“Enduroing” at Mountain Creek Bike Park
This coming weekend is the King of the Mountain enduro being held at the world famous Mountain Creek Bike Park in Vernon, NJ. I have been looking forward to this event since it happened last year. It’s in my home state so the drive isn’t “that” far, 2.5hrs to be exact and I’ve ridden and raced here in the past.
I’m not totally familiar with the place, I’ve only been to MCBP a total of 3 times, and I usually stayed away from the single and double black diamond trails while riding there. I only have a 6″ travel bike and wanted to make the most of the time I had there which meant sticking to the flowy groomed trails.
Last weekend I had free time and a free lift pass on my desk so I decided to get in touch with Jeff Lenosky to see if he wanted to get some “enduring” ok, riding, in at the mountain. He knows all of the trails and is instrumental in setting up this and last year’s KOM course.This would give me a chance to see the potential trails for this year and to get into parts of the mountain I’ve never ridden.
I packed the car the night before so that I didn’t forget anything and could depart on time. I woke up and wasn’t feeling great, had a head cold and/or just some congestion. Not a feeling 100% normally would have made me skip going but it’s a week before the actual enduro and I need to ride at a mountain!
Time to ride
I arrived and met up with Jeff and two of his friends, Dave Von Wort and Tim Pierce. They were also along to check out the potential course and to give feedback on the trail selections.After our first climb to what might be the start of stage 1 I hung to the back to see what these guys would do, they all knew the mountain pretty well so I could learn from their line choices and not slow them down. Into the woods and it was a fun challenging trail with the usual rocks and loam. Momentum was key in staying above the gaps between the rocks. Time to do some climbing and hit the next stage. I felt like the kid that didn’t want to go to church but your parents dragged you along. I wasn’t enthused to get into some gnarly descending but I had to…same thing with this climb we’re still going through, oh look there’s the top, nope…keep pushing.
Somewhere along the way I just lost focus on where we had been and where we were going but I kept following along. I don’t recall the names of a couple of the trails but we had no place being on them with the bikes we were riding. Super gnarly rock where you are constantly scanning to pick a line to make it through this boulder field. We weren’t even going at race pace! This would be INSANE as an enduro stage but I would welcome the challenge. After regrouping from that trail and a short discussion, Jeff decided that trail might be a bit much. After one of the rides down the mountain we took a short break and then headed back up to see what the last two stages might look like.
I was ready to call it quits but I couldn’t, I had driven this far and took the time to make it so I had to follow along. I had the energy to keep riding just not the enthusiasm I would expect to have going to a place like MCBP!
What are you made of?
We hit the top again and Jeff pointed towards a trail sign with double black diamonds and I thought “this should be interesting”. In we went and it was tricky but you get personal satisfaction while making it through as it continues to build your confidence as a rider. We had a spot where we had to stop to try and find a line through this drop then out of that section and a short climb to this trail named “Tempest”. This trail has elevated ladder bridges with an incline then across a rock to a descending bridge. It’s actually fun to do for the first time (probably any time). Tim, who was in front of me, warned me and barked some quick tips so that I would be somewhat prepared for what was coming.
After this it’s all a blur. We hit trails that won’t be in the enduro but were unreal! Super gnarly rock with sections that got you moving fast. Some tips were offered here and there to help maintain momentum into short climbs. All apart of a fun ride with some fellow enduro riders.
The last trail we hit, I think it was the last, had the pretty challenging setup and showed you what you were really made of. Mossy rocks with shade…where do you go? In enduro racing you sometimes don’t have time to think about it, you just have to pick a line and go with it. This trail had a spot where we decided to stop and check out the potential lines. There are a few large boulders that you could ride around but that will cost you in time. Up and over is the key. I got some shots of Tim taking a run at this section below.
There were a couple of spots along our travels where I was forced off of the bike and walked through them, I had never ridden these trails and didn’t get to see where the others went. I was disappointed to say the least. Had I not been feeling bad I would have gone back up and ridden them again just to get past them. One of the spots was a cool but steep rock face that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to ride down if it weren’t for riding with Jeff that day. I didn’t have the drive to do it and regretted it the entire drive home. I’ll have to revisit that and another trail the next time I head up there.
I look forward to racing in this event, the challenges ahead will test every enduro racer and that’s the way it should be. There will be so many opportunities for you to lose time so you’ll have to be on your game every stage.
The sad news is that the government shut down this week on October 1. In my day job I am a contractor for the FAA so this affects me. Since I could be potentially out of work for a while I am forced not to attend this event, I have to save the $100 I would spend on race entry, tolls, food and gas. Luckily I’m used to getting bad news so I’ll figure out a place to ride come Sunday but…this sucks. You prepare all season for events like this but it goes down as another missed opportunity.