Friday, November 1, 2013

All Hallows' Eve mountain bike race: 10/29/2013

Riders just before the start of the All Hallows Eve mountain bike race, October 29 2013.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.
The idea of a nighttime bike race through the woods really isn’t quite as crazy as it might sound. After all, the proliferation of relatively inexpensive high lumen bike lights has made night riding commonplace, extending the season right up to winter (much to my wife’s chagrin). A nighttime race is just the logical next step.

I don’t have a ton of bike race experience, day or night. In fact I’ve only raced two other times. Both of those races were on the same course (Schenectady’s Central Park trails) as Tuesday night’s All Hallows’ Eve race. So I had that going for me. But the Central Park trails are spaghetti bowl of loops and crossovers, and it’s easy to make a wrong turn (been there, done that). With the added factors of darkness and leaves, just staying on course was my biggest concern.

Some of the costumed riders before the start

As it turned out, route finding was a non-issue as the entire 5-mile course was raked and blown immaculately clean. Kudos to the race organizers. Two dozen riders – many in costume (not me) – lined up for the start a little past 6pm. Five or six rode in the Beginner (1 lap) division, with the rest roughly split between the Sport (2 laps) and Expert (3 laps) divisions. I raced in the Sport division.

Weaknesses emerge in the crucible of a race. The Central Park trails aren’t super technical, but there are some sections of brutal roots, some short but steep ups and downs, skinnies (one-plank bridges) and logs. I’ve got some work to do in terms of picking a clean line and keeping my wheels rolling smoothly through the obstacles. I’ve got to upgrade my crappy platform pedals and replace my tires. My lower back was pretty sore before the first lap was done, so there might be some fit adjustments I need to make to my bike. Mostly I just need more riding experience. But through the good fortune of starting near the front of the pack and staying there (passing can be a pain in the ass), no major mechanical issues (I threw my chain once) and no major crashes (no blood anyhow) I finished second in the Sport division.

Since my main goals were to a) finish the race, b) not get hurt, and c) not get in anyone else’s way, I’m pretty happy with my result. It was pretty cool to see a stream of two dozen riders lighting up the night woods. I’ll get in a few more night rides this fall, no doubt, but probably not any more races – ski season is right around the corner.

Thanks to HRRT for organizing a fun race and providing prizes!

Group photo and trail map courtesy of

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