kingdomexperiences

The Nuances of Bike Travel

By: Quinn Campbell

I squeezed my truck between the trees. Peering past a rain streaked windshield and frantic wiper blades, I looked up at the canopy of evergreen bows which I hoped would shelter my home on wheels from the steadily falling rain. Shifting into park with a sigh, I listed to raindrops, undeterred by the trees above, plopping heavily on the roof. Opening the driver’s door and stepping outside, I surveyed my campsite for the evening. My breath plumed thickly, and the rain, falling ever harder, created a constant backdrop of noise in the otherwise still woods. I spread grime coated riding gear throughout the cab of my Chevrolet Silverado, in a half hearted attempt to dry things out, and worked on accepting the fact that it was going to be a soggy couple days. I chained my bikes to the roofrack, out of habit more than necessity, and grimaced at their perpetual exposure to the elements. Deciding to forgo dinner and avoid the cramped hassle of cooking inside my 78 x 65 inch home, I crawled into the bed of the truck, and called it a night. I lay perfectly still in my sleeping bag. The whine of a few massive British Columbia mosquitos broke through the otherwise continual drone of pounding rain. Wandering in the abyss of thoughts that comes just before sleep, I could hear my dad saying, “Life is all about compromise.” A phrase I’d heard from him on more than one occasion. With that in mind I fell asleep, managing to ignore the mosquitoes and the driving rain and the all-consuming dampness and focus on how good the dirt would be tomorrow afternoon.

A month and a half earlier, I’d left my home of Marshfield, Vermont to embark on a summer long bike trip across the United States and up to Whistler, BC. Like most words of wisdom that are imparted upon us by our parents when we’re young, I’d always taken that phrase with a nod of the head and passed it out my 2nd ear. But nothing gives you more time to reflect than traveling solo across the continent. Miles of solitude, 4,407 of them, to be be exact, gave me plenty of hours to think about the place I call home and the people who’ve given me advice along the way. And at some point in my time behind the steering wheel, I realized that for the most part, if not all the time, our parents really know what they’re talking about. I’m not sure what embodies compromise, and my father’s saying, more than a life on the road in search of pristine singletrack and word class riding destinations.

Mid day snack break.                                                            Whistler, BC.

About a year and a half ago I decided I had to spend a summer in Whistler. But I shortly realized that the only way I could afford to live in Whistler was if I worked essentially every hour of my stay. So I compromised. I gave something up –a house, and the security and comfort that comes with four walls, a roof, and indoor plumbing–  in order to get what I really wanted, the opportunity to rip bikes all day, every day.

For the last three months, and the next two, I’ve lived out of the back of my pickup truck. My bed is 30 inches wide, and not quite long enough for me to stretch out fully on. My clothes live in a bag on the floor and get washed when I notice that people don’t want to ride in the gondola with me. My kitchen is a small cooler, that perpetually smells like beans, a 6 gallon water jug, and a two burner stove that I can almost never find a level spot to use. My shower, the rivers of glacial melt, which are as close to ice as you can actually get without becoming a solid. And Regardless of my craftyness with a silicone gun, it’s always wet inside when it rains.

Life in the woods.

The lack of an actual house trickles down in compromising affect. My bikes live outside, constantly exposed to the elements and in danger of being relieved by a passerby. And I’ll guiltily admit that they don’t receive the same level of kindness as they do at home. Extreme frugality being a side effect of multiple months on the road. When I run out of chain lube, or my suspension wheaps for new seals, I juggle my options and decide that I’d rather have chicken every night. However, I’ve decided that being a little cramped, a lot stinky, and having occasionally clapped-out bikes are all compromises I’m happy to make, because what I get in return is more than worth the hassle.

Tailgate/ table/ work bench.

My days start in the woods. I usually wake up to the sound of morning birds, hidden in the tall British Columbia evergreens. Crawling from my sleeping bag and dropping the tailgate I get to examine the early morning scene. The last month and a half I’ve been watching BC fog lift from the valleys and hover delicately around snow capped peaks. But when I was traveling across the states, my morning view was often a high desert sunrise. The open tailgate and back window framing a masterpiece of watercolor skies and rocky outcroppings still in shadow. And then, while cracking a few eggs into my cast iron pan, I get to decide exactly what I want to do with my day. What trails do I want to ride? What peaks and rivers do I want to explore? Where do I want to drive to? I’m constantly exposed to the new and exciting.

Early morning in the Colorado high desert.  

Each time I park at a trailhead my body fills with the jitters of a kid on Christmas morning. Every new trail a present, full of turns and descents completely different from those in states before. And with every new riding location, I get the opportunity to meet the people who call those trails home. Whether it’s home for a night or two, like me, or where they’ve learned to ride and cultivate an addiction for two wheels and a path of dirt. If I’m lucky, I get to spend an evening around a campfire with people I met hours before. We lounge on tailgates and camp chairs, telling stories of how we got here. Whatever food we’ve found in our funky smelling coolers is mashed together and used to refuel spent legs. When the firewood runs out, or I’m too whooped to fight my drooping eyelids, I’ll crawl into the truck bed and fall asleep, with excitement for the next days adventures. That routine, in my opinion, makes abandoning normalcy and the comforts of home, well worth it.

You never know who you’ll meet. There are rippers everywhere!  

Though I’d highly recommend it, it’s important to note that your bike travel doesn’t need to be a multi month voyage across the continent and into a different country in search of the best trails. Just take a chance, make the compromises required, and give yourself the opportunity to explore something fresh. Put yourself in a situation to make new friends, discover new trails and have a campfire with some strangers. Even if that means letting go of a bed for a few nights, or a house all together.   

                

3 ways to improve your riding in the wet

Kingdom Experiences, Mountain Bike Skill Camps and Tours in Vermont

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!  

Backwoods Benediction

By Jane LeMasurier

I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with three siblings and lenient parents. Given our proximity to the woods and mountains, it was free-range biking for us for many years. Most of our childhood days were spent exploring old logging roads and trails in our backwoods. I have memories of barreling down creek beds with my younger sister, no gps, no map, no cell phone, just a sense of general direction and a couple of quarters in our pockets to call from a gas station pay phone if we could get to one. Things were certainly different back then. And somehow we survived.

Now in my adult life I teach mountain biking classes to kids in my town. I’m just as enthusiastic to teach them bike skills as I am to teach them how to appreciate the woods for the bona

fide joy they provide. I took a group of 12 kids on a ride last fall. We followed an under-ridden and overgrown trail near the school. Shortly into the ride I spotted some ledge just off the trail with a short and steep roll-down section that looked like something we might be able to clear off, scope out, and attempt to ride. So I slowed down, got off my bike, pointed it out to the kids and asked if anyone wanted to try it. They all raised their hands, some with blind enthusiasm, some with slight skepticism.

“But is this even a real bike feature?” one boy questioned.

“Touch that rock. Is that rock real?” I responded. He looked at me, looked at the rock, looked back at me, and smiled.

My sense of safety has evolved from the days of setting out into the woods feeling convinced all would work out for the best. I carry a med pack and bike tools and have an action plan if something goes wrong. And I stick to the trails, because there are trails. But I still carry with me the general feeling that, more than anything, a bike is a tool for exploration, into ourselves and the “real world” of nature. So I climbed up on the ledge and asked all 12 of the kids to climb up with me. We took a look at potential lines and determined a “hard” route and a “harder” route. There was no easy way down. The kids asked if anyone had ever ridden this before. And I told them, judging from the overgrowth, they just might be the first. They looked at each other with big eyes. We cleared away some brush at the bottom of the roll down and then I gave it a go, explaining first to the kids how to pick their line, get into position, and commit.
Over the next hour and a half the pack of us explored this rock: looking at it, walking on it, riding over it, all in an effort to get to know it, to learn how to roll it as smoothly and successfully as possible. The kids couldn’t get enough. It would have gone on, trial after trial, but our class was ending, so we headed back out the same quarter mile of trail we came in, back to where we started, so much further along than when we began.

“Nothing Compares to the Simple Pleasure of Riding a Bike” – JFK

By Quinn Campbell

Mountain bikers get so wrapped up with the start of the season. New bikes, new gear, new trails, more training during the winter– there’s an agitated frenzy that surrounds the cycling community as we wait for the snow to melt and the trails to dry. Normally, I’m as guilty as anyone, chomping at the bit to touch tires on dirt and begin spinning the pedals. But this spring has been different, and I’ve been, admittedly, a little lazy. My trail bike is still sitting in a box at my house, waiting to be assembled. And before too long, I’ll spend an afternoon upstairs in the shop, prepping my brand new bike for the next six months of abuse, routing cables into my new frame, sloping sealant into squeaky clean tires that haven’t punched through mud holes or broken loose across abrasive Vermont granite. But that hasn’t happened yet because I’ve been so infatuated and blissfully distracted with my reconnection to the most basic, youthful aspects of riding a bike.

This spring I’ve put countless hours in atop my dirt jumper. Out of my three bike quiver the dirt jumper most closely resembles my very first bicycle. Bare bones– one speed, one brake, bald tires and a short travel fork. It pales in comparison to the sleek lines of a carbon framed, well engineered full suspension trail bike, but the notable lack of expensive, high-maintenance parts, make me think a lot less about the bike itself and a lot more about the ride. It’s simple to step outside the house and leave directly from my driveway. There’s no Strava to turn on and clipless trail shoes are replaced by my most comfortable pair of well worn Vans. Riding shorts, jersey, gloves, and backpack are all left behind– I won’t be going farther than a few miles. Without needing to prepare for an afternoon in the saddle, load all my gear into a car and drive to the driest spring trail system, I’ve been able to get out frequently, and it’s just goofy, unhindered childish fun.

Rolling out the driveway I’ll cruise through familiar village backstreets, bunny-hopping curbs, hunting for natural jumps on driveway corners, manualing over speed bumps and wearing away any remaining tread with long skids. It’s been a good reminder to ride for fun this season and focus more on the trails beneath my tires than what bike I’m on or how fast I rode. Tune out the distractions and throw a leg over your bike for no other reason than because you love to ride.

Ode to Winter – Jane LeMasurier

It’s always this time of year in New England when the weather courts us with thoughts of summer — each day patches of matted brown grass grow greener and larger. Road salt is in full seasonal fade. “Come out and play,” I hear it say to me. Those first few spring rides outside on the road offer the most brilliant feeling of freedom. Of freshness. Of newness. Of a dirt season in the near-distance.

It’s also this time of year when I want to say, hold up. Am I really ready for winter to be over? It takes winter to appreciate spring, that’s for sure. But what can be so fun about donning winter gear to go out for a ride knowing I’ll be snot-nosed, teary-eyed, and frozen in a matter of minutes? Sure, a little discomfort can actually make us feel more alive. It can make us slow down and take a look at what’s important. Like fingers, for example. As bikers, we need ‘em and I never notice my fingers more than when I’m starting into a downhill on a cold winter ride and they’re nearly uselessly frozen. Why would I embrace this? Why hold on to this?

I went for a mountain bike ride in the woods behind my house a few weeks ago. The snow had frozen into a thick undulating layer of hard crust and a dusting of new snow had fallen overnight, making the ground grippy and fast. It was 20 degrees and overcast, which usually affords me about a 30% chance of getting outside to ride. But I motivated, geared up, and decided to give it a gamble. I started to follow a summer trail I’d built that leads out from our land. The ground was sufficiently firm, but not icy, and the trail was recognizable. I set to follow it out to a tract of power line land and then turn around and ride back. But despite knowing the trail from memory I missed a turn without noticing. I just kept riding, straight ahead through the woods, with no trail under wheel, just firm packed snow, like concrete–and wavy, like a wading pool. Suddenly the woods were free game, a biker’s paradise! I could ride any line my handlebars could fit through. I spent two hours alone out there in a state of playful joy. Leaving no tracks, no trace.

The next day the temperatures rose above freezing and the snow thawed. The following day it snowed half a foot. My bike playground had vanished, just like that.

For a brief afternoon, those poor winter conditions lined up perfectly. Right there in my backwoods a whole world of new riding opened up to me, offering an experience on a bike in New England woods that I’ve never had, nor can ever have, in the summer: so unrefined, pure, and fleeting. That’s why, when the birds start to sing songs of dirt days to come I say, hold up. Am I ready to move on from this?

Please, Winter, and your motley goods: don’t go too soon.

Beat Those Pre-Race Nerves!

Battling pre-race nerves is not always an easy task. For some, channeling nerves into excitement and adrenaline comes naturally. Yet sometimes these nerves can be debilitating – they cause anxiety, fear, and flooding thoughts of self-doubt that normally don’t exist. Here are some tips to help overcome the harmful effects of pre-race nerves:

1.) Remember that racing is no different than training. It can be hard to do this with the added competition and atmosphere of a race. Try to keep your race routine as similar to training as possible. There’s no need to do anything “special” on race day that you wouldn’t do on a normal training day. Doing so can lead to added pressure to compete well.

2.) Visualize. Visualization is powerful tool and is shown to stimulate the same parts of you mind your that are used when actually performing the actions you visualize. Imagining yourself ride sections of the course the way you want will give you confidence, because in your mind you have already mastered them.

3.) Engage in positive self-talk. Positive self-talk can be used to combat doubtful emotions and thoughts that may arise from nerves. Find a mantra that speaks to you and the kinds of things you are trying to combat on race day. Remind yourself of the things you are good at so that you can channel those strengths in the race, and feel confident beforehand.

The key is to learn how to make your nerves work for you, instead of against you. If you let your nerves control you too much, they can become crippling and debilitating. When channeled properly, however, they can create a powerful source of adrenaline that can help you go even faster on race day.

Moriah Wilson

Quinn Gets Excited for Summer!

New England winters are arguably more brutal than those of any other location in the United States. The unfortunate combination of length, temperature, and severe vitamin D deficiency make spring– and the beginning of bike season– that much more tantalizing.

February has graced those of us here in East Burke, Vermont with a surprising number of pow days, and I will admit, they make the heart of winter substantially more bearable. But no matter how many turns I carve on soft groomers, or cliffs I jump in hardwood forests I can’t replicate the excitement of bike seasons first pedal strokes.

By late April, Darling Hill, sleepy and trimmed with feet of snow in the winter, is replaced by a bustling scene of locals and tourists who’ve pulled their bikes from the shed, oiled their chains, and made their way to the Kingdom Trails. There’s a constant, palpable excitement which presents itself through customers face splitting grins and muddy shins after the morning’s first miles.

As opening day wears on, my excitement will grow exponentially, and for the last hour in the bike shop I can hardly contain myself. I sneak glances at the clock. Thirty minutes, ten, five, and the first “open” sign of summer is rolled up and brought inside. With the jitters of a six-year-old on Christmas eve I’ll tie the familiar laces of my riding shoes and plot a mental map of the trails I love so much. Threading my handlebars through the shop’s door frame as my cleats settle securely into the pedals, I’ll crank towards the trail head and into the new season. There will be countless afternoons during the summer that start just like that, but for now I’m waiting in anticipation of opening day, sucking wind on a stationary bike and wishing the turns I make in the woods were atop two wheels and a ribbon of dirt.

Quinn