The canal single track gives riders year round thrills, even in the dark
by Eric Johnson
Though cooler temperatures mean the sun is setting earlier and earlier, that doesnâ€™t mean Augustaâ€™s mountain bike community has to park its bikes. The single-track trail off the Augusta Canal towpath remains an accessible and fun getaway right in the middle of town.
â€śI would label it an intermediate ride,â€ť says Drew Jordan, owner of Andy Jordanâ€™s Bicycle Warehouse. â€śYou wouldnâ€™t want to not have any experience on a mountain bike and then come out there for your first ride.â€ť
Not only can it be technical in spots, he says, the steep hills have a way of sneaking up on you.
â€śThere are switchback corners where you might double around a corner and then all of a sudden itâ€™s straight up,â€ť he says. â€śReally knowing how your gears work and how to properly modulate your brakes is definitely a good prerequisite, I would say.â€ť
Jordan leads a group of riders from the bike shop every Wednesday. In the summer, the group can be as large as 28. This time of year, the rides average around 12 participants.
Riders meet up at the bike shop at about 6 p.m. and depart around 6:30, heading down the Augusta Canal towpath, which they catch about a block away from the store. From there, they basically follow the towpath to the back entrance to the trail rather than starting at the pumping station.
â€śIt adds a little bit of mileage to the trail,â€ť he says. â€śIt gives you more single track.â€ť
Starting there, riders essentially complete three laps â€” a half a lap in, two full laps, then a half a lap out.
â€śRight now, the big thing is stressing the light issue, because it gets dark fast out there without a light,â€ť he says. â€śIt catches people off guard, because this time of year youâ€™re not real sure what to expect. Itâ€™s surprising how quick it gets dark.â€ť
With the exception of the area along the ponds between the trail and Riverwatch Parkway, there is full and very dense tree coverage.
â€śUntil the leaves start falling, you donâ€™t get any moonlight in there whatsoever,â€ť Jordan says.
Even when the leaves fall, the trail is dark and often alarming.
â€śItâ€™s a totally different experience at night,â€ť he says. â€śI know that trail like the back of my hand, but that first loop around after it gets dark itâ€™s like youâ€™re riding a new trail.â€ť
Changes in equipment have made the experience much more enjoyable, however.
â€śThe lights have gotten so good that they will literally rival any automobile headlight,â€ť he says. â€śThey are very compact, they have rechargeable batteries and they are very lightweight. You have plenty of light, itâ€™s just not natural light, so reading the trail is a lot different.â€ť
A first-time nightrider last week couldnâ€™t believe how different the experience was, Jordan says. Not only is your vision different, but your hearing elevates as your senses attempt to accommodate for the reduction of sight.
The trail, which was built piecemeal from old deer trails, literally comes alive at night.
â€śWe see a lot of deer as soon as it starts getting dark out,â€ť he says. â€śAnd when the sun goes down, youâ€™ll have owls.â€ť
This past weekend, Jordan was riding in the darkness and had an owl swoop down in front of his light.
â€śIt always scares you at first because, with night riding, your peripheral vision is shut off and you can basically only see whatâ€™s in front of you,â€ť he says. â€śIt always catches you off guard when you have something flying into your light.â€ť
The Wednesday ride is a yearlong ritual that neither darkness nor cold can send packing.
â€śThereâ€™s plenty of gear in the bike industry to pretty much eliminate any and all excuses,â€ť he says. â€śCold, dark â€” it doesnâ€™t matter.â€ť
The only time they wonâ€™t have a Wednesday ride is if there has been a bad rainstorm that day or one the night before, since they donâ€™t want to put unnecessary wear and tear on the trail.
The rides, however, are free.
â€śThis is something we do just to do,â€ť he says.You Might Also Like:
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