Mountain Biking

Three tips to get you ready for the spring biking season

With plenty of cool sunny days, spring is one of the best times of the year to hit the trail in Ohiopyle. And if you start riding now, you’ll have the fitness to put in some big rides this summer.

Ohiopyle bike Bridge Wilderness Voyageurs

The High Bridge just outside of Ohiopyle

Here are some tips to get you ready to ride:

Get a tune-up

Take your bike to your local shop (if you’re in the Ohiopyle area, that’s us) and have the mechanics tune it up. Fresh cables, brake pads, and tires will make your ride way more fun.

Check your tire pressure before every ride. The maximum recommended pressure is stamped on the sidewall of tire, but that’s usually a much higher pressure than you should ride (think of the max pressure stamped on your car’s sidewalls. My truck tires say 60 psi, and if I pumped the tires up that hard I’d be all over the road.)

Correct tire pressure depends on your weight, so you’ll have to play around with it a little. The tires shouldn’t be so hard that they bounce you all over the trail, and they shouldn’t be so squishy that they squirm under the bike. Also, pumping the tires up extra hard won’t make you go faster. A tire is most efficient when it can conform to the bumps it’s rolling over.

Check your saddle height

Seat height is really important to being comfortable on your bike. If the saddle is too low, you won’t be able to pedal efficiently and you’ll destroy your knees. Too high, and your hips will rock back and forth until you get super unpleasant saddle sores.

So to check your seat height, find a wall to lean against, get on the bike, then put your heels on the pedals. When you pedal backwards, your leg should be fully extended and your knee almost locked out. Spinning with the ball of your foot on the pedals, there should be about a 30 degree bend in your leg.

For a visual explanation check out this video, which features the handsomest bike mechanic in Ohiopyle. Or consider making an appointment for a bike fitting. 

Just remember, being able to touch the ground from the saddle has nothing to do with correct saddle height. Get off the saddle before you need to stop the bike.

Get on the bike as often as possible

You might not have time to do a long ride every day, but if you ride around the neighborhood for a half an hour everyday, your bike fitness will increase dramatically. It’s all about getting your body used to pedaling.

If you can only ride three hours a week, split that time into short rides everyday. Riding a bike will become routine, and longer rides won’t be a problem. In contrast, riding three hours one day on the weekend will just be a shock to your system, and probably a miserable time.

And if you can, commute to work on your bike. Along with all the hippy-feel-good benefits that come with bike commuting, it’s the absolute best way to become a better cyclist. Riding to work gives you a reason to ride (actually going somewhere), and will get you riding more than ever. After all, bikes aren’t just for recreation, they’re also a serious and efficient way to get around.

Swing through the shop if you are on the Great Allegheny Passage, or road riding through on RT 381.

Wilderness Voyageurs, 103 Garrett Street, Ohiopyle Pa, 15470




Categories: Biking Vacations, Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Bike Tour, Mountain Biking, Ohiopyle, Wilderness Voyageurs | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Mountain unicycling in Ohiopyle- Something completely different

Since I tweaked my shoulder last month, it’s hurt to go uphill on my mountain bike. I figured that I needed to take some time off riding to let the shoulder fix itself, but I couldn’t just sit around. And I can’t stand walking or running. So my only reasonable option was to hit the trails on a unicycle.

Mountain unicycling trails in Ohiopyle

Wobbling and waving down the trail.

The trails around Ohiopyle are tight, twisty, and covered in rocks and roots. And this time of year, they have a slimy coating of leaves. They’re tricky to ride on a mountain bike. Take away a wheel, a set of handle bars, and the ability to coast, and they’re trickier. By a lot.

Riding a unicycle feels weird. To go forward, I have to lean until feel like I’m going to fall on my face, then catch myself by pedaling forward, which rotates the unicycle backwards. So riding in a straight line is a constant back and forth between falling and pushing myself back up with the pedals.

Add in some hills, off-camber paths, and bumps, and staying upright becomes a weird flailing dance. Lean back on a descent, resist the wheel, push the saddle forward into the climbs, wave right arm into a left turn, shake the left into a right, grab the saddle hop up a rock, and twist around and around.

It’s exhausting.

I can happily do a 50 mile day on my mountain bike, but after six or seven miles of unicycling I’m ready stumble off into the mountain laurel and pass out (and I almost never do that when I’m sober.)

Unicycling down a trail

My photographer was able to take surprisingly artistic shots while running behind the speeding unicycle.

Despite being really hard, unicycling is fun. I’m started to get the hang of riding technical stuff, and I’ve done my seven-mile commute to work on the thing. Although it takes three times as long as it does on a bike, it’s still slightly faster than running. And unlike running or riding a bike, when I’m on the unicycle people always smile, wave, laugh, and yell encouraging things. Which makes sense, because I look ridiculous:

Categories: Biking Vacations, Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Bike Tour, Mountain Biking, Ohiopyle | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Bikepacking out of Ohiopyle

The Quebec Run Wild Area is a really cool system of trails to the south of Ohiopyle. I’ve been looking at some maps for a while, and figuring out a way to ride from town to the wild area on single track and double track the whole way.


So last Saturday I loaded up my pack and started the climb out of the valley.


The trail that goes into Quebec is a ten-mile piece of single track called the White Tail Trail. My plan was to ride a gravel road out of Ohiopyle, take a trail through some state gameland, hit the White Tail Trail into Quebec, watch a cyclocross race that was going on near Quebec, then camp and ride back into work the next morning.

The climb out of Ohiopyle was pretty brutal with a loaded pack. Since I was on my single speed, I couldn’t stay in the saddle. And since I had 35 pounds of camping gear on my back, it wasn’t easy to pedal out of the saddle either.


But I made it to the top and into the gamelands. A few miles in, I saw about 40 trucks parked in the woods. At that point, I realized that it was the first day of bear season, and I was wearing a woolly black shirt. The rest of the ride through the hunting zone was less than relaxing.

When I got to the entrance of the White Tail Trail off of Skyline Drive, I saw more hunters. Since I had no desire to be mistaken for an emaciated bear and shot, I decided to ride the road the rest of the way to the cross race. But at least now I know that the trail to Quebec does exist. It even has fresh blazes. I’ll just have ride it when there’s less firepower in the woods.

Buzzing along Skyline Drive wasn’t so bad:


A couple hours later, I made it to the cross race. I hung out for a while and heckled some racers. Especially my friend Rob, whose bicycle choice was a little suspect:


photo by Fred Jordan

Then I started the long climb back up the ridge. I made it to my camping spot above Uniontown just before dark, and got a little fire going.


I knew it wasn’t going to rain, so I didn’t bring a tent. I sat next to the fire and looked out at all the bright lights a few miles below. Ate two pots of Ramen, burned up all my firewood, and drank the contents of the flask I brought along. I was hoping that I would be drunk enough to sleep all night without noticing the cold (see simulated summer.)

ImageThat worked for about two hours. Then I woke up. It was 25 degrees, and the wind was ripping across the overlook I was sleeping on. I wrapped my ground cover around myself, hoping that it would keep some heat in.

It didn’t. But it did keep some moisture in, and soaked my sleeping bag.

I drifted in and out of shivering sleep for the next few hours, then at 4:30 I decided to get up and start riding back to town. The sun was starting to rise when I got back to Skyline Drive, and it was a bright clear morning. Image

Pretty, but bright clear mornings are also cold mornings. I thought my fingers were going to freeze and snap off as I descended the mountain back to Ohiopyle. When I got back to town, I spent a long time thawing myself out in front of a little oil heater before I opened the store.

Overall, it was a pretty good mini-bikepacking trip, even though hunting season kept me from riding all the trails I planned on. I ended up riding 45 miles the first day, and 15 the next morning. Not a bad little adventure from the front door. Next post I’ll talk about the gear I used, and what I wished I would have used.

posted by Montana

Categories: Biking Vacations, Mountain Biking, Ohiopyle | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Setting up a mountain bike for the winter

Some people, like Amanda here, set their bikes up for winter by covering them with junk in the corner of the garage. But she also bundles up with a puffy sweater and ski hat before she steps inside to use the computer.


So the following winter riding tips are for those of us that are hardy enough to type in nothing more than a Zoic Tradesman Riding Flannel ($85, all sizes in stock):


with elastic cuffs to cut keyboard drafts:


I’ve had some of my best mountain bike rides in the winter. Knobs dig into the frozen crust through corners, and the trails in Ohiopyle can be as fast as they are in late July. Riding through the last six winters, I’ve picked up a few things to keep myself rolling in relative comfort.

So here are the top-secret secrets.

1. Whiskey in the bottle


An ounce or two of liquor will keep a bottle from freezing in cold weather. Five or six ounces will make it feel like summer again (activate simulated summer at your own risk.)

2. Catching the crud


The Crud Catcher ($15) is the best mountain fender I’ve used, and I’ve used many. It attaches to the downtube with a few rubber o-rings, so it’s easy to pull on and off. Never bounces around or gets in the way, and keeps freezing spray out of the face and off the water bottle. Perfect.

I also shelve my suspension fork for the snowy months, and put on rigid one. The suspension fork doesn’t work super well and cold weather, so it isn’t worth it to get the delicate fork seals covered in frozen mud.

3. The light


The days in winter are too short to risk going out without a light. Priceton Tech’s Push ($49) puts out 100 lumens with three AAA batteries. That’s plenty of light to get home on the road, and enough to carefully negotiate single track. The thumbscrew handle bar mount is secure and easy to remove.

Those are the only changes I make to my bike for the winter season. If you ride gears, it is a good time to try single speeding, but that’s a topic for another post. Otherwise, the mountain bike you ride all summer will work like a peach.

Next post, I’ll share my thoughts on winter riding clothes.

posted by Montana

Categories: Bike repair, Mountain Biking, Ohiopyle, Outdoor Gear | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Mountain Biking Routes in Ohiopyle

Ohiopyle is at the bottom of one of the deepest valleys in Pennsylvaina, so riding here usually involves a big climb and a big ripping descent.

After a few years here, I’ve figured out some good loops that start and end in town. This first set of rides uses Sugarloaf, Baughman, and McCune Trails, which are all east of town.

Sugarloaf Trail is about four feet wide, and full of loose rocks and water-bars. The trail alternates between super steep pitches and flat sections. It’s a great climb, but most locals skip riding down it because of all the flat pedaling sections.

Baughman is narrower, runs along the ridge at a steady grade, and has more sharp embedded rocks and fun dips. Descending that trail is awesome, so that’s the way I usually go.

There are three ways to chop up the Sugarloaf-Baughman loop.

#1 Sugarloaf to the Baughman Overlook – 1 hour

The start of Sugarloaf and Baughman Trails are across the rail-trail from the Middle Yough takeout. Take Sugarloaf, which is on climber’s right, and start heading uphill.

A couple miles up, and after the steep water-bar covered pitch, look for a trail that swings back and to the left. Take it and climb to the Baughman overlook. Make a left and shred Baughman back to town. It takes seven to ten minutes of hard descending to get back to the parking lot.

There’s a steep set of stairs at the bottom of Baughman. They’re rideable, but it’s a good idea to get off and scope them out on the first time down

After the stairs, turn left down the street and past the WV Bike Shop, make a right across the car bridge, make another right onto Garrett Street, and park your bike in the rack at Falls City Pub. Get some beers.

#2 Sugarloaf to Upper Baughman – 1.5 hours

Keep riding past the turnoff and up Sugarloaf. There are two more steep rocky pitches to grind up before the start of upper Baughman. Do a short descent, then turn left to follow the trail at the dirt road. Cross the road and stay on Sugarloaf.

After a second dirt road crossing, Sugarloaf forks. Take the left side and climb another 400 yards. At the trail signs, cross Sugarloaf Road and start Upper Baughman.

The top section of Baughman is tight, twisty, and full of big rocks. It’s a great piece of singletrack. After the overlook, keep going on the trail and back to town.

#3 The Full Loaf – Sugar, McCune, Baughman – 2.5 hours

This loop has 1,700 feet of climbing, which makes it one of the biggest dirt climbs in Pennsylvania. It takes almost 1.5 hours of steady ascending to get to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, and the start of McCune Trail.

Ride past the Baughman turnoff. At the XC Ski Area parking lot either keep  going up Sugarloaf or jump on the road.

I don’t like the last grassy section of Sugarloaf trail (we’re working on fixing it with some good singletrack), so I get on the road at the XC Ski Lot and ride a mile of pavement to get to the start of McCune. At the trail sign, turn left off of Sugarloaf Road to the McCune parking area. 100 feet from the road, on the right side, McCune starts going up hill.

There isn’t a sign to mark the trail’s start, so pay attention. The first few feet of the trail go through a field, then the trail turns into the best rocky singletrack in the park. Climb up the switchbacks to the very top of the mountain, check out the sweet view, then start the long, long descent. Ride back onto Sugarloaf, onto Upper Baughman, down Lower Baughman, and into town.

posted by Montana

Categories: Mountain Biking, Ohiopyle | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Clearing the Lytle Connector Trail: Ohiopyle Mountain Biking

Original post over on the work blog.

We’ve been discussing doing some trail work for a few years. Yesterday we finally got started.

The Lytle connector is a piece of trail that goes up from Lytle Road to Presley Ridge Trail. Clearing it off has been on Ohiopyle State Park’s to-do list for a while, and the trail director told us that if we got it done she would be happy to consider approving some new single track in the park.

Lytle is on the opposite ridge from Sugarloaf Knob. The tire lever is pointing to the start of the trail.

After work we headed up the mountain. There were seven people, three chainsaws, two dogs, and one rake. Next time we might bring more rakes and less saws. We tried to double our body count, but the rest of the company was already busy:

They were having a vigorous debate about which piece of furniture in the house needed to be burned next. It’s a rough life.

The trail used to be an old logging tramway, but over the years it’s narrowed down to about three feet wide. It’s steep and should make a fun descent. We chainsawed all the big trees out of the bottom section, then got creative near the top.

The top of the ridge is full of big boulders and natural features.

It has the potential to be a really awesome piece of singletrack:

By the time it got dark, we had about three miles of rideable trail done. It was a solid start.

Our ultimate goal is to make Ohiopyle into a mountain biking destination. We have the elevation, we have the terrain, we have the post ride beer spot, and now we have the blessing of the state park.

It’s a good time to be a mountain biker in the Pyle.

We’re going to make Wednesday evening trail work a regular thing, so if you want to come out and help, give us a call and talk to Kasia or Montana. 1-800-272-4141

Categories: Biking Vacations, Mountain Biking, Ohiopyle | Tags: , | Leave a comment

9 Hours of Cranky Monkey Mountain Bike Race Report

After disappointingly small spinach bowl at Bob Evan’s in Lavale, Maryland my friend Don Powers and I drove the Hatchback Miatta into the Rocky Gap State Park. We registered our duo-team, “XXC Mag Presents the Crusty Seamen” (it’s only funny because we’re not sailors,) and set up camp.

I was too lazy to pack my tent, but since we were going to a mountain bike race I assumed there would be trees by the camping area. I brought my hammock and a tarp and left my tent in Ohiopyle.

Then we walked over to the camping area. There were no trees. I watched in dismay as the rest of the Pittsburgh/Morgantown crew set up their sponsor emblazoned homes for the weekend.

The TOP tent:

The double wide Dynamic PT tent:

The Pro bikes tent:

And finally, the Wilderness Voyageurs tent:

I accessed all my other options, but in the end it looked like my only choice was to sleep under a bench all weekend. That homeless guy that used to ride around my hometown with shopping bags would be proud.

We went out for a warm up lap. The course was rad, it flowed well with some tight turns and tricky roots. The whole 8.5 mile loop only took 39 minutes. After the lap Don, Brad and I drove the fer piece to Cumberland to find some food. Don was willing to settle on some Taco Bell ground-beef- spleen tacos. But Brad and I insisted we push through a crowd of shirtless-teenage-carnival-goers to get real food. Eventually we found a little bar with some decent food where Heffner and Aaron already had a table.

The next morning I wake up with some moisture on my sleeping bag. I crawl out from under my bench. At least I stayed mostly dry. I head over to JR’s tent and beg for some food. He gives me a bagel and some peanut butter. I am pleased.

I make some coffee in my French press and groan. It’s foggy and cold, with light rain. It’s so hard to get excited for a race when it’s raining.

It’s close to the 11:00 start so I take my bike over to the transition area. I carefully back it into the rack so I can yank it out quickly. We’re going to run for about half a mile to split everybody up before the trails. I’m going first, and I’ll do two laps before trading off with Don.

We line up, and Aaron and I do some short sprints to warm up. It feels like I’m back in High School Cross Country.

The promoter raises his hand, “5 seconds… Go!” We run. Some little fire plug dude next to me trips on a blade of grass and falls on his face. I don’t look back, but I’m certain he’s being trampled by 175 pairs of carbon soled shoes. I pull away from the rest of the pack and make it to the bikes ahead of everybody else. I grab my bike.

It dons’t move. Shit. Somebody hooked the nose of my saddle onto the rack. I frantically throw five other bike onto the ground. Other guys make it to the transition area and start riding away. When I finally get my bike untangled, I’m back in 15th.

I sprint and pass as many people as I can before we hit the trails. The first few miles of the course are really tight and twisty, and it gets congested. I pass when I can, but the leaders are way gone. Dammit. I wanted to be out front on this first lap. I could kill who ever hooked my bike in the rack like that.

We turn away from the lake and get some room to pass. I rip by everyone I can and start the only longish climb on the course. I see JPok and one of the DCMtb guys ahead in the distance. I crush it up the hill, pass them and keep going. I made up a lot of time and took the lead, and now I’m going to hold it. I go all out on the rocky descent and start the swoopy lake trails again.
Mountain bike racing wilderness voyageurs
I cross the start/finish area and head out for my second lap. JPok trades off with Nate Anon. I stay ahead of him and keep pinning it. I finish the lap in 35:41 with a little bit of a gap on Nate. That lap stands the rest of the day as the fastest lap of the race.

I give the punch card to Don Powers, and he promptly drops his chain. There goes our lead. Doh. I walk over to the tents, put my feet up, and eat some ho hos. A little over an hour later, Don finishes his second lap and I head back out.

I feel good the first lap, but slow down to 39 minutes on the second. I’m feeling a little beat. We’re holding onto third, but can’t catch up to JPok and Nate or the DC guys. Their lap times are too consistent.

When Don finishes his 6th lap, I go out to finish the race with my 6th and 7th. We’re a few minutes behind the other teams, so I just cruise the laps. I roll into the finish a little after 7:00 pm.

We ended up third in Open Duo, which is pretty damn good for a couple of guys on single speeds. Don did 6 laps, and I did 7 which ended up being about 60 miles. Very solid and fun day.

I wore my finest Canadian Tuxedo on the podium:
Mountain bike racing wilderness voyageurs
After the awards, there was much merrymaking around the campfire. Sadly, Brad was forced to delete all the pictures. I finally crawled back under my bench at 4:00 am. We woke up at 7:00 and went back to Bob Evan’s where Darnell, Sandy, or Beatrice served us breakfast, then drove back to Ohiopyle. I made it to work 15 minutes early. Perfect weekend.


Wilderness Voyageurs, 103 Garrett St, Ohiopyle pa 15470




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