The trails at Quantico are super fun and highly demanding. Punchy climbs are always followed by steep and fast downhills full of roots and obstacles that make this an incredibly challenging regional trail.
The ride through the hills and meadows of Laurel Hill will take you through a parcel of land that was once home to a Revolutionary war hero, thousands of reformatory inmates, and a magazine of inter ballistic missiles.
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.
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.
This 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
The Muddy Branch Trail
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
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.
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.
The actual route I rode the other day, including the Red Connector in both directions.
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.
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!
A quick edit of the Fountainhead Skills Area