I tried a few XC mountain bike races back in 2011 when I first started mountain biking and while I enjoyed the atmosphere of the races, I didn’t really enjoy the riding that much, as it seemed to be 90% aerobic endurance, not my forte. I began to equate ‘endurance’ with ‘suffering’ and haven’t competed in any XC mtb races since.
So when I started learning about mountain bike enduro racing last year and that COGGS was again hosting a Duluth Enduro Series in 2015 for members, I became intrigued because of the format. The way they explain it:
Enduro uses a time trial format with racers starting special stages 30 seconds to a minute apart. There are two types of stages: Timed stages (or Special Stages) and Transits. All of the Timed stages will factor into your final place. Timed stages are mostly downhill, but will have a few flat sections or small climbs. Transits require riders to make it to the start of the next timed stage within a given time, however there’s no benefit to finishing the Transit faster than your competitors.
Enduro is a form of Mountain bike racing in which there is a greater proportion of downhill sections, which are timed, to uphill and cross country sections. This aims to test rider’s technical bike handling skills as well as providing endurance and climbing.
But since I live in southern Minnesota, a 3+ hour drive from Duluth, and since the Duluth Enduro Series races are held on Wednesday nights, I didn’t give too much thought to actually competing.
A late addition to the Ride the Keweenaw schedule was a Friday night ride on some of the Southern Keweenaw (SöKē) trails around the Adventure Mining Company in Greenland, about 40 minutes south of Copper Harbor. Staffer Rob Peters (and course designed of the annual Miner’s Revenge Mountain Bike Race) graciously led the ride and opened up the trail through the mine for us. Very cool. (Other than the group shot on the left above, I didn’t take photos, so I’ve grabbed two of the mine tunnel from a Flickr album of the 2009 race by Christopher Schmidt. I’ve linked his photos to his set.) Some rocky sections of the trail we rode were the most technically challenging and fun I’ve ever ridden. If you love the gnarly stuff, especially steep, rocky downhills, go there. “The Adventure Trails are free use public trails open 7 days a week for hiking, running, and mountain biking.”
Saturday’s 9 am group rides were held at Michigan Tech’s network of mountain biking trails (supported by a trail pass honor system). I was thrilled that they offered 4 choices ranging from beginner to expert because my legs were mush from the 4 hours of riding on Friday. I chose ‘intermediate’ and was barely able to keep up.
At noon, most riders departed for more group rides at Churning Rapids MTB trails near Hancock (1 pm) and the Swedetown MTB trails near Calumet (3 pm). Alas, not me. I departed for Copper Harbor to give my legs some recovery time so that I’d be able to get in at least one run on a downhill trail there.
I met Caleb Wendel, co-owner of The Bike Shop in Houghton, Michigan that weekend and yesterday, he alerted me that the video he took of me riding the hamster wheel was now up on Vimeo:
As I wrote earlier, Ken and I figured out one way to ride the hamster wheel without putting your feet down: ride in fast and up as high as you can go without falling backwards; lock both brakes until the wheel starts to move, then pedal quarter turns with the same foot to keep the wheel moving; use your elbows against the hub and spokes as needed to keep your balance.
Of course I’m now itching to go back to Ray’s at least one more time before they close for the season and I’ve been thinking about how else the hamster wheel could be ridden. This video shows a Ray’s employee, Dave Barnett, riding the hamster wheel (some of it includes a helmet cam view). It appears as though he’s not pedaling at all, once the wheel starts to move, but rather just throws his body weight forward a few times (starting at the 23-second mark):
I’d like to try that approach, regardless. I’d also like to figure how to ride the hamster wheel perfectly clean, ie, no shoulder or elbow dabs against the hub and spokes. It would seem like hopping the bike left and right as needed to keep balanced might be a way to do that, though doing that at a steep angle while pedaling half turns seems daunting. I’ll report back next time I go but if anyone has ideas or experiences to share, please attach a comment.
Here’s a short video clip on how NOT to ride the hamster wheel: