Seems like very year brings different successes and challenges in all aspects of life, racing mountain bikes is included! Check out the video to get a glimpse of how the 2019 season went, and be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel so you stay up to date on racing and other things. This blog will probably see less action until the YouTube channel starts to grow more.
After riding Iron Mountain, I headed off to meet the guys after dinner to check in with them at the hotel they were staying at. We figured out where we were shredding the next day, and I went out to the van to sleep for the night. Because of the noise in the area, I decided to use the iOverlander app to find an off grid place to stay and ended up having uninterrupted sleep! This was my view in the morning instead of the view of the hotel with the hookers!
I met up with Greg, Mike, and Chad in the morning and we made our way to the LOViT Trail system for a day of epic riding! Thankfully there were no drug dealers at the trail head. The views from this lookout were absolutely amazing and I highly recommend this trail for either a day MTB ride or bike packing. Day rides are going to be out-n-backs unless you plan and drop a car.
On our journey at LOViT we smashed a lot of elevation, tried to ride the wall in the picture above, and came across signs that let us know there was a gun range nearby! Check out all the action in the video below!
After this epic day we stopped and refueled at a Pizza Hut and then made our way to our next stop for sleeping. I don’t know what your favorite pie is, but mine is ham and pineapple pizza. As you can see in the pictures, we have been dressed in layers because the mornings were unseasonably cold, below freezing, so some of the nights were a little cold in the van without being plugged in! If the temp was too cold in the van I would have to get up and turn it on to run the heat.
The next morning, day 3, we made our way to the Ozark National Forest and Upper Buffalo Head Waters Trail System. I was a little weary at first because the higher we went, the colder it was getting. It was also windy, and with it being 18 degrees with the wind made for a pretty cold start!
In the end it was well worth it to see the ice cliffs, the awesome waterfall, the steepest downhill I had done to this point in my life, and the fun river crossings! Check out the action below.
Next we made our way north to a small little town near Syllamo MTB Trail System and had an amazing dinner at a Mexican restaurant. It was the best service and wet burrito I have ever had in combination. I was actually thinking about coming back just for another wet burrito, and maybe we will one day wen I know the trail has seen some love.
We woke up in the morning ready to tackle yet another new trail system, Syllamo, after 20 minutes on the trail, many trees over the trail and pricker bushes scratching us, we made the team decision to go back to the vehicles and drive to Bentonville to hit the Back 40 on what was to be the best weather day we had so far! Check out how great the Back 40 is in the video below. The Back 40 was also the place where all the flat tires started.
After we kicked it on the Back 40, I made my way back to my van and had a snack and then went out to explore the sweet pump track and the trails around Blowing Springs. The pump track was an absolute blast and I could not stop riding it! The Blowing Springs trails were more technical and ledgy than I expected. I had my handlebars clip a tree and thought I was going over the edge at one point, watch that action below.
I am pretty sure I missed the group for dinner this night and made myself something nice in the warm van, it was amazing to be plugged in so that I could keep the van at a good temperature so that I did not have to turn the van on in the middle of the night to heat it up. Day 4 was a long one, from the initial start over 3 hours away, making the drive to Bentonville, riding the Back 40, and then cruising around the pump track and Blowing Springs Trails.
Good thing I brought my leg massager, I know that’s what saved me and allowed for continued riding enjoyment. After a nice leg massage I turned the lights out to get some sleep. I will highlight the fact that I did eat very healthy on this trip, and had recovery protein drinks that I get from USANA after every ride to keep things repairing and recovering properly.
Day 5 came in the blink of an eye, and we were headed off to explore the trails in Bentonville. While we were there, we noticed that they were and are constantly building new trails all over the place to make the city even more epic for cycling. We started with the most riders compared to any other day of riding, check the video out to see the huge group and also what Bentonville has to offer…non stop FEATURES!!!
The next video is partly a continuation of the previous video, but I include more of the jump lines that we hit. Our group was small by this time and there were only 4 of us left on our adventure before meeting up with everyone on the way out for eats.
After eats and refueling, which was just after lunch time, the second half of this next video takes you to The Ledges, AKA the tire graveyard! It is said that if you make it out of the ledges without a puncture, you can consider yourself lucky. It is also said that if the trail is wet, you will not make it out of the trail without a flat! After we finished eating the weather looked good and we headed out, but just as we arrived to The Ledges, it started misting. See how that ends for the 7 or 8 of us in the video below.
I will be completely honest here, Day 5 my body was starting to shut down for two reason. One, all of the climbing was taxing the legs and catching up. Two, I was way too excited during the morning of this day that I completely forgot to hydrate and fuel while riding, which caught up very quick. I would actually let the 3 guys I was riding with go in front of me while I would just stay in the same spot and rest! While I rested I consumed a lot of fluids and a couple bars, this allowed me to continue on for the rest of the day.
After all the riding, I made sure to eat quite a bit, and healthy so that I could rebound on Day 6 which started at Mount Kessler. We would not have even known about this place if we would have picked a different restaurant to eat at. We bumped into a local who told us we needed to ride these places after hearing what we had done so far. So after another massage, stretching, and good sleep, I woke up on day 6 and headed off the Mount Kessler with Pat in his van to tackle some rocky technical (for me) terrain! We met up with a big group this day as well. I was a little grumpy at first and actually voted to leave after about 40 minutes, but I am glad I was out voted, most of the footage in the video would not have been captured, and that was when the ride went from blah to EPIC! Even more epic was the hope that the Slayer was going to SEND IT shirtless down the mountain…
After Pat and I cleaned up the bikes and ate some snacks, we arrived at our next destination, Mount Fitzgerald. A lot of the crew decided to call it a day after Mount Kessler, and a handful of us made our way to the Best Trail Ever! I cannot put into words the amount of rock they had to bring in to build this epic trail. I want to go back on fresh legs and better weather to try and hit some of the bigger features, check it out!
After Mount Fitzgerald we headed back to the campground to get cleaned up, grab some food, and then made out way over to the cabins where most of the guys were staying. That evening we had decided to do a potluck dinner, well, maybe I invited Pat and I over to their potluck! Josh can really throw some good food together, and Jeremy was really good at cleaning up messes.
The day before at the restaurant, the local guy that told us about the two trails we just rode, also told us about a trail system that does extremely well when it rains. The forecast had said it was going to rain pretty hard all night so Alex and I sat on the couch and looked up Hobbs. As we ate a crap ton of Jelly Bellies we decided to go to Hobbs against the votes of other riders, and attempt to get a KOM based on what was on Strava. This story unfolds in the video below as we are portrayed as a unicorn and a pegasus.
This was actually a happy and sad day, sad to be leaving a place that has built a mountain bikers heaven, but at the same time very happy to be heading home to see my family. Before I did that, I had one more stop in mind, Lake Leatherwood. This was another mention from our local buddy and I wanted to go there because it was on my way home.
When I arrived I had made my way on to the West side of the park and bumped in to Justin, he directed me to the other side of the park and informed me to park near the sports fields. I made my way and parked, got geared up, hopped on my bike and from across the field I heard a whistle. It was Justin! I met up with Justin and Dave and they gave me a tour on some of the trails before the sun set! Enjoy.
Every year a group of guys from Michigan plan a trip to get in better shape for the upcoming mountain bike season. After some debate, it was decided that we would make our way down to Bentonville, Arkansas to check out the scene!
I feel blessed that I have a van that can get me where ever I choose, it is set up like a motorhome, but more compact, more efficient, and has everything I need to live out of. I am also grateful that I am able to go on such a trip and experience the amazing beauty of the world on a bike with cool people.
I had been in contact with a few guys who were starting the journey before the rest of the crew and decided that I wanted to make a week out of it as well. We planned to start South of the Bentonville area and work our way up. So I loaded up the van with food, water, and enough gear to take me through a week and started my journey very early in the morning on a Sunday. 4 am to be exact! I was up and going this early so that I could get all the way to Arkansas in one day to be able to ride the first trail a few hours after my cool peeps had tackled the same trail earlier. The benefit was now they told me what trails to ride, what trials to avoid, and what direction to ride them in! Check out the video below of the first trail and my start to Mountain Bike Camp 2019 at Iron Mountain!
Over the Holidays the kids had some time off from school. Being stuck in Michigan, most people need to get away to warm air and that amazing feeling of sunshine on the skin to stay chemically balanced. I had been looking at the weather and the temperatures in some of the southern states like Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Georgia. The reason I looked to those states was due to the fact that we could also hit some mountain bike trials while down there. Well, the weather did not look SUNNY or WARM in any of those areas. So I looked further south, and there is only one place further south and that was Florida.
The last time we were in Florida we noticed the beauty of the outdoors kind of sucked unless you were on the ocean or at Disney World. So on my reluctant search, I looked just south of the border and saw a big long trail system that we could hang out at for hiking, biking, and touristing. That town was Ocala.
Holy cow, was I blown away with the beauty of the area and the state parks with the crystal clear rivers that you can swim in! I was also blown away by how awesome the mountain biking trails are down there, the more we rode, the cooler the trails were. If you have not been to Florida to ride their Mountain Bike Trail Systems I highly recommend checking them out. You can even bring the kids as there are things for them to do as well!
We enjoyed swimming, hiking, biking, good food, animal watching at a state park, the ocean, as well as hanging out with each other and enjoying the time together. Videos of the MTB Trails are posted at the bottom, enjoy!
We started riding at Santos and eventually made our way to the West on that trail system, then down to Balm Boyette, and our last stop was at Alafia.
Before we even thought of vanlife, maybe even before there was a thing called vanlife, the wife and I would camp in a tent. Tent camping has its benefits as well as its pitfalls, I’m not going to go through them.
With some wet tent experiences under our belts we decided to move to a pop up camper. I have to say, this was a lot more work than the tent and had more pitfalls. Needless to say, it didn’t last very long before we sold it and moved on to a motorhome.
We had the motorhome for many years, took it to many places, it was amazing, you load up food and you leave, everything was already in it and good to go. All the positives were the reason we kept it so long, the kids were super excited every time we were getting ready to go on another excursion.
Then along came this idea of the vanlife, or a van conversion where you take a normal cargo van and turn it into a motorhome. I started watching videos, reading, and asking friends questions about what they had done and how it worked. Two huge downfalls of the motorhome helped in this decision:
- It was huge and it got scary in high winds and on the mountains going down. It also couldn’t go off on two tracks either.
- The fuel consumption was outrageous.
So the idea of the van was exciting, especially one that could go off grid, or plug in and have most of the amenities you have at home. After showing my wife what a friend had done to his, it was now time to sell the motorhome and get the van!
This month we are taking the van on its first family trip, can’t wait to see how it goes!
Below are the three videos that go through the build in pretty good detail, feel free to share the videos with others you know are looking to build a van, and also be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel as we don’t have many subscribers yet. We get a good amount of watch time on the channel, we just need to get quite a few more subscriptions to break YouTube’s 1000 subscriber mark for it to be worth putting these videos together, thanks in advance.
Being the end of the season, or close to the end, doesn’t mean that the training and bike riding stops! I still have a few more races in me!
Let’s jump back a couple months to September when I raced the Bear Claw Epic mtb race. It was a very cold September morning and the field of racers was looking very competitive! Everything went well until we ran into the sport racers and that basically broke up groups with some running their bikes through the woods, others trying to pedal through the woods around slower traffic, and others just sitting in the line-up. Needless to say, I still made the best of the race, but wished we raced at separate times on the course. I’m sure we are not the only ones as we probably scare the sport and beginner riders when we approach at high rates of speed.
Next let’s move to October, Peak 2 Peak! This race is something that I have only done once and had back spasms end my race. This year I was ready, and feeling 100%! The day before the race the forecast looked awesome with some rain showers possible around 11am and 12 pm, no big deal!
That night I slept in my newly finished campervan and heard rain in the morning, I looked out the window and noticed puddles which meant it probably rain most of the night. To make things worse, the temperature was falling to close to freezing and it started sleeting and snowing during the morning race. I went out to cheer people on and noticed a lot of mud on everyone, broken bikes, people dropping out, people with no brakes left on their bikes, and race officials closing down a big part of the course because it was that bad. After talking with a few people, I decided that I was not going to race to just drop $1000 on fixing my bike and risk getting injured in horrible conditions.
Moving closer to Iceman I was very nervous not having really raced in a couple of months, but once we started our journey to the race, I started feeling better about it and really did not have much nervousness at all. I watch my wife and friends take off from the start early in the morning. I made my way back to get ready for my race, and then headed to the finish line to pick up my wife and friends after the finished. They all did great, they said the course was in amazing condition, things were looking even better. We headed back to the cabin for me to get the rest of my things ready and myself geared up.
Short video of 2018 Iceman:
Glacial Hills is a flowing fun course with sneaky elevation gain, because it doesn’t really feel like your climbing as much as you are. 2018’s race was going to be a very dry and dusty one with no rain in the forecast leading up to the race.
Instead of staying up north at a great friends home like I normally do for races up in the Traverse City area, I decided to get up early and roll with my teammates Brent and Rob, both fast and technically sound riders. I had to wake up at 5 $%$!!n fifteen in the morning to do this, which is very tough for me because I am not an early morning person. I don’t like to get up before the sun, but that was needed in order to make the race. Here is a picture of us loading up at 5:45 to leave, which I thought was a little early. But, after we started driving, I soon realized that these old guys couldn’t hold their bladders and we had to stop every 10 minutes for these dudes to pee!
Only three other racers had pre-registered for the elite/pro race. I looked at who was signed up, and figured a couple more would make the race.
We arrived at the race 3 hours after we left and right away I saw some elite riders that I was not expecting, but I told myself, no big deal, I should be able to hold the front group as long as the pace isn’t too crazy. I preceded to get checked in and changed into my racing kit and went on my warm-up.
Then it happened, I saw him, the beast from the north and I knew the race was going to get blown apart as soon as we hit the singletrack, change of plans.
The course was super dusty and more sandy than I have ever seen it due to no rain. This was the first race in a long time that I had not brought my GoPro’s, I think it was more of a decision my brain made rather than me consciously forgetting them. The reason was because it seemed like almost every race I have done this year I have caught someone on camera crashing, so I did not want to be the superstitious reason for someone crashing again.
To the start line. Before the race started while we all waited that long 10 minutes for the gun, I did announce that I did not have my GoPro’s on today so everyone was safe from crashing, a few guys picked up on that and chuckled.
The race starts, the pace is pretty good going up the gradual climb to get to the singletrack. Jorden, the guy I was telling you about, aka the beast from the north, leads a fast pace into the woods and right away there is a crash which separates us a little from the group. Cody and I push and catch back up to the group only to have another crash happen on more sand and we loose touch with the front group.
We worked together with Jeremy and gradually catch racers and move further up in the race. As lap two progressed Cody and the G-man pulled away from Jeremy and I. During lap two I started feeling really good, so on lap three I asked Jeremy if I could pull for awhile and he let me around. I noticed after awhile I was catching rider after rider and making my way out of a double digit place and into the top 10. I even started closing the gap on Cody and G-man. I pushed myself really hard to catch them, but a 12 second gap is really hard to make up in a MTB race when the guy in front of you is pushing just as hard to stay away from you! Cody and I even spoke about this after the race.
Afterward I think Kmac said that I better roll the GoPros because they actually prevent so many crashes, I think more of the Elite riders crashed on this day than did not. This race was so dusty, I was a few shades darker than normal! Photo Credit: Jack Kunnen
Racing…we pay to race, we get up early and drive far, we race and push our bodies to their limits, we manage more pain than most people can imagine…why do we do this? If you don’t know, I doubt you would understand. We live life behind bars!
This trip was a blast, and hanging with teammates made it even more fun. We laughed a lot, had a great time before and after the race and I can’t wait to do it again! Be sure to check out this race next year, as always, thanks for reading, share if you enjoyed it!
Big M, I love it and I hate it. It is beautiful, inspiring, but it also causes me to have a little anxiety due to last years LJ100.
I love the singletrack there, especially on a full suspension. You can rip so fast on all the downhills, and then grind up the long climbs to test your fitness. I don’t like the place because I completely bonked there last year at LJ100 and thought I was going to die, it haunts me.
I remembered the hill, that long climb, thankfully at the LJ100 you went the opposite way and came down that hill. At this race however, you get to go up it not only once but three times!
I decided that I needed to keep racing more this year to keep my racing legs and to stay faster and not let the fitness fall off, so this race was on my schedule and I am very glad I did it as I was 4 minutes faster than last year.
The race starts with about 2 miles of fun flowing singletrack before you go up the hill, and this race started pretty fast and the pace seemed to pick up going up the first long climb up that hill. After you crest the hill you flow for a bit and then there is another gradual climb in elevation before going out into the cut forest sections with the hot sun trying to overheat your body. Once you reach the triple climb and crest that hill the rest of the course is amazing and super fun even at race pace. Check out the action in the video below.
Every time I think I am getting ahead on things I wake up from dream land and realize there’s a lot to do! I do have a big project coming soon, so stay tuned!
A few weekends back, some teammates and I decided to race the TCTF race up near traverse city. The race was amazing using almost all singletrack and doubletrack. The event was put on very nicely, including the timing, course design, awards, mtbers, and post race food!!!
If you have not been up to race this race, I would recommend getting it on your schedule for next year, I would also recommend a full suspension bike to help smooth out the rough singletrack.
After the race we decided to put more miles in on the VASA, it was a great day on bikes!
Check out the footage and commentary on the race!
How can a summer vacation not be great? Our summer vacation did not disappoint! We traveled with our kids and my parents, and for the most part, we all got along. There may have been an hour in there that was not so good! haha
We left Michigan around dinner time on a Thursday and made it to Wisconsin for stay for the night. We purposely stayed very close to where we would start things off! Up in the morning on Friday we were off to the Cave of the Mounds in Wisconsin followed by a boat tour of the Dells. Cave of the mounds was amazing, not only is the cave temperature nice and cool, the cave is a must see! As for the boat tour, it was super hot, so hot that my 7 year old and mother started to shut down. Over 100 degrees and humid doesn’t make for pleasant weather unless you are in the water! We still made the best of it!
We packed up the peeps and headed to stay near Theodore Roosevelt National Park, so that we could get up in the morning and have a short drive to get there. This was our first time at this park and we were very surprised at its beauty and wildlife. Watch out for the cliff edges!
Next on the list was traveling to BIllings, MT just outside of Yellowstone to re group and plan our next few days in the park. By this point, the wife and I were itching for some singletrack. We dipped into the trail forks app to locate some trails in the area and decided on the one with the best views, and that was close, only a 10 minute drive. We woke up early and jumped in the loaded up SUV. When we were 2 minutes away we realized that the road to get up the cliffs had just been closed due to a crack in the road, this added 15 more minutes to our travel plans and cut down on 30 minutes of riding time. Instead of going back to the hotel, we pressed on and explored Zimmerman Trails, see the video for my review on the trail.
Next on the list was a day of driving through the beartooth highway and parts of Yellowstone, because of our lack of cardio on the ride in Billings, we wanted to get out and ride the next morning in Yellowstone. Check out the snow we came across just before entering Yellowstone and our hike to Trout Lake.
Our Ride from Silver Gate into Yellowstone, just a little on the chilly side!
We spent a few days touring and hiking Yellowstone and wanted to find some singletrack again, so we used the trail forks app and found a trail system in West Yellowstone where we were staying. Check out the footage and my opinion of this trail system called Renezvous.
After time spent in Yellowstone, we made our way to Devils Tower, Mount Rushmore, Needles Highway, Keystone, and the Crazy Horse Monument!
We also were able to ride on the epic Mickelson Trail which is 110 miles long! My wife and I put in 20 miles and I added another 14 on my own. See how amazing this gravel rail trail in the video below.
The next day I got up early and rode up to the top of needles highway!
We finished our trip at a water park for the little ones birthday, I think we all needed some cooling off after mostly hot hot weather!
Thanks for checking in, be sure to share and subscribe to the youtube channel Bike Life with Rob! See you on the trails!