Giant Steps

Posted July 1st, 2001

There is nothing like the first ride on a new bike. Everything works
smoothly: gears and chain are finely meshed, brake pads grip solidly and the wheels roll so smoothly. I just got back from such a spin and it’s pretty hard to sit here and concentrate on writing. I can hear my bike calling me quietly from downstairs, “Come on, work can wait. Don’t you want to see how I handle some more twisty, turny, rocky, rooty lines? Sure we just got back, but are you tired yet? I don’t think sooo.”
“Shhh. I can’t go. Maybe I’ll put my headlamp on when I’m done and go for a short night cruise. Leave me alone.”
When my frame broke last fall after four years of hard riding, it was time for a fresh stead. Thank goodness for lifetime warranties, because it allowed me to upgrade for a few less bucks. I’ve always been a fan of simple steel bikes with tried and true parts, so it was a big step to move to a fully suspended aluminum, new-school mover. My, what a difference a little travel makes—my lower back didn’t hurt, I floated sections that used to toss me and the big bumps were more like quiet accents. Maybe this column can wait after all…
If you asked me last fall what I thought of the future of singletrack mountain biking in Vermont, I probably would have talked about how much riding we were losing each year to overdone second homes, possessive landowners and hostile public officials. However, in the intervening few months, things seem to have changed. From stellar weather and ideal trail conditions to new-found acceptance from federal, state and local land managers, it has been an overwhelmingly positive spring for mountain biking in the state. Strong organization, commitment and energy from the Vermont Mountain Bike Advocates, its members and local chapters have played a major role in the turnaround. While there are still pressing issues, mountain biking has found its traction and is moving forward again.
The National Forest Service, manager of the Green Mountain National Forest, is the largest single landowner in Vermont, making its current 10-year forest plan revision crucially important for mountain bikers.
According to Tom Yennerell, the new executive director of VMBA, “We have been working hand-in-hand with NFS recreation planners to propose potentially permanent trails within the bounds of the GMNF.” This is very significant for central and southern parts of the state where most of the land is located. The planning process is supposed to take four years, so while there is time, local riders need to start scouting terrain to propose new trails.
In addition to new singletrack, Tom related, “There are also lots of roads that aren’t open now, but could be open very quickly, like Texas Falls to Granville. The NFS said they would even print a map, if we could find the bodies to do an inventory. The positive momentum needs to continue and grassroots local support is the only way it’s going to happen.”
Speaking of grassroots support, the city of Rutland and VMBA are looking for community involvement and hands-on help maintaining and signing a maze of over 20 miles of singletrack out by the Country Club. If you enjoy these sweet trails and want to keep them open, give Tom a call at 802-746-9976 or email
Ready for some more good news? A parcel of land in Pittsfield and Chittenden, formerly owned by Lyme Timber was recently acquired as part of the GMNF. This area also came with a nice chunk of singletrack which the Trust for Public Land helped protect by establishing recreational easements. The trail would benefit from some more traffic, so if you’re looking for a something out of your regular diet, go to the Pittsfield General Store on RT 100 and climb Upper Michigan Rd. about four miles. The trail is on your right just before a big culvert. Happy legal riding!
Cherry on top
On a very rainy Saturday morning recently, National Trails Day, to be exact, a Mad River Riders volunteer work crew reopened three trails in Fayston’s Phen Basin as part of a new agreement with the Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation. After the rains stopped and the trails dried out, Chuck Vile of FPR went out to survey the work. He was disappointed, though. It seems one of the trails wasn’t long enough, forcing another crew to go out and repair the mistake. Thanks to Mr. Vile for being such a perfectionist, we really appreciate it.
That damn bike is talking again, gotta go. See you at the trailhead.