Ed. Note: Mountain Bike Trailer Park is a regular column written by Uncle Dan that appears monthly on the Dirt Rag Interwebs. If you missed his previous columns, check them out here.
It’s early and I’m skittish. The roots are still wet with dew and I’ve had too much coffee and not enough sleep.
Joe and Mikey dropped me a few minutes ago. I stopped to lower my tire pressure, half hoping it would help my ride, half to let them go. I didn’t want them to see me fumbling on the bike, embarrassed by my apparent lack of ability this morning.
Plus, I wanted to be alone with my thoughts. I stopped again, took a breath, wiped the fog from my glasses, and put my earbuds in.
I couldn’t find my groove. Troubled thoughts occupied my mind, taking me out of the moment and off the trail again and again.
Last week my wife and I had been buzzed by some asshole in a pickup truck. As he passed me too close, he almost hit me with his mirror. I watched, sick, as he did the same to my wife. A few days later, another friend crashed in the opening mile of a race. Broke his collarbone, lost his season. Earlier in the week, we lost a cyclist in Cincinnati to a car crash.
Of course, this type of shit, and worse, happens all the time, but I couldn’t stop thinking of my friends, for whom that couple centimeters or milliseconds were the difference between eating dinner at home or not.
Soon, the sun came out from behind the clouds and the dew started to dry. The clouds in my brain started to clear too. I was at my happy place, Mohican State Park, a somewhat remote, deeply wooded state forest, and I wanted to feel happy.
Around mile 18 (two hours or so into the ride) things started clicking. There’s a spot where the trail transitions from rooty pines to a fairly fast and slightly rocky stretch of singletrack. There, the dark thoughts let me free and I found my flow.
My mind had mellowed, my muscles remembered how to behave. I was flowing down the trail like water.
Then a favorite song came on in my headphones. It multiplied the dawning peace in my soul. I found a few minutes of bliss. I cried a little, laughed a little. I was renewed. Cycling is not safe all the time. That’s ok. Its fine. It’s glorious. It’s soul-saving.
And that’s why I came. Although I was ambivalent about riding in my bike-nervous state, I came because a lap of Mohican never fails to clear my mind. And today was no different.
The trail is about an hour and fifteen minutes from my home. There are closer trails, but I keep coming back to this one.
This 24-mile loop trail is home to, and part of, the Mohican 100, the most popular race in the National Ultra Endurance series, attracting 600-700 races each year (myself included). Mohican is the most well-known trail in Ohio and is ranked as the best trail in Ohio by several MTB sites. A sub-three-hour lap of Mohican is a right of passage for Ohio MTBers. A double lap is the stuff of bragging rights.
If you want more after a lap of Mohican, country gravel roads connect another nearby system (Mohican Wilderness) that is even more rocky and technical.
Different sections of the trail are home to different trees. Maple trees explode in fall firework colors, the tall oaks and beech provide a sun-dappling canopy and the fragrant pines carpet the trail with soft red needles.
There’s a little bit of everything here, and while the trail is still fairly “primitive,” the natural topography offers up a diverse ride. There are roots, rocks, flowing singletrack, and gravelly switchback descents. The 2,500 feet of elevation is no joke. And the gnomes!
Mohican isn’t listed as an IMBA Epic trail yet. But it should be. Are you listening IMBA?
Consider this my application.
Be brave and be epic.