Things continue to be slow along the trail, as is the norm for the season, but that doesn't mean that there is not plenty going on in the bike community. It's time to start looking ahead and mapping out your season. Even us recreational riders need to have an idea of when we need to be in peak fitness so that we don't have to suffer the ridicule of our peers for something like getting dropped before the Dogtown City Limit sign in the Tour de Rock. Here are a couple of things that should be fun as a participant or as an observer:
I spotted a note on the CARP page regarding Syllamo's Revenge, a badass moutain bike race on the certified epic Syllamo Trail. We met some folks in Colorado this year who have ridden some of the toughest races in North America, like La Ruta de los Conquistadores in Costa Rica, booked as "The Toughest Mountain Bike Race on the Planet" and the Trans Rockies race. They are from the Southeast, but counted Syllamo and the Ouachita Challenge in Arkansas as among their favorite events. The race sold out in less than 24 hours, but I might have to get up there for a day to see what it's all about. Many of our local boys and girls will be up there kicking their class around.
I am also anxious to go ride the Syllamo Trails myself. Camping at Blanchard Springs and riding the trails over a couple of spring days has some appeal as I continue to feed my mountain bike bug at Camp Robinson. It's been a little wet and muddy, but, while my road bike gets a thorough cleaning after almost any contact with rain or mud, it doesn't bother me a bit to drag home a mud and/or ice encrusted mountain bike, hit it with the hose and drag the nasty monster into the garage. I guess I recognize a losing battle when I see one. OK, I still keep a relatively clean drive train, but that's just the way I roll!
Another ride, and one that is among of my favorites, is the MS150. It takes place the second weekend of September, but if you want to play, it's good to register early. The ride covers 78 miles each of two days and both routes begin and end on top of Petit Jean Mountain. The Saturday route is fairly hilly, while on Sunday, riders take to the Arkansas River Valley for a mostly flat day. Both days end with the rewarding climb up Petit Jean and Sunday, while mostly flat, includes a punishing little steepy called Cove Mountain. Our friend Chris Irons parked himself on the climb a couple of years ago and reported that as many as half of the riders had to dismount. Don't let the hill talk scare you, though, as there are shuttles up Petit Jean each day for the faint of heart or crampy of quad, and the atmosphere is very relaxed. It's the only event ride on which I make it a point to stop for lunch. This will be the last year for the MS150 to be held at Petit Jean and I can't imagine a better venue. If you've been intimidated by fast century rides, try the MS150, even if you just do one day. It is very well supported, it's a good cause, and I believe the maximum number of riders is capped at 300. Note that Mather Lodge is usually totally booked, but rooms become magically available in the weeks before the event. I assume that many people book rooms a year in advance and then start cancelling as the event approaches if they decide they don't need the room. There are also campsites and other lodging opportunities on Petit Jean.
There are many events upcoming in Arkansas, but there will be time to visit on them down the road.