Where everybody knows your name

I found the mountain biking version of Cheers in a ride that I did recently. I had heard of this place a few times, and even reported on a documentary of this place on my blog a few months ago, but I have never had chance to ride with the folks of the Hubbard Mountain Bike Club.
This ride that goes off every Thursday night at 5:30 is going strong for years now. Only lightning really holds these folks back from riding or snowshoeing. With an average track record of 50 Thursday outings a year, these folks are doing it right.
My night began with a incredible drive up to the Hubbard home base from Philadelphia. It seemed as though most things were conspiring against my travel, but I made it up to Justus, Pa in spite of slow drivers, inept toll booth users, and my perpetual lateness.
I arrived to find a yard that more resembled a rock fest parking lot, than what I was used to in terms of group rides. In exchange for mullets and ripped, faded black shirts, there were helmets, and ripped, faded black spandex. My kind of place for sure.

I suited up and tried to find some water. I thought I would have time to stop at a gas station or something along the way, but I was running out of time but there was no way I would do this ride on no water. This is where I got my first view of how awesome this place was. No less than 5 people were on a mission to make sure that I got cold water to fill my camelback. Some even offering to fill it for me. How awesome is that? I filled the camelback in the pro level kitchen that this unassuming barn/garage hides behind its brown walls.

With water in my bag, and my bike ready to go, I started to follow some folks who seemed to be warming up for the ride. I did not really know the rules, and I was too shy or proud to really ask anyone how or where I should ride my bike, so I just set off with some random folks and figured I would figure it out along the way.

The along the way just so happened to be a long climb up a paved road that seemed to go on forever. I had no idea how long or far this was, so I just sat back and pedaled along with the rest of the folks. When we finally got to the top of this climb, there were just bunches of folks hanging out at the top waiting for some groups to gather and take off. There were bikes and riders of all stripes up on top of this pretty mountain all out for the same purpose of riding with their buddies. What more pure could there be?

I recognized a few folks from racing, and some other folks came up an introduced themselves to the stranger straddling his bike all alone with the strange language all over his jersey and the helmet on his head.

I jumped on the back of group that I was talking with when they finally saddled up and headed out. I shot a bunch of video, but I have not edited it all together yet. I will do soon. Since I grew up in this region, I knew I was in for some rocks, but hot damn, they were everywhere. These trails are very well maintained, but the rocks will keep you on your toes. We had a group of about 30 folks riding with us, so I felt the pressure to perform and just kept the bike going fast and straight. I did not want to muck up the gears with any slow bounce from rock to rock. Speed really is the only way to make sure that you get over that stuff anyway. Thinking just messes it all up.

The really fast folks kind of kept going and some folks that I seemed to be riding well with stayed behind to wait for a flat fix. That gave me time to introduce me to the new folks that I was riding with. We were in the middle of the pack, and I thought that these folks would be great to ride with for the night, and I was right.

We kept right along with the trail plan for the night with a few small changes along the way. We rode miles and miles of awesome interconnected trails with some real thought and effort put into keeping the trails challenging, fun, and sustainable. All of the trails on this mountain were made by members of the club which is totally amazing. We kept crossing over with other groups that were out there, everyone was super duper friendly, and you did not feel like you were in a crowded park. With the amount of trails up there, it is hard to feel that folks are riding all over you.

As I said, the trails we rode were rocky, and that did not stop for long, but there were sections that were pretty buff, or just a few less rocks than the section before. With a few hours in the woods flowing, climbing, and pedaling with a regroup stop or two thrown in, we did not hit any double track or fireroad at all once we were up on the mountain, but it seemed that the trails were designed with somewhat easy access back to “main” routes to get off the mountain if need be.

We got to ride some brand new trails that took us through a section on the backside of the mountain that seemed like an enchanted forest complete with a strange house on stilts. This was near the end of the ride, so the heat and miles may have worked their way into my legs, but I felt that these were the most challenging trails of the night. The new trail did dump out onto an older trail that culminated in a fantastic downhill that spit you back out on the bottom portion of the road that the ride started on.

Our group shook hands, slapped backs, checked new abrasions, and just had a good time recounting our previous three hours on the trail. I just met these folks a few hours before, and you would have sworn that we were riding together for decades. Really great folks just enjoying the sport.

The ride ended back at the “club house” where some folks were already cleaned up and enjoying some brews and home cooked food.

Did I say food? For a donation of $6, we chowed down on homemade Swedish meatballs, salad, ravioli, and ice cream bars that were all faithfully prepared by John in the amazing looking pro level kitchen that all of the donations have paid for over the years.

Beyond all of the awesomeness that this night brought, they also had some entertainment in the form of a solo guitar performer playing along side the campfire. This really helped with the whole vibe of the night. It really felt that this was and will always be all about the ride and the family that springs up around mountain biking.

This ride is really one that you need to make it out to and I wish I had the time to get up here every week. Between the great riding, awesome folks, and one of the best dinners I have had in a while, it is worth the 2 hour or so drive from Philly.

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  1. […] August 17, 2010 by ckline My buddy Pat has a great blog himself. Anyhow, he made a cool find and told me about it the other day when I ran into him at Wiss and I wanted to share it with you all here. Take a look! […]



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