Central Arkansas

First, let me start by saying that Arkansas, originally part of the Louisiana Purchase, is as beautiful a place as any in the country. Made up of two distinct mountain ranges, the Ozarks and the Ouachita. The Ozarks are a series of peaks and plateaus. Where the Ouachita run east to west as opposed to most ranges that run north to south.

Just outside Little Rock, you have Pinnacle, Wye and Shinall Mountains, which are located in the foothills of the Ouachita. These are just over 1,000 feet each but successive, creating a large roller coaster of rolling hills with a few long climbs. While in Little Rock for two weeks on a work project, I had the opportunity to explore this vast, beautiful wonder, nicknamed the Natural State.

When I was able to get outside, after 3 days of intense rain, followed by extreme humidity, I left my hotel at 6am and drove over to Two Rivers Park. From there I took Country Farm Road to Pinnacle Valley Road all the way to Rt. 300. I turned around and on the way back, climbed Pinnacle Mountain to the park headquarters then dropped down the the boat launch for a climb back to Pinnacle Valley Road before heading back.

Another interesting ride was more urban. From the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, I pedaled over the Clinton Bridge to North Little Rock and hopped on the Arkansas Trail. North Little Rock is a separate city, separated by the Arkansas River from Little Rock. The Arkansas Trail runs on both sides of the river. I rode over the Big Dam Bridge, back into Little Rock for a flat, fast cruise back to the car.

Then, I found paradise in Arkansas. On Tuesday, I started over at Pinnacle Mountain Park on Rt. 300. Leaving the parking area, I made a left on Barrett Road, a quiet enclave of large country homes. I made a right on Rt. 10 and followed Little Maumelle Lake to Rt. 113. This is where the Wye Mountain climb begins. Never getting too steep, 113 winds up and over Wye Mountain. At the peak, it drops quickly through a few sharp turns, making the descent a tricky but doable venture. At the bottom, 113 runs into Rt. 300. Here, there are signs for Little Italy and an Italian museum. It was closed, but would have been a nice rest stop. The rolling hills never really let up until a few miles from the park. Wye Mountain was so nice, I went out and rode it again on Saturday.

Northwest Arkansas gets a lot of attention, because of all the trails and bike lanes in and around Bentonville. However, if you want beauty, hills, and a little of everything, Central Arkansas should be on your short list of cycling destinations.

What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today – Kenny Loggins (with Michael McDonald) – This Is It

Black Mountain Cycles MCD: Final Review

Having pedaled a few hundred miles on the Monstercross Disc, I’m quite certain that I can make a fair assessment. Most of my miles have been in the Delaware State Forest in Northeast Pennsylvania, an area that provides smooth dirt roads, soupy gravel, singletrack and snowmobile trails. There’s plenty of uphills climbs and equally as many descents.

First, let me lay out the build. I purchased the frame and fork and decided to strip my Van Dessel and use that drivetrain, mixed in with some new parts for the cockpit. Now, I would normally build up my own bikes, but my lack of hydraulic brake knowledge, coupled with my in-ate inability to understand different hub systems led me to my friend Xavier at Action Bikes and Outdoor. Xavier stripped the Van Dessel, ordered some brake hose, figured out the hubs and did an incredible job with the entire build. I could not be happier with how it came out.

Shifters, derailleur, and crankset (SRAM Force) as we’ll as wheelset (Bontrager Affinity Elite) we’re switched over, along with the Thomson Seatpost and Chromag saddle. I went with a Velo Orange Tall Stack stem, a rather odd looking bit, but very comfortable with the 17 degree angle and my favorite bar, a Salsa Woodchipper. Xavier chose the Maxxis Rambler tires (700X40mm) as he certainly knows the terrain here in NEPA.

With any new bike, getting the correct fit is a process. I like to take a bike tool and figure it out as I ride. After my third ride, it was completely dialed in.

This bike climbs extremely well in loose, choppy conditions. The taller head tube and longer wheelbase give you confidence when bombing down a potholed jeep trail. Traction is up to the rider. Tires make a big difference, as not all gravel or cross tires are right for every surface. Read reviews and choose your rubber wisely.

It was deeper than I thought

While you could race this bike at any of the big gravel events that are all the rage these days, it’s probably best suited to take you on that long adventure or that beautiful farm road and it’s just begging you to hop on that trail you’ve been dying to explore.

Walpack and Back (Revisited)

After 3 days of intense (but much needed) rain, I decided to stay out of the woods until things dry up a bit. With loads of holiday traffic heading home after the Memorial Day weekend, I also wanted to stay off the main roads, so I drove into town, hopped on the Kona Honkytonk and pedaled through Milford and over the bridge to New Jersey. The roads in this part of Sussex county can be pretty quiet, even on such a beautiful day.

I headed up Deckertown Turnpike, fully intending to go all the way to High Point, but plan B had me turn right on New Road. It was the right choice. I saw only a handful of cars the entire route. New Road has a slight downward pitch, giving me a little rest after the Deckertown climb. I crossed Rt. 206 and made a left on Layton-Hainsville Road.

Farms and Churches dot the landscape as Layton Hainseville Road runs right into Layton, NJ, a tiny town that’s the gateway to the Walpack Recreation Area. I continued through Jersey farmland and into the Peter’s Valley Craft area. Bearing left, I took the roller coaster road through the Walpack Recreation area to the Walpack Inn.

After a quick photo op in the parking lot, I turned around and pedaled back up The Walpack Road, only this time I decided to go over the Peter’s Valley climb. Although quite steep at the beginning, this is one of the quietest, most enjoyable hills with a fun descent, bringing you all the way down to Tuttles Corner. A left on Dingmans Road put me back over the wooden bridge and back into Pennsylvania. I turned right on Rt. 209. The traffic, chopped up pavement and lack of a shoulder, takes nothing away from the beauty that the next eight miles brings this time of year.

I cruised back into town satisfied but hungry for longer rides in and around the tri-state area.