MoCo Epic Riders

Getting Ready for the MoCo Epic

MoCo Epic Riders

MoCo Epic riders along the Hoyles Mill Connector

It’s always important to be aware of your limitations. If the furthest you’ve ever gone on your mountain bike is 25 miles, now is not the time to bust out the MoCo metric century. Pick the ride that fits your ability level and follow these tips and you’ll have a great time!

Before the MoCo Epic

  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before; avoid alcohol and begin hydrating.
  • Get all of your gear ready so you don’t have to scramble the morning of the MoCo Epic and forget something critical.
  • Make sure you wear the right clothes. Find your most comfortable pair of shorts or bibs and make sure they are clean and ready for the ride. Pack a light wind breaker just in case it gets chili or we get a few sprinkles, you never know.
  • Pack an extra pair of socks (or two.) I learned this one from my days in the Army – nothing worse than wet feet. You never know when you’ll have to cross a stream and inadvertently soak your feet. Nothing worse than soggy toes for 30 miles.
  • Throw an empty gallon ziploc bag in your pack (see wet socks above.)
  • Speaking of shorts or bibs: I highly suggest you invest in some chamois cream; your ass will thank you for it. I’m partial to Paceline’s Chamois Butt’r. Your local bike shop should have the 8oz tubes or the handy single serving packs you can put in your pack and take along on the ride. There’s nothing worse than a chafed butt – trust me…
  • Check your bike. Again, Check your bike; make sure everything is working and solid before you hit the trail.
  • Double check your repair kit. Make sure you have everything you need in it before heading out. Although the MoCo Epic is a supported ride, having the right tools between aid stations is critical.

 During the MoCo Epic

  • Hydrate often. For long rides like the MoCo Epic I usually fill my 3 liter water pack and also carry a large water bottle with some kind of energy drink to augment the H20.
  • Eat Often. But what? Your best bet is to choose high-carb/low fat foods. High carbs are digested and absorbed into your system much faster and require less valuable fuel to be processed. Some good examples are dried fruits like raisins. Bagels and energy bars are also great sources for carbs. I generally carry several packs of Goo and energy gels in my pockets and a sack of raisins.
  • As a general rule of thumb eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty. On a long ride like the MoCo Epic you probably want to start popping gels and goo into your system 20 minutes into the ride and every 20 minutes after that. Around the third hour you might want to eat something “real” and “substantial” like a good bagel and peanut butter sandwich. Everyone is different, but make sure to fuel yourself to keep riding.
  • Your bike is just as important as your body. You’ve checked your bike before the ride; Guess what, every now and then check it again during the ride. Aid stations are the perfect place to do this.

After the MoCo Epic

  • If you’re like me, you’ll be spent after 35 or 50 miles (I won’t even mention the 100 because those gals and guys already know what they’re into.) You’ll want to fuel again; Carbs are great again here. Drink some more and keep moving to keep those muscles from tightening. If you’re planning on doing another ride the next day it is critical you re-fuel as soon as you can after you finish – within the half hour to hour.
  • There will be kegs of beer at the MoCo Epic party; If you must drink, pace yourself and drink responsibly. Even though you didn’t cramp during the ride, a few beers later and you’ll get hit with a thigh-buster in the middle of the night that will have you screaming. Continue hydrating.

Other than that, go and have fun! Pace yourself and enjoy what the MoCo Epic has to offer: miles and miles of smiles in some of the best parks in Montgomery County.

Finally – when you are done, seek out one of the volunteers that helped this (or any other) event happen. Most of them spent months planning for the event and don’t get to ride it! Instead they work it to ensure we all can have a good time. A word of appreciation goes a long way. You can meet the Epic team on MORE’s Website…

There are several other regional events in addition to the MoCo Epic for which the tips below easily apply to.

Upcoming in mid September is the Patapsco Trail Fest and rvaMORE’s Tour de Fall Line.

Urban Trails, exploring Silver Spring’s trails

Exploring the Urban Trails of Silver Spring, MD.

This past weekend was the 2106 MORE Winter Party/Meeting and a handful of us had a chance to explore some of the urban trails around Rock Creek along Silver Spring, Maryland. These are a few of the snapshots from that outing.

While we hit some off-road tangents, the majority of this route is clearly documented in Best Bike Rides Washington DC, a ride where I take riders along the entire Upper Rock Creek Corridor to Montgomery County and back along the Mathew Henson Trail, a hidden gem in this region’s trail system.

About a dozen of us headed out from the Gwendolyn E. Coffield Social Hall in Silver Spring, MD and hit the CCT (Capital Crescent Trail – not to be confused with Virginia’s Cross County Trail) before joining the Upper Rock Creek trail. From there we meandered through some of the adjacent neighborhood trails and explored other portions of the famous urban by-way before making it back to the starting point and the festivities of the 2016 MORE winter Party.

Team XXL - Moco Epic

The 2015 MoCo Epic

Moco Epic, team XXL

Team XXL makes a pit stop half way through the 40 miler during this year’s MoCo Epic.

Years ago, when I first moved to the US, I used to live along Clopper Road, in Gaithersburg, only a few miles from Seneca Creek State Park and the area where the annual MoCo Epic has been held for the past 6 years. Back then I used to work in a farm close by, little did I know that years later I would ride the very same spots on my mountain bike.

Back in the late 80’s/early 90’s there was little mountain biking taking place in that part of County. But the potential was there, and thanks to a few visionary members of the Mid Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts (MORE), we now have miles and miles of trails to enjoy – enough to hold an annual Epic event that showcases those trails.

Circa 1994 MORE Member Dave Scull and I, along with a representative from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources headed out to the spot where the Schaeffer Farms parking area now stands. On a quiet and crisp fall morning the three of us walked through the woods and flagged what would later become the White Loop. By that point, several MORE members had already laid the ground work for what would be the Schaffer system, but being involved on that momentous day is a moment I’ll never forget.

That day, the seeds we planted (or flags we hung) at Schaeffer have resulted in a system of world class mountain biking trails that span across 11 State and County parks. The vision of MORE’s initial group of volunteers to connect all of these systems so that a rider could, if he/she so chose, ride them all and piece a truly epic ride is finally a reality.

The MoCo Epic is born

Six years ago another band of MORE members set out to map and share those ride(s), and the MoCo Epic was born.

This year’s Epic, the 6th, was by far the best one I’ve ever participated in. To say it was phenomenal is an understatement. Everything fell into place to provide the nearly 800 riders that made the trek to the South Germantown Bike Park a truly epic weekend.

Hurricane Joaquin cooperated and pushed east, but made enough of a pass at the area the prior week to dump some needed rain in the region. The moisture helped pack down the trails and virtually eliminated all dust. Every trail was tacky, hard and fast and a joy to ride.

ToddandMeThis time around, the MORE staff and team of MoCo volunteers that organize and work the event rearranged the placement of the big top (the Mothership). The repositioning of the tent, along with the re-configuration of the start/finish line for all the rides placed a great deal of emphasis and showcased the “anchor” of the epics, the South Germantown Bike Park. My good friend Todd Bauer (Bearded one, left), along with MORE member Sean Johnson, are MORE’s Trail Liaisons at the South Germantown Bike Park. Over the course of the past few years both have done a superb job of shaping its berms and jumps. Seeing Todd soar over his handiwork is truly inspirational – it’s not often you see a white colored beard flying 6 feet over a table top 😉 After my ride on Sunday, while I enjoyed a cold beverage from Epic Sponsor New Belgium Brewing Company, I sat watching him make round after round around the park’s jumps. With him, a score of riders of all ages, including the kids he mentors and leads through the MoCo trails during his weekly sMORE’s rides.

Speaking of ride…

This year I opted to partake in the MoCo Epic 40 miler for several reasons.

First, the ride is virtually identical to one of my favorite MoCo loops and the one I detail in Mountain Biking the Washington DC/Baltimore Area. The only difference is that in the Epic’s version we rode sections of Schaeffer Farms and the new red (blazed blue) Diabase trail. The 40 miler includes virtually all of my favorite trails in MoCo, including the Seneca Ridge trail, the Muddy Branch trail, and the Seneca Bluffs trail. The embedded videos below will give you a sense for at least two of these trails and for the conditions that riders faced throughout the day – perfect.

The Seneca Ridge Trail
https://vimeo.com/142570134

The Muddy Branch Trail
https://vimeo.com/142686513

Second, I honestly didn’t think I could finish the 50 without cramping up; I know I could do the 40 (almost comfortably) and did not want to experience the pain I did during the last 10 miles of the Patapsco Epic.

Finally, a week before the Epic my friends from Team XXL extended an invite to ride with them in the “Party Pace XXL style” Epic ride. You simply don’t pass up an opportunity to ride with this guys and gals. Team XXL epitomizes the camaraderie and spirit of why I got into mountain biking in the first place and I had an absolute blast spending the 40 miler with them. The rolling party converged at several spots during the ride to socialize and to cheer on every rider that went by, adding to the overall epic experience.

The Tunnel of Love – XXL Style

Arden, Arden!

I’m hoping to head out and do the same ride at least once or twice more before the end of the year (albeit unsupported). Check the my calendar for updates as I will post them there.

Also, it’s worth noting that the this years epic would not have been what it was without the sponsors that supports it, including all of the aid stations that helps riders along the way (including me). You can see a complete list of sponsors and aid stations in the write up I put together for MORE.

Below is the actual route we followed…


There are so many people that make the MoCo Epic happen, but I’d be remiss if I did not mention a select few people for whom I have tremendous respect and with whome this event would not be possible:

Todd Bauer, whom I’ve mentioned above and whom I’ve known for several years, pours his heart and should into this event. His efforts on the Bike Park and everything he does to encourage kids into cycling are immeasurable. If you see this guy give him a hug, serious. Thank him for every ounce of energy he puts into our trails.

James Corbett; I can’t say enough good things about James. He is passionate about the sport and in the six years the event has taken place he’s yet to ride it. Actually none of the people I mention here have actually ridden the epic event they so passionately put on. If you rode the epic then chances are James welcomed you at the registration tent, either on Saturday or Sunday. I wrote a sidebar in Mountain Biking the Washington D.C./Baltimore Area recognizing him for the work he does at Hoyles Mill. But his reach goes far beyond that.

Bob Cavalry: I’ve been trying to get the old man down to Perú with me for some time; I know I’ll finally get him one of these coming trips and will finally get to buy him a Pisco Sour at la Rosa Nautical. It will be a small gesture to thank him for everything he does for the trails in MoCo. Bob is the backbone at Schaffer, you don’t notice his efforts, but they are there, in every mile of trail you ride.

Sean Johnson: Todd’s partner in crime at the South Germantown Bike Park. He’s spent countless hours helping make that spot in Germantown a destination for cyclists around the region. But that’s really not where he makes a difference; Sean is passionate about getting kids on bikes and giving them the confidence to ride the trails he helps maintain. Look him up at 304 Biking.

Kevin Dillon: Part of the MoCo Crew that also makes things happen and ensures that come Epic day, everything is moving along as it should be. Kevin, like Todd and Sean is also incredibly passionate about getting the next generation riding bikes and leading a healthy lifestyle.

Jason on the Schaeffer Red Trail

Schaeffer Farms Trail Connector – Red Trail

Jason on the Schaeffer Red Trail

Jason on the Schaeffer Red Trail

I had the chance to do a mini epic ride last week at Schaeffer Farms and finally had the opportunity to ride the Red Connector trail that ties the Schaeffer Farms trail yellow loop with the Hoyles Mill connector. This new trail, approximately 2 miles long (1.9) now allows you to by-pass the open fields and paved paths of the Germantown Soccerplex and seamlessly connect Schaeffer Farms trail to the Hoyles Mill connector trail and subsequently Black Hill Regional Park further to the north.

The Red trail has actually been around for quite some time, but as I mention in the latest edition of Mountain Biking the Washington D.C./Baltimore Area it was seldom used.

Before, the Red Connector simply was an out-and-back trail to open fields adjacent to Schaeffer Farms trail. Now, the trail heads north along the Little Seneca Creek as it crosses Schaeffer Road before turning east toward the Soccerplex and the Hoyles Mill Connector.

The trail is super fun to ride in either direction, but I found it way more enjoyable on the way back from Hoyles to Schaeffer Farms since it was predominantly downhill.

The trail is hard packed and very similar to the Seneca Ridge Trail (SRT) with several rocky sections – nothing to technical or intimidating.

Advanced riders used to Schaeffer Farms trail will love it because it will allow them to connect two popular trail systems to piece a ride that can extend beyond 30 miles (my outing last week neared 26 miles). Novice to intermediate riders will love it because it will give them an additional option to either extend their rides or simply ride part of the yellow trail and the Germantown SoccerPlex paths as a short loop.

The Schaeffer Farms Trail Red Connector

The Map below will give you a good idea where the trail is in relation to Schaeffer Farms trail and how you can access it. There is a small parking area along Schaffer Road where the trail crosses the road, should you choose to start your ride there.

Schaffer Farms Trail

The actual route I rode the other day, including the Red Connector in both directions.

The Fredericksburg Quarry

This is one of those trails that I really wanted to include in the 5th Edition of Mountain Biking The Washington D.C./Baltimore Area but, unfortunately, I was unable to do so. The trails at the Fredericksburg Quarry have been around for a while and they traverse a myriad of private and public properties in the area; Obtaining written permission for those properties proved to be somewhat prohibitive so I opted instead to add it as an honorable mention.

At the time I documented the ride there was also considerable construction going on near the most popular entrance point to the trail along Fair Hill Avenue, but by the time you get out there it will undoubtedly be completed and access to this phenomenal system of trails will be easier. The RideWithGPS route I have embedded below is the one I had planned to detail for the 5th Edition of Mountain Biking The Washington D.C./Baltimore Area and will serve as a great way for you to virtually explore all of the trails in this Fredericksburg destination.

The Fredericksburg Area Mountain Bike Enthusiasts (FAMBE) have a very detailed map of the Quarry trails that you can also download and use as reference.

If you have kids with you, you can ride the Scout Trail to the USGS Trail to the Beach trail and see very little elevation change. That alone would be a great out and back ride with great views of the Rappahanock River.

As you reach the end of the Beach Trail by the fire pit, where it turns left away from the river, the trail’s elevation will increase dramatically and become more challenging. The Owl loop Trail is fun, but the initial climb will keep you honest. You can by-pass the Owl Loop and climb to the entrance of the Rigeline Trail, by far the best section (in my opinion) in the system. If you are pressed for time you can do a quick loop by following the Scout to the USGS trail, up to the Ridgeline trial and then back down by the quarry along the Pool Pass Trail to the intersection of the Scout and USGS trail.

If you have more time I urge you to explore the Epiphany trail (accessible from the Ridgeline trail via the Pool Pas Trail) and then ride under I-95 through the Oboy Tunnel – that alone is an experience – to the East side trails where you can spend a considerable amount of time riding the trails along that side of I-95. There you will experience a lot of elevation changes, but the twisty and tight nature of those trails will bring a huge grin to your face.

If you live anywhere near Fredericksburg I urge you to contact and join FAMBE or FATMUG. FAMBE, along with the Fredericksburg Area Trail Management & User Group (FATMUG) have been working hard to increase the number of trails in the region, extending the already vast number of riding opportunities for us to enjoy even further.

Book and beer

MTBDC at Wunder Garten

Now that the 5th Edition of Mountain Biking the Washington D.C./Baltimore Area has been released it was only a matter of time before I managed to schedule something; and go figure, at a beer garden…

My good friends and perennial MORE Sponsors  REI offered me a spot on Wed July 29 at DC’s Wunder Garten at NoMa, their temporary event home before the opening of their REI flagship store in the historic Uline Arena in Washington D.C.

‘So, please join me as I give a presentation on Mountain Biking in and around the DC Region while we all share a pint (or two)…

I’ll have a limited number of books for sale on hand; if you prefer, you can order a copy at Amazon.com and bring it with you for me to sign; I’ll have a Sharpie on hand as well…

Hope to see you there!

 

Bike Case

Should I pack or rent a bike?

I had been working on this post for a while – shortly before I headed down to Peru with a group of friends to ride in the Scared Valley and in the Capital of the Inca Empire. I wanted to give the “first timers” a quick bit of advice on whether or not to take their bike, and if so, how to pack it. But as it usually happens, the post got buried in my “drafts” folder and didn’t make the light of day. Until today – a rainy day in Virginia where there is not much left to do but sit in front of the computer and get those drafts finished. And, to boot, I got an email from the guys at Sacred Rides on the very subject. Not entirely sure how they got into my back-end to grab my content 😉

So, below, find the content of a post that was drafted in late March before my trip down to Peru and finally finished today…

+++

Every time I head down to Peru (or for that matter anywhere) I ask myself the same two questions: Should I pack it? or should I rent it? The answer usually depends on a couple of factors:

  1. How long is the trip for?
  2. How much will it cost to rent vs to pack?

If I’m traveling for more than a week to ten days and I know I’m going to ride at least half that time, then it’s a no brainer. I pack it. If the trip is only a short one, and the riding time is limited, then, again, it’s a no brainer. I rent it. There are exceptions though…

Generally, if the trip is specifically to ride I always pack my bike, especially if I know the final destination doesn’t have quality bike shops with good rental fleets. But, if the destination is a cycling mecca (i.e. Sedona, AZ or Fruita, CO) then I may opt to rent.

Case and point: I recently traveled to Sedona, Arizona to spend a week with some friends. Taking my bike was going to cost approximately $300 round trip – give or take. My friends arranged a pretty good deal for our group, and because of our involvement with IMBA and my local IMBA Chapter, MORE, they got me (us) a deal and hooked us up with various high end bikes. I ended up riding a  top of the line 650b Pivot Mach 5 for 5 days for roughly half that cost. This gave me the opportunity to ride a top of the line frame on some kick ass trails. It took me a day to get used to the bike, but once I got it dialed in, it was great – not perfect like my regular bike, but pretty darn good…

Now – even on that trip, on a top of the line frame, I often wished for my bike. There simply is no substitute for riding your steed, the mount you are more accustomed to, in a new destination. There is simply nothing worse (I’ve been there) than riding unfamiliar trails on a less than suitable bike. Not having to worry about the bike while you experience a new ribbon of single track is simply priceless.

With that said, however, you must think of other factors that may affect your decision:

  1. Do you have a Bike Box? If no, then chances are you can get one from various sources. You can rent one from your local bike shop or cycling club. My club, MORE, has two bike boxes on hand that are loaned out to members on a first come first serve basis. If you have a generous friend who would’t mind lending you one you could be set. I do recommend that if you travel often that you invest in a quality case. I’ve used several over the years (burrowed and rented) and when it was time to buy one I went with the standard by which others are measured: Trico. If this is a one time trip then figure out how much it will cost for the box, air travel, etc. and determine if it is indeed worth packing it…
  2. Do you crash a lot? Seriously. If you do, bring your own bike. When you rent a bike you will be asked to sign a waiver. Both to release the renter from any liability should you get hurt, and to take responsibility (i.e. pay for the bike) should something happen to it. Are you willing, or ready to buy that $5,000 carbon frame you rented? If not, then bring your own. Repairs to your bike may ultimately end up costing much less than having to buy that sweet frame you just damaged on the porcupine rim trail…
  3. Is the trip for something else other than biking? If yes, then you may opt to rent. I recently went to Italy on vacation and stayed in the Tuscan hills around Lucca. I would have loved to have my road bike with me – it would have been perfect. But, the trip was not a cycling outing, and even though I could have ridden out the door every day out of the 12 I was there it simply would have not been practical for me to have my bike, or even logistically feasible. I, instead, found a local shop in Lucca and rented a bike for a few days for a reasonable fee.

Now that you have decided, here is a quick primer on how to pack your bike. As with anything else, this is not the only way; This is how I’ve done it the past few times I’ve traveled with no issues…

 

Baggies and zip ties...

Baggies and zip ties – always handy. grab a few before you start. Remember to bring some extra for the return leg…

Bike on a stand

Put the bike on a stand if you have one, it will help tremendously as you prep it. However, not entirely necessary.

The Box.

Get your box ready – place it somewhere accessible near your work area.

Take the wheels off the bike and let the air out of the tires.

Take the wheels off the bike and let the air out of the tires (not fully). It is not fully necessary to deflate your tires, but some airlines will require it. And, when they ask you if you did, you can say yes knowing you’re telling the truth and nothing but the truth…

The chain

Take the chain off and put it in a baggie. I always pack at least one extra quick link.

QRs

Put your QRs in a separate baggie.

Open Case.

Open up the box and get ready to drop the frame in. My case has three layers of foam.

Frame in the box

Put the farm in the box. Notice that the bars have been removed from the stem and tucked next to the frame, The saddle has also been removed and loose parts have been carefully “zip tied” to the frame. The bars have also been “zip tied” in place.

IMG_7760

Pedals off and cranks secured to the chain stay with a zip tie.

Dropouts

Rear mech removed from dropout and zip tied to frame. Be careful NOT to crimp your cables. you MUST put a shipping block in the dropout to make sure the frame is not bent. You can get a cycling specific block or go on the cheap like I did with a piece of wood. Do bear in mind that the wood will add weight to the packed bike and airlines will charge you for every ounce.

Saddle in the stays

The saddle zip tied to the seat stays. Notice the shipping block in the brake calipers. This is another must in case your brake levers get accidentally pulled. Depending on what kind of brakes you have you may have to adjust the pressure in the hoses before and after you get it on the plane. Pressure differences can sometimes affect your brakes.

Small Parts

Some small parts zip tied to the frame. I should have put a small piece of tube between the bag and frame to protect it. Thankfully nothing happened on this trip.

Bars on frame

The bars attached to the frame. You can’t clearly see it in this picture, but there is a small piece of foam padding between the bars and the frame to protect each one from the other. Some people will wrap all tubes with pipe insulation, I think it’s overkill.

Brake levers

I keep my old tubes and then use them for scrap, in this case I put a small piece of tube around the brake handles to protect them and the frame from them.

Tires

Once the frame is in place I put a piece of foam over it and then place the wheels as shown; Remember, tires have some of the air removed from them to accommodate changing air pressures.

Ready to fly!

Finally I add the last piece of foam, a piece of paper with all of my contact info (locally and abroad) and seal the box. Bike is ready to fly!

The above process took me about half and hour to complete; Once you get the hang of it you can knock it out and be on your way to better things. Below is a short timeless that give you an idea of how the process took place.

Loving (the cold) life at 14,000+

The Pilgrimage: A few more days mountain biking in Peru

Loving (the cold) life at 14,000+

Loving (the cold) life at 14,000+

For those who don’t know me I’m from Perú. I was born and raised in the coastal city of Lima before making my way to the United States and setting up residence in the east coast in the suburbs of Washington D.C. and Baltimore, MD.

Every year I make the pilgrimage back to the home land; and every year I manage to rent a bike and head out to ride the local trails around the capital city with one or two local guides I’ve come to know over the years. But every couple of years I venture out explicitly with the intent of just riding, and as such, I plan and venture out further than the ribbons Lima has to offer.

4 years ago I put together a trip for a group of friends, and given its success I decided to do it again, albeit slightly different. This time around I didn’t have 10 days to ride in Peru, instead I only had a meager 6 to put wheels to dirt. So I had to maximize the experience, not just for myself, but for the group of friends who would be following my lead. The time constraint was a limit I placed on myself. Even though I was going to be in Peru for a little over 12 days, I had other things I needed to attend to, so that left me with a limited riding schedule. Still, 6 days of riding, 1 in Lima, and 5 in Cuzco was all I would need to get my juices flowing.

I basically coordinated the trip so that my friends would maximize their stay. Even though I would arrive to Lima before they did, and left Cuzco before they would, they would get an extra day of riding and a trip to visit the Inca Sanctuary, Macchu Picchu on their own. The day after I left our band of 12 split up in two with one group taking the train to the Sanctuary while another group hiked the mighty Inca Trail to the ruins. What follows is a brief account of the riding we did while on the trip, hopefully give you a taste of what is available. I plan on returning with another group in 2017, so if you are interested ping me so I add you to my distribution list…

Day 1 – Pachacamac, The Classic Lima Ride

La sanja, Pachacamac

La Sanja – fall to the left into the murky water, or roll to the right down to the valley below. Note: this photo was shot just as you enter the trail and does not adequately represent the sheer drop that is to my right…


Pachacamac, just south of Lima is known for various things, the ancient temple ruins along the entrance to the old city, the fertile Lurin river valley and most recently the vast number of trails available for cross country mountain biking, downhill cycling and off road vehicles (much less now). The trails of Pachacamac offer little elevation change, but don’t let that fool you – THERE IS climbing, in the form of short snappy hills that will keep your heart rate pounding. This time around I ventured on a route I had not done in at least a decade. My guide, Jimmy, minimized the initial climbing by crafting  a route around all the “chacras” surrounding the base of the Pachacamac hills. My goals was to ride at least 15 miles, and the route Jimmy chose was perfect. We rode the famous “sanja trail,” a trail that follows the path of an irrigation ditch along a ridge line (photo above). Fall to the left and you’ll get soaked in murky water; fall to the right and you’ll roll down to the Lurin River along a not so pleasant incline. After the ride we had a couple of beers at El Mexicano, a local kiosk where virtually all rides begin. All in all it was a great day in the Peruvian desert. I had wanted to schedule a second ride to explore other places I have not visited yet but the logistics of getting everyone in the group situated didn’t quite work out…

Day 3 – Singletrack Heaven! Cuzco Eucalyptus forests

Norbert negotiating the Eucalyptus forest singletrack.

Norbert negotiating the Eucalyptus forest singletrack.

Notice I skipped day 2? well, I had to pack the bike, get on a plane, and try to acclimate to the altitude in Cuzco. For future reference do these rides at the end of the trip! When the altitude is in your system. Start instead in the Sacred Valley and then finish up with the Cuzco rides. Heading out to ride the trails above Cuzco city only a day after arriving was tough – and it showed on the group’s physique. Everyone did rather well considering the circumstances, but I firmly believe we would have enjoyed these trails much more had we ridden them at the end of the trip, like we did on the previous trip. The weather did not quite cooperate with us either. Although we were treated into Cuzco with a phenomenal rainbow (image below), it was also an indication that rain was in the air. During both outings on this day we got dumped on, the second time with hail. Needless to say the trails were slick and muddy and hard to negotiate. A mechanical on my bike forced me to bypass the last couple of miles of single track, but I was treated to a screaming road descent past Sacsayhuman and into the city below. Everyone enjoyed the rides and finished the day with very big grins – little did they know what lay ahead…

Cuzco welcomed us with a phenomenal double rainbow and a hint that rain would be in our future...

Cuzco welcomed us with a phenomenal double rainbow and a hint that rain would be in our future…

Day 4 – Maras Moray and the Slat Pans

This is one of my favorite rides in the valley, the video above highlights only a very short section, the tight switchbacks at the end that deliver you to the river. The bus dropped us off high along kilometer marker 42 along the highway that connects Chincheros and Maras. After a short dirt road descent we took a break to soak in the views of the Huaypo Lagoon before continuing on (along dirt roads) to the ancient Moray ruins. From there we rode a few miles (mostly downhill) to an outdoor lunch spot before hitting the 5 mile downhill from Maras to the Salt Pans. These 5 miles are quite possibly some of the funnest I’ve ever ridden. The trail descends gradually before getting considerably steeper shortly before the salt pans. A section of tight steep switch backs delivered us to the pans. We took a short break at the Pans to get the scoop on the place – after all we are tourists – and then soldiered on on what I think is one of the best sections of trails on the trip (see video above). The last section of trail from the salt pans is narrow, steep, and rocky. It is not overly technical, so you can go somewhat fast, and the views are phenomenal. The last set of switchbacks that deliver you to the Urubamba river are by far some of the tightest, rockiest, steepest and funnest switchbacks you’ll ever ride, hopefully the attached video above does them justice…

Day 5 – Abra Lares – The downhill from Heaven

So good that we rode it twice. These rides were epic! Our guides drove us up to 4,400 meters to Abra de Lares. From there, amidst a freezing rain storm, we descended through very difficult to navigate fields before joining an old Inca Trail. Once we hit the trail we were treated to some phenomenal technical riding. After a couple of miles of  riding, the trail made a sharp drop into the Laras Canyon, a narrow gorge that followed the path of rushing water down to the Urubamba River (video above). This gorge was absolutely phenomenal, and the trail everyone enjoyed the most. The attached video snippet (first time down) simply does not do this section of ribbon justice. It is absolutely gorgeous. The second time around we bypassed the fields and split up into two groups, a faster bunch and a more measured set of riders. The speedier group followed the trail to the first spot where we descended the first time. This time around with no hail storm, which made for a much faster (and safer – maybe) descent. After regrouping, the same two groups descended to the town of Calca, with the faster bunch following the last sections of single track before switching gears and flying down a perfect gravel road. Our speed allowed us to break out the chilled “chelas” for the rest of the riders. Our day of riding culminated with our fearless guide, Miguel Lozano, cooking dinner for us (below). The group enjoyed a phenomenal meal prepared by a skilled chef with incredibly fresh ingredients – we washed dishes afterwards BTW…

Miki preps a fine meal

Miki preps a fine meal

Day 6 – One Trail to Rule Them All – Huchy Qosqo

The Duchy Qosqo downhill will make you do some strange things...

The Huchy Qosqo downhill will make you do some strange things…


If you only have time for one ride in Cuzco (and you’ll need all the time you can get), ride this one. You will not be disappointed. This trail has a little bit for everyone. Smooth Inca Trails, with the occasional steps, drops and irrigation ditches (that must be hopped). Views that are out of this world. Gorge trails with rushing waters racing beside you, steep drops that surely have cost someone their life, and ancient Inca ruins seldom visited by other tourists. The last time we rode this, our guides shuttled us to a little over 14,000′. This time around, the sadists made us climb from 12,600 (give or take) to the top. Those 1,000′ were quite possibly the toughest I’ve ever walked. We did ride a l lot of the climb, but as the air thinned, and the terrain got steeper, one by one our band of riders fell until no one was able to keep wheels rolling. All of us (except Leslie…) succumbed to the altitude and walked the last few hundred feet. If there is one thing to take away from this ride is to be prepared. The weather at 12,600′ was balmy, a comfortable 70 or so degrees. But by the time we reached 14,000’+ the temperatures had dropped nearly 30 degrees, and ALL of us were looking for layers to add to our skin (see picture at the top of the page). Once we began moving, however, we shed a couple of layers and soldiered on on one of the best downhills I’ve ever ridden. I simply cannot wait to get back and do this ride again.

Day 7 – Rafting the Vilcanota (Lower Urubamaba)

Negotiating some of the rapids along the Vilcanota.

Negotiating some of the rapids along the Vilcanota.


I found out from my last trip, that after 5 days of riding, most everyone was a little beat up; especially riding the technical trails of Cuzco and the Sacred Valley. So this time around I asked my outfitter to throw in an alternate activity to work a different set of muscles. So rafting was added to the itinerary. The morning of, and after four days of intermittent cold and wet weather, the group (including myself) was somewhat hesitant to head out early in the morning with the promise of a dip in the chili waters of the Vilcanota. So hesitant, that three of our band of brothers (and sisters) opted to stay behind. We did gain an extra traveler though, in the form of a friend who happened upon us in Cuzco. With no preparation, we dragged her into the bus and had her join us in what would eventually be a phenomenal day on the river. Our guides, Eduardo, Jimmy and Henry, were superb. After a quick safety brief we all suited up and set out for a 2 hour ride along the Urubamba. Along the way we negotiated several sets of rapids, up to 3.5 in degree of difficulty. We finished the rafting trip with a phenomenal riverside lunch, capping off an excellent adventure.

Day 8 and Beyond…
I unfortunately had to bail on this day, but my group stayed behind and rode an additional trail (Milkyway) which I’ve yet to visit. After that the group split up into three, 6 headed back home to Lima and the US, 3 headed to Macchu Picchu along the “conventional” train route, and 3 along the epic Inca Trail hike. All in all the trip was a phenomenal experience and everyone left the land of the Incas with an incredible sense of accomplishment and awe.

Our hosts (Amazons Explorer) were absolutely phenomenal. Every day, after miles of riding, they would meet us at the hotel and then venture with us into Cuzco to sample some great Andean Cuisine. Their local knowledge played a huge role in our nightly feasts and entertainment selections. The best night, by far was after our Abra Lares rides, when our guid Miguel Lozano showed us his other passion, cooking (photo above). A renowned chef in the city, Miguel fixed up no less than 6 dishes for our band of riders. Miguel marshaled the kitchen like a pro, and put several of the gringo visitors to work chopping, washing and prepping sauces and dishes for the succulent meal that followed.

If I’ve peeked your interest, stay tuned, plans are already on the board for a third installment of this trip. My goal is to gather another group of friends and take them down to my beloved Perú for at the very least, another 10 days of riding in the spring of 2017…

The slide show below (in no particular order) will give you a sense of the sights and places we visited during the rip…

Ari enjoying some singletrack

Motts Run Reservoir

Ari riding the new beginner loop at Motts Run Reservoir.

Ari riding the new beginner loop at Motts Run Reservoir.

By the time the new trails at Motts Run reservoir were carved into the dirt surrounding this popular fishing destination in Fredericksburg, VA I had already submitted the manuscript for the 5th Edition of Mountain Biking The Washington D.C./Baltimore Area to my publisher.

I was, however, able to update the text to at least include an honorable mention for this new Virginia destination.

Earlier this year, the Fredericksburg Area Trail Management & User Group (FATMUG), received approval from the city of Fredericksburg to build approximately 12 miles of mountain biking specific trails. The three miles of trail that were christened on April 11, 2015 mark the beginning of what hopefully become a new popular riding destination in the region.

The embedded ride below shows you the general layout of the first few miles of trail carved into the system and will give you a pretty good idea of what is currently available.

The Motts Run Reservoir Trails

The first ribbons of singletrack available to users are mostly flat and aimed at novice riders. Eventually, FATMUG will complete the nearly 12 miles of trails that will cater to more intermediate and advanced riders.

A bike stand is one of the essential bike tools you'll need to get your bike workshop going

Home Shop – Getting Started

The second in my maintenance installment of blog posts. In this post I will list a few of the bike tools you will definitely need to get your home workshop started. This will get you own your way to learning how to work on your bike to do basic maintenance and learn how to install some of those new parts you just picked up at the local bike shop or annual bike swap.

You may already have some of the necessary bike tools in your home toolbox, but some bike tools are very specific to your bike, and in some cases, very specific to the type of bike you have; i.e. some bottom bracket tools differ considerably form road to mountain bike, so knowing which one you should get is critical. You can purchase several of your tools directly at a home center (i.e. Home Depot) but specialized tools will require a trip to your local bike shop.

Having these bike tools, however, will never replace the expert a advice and service your local bike shop mechanics provide. If you ever have a doubt about anything you are doing on your bike please stop and take it to a qualified technician. A minor misalignment, or erroneously tightened bold can mean the difference between a  great or miserable ride; worse yet, in some cases it may even mean jeopardizing your bike’s integrity and may put your safety at risk.

I strongly recommend that as you begin, and when you purchase components form your shop, you let their mechanics do the installation. In many cases, they’ll let you hang around to watch exactly how they do things. Great shops educate their loyal customers and will always be happy to show you how to perform basic maintenance yourself, their goal is establishing log term relationships, and by helping you help yourself they’ll ensure you keep coming back.

Several shops even hold basic bike maintenance clinics on site and often offer discounts during said clinics on the purchase of tools and components. Check your local bike shop for info. National retailers like REI always have these events on their schedules.

The bike tools and resources I list here will form the foundation for your workshop and will set you on your way, while I mention Park Bike Tools extensively be aware that there lots of other tool manufactures. Park has been the industry leader for some time, and as such have a devoted following. These must have bike tools will pretty much allow you to perform all jobs with the exception a few, including wheel building and headset installation; The bike tools required for these are quite expensive and you’ll be generally better of taking your bike to the shop for them. I do list some in the optional bike tools section in case you have the budget to get them.

Must have bike tools:

A home repair stand: I think this one is critical. You can get away without one, but having a stand to securely hold your bike while you work on it will make a world of difference. Professional stands are pretty expansive, but you can get a quality portable home repair for under $200. If you have a sturdy work bench, or a vertical anchor point, you can even just get a clamp to hold your bike in place.

A floor pump: Changing tubes and adjusting your bike’s tire pressure is quite possibly the number one thing you’ll do. Invest in a quality floor pump that you can use at home and take with you in the trunk of your car to the next ride.

Tire Levers and patch kits: Because changing and fixing tubes will likely be your number one maintenance task.

Cleaning Supplies: As discussed in my previous post, Washing your Bike, you should invest in some bike specific cleaning tools, including a bike specific brush kit and chain cleaner.

Tool Box: A sturdy tool box to keep all your tools in place. Park makes a bike specific box, but any quality box from your home center will do.

Allen wrenches: Pretty much all the bolts on your bike are metric allen bolts. Invest in a solid set of allen wrenches in various sizes. My kit includes everything from 1.5mm to 10mm. You’ll find yourself using the 4, 5, 6 and 8mm wrenches the most. Having a range of wrenches will cover pretty much any bolt you may run into. You can get these at the home center. Park Tool makes several sets.

Screw Drivers: Both Phillips and flat in various sizes. You can get these at the home center. Park Tool makes them as well.

Pliers: Both flat and needle nose in various sizes. You can get these at the home center.

Open ended wrenches: Also metric. Park tool has a set that spans from 6mm to 24mm but you can also get these at your local home center.

Adjustable wrench (spanner): For those times when an open ended wrench just won’t do. Also available at the home center.

Cable Cutters: I highly suggest you purchase a bike specific cutter that can also handle cable housing. Bike cables are very hard and having the right cutter will make a difference. Cable housing is also very hard and can be very difficult to cut cleanly. Having the right tool will ensure your housing cuts are crisp and clean. There are even cable housing specific cutters on the market, generally for steel braided housing that is extra hard to cut with a regular cable cutter.

Chain Tool: You’ll definitely want a quality chain tool. While most chains come with “quick-links” you’ll still need to size a chain accordingly before installing it.

Chain Whip: To tighten and remove cogs from your rear wheel. As you get more and more experienced riding your bike you’ll want to experiment with gear ratios; having the ability to change your cassette will help you do that.

Chainwhell remover: For the same reason you need a chain whip. Having a lock ring tool – Chainwheel remover will help you tighten that cassette back into position.

Pedal Wrench: A lot of pedals can be removed with an 8mm Allen Wrench but there are plenty of pedals on the market that require a pedal wrench. Having one of these is critical.

Bottom Bracket Tools and Crank-removing tools: Helpful if you want to change chainrings, or if you are doing a major clean-up/overhaul on your bike.

Rubber Mallet: A soft rubber mallet is essential to tap some things into place. Never use a hammer!

Multitool: Not necessarily a “shop” tool, but having a quality multitool to carry with you on a ride is essential for trail/road-side maintenance.

Lubes: Having a variety of lubes at the ready is essential for bike maintenance. Purchase some dry and wet lubes and always have a tube of grease handy.

Thread Locker: Loctite is probably the industry standard. A drop of lactate on the threads of a bolt before you tight it will ensure that bolt stays in place.

Optional bike tools:

Wheel truing Stand: Having one of these will allow you to tweak your wheels when they go out of dish. And, having one will tempt you into building your own wheels, great “bike therapy.”

Spoke Wrenches: To help you make minor adjustments when your wheels go out of true.

Headset Wrenches: Most headsets now a days just require an Allen Wrench, but there are a lot of threaded style units that will need specific sized wrenches.

Torque Wrench: Not absolutely necessary, but if manufactures call for specific torque tightening measurements these are perfect.

Other Resources

Nothing beats a good book; especially if it shows you how to accomplish something. In addition to reading the instructions – yes, read them all – that come with your components, I highly recommend you invest in some quality bike repair guides and books. Here’s a few I personally own and love:

Park tool actually makes it easy for a lot of home mechanics by selling several bike tool kits with lots of the bike tools mentioned above bundled in them. Here’s a few of them: