Rob and I had business trips back on the east coast, so we decided to spend a week working remote, visiting his parents and catching up on all things Hanover, New Hampshire. I heard that the mountain bike club built a pump track last fall, so I was pretty excited to get to see it and to help make it better. First, I went out with the Colliers to ride the flow track that I built at school and improve one of the hip jumps on the track. It was great to get out biking with the Colliers again and to extend the bike season a bit. There is nothing quite like New England biking – weaving your ways through the hardwoods, one minute pumping through loam, the next flossing your way through technical New Hampshire granite.
Later in the week, I got a chance to get my hands dirty at the adjacent pump track with the help of about eight mountain bike club members. We seriously improved the track’s riding flow. Trail building is a great way to teach both biking skills and about the local trail networks. As we built and perfected rollers and berms, we tested each section until it rode well, and if it didn’t, we diagnosed what could improve the section. That critical thinking really improves beginner biker’s riding. As for learning about local trail networks, when the bike club members are back at school and the trails dry out in the spring, they will have true ownership in that section of trail. They designed, tested, built, and rode it. Come spring, some of them will be back, shovel in hand to improve the drainage, make sure the track is running smooth, and bringing friends to enjoy the great riding. That puts a huge smile on my face.
Rob sold his full suspension bike and bought a single speed hard tail. That is right, folks, he has no rear suspension and only one gear, which in reality translate into three gears – sit, stand, and walk. Suffering is just part of the single speed life. In this way, I wasn’t surprised at all when I couldn’t keep up with him all summer. In fact I never really could, but I couldn’t even keep him in sight anymore except on the occasional downhill. Having full suspension and a dropper post has its perks.
It was in this vein that I wasn’t surprised at all when he wanted to do a 24 hour cross country race. What did surprise me was that I was part of the grand plan. I don’t know about you, but biking at 2am wasn’t exactly on my short list. But we signed up a five person co-ed team and off we went to the desert, leaving the first snow on Teton Pass behind us.
Let me describe the course. It was a really fun course for one lap the day before the race. The uphill was mostly on gravel roads with a bit of really dusty singletrack. The downhill was quick, steep, exposed and technical. The rest of the course was rolling, pedally up and downhill with a bit of flow and a long section of really chunky rock slabs that was even jarring on a full suspension bike while trying to maintain speed. Like I said, enjoyable for the first lap.
During the first lap of the race the next morning the wind started up, for the uphill of course. Biking and racing a course are two very different animals, and I found myself out of sorts a bit. Normally, I would pedal on a downhill if I really wanted to, or felt like it was necessary in order to get lunch sooner, or if I was feeling bad about trailing Rob by such a long gap. But I felt obligated to pedal everything while I was racing. I don’t think I have ever pedaled harder on a 13 mile loop before in my life. After the first lap, we ran a rotation of the whole team, so I had four hours to rehydrate and eat a bit. You would think that we were all sitting out and drinking beers together, but the wind was insane. So everyone hunkered down in their tents and waited. By the second lap, the wind hadn’t let up and my legs decided that it was a really good time to cramp. On top of it all, it got dark halfway through. I had my light at the ready, but the night laps were in full swing.
The redeeming factor of the half-night lap was that since Rob went right before me, and it was his birthday the middle of next week, I made cupcakes, hid them, and we surprised him when he got back from his lap. Nothing like coming back from a bike lap to cake and cookie dough cupcakes with buttercream icing and bike decorations on top.
My third lap was at two in the morning, so just as I was entering my nice deep rem sleep cycle, it was time to get up, get into bike gear and get moving. I would be lying if I said that I truly raced that lap. It was pretty cool to be out there with just a few lights dispersed on the trail ahead of me, riding a track that I knew very well at that point. When I finally got back into my tent I fell into a great sleep.
A grand total of four hours later I was back up on my bike and praying for a flat tire, or a mechanical – anything so I wouldn’t need to keep riding. My legs felt like they were made of lead, and my lungs were tight from breathing hours and hours of dust. When I finally got to the top of the climb, I sent up a little prayer. With 52 miles in the saddle, no part of my body wanted anything to do with another lap. All in all, our team did well – third place for our division. After driving home with a pitstop to soak at a natural hotspring, I can honestly say that I had a good time. It was certainly an experience. I don’t know if it was an experience that I need to have again anytime too soon, but I wouldn’t be adamantly opposed. Enduro racing – that might be the next bike race adventure.
I returned to Dartmouth this September for three weeks while working in Jackson. As a recent ’15 graduate I was finished with school, but my chapter wasn’t quite complete. I returned to wrap up my involvement with the Dartmouth Outing Club and to facilitate the mountain biking orientation trips for “first years” as the Croo Chief.
I had many motives for doing so. I wanted the mountain bike club to have strong ties to first year trips to ensure that the club would continue long after I was a sketchy alum. I wanted the Croo members to be confident — in their biking ability, their mechanic ability, but most importantly in their ability to lead.
Beyond my motives to keep the mountain bike club thriving and getting more kids involved in an incredible lifetime sport, I had goals for the freshman. Along with our top priority of making sure no one got hurt, I wanted the students to feel confident entering their first term of Dartmouth. If they learned a little bit of mountain biking skills and felt accomplished, I hoped that that would translate into their first year at Dartmouth. I hoped that by having the Croo show genuine interest in what they had to say, that they would feel as though their opinion mattered, and that they could in fact make a difference on campus.
We were lucky enough to have the incredible backdrop of Oak Hill for trips. It is a beautiful place with bike and ski trails all surrounding a refreshing pond. We set up a great living space and shop and had a fire ring for smores with first year groups at night. Our daily schedule left us with a bit of free time and we were able to explore all the trails, cook great food together, and even take pond baths!
On our off day, my parents came up to visit and we biked The Kingdom Trails in Burke Vt. It was a blast, but the best part was seeing both the Croo and my parents eyes light up with excitement to go biking. That right there validated my three years as President of the Dartmouth Mountain Bike Club. Getting people outside and enjoying outdoor activities is my most satisfying experience.
If I get a few of the first years excited about getting out to Oak Hill, and if I get my Croo excited about both biking and teaching others how to bike, then my chapter at Dartmouth will be complete. This chapter of my undergraduate life has come to a close. Just like the first years, a new chapter is upon me in Jackson. I’m excited to get writing.
For graduation I bought a new mountain bike. I couldn’t find the right bike in my size with the right build, but the awesome guys at Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare let me swap parts to build a dream ride. The result is my new red rocket of a best friend. I think she’s pretty.
Looking back at my Dartmouth experience I set my path starting freshman year. I had many fortunate experiences through school; sometimes it felt as comfortable as sleeping on a bed of nails, but lucky.
Freshman year, I stumbled into an awesome group of friends. We ate dinner together almost every night. Believe me, there is nothing more comforting than having a semblance of a family routine in the midst of the orchestrated chaos that was freshman year. That stacked the deck for me. No matter what cards I pulled from there, with good friends I had the confidence to launch new endeavors.
Sophomore year I set some important events in motion. I moved off campus and became a property manager. I managed three houses on the same property for every calamity including: setting more mousetraps than I could count, bleaching out more mold than I care to think about, thawing pipes, hosting dinners and parties, and yes, unclogging toilets. I learned an equal amount from managing the property as I did from my classes.
This was the year I learned what it meant to live in a community that was as powerful as family with only the bonds of friendship and common interest. I started playing pond hockey and mountain biking with a determination that encompassed more than just wanting to be in shape. I was replacing the sense of purpose I lost from ending competitive ski racing.
I grew up training year round for one season – winter. I knew what to do in the off seasons – train. Without competitive skiing I didn’t know what to do with myself. Working out didn’t have the same fulfillment. Ending ski racing left a confusing void, and I wanted to fill it. I played pond hockey and I biked. The amazing trails around Hanover pleasantly surprised me. I decided more students ought to have the opportunity to enjoy the trails so I got involved with the mountain bike club. From there I started designing trails. In a typical Lorin move, I unilaterally decided to build a bike training area complete with a handling park and flow trail.
I had a ton of help with the design and building, but if I didn’t put the building materials or plan the build days, they didn’t happen. Over the next three years, up to the last few days of senior year, I spent a few days every term digging dirt, trying to make part of my vision a reality.
With my Grandma, family and friends up for graduation, I was able to show off some of these cool trails and training areas.