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The Future of Mountain Biking  //   Tuesday - August 18, 2009

I saw the future of mountain biking this weekend, 3 parts of the future at least, and it was both good and bad. At least it was weighted to the good side when the scales were balanced, but that doesn't negate the downside.

Friday a half dozen of us headed to Bedford Pennsylvania, conveniently a short detour on our way to Raystown Lake, for a tour of the Cannondale bike factory. One of their machinists, Glen, had recently purchased an SSO cycling cap, so when I realized we would be passing close by I emailed him to see if we could arrange a tour. He set it up and gave us the tour himself. Unfortunately the corporate overlords would not allow us to have cameras, most likely due to the super top secret operations going on under the roof. Glen was a great tour guide, knew every aspect of the operations and answered all of our questions (which were many).

Besides building frames, both aluminum and carbon fiber, Cannondale still machines many parts in house. Five arm chain ring spider? Yep, that increasingly hard to find item was made right there in Bedford. Bits and pieces for suspension linkages, cable guides, little things you assume would come in a big anonymous box are still crafted in house. Frames are painted, wheels are built and bikes are all assembled in this facility.

The operation employs approximately 300 people, but unfortunately that is changing. Now part of the large Canadian corporation Dorel, Cannondale is shifting production to Taiwan. Sadly, one of the last remaining, large bike manufacturers will no longer be Made in the USA. This has been the future of mountain bike manufacturing for a while and there does not seem to be any stopping it. And speaking of the future, rumor has it that a rigid single speed may be back in their line up.

Big thanks to Glen for taking the time to show us the Cannondale operation, it was really an interesting tour. The facility will still be open but scaled down as frame manufacturing leaves. Best of luck to the employees as they face this challenge.

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From Bedford we moved north to Raystown Lake, home of the Allegrippis Trail system. The trails officially opened in May 2009 but I was out there for a sneak preview in November 2008 (read about it here). The trail system is property of the Army Corp of Engineers and was constructed by IMBA and volunteers. The trails were built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers and made to be sustainable as well as incredibly fun. Because of the steep side slopes, many sections of trail were machine cut and then finished with hand work. This allowed the 30+ miles of trails to be developed quickly. Many of the trails that were wide back in the fall are now tiny ribbons of singletrack as the vegetation has grown back in. Lines are burned in and the trail looks like it's been there for years.

Riding at Raystown LakeAfter setting up camp a group of us did a quick map review and set out to get a loop in before dark. Our camp was near the bottom of the north end of the trail system but the way the trails are constructed meant we weren't climbing straight out of the gate. Grade reversals are everywhere and the system itself keeps the trail grades to an average of 10% or less, meaning the trail remains sustainable while not being ridiculously hard on the climbs. Don't take this to mean you won't work though, you'll pay for the elevation gains and the faster you want to go on the downhills you'll work yourself as you pump for every last bit of speed to maximize the fun factor.

By late night we had about 25 people and had taken over the upper level camp sites at the Susquehannock camp ground. With a ride already under the belt, a camp fire blazing and plenty of good beer on hand, it was shaping up to be a good weekend.

Julie Smiling on the Hydro TrailSaturday started lazy and hazy as the temperature and humidity both crept up. After breakfast a couple of groups formed and we were out for a long ride. Most of the riders were first timers to Raystown but within a mile or two I was hearing screams and hollers of ecstasy as buzzing wheels rolled the fast hard pack and riders ripped through turns and over the many rollers. The trails sell themselves here, it is hard not to have a good time.

After the Eagle and Hydro trails the group of 15 I was leading split in two and we continued on as the day heated up. If you want them to be, the trails can be dangerously fast. You can test your skills and limits as you launch air off of big, fat rollers and then get sideways railing turns. We saw about 2 dozen riders over the course of the day which means the word is out and people are making the trip to ride the quality trails.

After covering most of the trails on the north side we happened upon the second half of our group from earlier and finished on the fast downhill Switchback trail. Beers and an XL sized potluck dinner finished out our day as people settled into the camp chairs to rest their tired legs.

Riding at Raystown LakeSunday morning brought another big ride as I hooked up with some riders I hadn't ridden with the day before. We headed up to the top of the ridge and then over to the south side trails where there are a few technical rock gardens but more fast, flowing, rip-roaring trail. With several more hours of riding in our legs we broke camp in a sweltering heat and headed southwest to Chambersburg, PA.

The trails at Raystown are a model for future trail development in other areas: Cooperative agreements between several groups building MTB specific trails as a destination to increase tourism. Hopefully there will be a successful push for this type of development in other areas. Check out Dirt Rag's Issue #143 for more background information about how these trails came about.

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Chambersburg Pump TrackChambersburg, PA is close to the epic mountain biking of Michaux State Forest, but downtown is another bicycle destination that is a bit newer. The Chambersburg pump track was built with funding from the Borough of Chambersburg and donations raised by the Mountain Bikers of Michaux club. Built next to a rail trail that runs through town, the pump track offers a serious work out and lets you build skills that can directly translate to your trail riding: pumping, maintaining momentum, and carving turns are a few of the skills you'll need to ride this. A couple of minutes on this can give you a serious work out, especially when you've got several days of riding in your legs already. The compact size makes it easy to locate in urban environments and the quick sessions mean you have time to hang out with your friends between laps making it a good social/bike combo. Pump tracks are starting to crop up all over and it's not hard to see why.

We had 5 car loads of people arrive on our way back from Raystown and spent about an hour with local pump track master mind Larry Camp. Ricky d shot a video of me working most of the options. One minute on that thing and it's time for a break!

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So the future of mountain biking summary assessment=
- More overseas frame manufacturing: thumbs down
- Professionally built mountain bike specific destination trails: thumbs up
- Pump tracks for local riding and skills building: thumbs up

More photos from the trip can be found here.

- riderx

Quick Video  //   Monday - August 17, 2009

Packed weekend. Cannondale Factory tour on Friday (thanks Glen!), then set up camp at Raystown Lake and get a ride in before dark. Big rides Saturday and Sunday, then a stop at the Chambersburg pump track on the way home. More details later, in the meantime here's a short video of some riders enjoying the fast flow of the Allegrippis Trails at Raystown.

- riderx

 

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