I recently explored a newly opened forest area on Whidbey Island that happens to be close to my house. After an easy 2 mile ride there on the mountain bike, I had high hopes that the trails would be single-track and awesome. They were, and it was!
Sometimes I do something that jump-starts my love of cycling all over again. 25 years ago, it was a ride on my first borrowed mountain bike up near Whistler, BC – felt like a total kid flying over railroad grade grapefruit size rocks, and nearly losing control. That led to a 10 year segment of regular rides in the local Seattle rooty, muddy mountain trails.
After a few months of putting all my miles in via commuting (a worthy endeavor if you live in a car-choked city like Seattle), I got out for my first mountain biking since Moab a few years back.
My pal John brought his new Jones Plus up – A bit about John’s bike – it’s a steel frame 27+ mid-fat bike with a very different geometry. I’ll put my notes on this below.
We headed up to Fort Ebey State Park and the Kettles trail system near Coupeville, WA. It’s an easy 25 miles north from the Clinton Ferry.
John had ridden this area 20 years ago, but I had never been there, so we found our way into the middle of the biking trails and started on what we wanted to be a large loop around the area. There are roughly 25 miles of trails, but a loop is about 5-miles around. The trails turned out to be nice and moderate. Soft forest singletrack with a few rooty spots here and there. We had a few steep climbs and descents to test our dusty skills and bikes.
There was a really nice stretch out of the gun battery that threaded along the edge of a bluff overlooking the Straight of Juan de Fuca. Beautiful! After this, we joined the Hokey-a-do-do section – probably the most fun we had on a nice descent down to the Kettles trail.
Bikes. I grabbed my 90’s Kona Hei Hei for its virgin voyage in the dirt. I really loved the light simplicity of the bike. It allowed me to climb some steep tech stuff that I wouldn’t otherwise make it up. The bike has a single front 32t chainring, and a 10-speed rear with a 34t big ring. I found plenty of torque on this trail. It was actually nice not worrying about a front derailleur. One place to shift.
John had his Jones. That bike was a revelation. One of the things I like about mountain biking on singletrack is the sensation of skiing through the woods in the off season. This bike actually accentuated that feeling as I was very upright in my riding position. I felt like I was standing up floating down the path. No feeling of diving down a steep descent. Pretty cool. The bars were wide, but I didn’t have any trouble clearing the few tight spots I encountered. It’s also a traction beast! He rode right over the roots and up the loose gravel without any trouble.
I was able to climb a bit better on my Kona, but I only attribute it to the weight. It required more technique in picking my path during one of the ascents which had loose gravel in the middle of the trail. I had to stay to the edges while climbing to avoid losing my grip.
I will definitely be getting out to this area more. Only saw a few trail runners the whole day. And this was on a sunny summer Saturday – prime time!