Monday, June 11, 2018

Run what ya' brung Bike Trials








Trials was super popular and cool back in the eighties and nineties.  In Canaan at the races they would have observed and stock trials.  It became pretty specialized after a while taking cues from the Europeans, especially the Spaniards. Trials bikes were the most capable, but not that practical for riding trail.  Canaan Trials leaned towards the Scott trials format.  It proved who was the best and most balanced rider.  It wasn't about the big showy party moves.  It proved who was the best and most balanced rider on technical terrain.  Then the next's day xc race proved who had the lungs to back up the skill on the same bike.  Nowadays in Canaan, we play Run what ya brung Trials.  It was revitalized in Canaan in 2014 due to the efforts of Zach Adams,  Jason Cyr and the dynamic duo and our trials hosts Vicky and Eric.

As Vicky says , it's a spectator event! It's fun to watch, cheer and wince as the riders tackle the course.  I love seeing the kids line up to throw down.  We've seen some kids grow up around the trials and other old riders become young.  We've seen plenty of endos and some amazing feats of talent.

It's another example of West Virginia doing  the organic, free, wild and wonderful version of something that makes it almost  bike
heaven here.


2017 event








Friday, June 8, 2018

Thomas Trails





There are dozens of  trails  and miles of single track in Tucker County.  That is one big reason why a mountain bike festival can happen, a bike shop can exist and thousands of tourists come to ride bikes here even though there's only a population of 650.   It's also a big reason why many of us live here.  Trails are currency and quality of life indicators.  Unfortunately, many of those trails were built in the 1930s by the  Civilian Conservation Corps.  Our beloved Canaan Mountain Backcountry area and the famous Plantation trail is a result of a complete and devastating clearing of the entire forest and the subsequent efforts to restore. 

More than 1500 acres were planted with nearly a half million red pine seedlings. A system of trails called The Plantation Trail was carved out of the mountain by the CCC. Before the CCC arrived the land was completely barren, covered only by roots and stumps. Read about it in an article by the Friends of the Blackwater. History

Those trails on Canaan Mountain and many of the trails that were used by the motorcycle race, The Blackwater 100, are very difficult and gnarly. Also, those trails were not built with the knowledge that we have now about sustainable design and in particular  proper water drainage.


 The need for both modern and easier trails  is being addressed by  New Historic Thomas.  NHT is 
a non-profit community group dedicated to revitalizing the city by preserving history, cultural heritage and resources.  They aim to preserve and energize so residents and visitors alike can thrive.


NHT along with Zach Adams of Appalachian Dirt have worked together for a total redesign of the Thomas City Park trails. The park was originally built by locals Jr. Davis and Dale Pase.  The outer loop, "Junior Davis Trail"  is now one continuous trail. "Dale's Trail' the inner loop is now the beginner trail.  Dottie's trail was named after the former mayor of Thomas.   While the groundwork was laid years ago, NHT and Appalachian Dirt are executing new modern, sustainable trails that will seamlessly flow into already existing trails.  It's really amazing this town of 562 people is making this happen.


 To fund the trails, NHT has applied for a variety of grants and have received funding through the Oakland Foundation, People for Bikes and the Tucker County Parks and Recreation.  They have also been able to almost complete the funding through private donations and fundraisers such as the Mountain State Fat Bike Championships.


If you can make it out to the trail work at the festival, you'll meet some of the folks that have made this happen including Zach and trusty sidekick, Lona ,and energetic AmericaCorps worker Natalia Dutt.  The trail work will be on Dale's Trail.  We are all looking forward to having a beginner trail and some flow trail in Tucker!






Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Laird Knight, our mtb pioneer

The history of mountain biking in Tucker Country runs deep and  muddy.  The very first bike mountain bike races here were in the 1980's started by Laird Knight. He also started Blackwater Bikes and the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association(WVMBA) He put on the first NORBA race east of the Mississippi.  Laird invented the 24 Hour racing format that was hugely popular in the 90's and really put Canaan on the map for mountain biking.


Check out Laird's story here   If you have ever met Laird, you know he has a huge smile, a vivid imagination and works hard to make his visions come true.

I did my first 24 hour in 1994 and it went across the Moon Rocks.  I was a newbie mountain biker and it was pretty intense.  The next year the race got moved out to Timberline and it was the infamous mud year.  Read about that race in the New York Times.

photos by iplayoutside


While we no longer have 24 hour racing here, Blackwater Bicycle Association continues the long standing tradition of racing by putting on the Blackwater Classic and the Revenge of the Rattlesnake. And we hope that the Canaan MTB Festival upholds the spirit of bikes, friends and trails.


Festival T-shirt


First year, we are doing a T-shirt!  Art work and printing done locally by our long-time friends and supporters at East-West Printing.

Located in the remote mountain paradise of Davis, West Virginia since the early ’80s, East West Printing is a family-run business that started as a basement operation serving regional adventure outfitters. These days EWP prints t-shirts for events, businesses and organizations nationwide out of a 10,000-square foot facility, while still remaining true to their small town roots. Known as pillars within their community, EWP is a coveted workplace, generating multiple 20-year veteran employees. What's their secret? For one, they're a meticulous and passionate crew with an appetite for the creativity and puzzle-solving that comes with the print industry. With a communal lunch room, flexible work schedules, freshly harvested food in the fridge, and best of all, laughter ringing throughout the building, EWP has been a model for ‘Working to Live’ long before the phrase was ever coined.

East-West has been making T-shirts since the beginning of bike racing in Davis.  They made T-shirts for the original 40k and the legendary Blackwater 100 off road races as well.  They did all the T-shirts Laird Knight's famous 24 Hours of Canaan relay races.  

Often times, these t-shirts were badges of honor for some of the toughest races at the time.  People collected them and wore them proudly.  I recently saw a couple of these on Ebay even.


Alice and Bill are the owners and pillars of our little mountain community.  Alice's brother Luke made the sacred vessel for the Hashes.  Nick, their son, started biking as soon as he could walk and went on to become a National Champion in mountain biking and a professional road racer.  Ruth did the artwork for this year's shirt.  

We love having good humans like these in Tucker County and a part of our festival.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

2018 Poster by Annie Simcoe

The 10th annual Canaan MTB Festival poster continues to showcase original artwork by local artists. This year's poster was designed by Annie Simcoe of  Accident, Maryland.  Annie is an avid mountain biker and does a lot to encourage others to ride, especially women.  She is an ambassador for the Big Bear Lake Trail Center in Hazelton, WV where her husband works.   Annie will donate her artwork to the Blackwater Bicycle Association raffle on June 16.  It will be on display at Blackwater Bikes soon. Check out her website https://abphart.com/

Annie says about her poster:
“Mountain Biking in Canaan, WV is a little bit magical. The dense, lush, vibrantly green forests, and moss covered rocks, make me feel like I have stepped into (g)Narnia. This piece was inspired by a photoshoot by Brice Shirback and local tucker county rider : Brian Sarafino.

When worlds collide. I’ve been riding my bike in the woods since 1998-9. I’ve been making things since, well since I can remember. But rarely have I let the two overlap. A little bit introverted, I never talked art my art to my mountain bike friends, and mountain biking rarely came up with my artists friends. And then I left my job and became a full time artists. Sure I made a few art pieces about bikes. But really my two worlds were kept separate. Until now. The universe seems to be conspiring to make me combine all of my pieces and parts into one whole. I had the honor of designing the poster for the Canaan MTB festival this year. I was super nervous. And procrastinated a lot. And finally I asked Google for help. I had something in mind. The iconic Moon Rocks Trail. I just wasn’t finding anything inspiring. Then I came across this really rad photo of local shredder Brian Sarfino by Brice Shirback. I came back to it over and over. Big rocks. Super dense vegetation. Feeling like you are in a pre-historic land that time forgot. That’s what riding in WV is to me. 


When worlds collide (part two). Next came some sketching, erasing, more erasing, procrastination, and lots and lots of stitching.


When worlds collide. (Part 3) And just like that the easy part was done. I am not a graphic designer. I did not go to art school. My education is in geology. I fight my way through photoshop and illustrator based on “THIS WOULD BE SO EASY IN ARC GIS!” and sheer stubbornness. After a day or so of staring at the computer, using my phone a friend lifeline (thank you Kim Sheets 🙌. AGAIN), and a power word or two, we have a poster! Thanks Sue Haywood, for inviting me to do this project. And thanks Brice, for giving me permission to work from your photo. Now go ride your bike!
Davis, West Virginia

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Blackwater Classic XC Race



The tiny town of Davis has been host to wheeled racing for decades now.  The first Blackwater 100 took place in 1975.  It was once billed the "toughest race in America" because of the gnarly terrain and large amounts of mud.  The mountain bike racing on the Moon Rocks followed in 1982.  Davis was one of the only places to ride super tough terrain on the East Coast for this nascent sport of mountain biking, which was supposedly invented in 1978 in California.





The exciting times of the Blackwater 100 were over in 1993.  A girl died that last year and over 200 people were arrested, which was down form 500 the year before!  There were 10,000 people in a town with a very small population.  The race was a victim of it's own popularity with too many wild people and motorized vehicles leaving ruts and pollution in the Canaan wetlands.  The race course was  owned by the power company and they choose to stop the race.  That next year  I moved down here and did my first  24 Hours of Canaan MTB Relay Race, the last year that they used the Moon Rocks course.




Flash to 2017 and mountain biking is still here in Davis and going strong!  This past weekend the Blackwater Bicycle Association put on the Blackwater Classic XC race and good clean fun was had on a perfect weather day. Mike Goss of Sirianni's  is always the starter for the races!  I bet he's got some great old Blackwater stories.


 The territory could still be considered the "badlands" because of the challenging terrains, fast rock gardens and questionably deep mud puddles.  There has been some good trail work over the years with turn piking, brushing and new, built trails to make more loops.





At this race, there were three different loops...beginner, sport and expert.  The lucky experts got to do the Moon Rocks two times!  And they were greeted with Todd, his guitar and an American flag.  The expert class was the smallest, but the sport and beginner classes had healthy participation.  And of course it was so cute seeing the littlest of kids completing a real single track loop.



So if you make it out to the Canaan MTB Festival, ride the Moon Rocks!


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Putting on winter fat

It's been neat to see all the fat bikes rolling around Canaan Valley the last couple of months. Fat biking is latest trend in the world of off road human powered recreation.  It's still a mountain bike, but the favorite surface is snow.  Tires with widths of 3.8 or greater provide the necessary float to ride through snow.


Recently,  the first fat bike championships took in West Virginia.  The event took place at White Grass Ski Touring Center in the heart of the snow belt of Canaan Valley.  Luckily, it had snowed lots leading up to the race and it was a white race course.


Sixty racers showed up to see what it was like to race a fat bike.  For some who, rented bikes from our local shop, Blackwater Bikes, it was their first time both racing and riding a fat bike.  Conditions were not easy on the hilly course.  The soft snow conditions made traction elusive.  Hiking with their bikes and often wiping out on the open orchard section, these riders all got a good hard day in.


The podium winners stood on hay bales as the American flag whipped  the westerly winds across the snow farm.  Folks were tired, but happy.  Most of the skiers enjoyed seeing the bikes.  A few thought it didn't jive...bikes at an xc ski area.  It is the only day of the year that one can fat bike at White Grass, but of course the skiing is always a blast if there's snow. There are plenty of other fat bike friendly rides in the Monongahela National Forest,  Blackwater Falls State Park, Canaan Valley State Park and the Thomas trails.



Even though the festival is over 5 months away, don't forget about biking in the winter in Tucker County.