Chapter 7.2. – Asheville, I want to bring you back home

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We wake up. Eyes glued, abused livers, beaded heads. Then we open the curtains and there a few inches of snow on the ground. Hello November. It’s not so bad, we are at Burke and Neko’s house south of Asheville. In the city itself it fell several inches. We eat whatever we could find on the counter and walk out.

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We make shuttles to the top of the mountain and go down the new track. Steep, loose and loamy, yeah. In 3 minutes, we complete the lap, and that included the climb in the pickup. It’s like skiing, we are shredding in a foot of leaves, thorns and smooth soil. We carve the stock, it’s good and dangerous.

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We ate the dinner and went back working on the track. We raked to find the dirt so we can go faster; we dig and pushes the soil to make berms to also go faster; we put some dead trees in the trail and we filled them to make jumps, to go even faster. It will be fast, I’m saying . You know how is Neko? No? I talked about him in Chapter 7.1. Check it now. When he finished eighth in the downhill World Championships without any chain, imagine him with a chain now. But it’s not just Neko who knows how to ride … Phil Burke of Industry Nine is that good too; there are also Ben, a old downhill racer; Ross The Boss riding like there was no tomorrow and Evan from Cane Creek, which doesn’t leave his place (see this video, the second guy sitting in the office with long hair, white and green shirt… watch it to the end).

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And then there is Neko digging a hole in the middle of the trail, full width of the track. But I mean a hole, a real one. A big… fucking… hole … You can lie down in it, 2 or 3. He walks a few steps up, and he does the same thing. Then I naively asked him:

-Neko Why are you digging holes like that?
-The trail is too easy, I want to push into the holes to go faster.

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It was really clear in my head, but now everything has suddenly materialized. I’m good on a bike, but never, ever, I will live up to these athletes … This level is so high, impressive and totally…nuts? That’s nonsense. When he took his bike and he pushed into these holes to get more speed, I was amazed.

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Je finis la soirée dans un party à Asheville. Un DJ dans le salon, de l’ambiance partout, de la croustade de pomme sur le four.

I ended the evening at a party in Asheville. A DJ in the lounge and a good vibe everywhere, even apple crumble on the oven.

Sunday morning, nobody is in shape to ride, but I do. So I leave for Dupont, a park known for its flow. It’s nice, but cold, I dress in the parking lot and see a man ready to go, he locks the doors of his old 80s Ford. I go to see him, he’s super motivated, he waits for me two minutes and we start together.He’s In shape, without any pride, he lets me go on downhill and we climb together. We chat about life and philosophy a little bit. Like all Americans, he lived in several states during his life, from Florida to Ohio, he decided to settle here in North Carolina, to ensure a good job, a beautiful future retreat near trails. We talk about myself, my trip. Like everyone I talk to, he asked me the famous question:
-And Then?
-I don’t know.
-Does it scare you?
-I don’t know. No. This is intriguing. I think a lot, it’s meditative, and I don’t know where I’m going to be honest.
-Sincerely, I am 59 years old, and I still don’t know what to do with my life.

We laugh, adjust our suspensions, and go down a roller-coaster. When we came down, Parich looked at his watch, he told me cheerfully:
-We have time to do the other part of the network!

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Then the gentleman, after a 3 hours morning hike with his wife looking for rattlesnakes, guided me like a professional in his favorite trails. Still in Dupont, it was rolled slightly more technical trails on snowed slick rocks on one side, sunny on the other. The Big Rock trail and Burn Mountain are to remember. Parich, thank you for this beautiful moment and these beautiful trails.

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Chapter 7.1 – Asheville, I want to invite you for a coffee, a beer, a drinking binge

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I fall asleep on the road, I stop at an IHOP to eat. A 24 hours pancakes restaurant, in fact digestion of this stuff must also take 24 hours. I take the road again, but it is still hard to stay awake, Asheville, I see you tomorrow, not tonight, I’m sorry.

In the next morning, I drove downtown and I end up in a café on the West side, The Waking Life. Even If I really wants to fall in love with the barista, I sure do not restrain myself to do so for the coffee. 2$ an espresso, 1$ a regular filter coffee. Not too expensive and still the best coffees that I drink in my life. I start work on the blog, looks a bit for contacts and places to ride. I spend all day in that café. I had an appointment at 4:15 in Bent Creek to meet a guide.

The guide? Rick Ziobro, the cousin of the Maize Brothers. (them again!) With him and Eric, we crisscrosses the trails. Recycled double-track, but refined ones. Wide open, it flows and goes fast, you can lean on the berms, pump bumps, or jump them to go high and far away. We climb, we chat a bit. Rick is working for an hospital for veterans and he does some open-heart surgeries for people with heart problems, in average, he does 4 operations per day, 5 days a week. I lose the rhythm, I lose the pedals. What? There is an hospital only for veterans? Yeah, the public hospital is for the army, the rest, selfish humans who do not make sacrifice for their country, well, they pay… (these are not his words, this is my interpretation of the American system).

I meet with people from Industry 9 to Brew Pump, a brewery in a gaz station, where there is a food truck, named Little Bees, with incredible Pad Thai. I end up at Phil’s house, one of I9 wheel assemblers. I drink beer and talk about anything that is important, while he is working on some wheels in his kitchen. His couch is so comfortable that I fall asleep.

The next day I took it easy too. I change my chain, I have alredy done with the first one. I when to ride Kitsuma. A long climb and then descend at Mach-18 on a trail that follows a ridge that undulates from left to right, with natural supports, fields roots that are fun to jump from one to the other. It’s damn good.

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The descent never ends… until it end up on an asphalt road. But that road must go back to the very beginning, like a 5 miles ride back. Yerk. But the road is in a park and is closed to cars. And it’s beautiful with all the colors, I’m enchanted to be there, it is very picturesque.

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Route Kitsuma   Train Kitsuma

I go to Industry 9, where Colin and Ted make me a little tour of the company. It’s not complicated, except for bearings and springs, all the wheels are fully manufactured in house. Even the spokes! They are machined in the masses for an absolute rigidity. The blades and gears which make the engagement (kind of their trademark), everything is cut with wire EDM in HSS steel. Basically, the High Speed Steel is used for cutting and machining of the material. It’s like the superhero Steel, the most powerful, the diamond of the metals.

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I9 usinage   I9 pièces machinées
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Anodizing is done in the factory too. The black and red are working every day, pink, turquoise, purple, blue, orange, gold and other colors are on a schedule that changes every week. Four people build the wheels, full time, with an average of 5-6 pairs of wheels a day. Make a quick calculation; it is more than 5500 pairs of wheels sent all over the world per year.

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CNC machines working at their maximum are gently purring, the anodizing is bubbling. Looking at all the People who assemble small components, the people who manage and calculate, people who organize, people who assemble the wheels. They are almost 30 people, dreaming bikes and drinking beer at the end of the day. What? Ho! It’s Friday!

I9 Phil   I9 freehub I9 spokes   I9 Colin

We are heading to Burke’s house, who lives with Neko Mulally. They made a trail in their backyard. I was told that it’s steep as hell, loose and loamy. When we arrive, it was the last shuttle so I took some pictures and they put the bicycles in the shed and then we went to an Halloween party.

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There will be a race with lights to mark the path, wood build modules, stunts, jump over the fire, for short, it’s the perfect track. Some have lights others not, people have helmets, others not, people have speeds, others not. People jump the fire, others go through the gates like the Cyclocross style, people take « Vodka Shots » shortcuts, others go around, their throat already on fire by the circuit. The waves of competitors go and go, to the final, where Neko wins.

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And now it’s time for the show. A DJ’s and some rap battles, just like in the movies. Ross The Boss wins, people applaud and shout, it’s the climax of the evening. Following after is the music and beer pong. My goal was to spend the Halloween in Asheville. Kudos Pier-Luc, good decision!


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Chapter 6 – Zigzag

West Virginia

It seems like Davis, WV is the most technical place to ride in America. There are a lot of trails but they’re very hard to find and you’ll need a good pickup truck to shuttle you up there.

This is what I’m reading, sitting here taking it easy at the Webster Bookstore Café in state College, PA. It feels more like my high school library then a Café! Anyway Google is showing me that Davis, WV is only 3 hours away. I should be there around noon. So far driving there the scenery is beautiful but there’s a fire on the mountain behind a cemetery and it’s a bit sinister.

Davis is a very small town hidden between rivers, highways, mountains and State Forest. Feels like I’m back in the 1800. I can only count 10 buildings on the main street and some of them are in ruin, more like barely standing. I’m holding my pocket knife really tight, you know just in case Clint Eastwood will show up. But seriously it’s something….

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Some says that people from Davis are very active and in really good shape. Like as soon has the snow falls they are jumping on their cross country skies and in spring its bicycle time. Well, when you look around that’s probably what I’ll do too. Some says that the pizza at Sirianni’s Café is remarkable. I did buy one and it’s delicious, the crust taste like heaven. Just the opposite of what the waitress looks like. Then I stop at tourist office, the girl there is awesome and way to nice, trying to find me a place to ride for the day. Plantation trail seems to be a classic but it’s kind of hard and I’m alone without much indication. So I’m looking at the MTB Project APP (thanks Eric for the tip, it’s a very precious tool), and I found another trail right next door: The CVI trails. 15 miles, mildly technical.

So I started to ride around 14:30, taking it easy but it doesn’t take long before I’m disillusioned by the scenery. Not only is the downtown shook me a bit with is 4 buildings main street, but even the landscape here is unreal. It looks desolated with tiny bushes, scattered rock and very small spruce trees. It’s obvious why they’ve name the trail Moon Rock.

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I’ve heard that there is also a lot of deep mud pit were you can lose your wheel in, well it is true. No matter which wheel size you are riding, you’ll end up deep in it. I can already hear some annoying people saying  » Yeah but with a Fat Bike bla, bla, bla… » Well you and your f….k fat bike would end up at the same place and probably throwing it away 2 or 3 times between mud holes, so shut up and keep reading.

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Right now I’m soaking wet and both my bike and I are submerge in mud. Like it isn’t hard enough, I come face to face with this huge, steep, jagged pile of rock. The climb is atrocious and after a lot of swearing I finally meet the top. I cannot help myself from turning around and shredding that weird pile of rock down. So I’m climbing back up and praying to see the end of the trail. After a bunch of climbs, downhill’s, rocks, roots and bridges, well pretty much every things that could kick your butt, I finally see the end. With my bib already soak in mud after 10 feet of riding; it was an atrocious 15 miles but really nice at the same time.

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I’m on my way to Canaan State Park but everything is closed, so I kept on driving zigzagging around deer’s. Just thinking of it, »What the hell hunters are doing in the woods? They should be on the road where all the deers are! » Anyway, I keep on driving north toward Morgantown, a very nice college place I’ve been told, but it’s raining and it’s dead. So, I decide to take a beer at the Apothecary Bar and make new friends for the evening. So I meet this guy who is a photograph for some wannabe surfers from New-Zealand and the waitress who rides mountain bike and tell me that I should go to Fayetteville. After the hard day at Davis, Fayetteville sound pretty sweet to my ears.

A few miles in a trail that leaves you with an awesome feeling of going up without noticing it, it’s time for a fast downhill. Nothing technical just pure very fast way down. A bit after I’m back in my car driving to Virginia. I decided to stop at Bland, VA. It’s 5:30pm and there is still 1:30 hrs.’ left of sunlight. So I look at my map and improvised a road bike ride. A little 25 miles loop will fit right in.

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Road biking is not really my style but the scenery is so beautiful that it’s worth it. And then, there’s that B….tch in her pickup screaming at me. « Fu…ing cyclist….. fu…ing road…. We pay plates… » I think that is one of the major reasons that I’m not to thrill about road cycling. Too much contact with human stupidity.

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And finally the loop wasn’t 25 miles but more like 47 miles long. So because of my poor estimate, I had to finish really late, climbing and taking down very long hill in a pitch black night. Wow, that was an other great plan Pier-Luc. Yeah, right! A few cars pass, but not that much. In the 11 churches that I cross, masses were displayed from 18:30 to 19:30. Thank you Jesus, you probably saved my life, I owe you a beer, I will, in Revelstoke.