Monday, June 6, 2016

All Aboard the HUP Pain Train

My good friend and co-DS of HUP Michele Smith along with her husband Ed host one of the most awesome rides/BBQs in the NECX. It is an annual HUP team ride. It is called the Lion of Burlington. Typically happens the first weekend in June. It is a CX wake up call if there ever was one. The ride starts and finishes at their house and goes park to park on some pretty amazing trails. In the spirit of the ride most ride CX bikes. But a mountain bike certainly is nice on some of these trails. I certainly was very happy to have disc brakes and tubeless tires on my CX bike. My CX bike is pretty much a woods killing machine so it is very capable on most "mtn bike" trails. HUP is amazing. Such a great crew. And it continues to grow into something even  more awesome each year. This year's ride was a good chance to meet a lot of new team riders and reconnect with friends and teammates we hadn't seen in a while. 

I would guess and say we had about thirty riders. Mostly HUP but a bunch of like minded friends as well. Basically if you love CX and getting lost in the woods you are a friend of HUP. Sure doesn't hurt if you bring nice beer to the BBQ as well. Baked goods work wonders also. It was so awesome seeing so many rad people. We did all our hellos and got kitted up. Roger had a mechanical on the way over so I saw he and Ed frantically trying to change out a derailler pulley wheel before we rolled out. We snapped a great team photo and off we rolled. Now rolling out with 30 riders and picking your way through the woods can be pretty hilarious. You always try and give each other space and be respectful but of course shenanigans are bound to happen. Once you get into the woods and you see downed trees that need to be hopped it becomes full #DBL in a blink of an eye. I may have put Roger into a tree hoping a log. But it was all in good fun and once again I was blown away at how comfortable HUP riders are in their natural element on CX bikes. This is how you get ready for CX season. Riding a CX bike in the woods is perfect for getting those bike handling skills back in top form. 

We bombed through some super fun dusty trails and popped out by the reservoir and regrouped. It is always very hard keeping 30+ riders together in the woods. Michele and Ed do a great job of herding all the cats but it is tough. We rode in a fun group with Ed for a bit. Some serious smackdowns were happening anytime we popped out onto pavement was a bit challenging for my out of shape ass but I was faking it and laughing my ass off at all the jokes and snark flying around the group. I love these people and there is no better way to spend a day in my mind than with this crew on CX bikes getting lost in the woods. Speaking of which. There was a bit of confusion when we were working our way through the second section of woods. Roger, Chris and I decided to pick our own adventure and split off. We were having way too much fun to stand around in the woods. It had been so long since I had ridden with Roger and Chris. We were definitely feeding off each other and Roger was definitely in full Shark mode. Everyone had a garmin file loaded up (well I didn't but I have an internal GPS that aways keeps me semi-lost, semi-found)

We were expecting Ed's group to catch up at any moment anyway really. We certainly didn't attack in a racing sense. We just were having so much fun shredding all the trails that we sort of lost track of how far ahead we had gotten. Roger rides this area constantly. And has been riding a shit ton this Spring/Summer. He is in the best shape I think I have ever seen him. Chris and I have been sitting on our asses eating pies for the last three months. You think I am joking. I am not. Any time we got on a road or straight path Roger would drop us so bad. I would laugh out loud as he was pointing out hazards in the road when he was at least 500 feet up the road. I just hung on for dear life and kept eating food and drinking water. Then we would get to a woods section and he would wave me through and let me shred. I will say Roger's woods riding game is on another level as well. He definitely was riding the roots and tricky sections way better than I have seen him on other adventure rides. We somehow had zero mechanicals. Zero crashes. It is almost like we had some dark angel on our shoulder driving us like the three riders of the HUPocalypse.

Its not like we were killing ourselves or anything. We stopped to take some cool photos and get food and water along the way. This ride is one of the more special ones I do each year. I really like to soak it all in. One of the cooler aspects is riding on Battle Road in Concord. I am a bit of a history buff. And seeing all of that history is just incredible. Roger found a couple of great new sections in that area. Battle Road is great but as it is a pretty significant national park it can be very crowded going full pathlete is never a good idea. It is a great road. Nice packed dirt with some really nice trees keeping you out of the sun. I swear this year we barely even had to look at our gamins. Between the three of us we knew this route really well. I started to get a bit bonky right before we got to one of my favorite sections. Chris and Roger were definitely riding very spirited on the roads. They would attack each other for townline sprints and climbs. I would just hang back and save my matches.

At the top of Grove street we dove into Landlocked Forest. LLF is a great open space in Lexington that is mostly owned by Burlington. It is called Landlocked Forest because Burlington residents are cut off from their forest by a highway. The land has been in jeopardy of being developed over the years and a section we road off of Grove Street looks like it is in real trouble. Please take the time to go sign the petition to save this section of LLF. These rides only happen if we have open space to ride on. As bikers we are always ever vigilant to make sure other riders don't damage the trails when wet, we work hard to keep the trails in good shape and work with communities to ensure our natural resources are preserved and can be enjoyed by everyone.

As before Roger waved we through. Just as I went into the drops I must have hit autoplay on my phone. The Black Eyed Peas start booming out of my jersey pocket. It was so awesome. The new RoboZank was built just for this type of riding. Last year I did the LoB on a mtb. It was fun. But to be honest I was able to ride everything I rode on my mtb on my RoboZank. There was one weird rock garden mid-way through that I wasn't 100% sure about but the bike just floated through it. 

We popped out on the highway underpass and I remembered I almost died at this spot last year. Amazing what a difference 44 cm bars are to 170 wide bars. Last year I clipped my riser bars on a retaining wall and almost went down a culvert. Drop bars are so nice in tight spots. We were in the home stretch at this point. Again we were sort of bummed no other groups caught up to us but we were having such a great time riding with just the three of us that it was ok. I honestly couldn't have asked for a better day on the bike.

We got back changed into our kit and got ready for a serious BBQ! We had so much food and so much great beer. It was so awesome being able to just hang out and hear everyone's story from the day. The CX gods were with us for sure. Our good friend Jenn sadly broke her frame. But luckily didn't do any damage to herself. There are so many weird little wood bridges. Jenn got caught up on one and went over the side. Unfortunately it was about 5 feet down into a swamp. Still can't believe she wasn't hurt. She must be superhuman! HUGE thanks to Ed and Michele and everyone who came out. HUP is looking STRONG right now. I love where this team is at right now. #CXISCOMING and I can't wait.

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