully catered lunch. The ride began with amazing pastries and coffee from local pastry purveyor, Aunt Dee Dee’s Bakery, and finished with freshly made pizzas from Juniper’s at the Wildflower Inn and ice cold beers at the Hub Trailside Beer and Espresso bar.

Riders face many challenges on the ride, both physically and mentally, in order to get through 62 miles and 8000 ft of climbing on 99% singletrack. The challenge is set up to be exactly that: a challenge built around a group mentality to finish the feat and help one another reach their goal. Since this is a guided trail challenge this will not turn into a race, as groups are divided by the average pace of the group.

Moving into 2019, KC&E will be adding a 50K option as well to make the ride more accessible to riders and have a step for people to build up to the 100K. Beyond adding the 50K option, KC&E’s Certified Skills Instructors will be providing free skills clinics on the day before to prepare riders technically for the challenges that await them the following day.

To sign up for this year KT100K and be apart of an amazing and unique trail riding experience click here! If you have any questions about the event please either email info@kingdomexperiences.com or call/text 802.427.3154.

Happy Trails,

Caitlin, Collin & Taco the Trail Dog

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)

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….

A Close Encounter with a Bear

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!

Best Breakfast in the Kingdom – Travel Guide Vol. 1

By: Caitlin Daulong

Our first travel guide seeks to answer a question that we get all the time. Where is the best spot for breakfast? Below we have outlined several of our favorite options for a variety of tastes and preferences.

The whole shebang

Juniper’s at the Wildflower Inn

2059 Darling Hill Road, Lyndonville, VT

Looking for a spot that has it all? Well, Juniper’s is for you! From the delicious, local coffee that is poured steaming hot the minute you sit down, to the stunning views from the porch and deck, to the divine breakfast options, you can’t go wrong. A few not-to-be-missed dishes: their pancakes! They are so fluffy and heavenly, you will be hard pressed to find a better pancake anywhere. Topped with maple syrup from just down the road, the pancakes are a sublime Vermont experience. For the more health conscious eater, their Paleo option (veggies topped with poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, bacon, and sweet potato spirals), and the fruit and yogurt parfait are a sure bet. If you have young kids, ask for the kitty eggs (summer) or snowman pancakes (winter)!

 

Pastries so good, you might as well be in Paris

Auntie DeeDee’s Homemade Baked Goods

185 Mountain Road, East Burke, VT

Auntie DeeDee’s is quite possibly the most delightful small bakery you can find outside of Paris. Anything you order will be exceptional, but our favorites are the almond croissants (genuinely out of this world) and the Belty Bun (a delicious pastry packed with veggies , eggs, and/or meat). Be warned: this place gets crazy busy on weekends, so plan accordingly.

 

Local, Organic Goodies & organic food shop

The Freighthouse

1000 Broad St, Lyndonville, VT

The Freighhouse is a fantastic spot for healthy, locally sourced, organic food, beverages and baked goods. Some of our absolute favorites are their avocado toast, vegan chocolate chip cookie dough bites, and affogato during the sticky summer months (affogato is a shot of espresso over a scoop of gelato – if you haven’t experienced this phenomenon yet, TRY IT and thank us later!)

Authentic Espresso & more

Cafe Lotti

603 VT – 114, East Burke, VT

The coffee is so good here, even if they offered nothing else at all people would still flock to them. Luckily for us, their breakfast and lunch options are a delicious and added benefit to their exceptional coffee. If you are a coffee snob (and even if you’re not), Cafe Lotti is going to be your new favorite spot.

Trailside treasures

The Hub Brew Counter and Feed the Pour

2099 Darling Hill Rd. Lyndonville, VT

Looking for a fun trailside vibe ready to fuel you with delicious coffee beverages and quick breakfast food? This is the place! Beyond their breakfast and energizing drinks they have a full array of apres ride libations to reward yourself with.

A unique Vermont experience

Bread & Butter

139 Eastern Ave, St. Johnsbury, VT

Where else in the Northeast Kingdom can you order shakshouka or banh mi, with a side of chaga tea? Bread & Butter is utterly charming and completely inviting, and even though it’s slightly farther from the trails (a roughly 15 minute drive), it is well worth the drive!

 

Italy Calls!

By: Karen Wilson

Traveling to Italy isn’t just a line item on my bucket list to check off- it’s a calling from deep within. Most travelers inevitably seem to be tantalized to discover her beauty and way of life. This dream is soon to become true as my husband and I follow the calling and celebrate 25 years together!
 
Rather than going the easy route with a bike touring group, I’ve decided to create my own tour. It’s taken months and countless hours of research but I’m confident that the places and experiences I’ve mapped out will be fruitful:
 
1, Red Eye from Montreal to Rome (great airfare from Montreal)
2, Rental car for two weeks (cheap)
3, Drive to the Almafi coast-2 nights and hike “The path of the gods”.
4, Drive to Puglia (the heel of the boot) to Ostuni -La Citta Bianca (the white town) and stay in the heart of the city for two nights.
5, Drive farther south in the boot to Borgagne and stay at a Masseria (old fortified farmhouse) for two nights.
6, Long road trip north to Citta della Pieve in Umbria near the Tuscan border for one week on an organic farm.
 
Finding places off the beaten path with options to bike and hike are the focus. Living close to the locals is accessed with airbnb and planned well in advance for the best options. Most offer breakfast and the Masseria offers bikes as well. In Umbria I’ve booked 3 different bike tours with 3 different companies. I like having a balance between planned tours and spontaneous adventure. Spring is prime time for biking so reserving in advance won’t leave us high and dry. No cross-country, single track tours have been on my radar via online searches, but I’m good with riding through the vineyards, olive groves, hidden ancient ruins and coastal paths along the Adriatic Sea! Save the single tracks for the Dolomites on another trip…
 
Being a tried and true non-motorized Kingdom Trails rider, I’ve surprised myself with reserving one tour using e-bikes. I figure we can cover more territory in hilly Tuscany. I expect the scenery to be pleasantly a little more serene on that day. On the other days we can scope out one of their thermal hot springs for some ancient healing powers!
 
So stayed tuned next month for a follow up blog reporting on the ups and downs of the itinerary, the challenges of driving and communicating with bare bones Italian and the highlights of fresh, flavorful foods and vino. Hopefully my shared experiences will inspire you to respond when Italy Calls!
 
Ciao….
Photo Credit: Tour Radar

The Silver Linings of April

By: Karen Wilson
It’s an ugly picture outside my window regardless of the great view. The steady rain and intermittent cries of wind make even an outdoor enthusiast want to stay in. The garden in the back yard still has measurable snow in mid April in contrast to the front where I can see large areas of grass and dirty snowbanks. This bleak image of April in Vermont happens to awaken the laden indoor enthusiast with endless possibilities.
 
I hear the phrase “carpe diem” as I consider this window of time to embrace the indoors while not being tugged by outdoor callings. This is the time to comb through all that clutter and purge! Losing hundreds of pounds of accumulated, unused stuff from my living space can have remarkable effects on my psyche! Knowing that I can drop off stuff down at the Burke Clubhouse for their annual Memorial Day yard sale has added motivation.
 
Anticipating the opening of the Kingdom Trails in just a matter of weeks has prompted me to get my bike in the shop to be prepped for the season. It’s good to know it will be ready when the time comes. April is a time to embrace indoor yoga sessions and consider taking a spin class or actually put to use those weights in my basement.
 
One of my favorite April traditions is visiting a spa where I can purge in a sauna and steam bath built up toxins and indulge in a tranquil space of stillness. The off season rates are irresistible and the experience is priceless. There are quite a few options out there!
 
The best part of April is that it can change overnight. The temperature can swing like a pendulum and when the sun breaks  through it’s a gift to be celebrated! Walking through the woods on a warm spring day is special because there are no bugs- I love that!
Although April is considered “off season” in the NEK, I like to flick  my attitude switch to “on” and seek out the silver linings that are calling me to seize the day!

Last Call for Chaga!

By: Karen Wilson

As I slipped in and out of the mud ruts driving down Brook road this morning, I saw two guys shoveling snow off a gathering tank for sap. This scene didn’t trigger fond thoughts of french toast drenched with maple syrup as one would expect. Instead it signaled my inner mycophile (a devotee of mushrooms; especially : one whose hobby is hunting wild edible mushrooms) to consider the image as “Last Call For Chaga”. 
 
One of the many rewards of meandering through the frosty, winter, woods in northern Vermont is the opportunity it lends to foraging for the coveted friendly fungus known as Chaga (just do a search to discover it’s many health benefits). Wether on fat bikes, snowshoes, back country skis or those motorized monsters I prefer to avoid, it’s an invitation to exercise your visual discrimination skills. Hunting for chaga is like going into an “I Spy” or “Where’s Waldo” book and living it out with the woods as your backdrop. In general, chaga is hard to find, so when you discover some it’s a rush!
 
Timing is a key element when harvesting chaga. Since the trees are dormant in the winter, all the good stuff is drawn into the trunk that the fungus is growing off of. This in turn feeds the chaga with all the goods that make it a healer. That’s why it’s prime time to forage. Once the sap starts running, the concentration of its magic lessens. There are different schools of thought on this, but it sure sounds logical to me. 
 
If your curiosity is calling you to search out a chunk of chaga to claim as your own, then take note that time is running out. When you see the sap buckets hanging from the maples, remember that means “Last Call For Chaga”.

3 ways to better prepare for your next gravel (dirt road) ride:

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:

Be prepared:

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!

3 ways to improve your riding in the wet

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!        

1) Stance

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.

2) Braking

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!