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

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.

Todd and Me

Todd and Me

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.

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.

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 whom 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.

The Seneca Ridge Trail

The Muddy Branch Trail

The Tunnel of Love – XXL Style

Arden, Arden!