by Konrad Urban
The Sorrow and the (Self) Pity
I have felt over the last several years that as an off road rider I acquit myself well. Certainly not an AA class enduro rider but someone who can make their way through most trails with his wheels on the ground and his feet on the pegs. With maybe the odd get off here and there. One day riding the Hancock Quarry Run however has opened my eyes to the truth, I suck! I wanna be Steve McQueen but more often then not I end up Steve Urkel. But I digress.
First let me explain exactly what the Hancock Quarry Run is. It is a 2 day “dual sport” ride event put on by the Bear Creek Sportsmen in Hancock NY every August for the past 13 years. Now what is a dual sport ride you ask? A dual sport ride is a non competitive event. Actually its illegal for it to be a race, since part of the ride is conducted on public roads. They range in difficulty and length, but mostly try to keep road riding to a minimum and vary the trails for all levels of riders. Most (I have ridden in or read about) consist primarily of a mix dirt roads, power line trails, single and double track trails. There are always some small chunks of “Hero Sections” you can opt to ride or take the go around. These are typically the sections everyone admonishes you for being a pus sy if you don’t ride. The intention of a dual sport ride is to get those guys that spent $20k on a BMW GS to come out and give the club putting the ride on money so they can pretend they are Ewan and Charlie in Long Way Round for a weekend.
Now this a dual sport ride in name only. This ride is actually an enduro in all senses except there is no official timing. In fact one of the Bear Creek guys told my buddy the only reason they call it a dual sport is so they can get insurance to put the event on. Still I knew this going in and felt I was up to any challenge the terrain could throw at me. Plus I have all the right gear and my bike is set up perfectly with brand new knobbys and lower gearing. I am ready to kick some ass man!
So Hancock is 2.5 hours from my house and we leave Saturday at 5:30 am. The crew is me and my buddy’s George and Oliver who some of you met at Hunter Mountain last year. We are all on 250cc thumpers. We need to get there, register for the ride, and set up camp since we are planning to stay there for the night and ride Sunday. So far no rain and things are looking good. We manage to make it the mandatory riders meeting at 8:30 at which time the guy tells us the 1st hill is 5 miles from here and if you manage to make it up this hill you be able to do the rest of the ride with ease. So right away I’m spooked. What could this hill possibly be like? What is clear though is that we have no time to set up our portable shelter and tent. oh well no worries we got a nice flat spot in the field, we’ll set up when we get back.
Hill 1 and 2 – A taste of dirt and of complete exhaustion
We finally get out on the road with about 300 other thumpers cruising for some dirt on hill 1. Nice mix of excitement and fear going on in the noggin now. We get to the 1st hill and there’s about 200 bikes sitting there waiting to go up. A guy working the event routes us around and says “nobody is making it up the hill, its too slippery”. So we ride 10 miles of road and hit the approach to hill 2 finally and there’s another jam. WTF! The 1st taste of dirt and another jam but we say fuck it we’re going. Unfortunately nobody was waiting for anyone else to get to the top of this very steep, rocky, rooty, hill. Everyone just sort of hit it at once a mad dash to the top and many got stuck, flipped bikes and wrecked. It was sort of like the start of that Hare Scramble we went to in the spring. George was able to pick through the pile and make his way through but me and Oli didn’t fair as well. For me I was doing well but moving slowly when apparently this KTM rider felt thta his need to summit the hill superceded mine and came up on the side of me and cut in front of me then stalled his fucking kick-start only 2 stroke bike, finally rolling back into me stopping me in my tracks. DOUCHE! A bit about my height (or lack there of here) for those who don’t know I’m short 5’7″ to be exact with a 30 inch inseem and a bike with a 35 inch seat that maybe sags about 1 in with my 165 lb ass on it. This is mostly not a problem for me when riding until a douchey KTM rider stops me in the middle of a mountain on an off camber. In those cases its a dirt nap for me. As I was collect myself and try to upright my machine all while douchebag KTM guy is feverishly trying to kick his bike to life, I contemplate my choice of activities for this weekend for the 1st time.
After about 20 mins this hill is carnage. There is 200+ bikes stuck and I end up following some other guys bush whacking off trail up hill to the top. When I finally get there I am so exhausted I contemplate my choice of activities for this weekend for the 2nd time, this time wondering how long it will take the hill to clear so I can go back down to my truck and the 2 cases of beer I have on ice. So after 1.5 hours the 3 of us finally unite at the top. We are 10 road miles and 1 gnarly hill away from camp only 90 miles to go! We get going again and 10 min later Oliver’s 2008 Yamaha WR 250 dies for the 1st time. It seems his high tech thumper has a fuel pump prone to overheating. Once this happens all forward progress is over until it cools down. We think it’s done for good so George goes ahead to find a Bear Creek Sweeper rider and get some help. I stay with Oli who is cursing and looking up a possible remedy to the issue on his iphone in the middle of the woods. He’s all tech’d up man. This would be the last time we saw George for the day. After about 15 mins of hanging around I just flip the key on the WR and we here the fuel pump turn on, press the magic button and she fires right up! Off we go. At this time the riders had spread out and its not raining all the trails seem to be perpetually wet up there but they are very challenging and fun.
One foot deep peanut butter and face slappers.
At around 10:30/11 the day took a turn for the very worse. It started raining like the rain in Forrest Gump. Goggles useless. Tree branchs with leaves so heavy with water they are slapping you in the face so you’re more often then not closing your eyes mashing the throttle and praying to whomever or whatever you pray to to get you through. For me the trails went from challenging to damn near impossible. Tight single track filled with roots, rocks and foot deep peanut butter rutty mud. Our pace is glacial but we are still upright. Then we come to another steep climb and this one is manned by a couple of Bear Creek Sweeper riders helping guys get to the top. I watch them ride at least 3 guys bikes partially up the hill after horrendous wrecks. Not gonna be me man I’m doing it all on my own! So my turn comes and I become the latest horrendous wreck and go down hard. Fucking peanut butter man! I upright the bike but the height issue comes in again and I just can not get it going. The guy is trying to push me and finally just jumps on and goes “I’m riding it up” and does just that. I walk tail tucked to the bike completely demoralized that I let someone ride my bike up a section of trail. In my internal scale of manliness lets say from Liberace to the Marlboro Man, this behavior by me is way to close to Liberace for my comfort. I’m not sure I will ever get over it. When I get to the top I look at Oli and he gives me the thumbs up. This would be the last time I saw him for the day. Although I wait for what seems like forever he never makes it to the top of the hill and I ain’t going back. Onward and upward. I find out later from a sweeper that apparently Oli never made it up that hill. It seems his fuel pump spit the bit for good right there. Give me a carb anyday fella’s. My old fashioned Kawasaki was bullet proof all day!
Who needs brakes anyway
So I’m on my own now for about an hour and plugging away. The rain is unmerciful. I am having brief moments of fun though punctuated by physical stuggles to remain upright. I go down maybe 3 more times. Then I come across an uphill downed tree with no go around so I make it over the tree but the fender tool bag I have on the bike dislodges when I hit down and wedges in the spokes of the front wheel sending me ass over tea kettle. At least there was nobody around to laugh at me. As I right the ship 2 guys (neither of which asked if I was ok btw) try to go around me and wreck themselves cursing at me under their breath no doubt. So I jump on the bike and fire it up and pull in the front brake and realize there is no longer a front brake and I go down again. As I right the ship again I notice the tool pack ripped off my front brake line. I am (very) briefly concerned with leaking brake fluid all over the ground. I am somewhat of a greenie at heart. But when that thought goes the knowledge that I have to complete this ride with no front brake. I contemplate my choice of activities for this weekend for the 3rd time this time pulling out my Garmin Zumo that I carefully packed in my tank bag for a “just in case scenario” for the 1st time. Mr Zumo tells me the only way is forward 15 miles. Fuck me! My goal now becomes to just get to the halfway mark and the organized lunch break where I am certain George will be waiting for me and Oli will show up soon after. I will eat and go back to camp, set up and get drunk. I will not let them talk me into going on. Period.
Cookies an Lemonade and the ordeal is over
I come up on this group of riders who stop me and ask me if I know where the gas stop is. In the middle of nowhere in the woods. How the fuck would I know that? So 2 of the guys are hell bent on findng the road and bailing on the ride. One guy pulls his gps out and says there’s an easy route back to Rt 97. I figure if their heading for it I’m following. Just then these 2 sweepers show up. One of the guys tells me he’s 50 something years old and he’s out here riding and I obviously have new tires and I’ll be fine. Then he really gets me with “if you go to the road now you will be dissapointed in yourself tonight instead of proud”. Thanks for the peer pressure and guilt treatment dad. He says you are not far from the snack stop. This is set up in front of the house of one of the property owners whose land we are riding on. Seems the wife makes cookies and lemonade every year for the riders. We were supposed to get to that snack stop at 10:30, it is now 3. So with my failure of having someone ride my bike up the hill a few hours before still fresh in my mind I say fuck it. I’m going to get cookies and lemonade man! I made it there and decided to quit and ride the road back to camp.
To sleep in a flooded field or in my bed
I get back to camp and there’s George and Oliver. Turns out Oli did get his bike going again, don’t know what that sweeper was talking about and exited the trail somwhere and came back to camp. George felt guilty leaving us and went back to camp as soon as he could and went back to where Oli’s bike died and tried to find us hiking through the woods. We never had a chance to set up camp because the biblical style rain never let up. We drank a few beers, smoked a few cigars and headed for home.
My total output was, 6 wrecks, 43 miles of trail ridden, and 1 $50 stainless steel brake line. On paper a total failure. Still for some crazy reason I just think I might do this one again next year!