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First Ride of 2020 - Cochran's

It's been quite interesting the past couple months with COVID-19 preventing many of our seemingly "normal" activities from occurring. Stores closed, events cancelled, travel plans all postponed to a date to be determined later. One bit of good news from all of the closures, Vermont has been able to flatten the curve enough to allow for some recreation, a huge benefit to keep us all sane during these crazy times.

It's been a fairly wet and cold start to spring, it snowed 3" the first week of May across the state, blanketing the first signs of spring. The mountains have seen flurries here and there since, but nothing accumulating. The past week has been mostly cloudy and rainy, with spots of sun to start drying out trails. The local organizations opened up the trails on May 11th for use, barring any closures for wet spots and trail maintenance, so many Vermonters are taking advantage of the activities that keep them living in the Green Mountain State.

On May 13th, Alden, Mark, Pat, Vince, and I went over to Cochran's Ski Area just off I89 in Richmond and I must say I was surprised it was open to riding. The initial Mother's Day climbing trail was fairly dry, some wet spots here and there but nothing notable. The second half of the climb up to the Prayer Flags was another story. It was incredibly wet. Traction was hard to come by in the slurry of mud. Hike-a-bike was your only option for some sections, which we were all happy to do to prevent any further trail damage; others who had rode through these muddy sections leaving trenches on the trail. Even with avoiding the wet spots, mud still gummed up our drivetrains, enough to create a bridge from derailleur to rim, and plugging up every bit of tread on even the most knobby of tires. It was the inaugural ride for my new pony, a Transition Patrol, which had lived in southern Utah before making it to me here in VT and I'm quite sure that this was the most mud the bike had ever seen, a proper "welcome to Vermont" I suppose. Alden was also on a new bike for him, my Rocky Mountain Altitude that I sold him to make space for the Transition. We were both stoked, despite the less than optimal climbing conditions.

A few fellow riders were on their way down as we were on our way up. It was an interesting environment, all of us were out there trying to make the most of the stay home, stay safe order and social distancing guidelines, while also experiencing the outdoors and the camaraderie that the mountain biking community has. Living through this has changed my perspective on a lot of activities I had taken for granted prior to the pandemic.

Prayer Flags at Cochran's

We took a few moments at the Prayer Flags to catch our breathe and enjoy nature. On the way down, we took a new trail that the Cochran's crew has started to build and it was super fun and flowy. No berms built in yet, definitely a couple sketchy corners, and as I found out, some gaps that are not gap-able. Pat had his camera with him so we stopped to have a quick impromptu photo shoot. Mark eyed up this "gap" between two stumps, and there really wasn't much of a landing, but he made it through without a problem. There was a tree on the left which proved to be just enough in the way for me to have some issues. I pedaled in and made it through the stumps, but drifted just to the left, I lost footing on my right pedal, and landed in a compression between the roots of the tree, which resulted in a solid pedal strike on my calf and my chain exploding on impact. Must say, it's the first chain I've ever snapped, and it was impressive. If anyone has ever seen a chain snap mid-link, not at the pins, let me know because I haven't found anyone with a similar experience.

The Aftermath

Mid-link carnage

My calf looks like it got bit by a baby shark from the pedal strike, leaving seven holes from the pins on my new Tenet flats. Thankfully, my friends are more prepared than I am. Alden supplied the tools and Mark was able to re-link up the chain so I could keep going for a bit (I got home that night and immediately ordered a new chain and a crankbrothers M-19 multitool).

The rest of the ride was much less eventful in terms of exploding equipment and bloodshed. Alden really enjoyed have ~50mm more travel in the RMB than his previous rig. It was Vince's first time riding the Prayer Flags side of Cochran's and it's safe to say he'll be returning often this summer.

Cochran's trail crew has put in a fair amount of new developments, which really makes their terrain much more inviting. There's a pump track just before the main climb, and there's a new flow-type section at the bottom of the Ravine Trail, which is a pretty fun little addition as opposed to the standard, borderline sketchy, bridge crossing coming out of the Ravine Trail to the parking lot. There's likely more to report on, but it was a high quality day 1 of riding.

All photos by Pat Joyce (plenty more great shots on his Instagram: pjoyce012)

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