A ride at Tsali

As I get out of my truck and start to put on my gear, I feel excited. I love to ride my mountain bike, and Tsali is a fantastic place to ride. A grin from ear to ear, a quickening of my pulse, and the early stages of an adrenalin rush fill me. I grab my helmet, hydration pack, gloves, and pull my trusty steed out of the bed of the truck and finish my preparations. The weather today is perfect, which is to say that it isn’t raining.

I jump on my bike and head out on Left Loop, my favorite of the four. Within moments I am on the trail snaking along the terrain. The rush of the breeze as I gain speed fills my ears. Peace overcomes me as I ride. Whatever is troubling me is whisked off my shoulders as I fly along. I forge a quick bond between the bike and the trail; the contact patch of my tire on the earth serving to link my soul with nature. I come over a little rise in the trail and there is the lake, a beautiful but abrupt change in the scenery where water meets dirt. Left Loop traces the water’s edge for quite a long time, never far from view for the first four miles.

Tsali recreation area is a peninsula of land owned by the US Forest Service located along Highway 28 on the border of Graham and Swain Counties. The area juts out into Lake Fontana and as you look north everything you see across the lake is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tsali (SA lee), the T is silent in the Cherokee tongue, takes its name from a great Cherokee Indian chief who willingly sacrificed his life to spare the lives of many of his people during the 1830s in the great Cherokee roundup that preceded the Trail of Tears march.

As I round a bend, Left Loop offers the first of a handful of creek crossings, none of which are more than an inch or two deep. A brisk splash on the legs can be invigorating. The trail sports roots and ruts and rocks, but none so much as to ruin the ride; just little reminders to choose your line wisely and offer a bit of a challenge. It’s beautiful out here. On the edge of the trail something rustles in the leaves. A squirrel? A grouse? A fox? A bear? Quickly, I speed by and guess that it must be a squirrel, but it could have been anything.

There are four trails at Tsali, which encompass 42 miles of riding bliss. All four trails are intermediate in difficulty. Riders should have bicycle handling skills and a decent level of fitness. The trails have a healthy dose of uphill and downhill sections, nothing too steep, but having a good skill base will help make the day more enjoyable. Right Loop, Left Loop, Mouse Branch, and Thompson Loop are the four trails and they are all fun, flowing single track trails, wide enough for only one rider. The trails accommodate bicycling traffic and horse traffic on different days. Please review the signs posted at the Tsali trailhead so you know which days to ride which trails. All four trails have suggested routes of travel. Please ride the trails in the correct directions and on the correct days. A head on collision with a horse or another rider is no fun.
Around the next bend is a bit of climb. Not short nor steep, but a nice, steady climb that puts the burn to the legs. I’m out of the saddle to get a bit more leverage, watching the lake disappear from view as I climb inland. The trees change here; they’re much taller and the underbrush is thin because of the thick canopy. In winter you can see a long way, but in summer the green glow of leaves is pervasive. As I climb, I slow a bit just taking a moment to look at the drainage of the creek, the result of an ice age long ago that cleaved these mountains. The Appalachians were once the tallest mountain range in the world; time has worn them down to a more manageable size for a bike.

At the top of this pull, I stop to catch my breath. Another amazing view. Trees in every direction. Just a well worn path on the ground, a golden hue to the soil as it guides me along. Since every uphill leads to a downhill, this is where the fun begins. Bombing down the path, swerving in and out of the trees, the scenery takes on a very different visage. My vision becomes tunnel-like, more of a blur as I pick up speed. I allow the bike’s suspension to do its job; I just bend my knees and elbows and allow the bike some freedom, enjoying the rush I have rightly earned by pedaling up that hill. I remember to slide my weight backward to get my weight over the back tire to help with braking. At the bottom, there is a little bridge to cross. A quick right turn and it’s back out of the saddle again, climbing up to another ridge line. The forest opens a little more here, and a deer jumps off the trail and freezes, trying to figure out what the heck I am. The tail goes up, a white mast as she bounds off to safety.

The trails intersect here. Do I go right or left? Just what did Robert Frost say? Had he been here? Left or right? How much more do my legs have? Aw heck, left it is.

Trail Information
Trails are open year-round.

Mouse Branch: Total Distance 7.2 miles. Direction: Clockwise Bike Use: Tues, Thur, Sat

Thompson Loop: Distance 7.4 miles. Direction: Counter clockwise Bike Use: Tues, Thur, Sat

Right Loop: Distance 11.2 miles. Direction: Counter clockwise Bike Use: Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun

Left Loop: Distance 11.9 miles. Direction: Clockwise Bike Use: Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun

Gotta Get Myself Some New Sunglasses

Forget what ZZ Top said in their song “Cheap Sunglasses” back in the day. A pair of riding glasses is essential to the experience for almost any ride, at almost any time. I have two, three, no, four, maybe five pairs now. Got them for everything. Love sunglasses. Let’s examine what I have, and why.

When Diane and I found the Spokiz (spokiz.com)brand, we were quite intrigued by the prospect of sunglasses that don’t adhere to your head. This sweet setup amounts to weed-wacker nylon cables that are bound together and wrap around your head to secure the glasses on and not hit those little bony protrusions behind your ears. They do not have interchangeable lenses, at least not yet. So, for your money, you get glasses with one color lenses, either clear, ultra bright yellow, black, or amber. I used the black lenses first, since I don’t want people to see my eyes when I ride. They were wonderful for full daylight riding and just generally hanging out. However, they were not at all practical for low light riding, like afternoons or evenings at Tsali. So, I now have the amber lenses, and they seem to do a better job of transmitting light, so they are brighter for low light conditions, yet still dark enough for bright daylight.

I love the cable – not ear piece – design. Perfect for dropping them off your eyes and around your neck when riding or going inside and out. I always used to push my glasses up on my head or hat and then would take off the hat, and presto, the glasses were on the floor, or worse! With this cool invention of wrap technology, we have eliminated the sunglass hat toss. One small drawback. When leaving your favorite coffee shop, you need both hands to tighten the straps around your head. So, you have to have a place to put down the cup of coffee, or whatever you are holding.

Another awesome part of these glasses, especially for Diane and I, are that the amber and black lenses are polarized! Yes, so now your favorite biking glasses also let you see the trout in the water! This is great. So, one pair of glasses for everything.

Or so I thought.

The other day, we got in a pair of Tifosi glasses (www.tifosioptics.com)with the new Backcountry Orange lenses. They look awesome right out of the box. Back to pushing the glasses up on the hat when you aren’t wearing them, but still they look cool. And I need all the help I can get. So, off to Tsali to ride with these new lenses and to see the world through orange tinted glasses. Whoa. The orange color brightens the darks and increases contrast and dims the brights. Seems like a bunch of stuff for one pair of glasses. But, they do. And, they are photochromatic. Which is a big word and not in the word processor’s dictionary. They change the amount of light they let through by changing the darkness of the lens. You knew that already. But these things really worked for Tsali and the semi-dark conditions that the trail brings along. Going from open spaces and bright light to darker, dimmer wooded sections really posed no problems. And, unlike some colored lenses, my head didn’t hurt from the color distortion. I really don’t dig yellow lenses for that reason. Not everyone has this issue, but I don’t like the pallor of yellow lenses.

But, there is no wearing these when riding at night. And, they aren’t polarized, so no seeing the fish.

So, I have another pair of Tifosi’s for riding at night. They have clear lenses, so they don’t do anything but protect my precious vision from unruly sticks and brush. Since I wear contact lenses, I need to wear glasses when I ride so my lenses don’t dry out, as well. Something with a full-ish coverage, so I don’t take a stick to the corner of my eyeball. I hate when that happens.

And, let’s not forget the very cool (too me) pair of Oakley’s I have that are the older, huge, bug looking riding glasses with vents top and bottom. The frame is red, the lenses are that cool changing prismatic red color. No seeing my eyes with these guys on. They are really dark. I look just like Lance when I wear these, Lance circa 2001, about 100 pounds heavier. But, still.

And, let’s not forget my old fishing glasses, my Costa Del Mar’s. Oh my. I love those glasses, even though I haven’t put them on in about a year and a half. And after that, I bet I can root around and find a few more pairs. Oh yeah, the Night Tifosi’s, which have photochromatic lenses that are clear-ish, but still block the UV rays. But, can’t wear them at night. Still too dark.

Cheap sunglasses? No way. Why? Cause I love to be able to see. Cheap sunglasses almost always distort your vision in some way. I like to be able to see what I am looking at. And, I don’t lose stuff. Not much stuff, anyway. I almost never lose sunglasses, so I don’t feel that I am throwing away money on getting good ones. I think of them as an investment. Plus, all these guys that I talk about offer some warranty on lenses or offer replacements for a low price.

These are my ramblings on sunglasses.

2011 bikes on the way

Check out the newest bikes from Kona, Marin, and Eastern on the Bike Shop page of our website. These are the bikes that we will be stocking for the new season. Some will be available before Christmas, some not until afterwards. We have been listening to our faithful customer base and find one thing that is clear: More entry level, price conscious bikes, and more big dawg full suspension and 29er offerings. With that, we have ordered bikes to have on the floor. We will try to provide most of the sizes of each type of bike, so you can find the one that fits you best, and take it home with you while you are at the shop.

We also heard the folks who are pining for road bikes. We will have a fleet of Marin Argentas available for rentals. We will bring these in during the Spring months, so we can offer you a thrilling road ride right out of our shop along the Road to No Where. We are also looking to bring aboard a new manufacturer so we can hit a nice niche market with road bikes. We won’t tip our hand before we sign the paperwork, but look for a new marquee for BCB.

We’d like to carry other cool bikes, too. We tried with the Kona Ute, some nice comfort and cruiser bikes, and a range of $750 to $1500 bikes. But, we see that these things don’t sell well here. So, we are going to thin our broad offering and stick with the meat and potatoes approach and have great Mountain Bikes, Road Bikes, and the Comfort Bikes that work best. We can still special order any bike in any line from our suppliers, but will change what we have in the store.

We still have a few 2009 and 2010 bikes here at the shop, and are willing to make some deals to move them out. We will also bring in new helmet lines, increase our Fox and Shebeest riding apparel, and maybe add some new skateboards.

We believe that you, our loyal fans and customers will continue to show and tell us what you want, and we will strive to provide it with the same hand working, friendly, fun atmosphere we have shown you for the last 16 months. (yeah, today is 16 months!)

Gotta Get a New Skateboard! Maybe a longboard!

Bryson City Bicycles is also THE ONLY SKATEBOARD SHOP THIS SIDE OF ASHEVILLE!! We carry all the latest and greatest boards from Chocolate, Girl, Foundation, Ghost Legion, ATM, Krooked, Enjoi, and many more. We have trucks from Tensor, Silver, Speed Demons, Thunder and others. We proudly offer Reds bearings to go into Spitfire, Hubba, or Speed Demon wheels. With Pimp Grip tape in black and many colors, you can custom create your perfect board. We build your board right in front of you at no cost when you buy the components here. Need Speed? Come see our line of LONGBOARDS and pads, helmets, and gloves for your downhill fix. And for you new skaters, we have complete boards starting at just $85! At Bryson City Bicycles, you no longer have to shop at CCS, we build’em cheaper and better!!!

Scott Baste reviews his new purchase, the Marin Nail Trail 29er

Scott Baste is a local rider from Franklin, NC. He and I have ridden a couple of times, and he was in the market for a new 29er geared bike. He researched the Marin Nail Trail along with a few others, like the Gary Fisher, and decided to buy from us. Here is his review:

well i got to take the nail tail 29er out for it’s first trail ride today. now i’m not a writer or professional bike reviewer but i have owned 15 or so mountain bikes going all the way back to 1982 fully rigid models. after having a few dual suspension bikes, i decided to go back to hard tail for the light weight and more responsive feel.

today we took the bikes out for a good shake down run. the ride started with a steep grunt uphill and at first i was getting used to the bike and it felt a little light in the front end. since it was a wall from the start i didn’t worry too much. the bike did feel a bit twitchy at first. that i think is due to the much steeper head angle than my other 29er (a single speed from a different company one that rhymes with wisher). after cresting the first hill, we started on a rough ridge ride with lots of ups and downs as well as a lot of eroded areas as this is not a true trail but some dirt roads that 4 wheelers use. the bike was starting to feel better at that point. it likes to go fast. down hills were very good too. it feels like it tracks really well and despite anything the trail served up, the bike felt like part of me. then we got to the single track. this is a trail that i have been riding since the early 80’s with all types of configurations. the set up on the bike was just right. i was able to climb the big logs and drop the big drops. in the air the bike handled predictably. not too many switchbacks on the trail we were riding today but the 2 or 3 we encountered were fine with the bike very capable of handling the sharp turns. as a tall rider, my bikes always tend to have long wheelbases and that contributes to tougher time making switchbacks. it seemed like i was able to ride a tighter line than usual on these tight places. after the first 3 hours, i had the bike dialed in and it didn’t feel twitchy any more. i dialed down the fork one notch and that seemed to help the front end stay where i wanted it better. the climbing got better too. since i have been riding single speed so much, i am used to standing and pedaling which worked fine but it took a couple of big climbs to reaquaint myself with seated pedaling. by the end of the ride it was working great.

the only nit i had with the bike which isn’t the fault of anyone was that the stock tires are not what i would have chosen and i will be replacing them soon. where i ride we tend to have a lot of leaf matter on the trails which never seems to clear off. mud is usually not a problem but i think that is what the tires i have would be great for (mud and maybe hard pack). personally, i prefer a more agressive lug pattern like on the bontrager jones tires.

other than that the bike worked great. no bolts came loose and no on trail adjustments needed. something i can’t say for the last few bikes i have bought from other dealers.

once again i would like to thank BCB for the great service and support you have shown thus far. feel free to share this review if you think that it will be helpful to anyone.

Sweetheart of a deal!

Time for tuneups! Bring in your sweetie (the bike) and have it tuned and ready for flight. We’re offering 15% off any prices for tuneups or adding new accessories bought at the store. New grips? Cables and housing? It your bottom bracket creaking? Time for all that stuff to be new and fresh for the upcoming riding season! Offer valid in February when you mention this ad.

Wouldn’t you love to buy a rental bike?

Kona 120Primo

Ah, now that the season is over, we have our 26 inch wheels bikes available for sale. We have the Marin Mount Vision XM8 full suspension bikes, the Kona Calderas, Lisa HTs, and Marin Nail Trail hard tails available at a wicked huge savings.

Maybe you want a 29er? Heard the buzz, want to buy one at a HUGE savings? Come see the Kona Kahunas, Kona Big Kahunas, and the Marin Nail Trail 29ers! Big wheels RULE.

You know these are top dollar bikes with the best component. These bikes might have some paint damage, but they are 100% perfect mechanically and still have the top flight parts on them. If it broke, we replaced it with the same level of components or even better! Come get them while they are hot! What a cool deal…

The right way to start 2010

Come join the Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew, the members of the SORBA Board of Directors and the IMBA Regional Advisory Council for a weekend of learning, riding, sharing, and fun at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.
The weekend offers participants the opportunity to learn about maintaining trail in the classroom and on the Tsali Trail. Share your experiences in mountain bike advocacy and learn about exciting mountain bike projects in the Southeast. Then ride and enjoy the spectacular trails of western North Carolina.

Registration fees include cover admission to IMBA Trail Care Crew events, lunch and dinner on Saturday, group rides, on-site transportation, and the Saturday night social.

For further information about the event schedule, contact Tom Sauret at tom@sorba.org

Click here to register at the IMBA site.

Christmas came and went, here is 2010!

We can’t say thank you enough for helping make Bryson City Bicycles a success in its first year. If this year- in a bad economy, in a down year, with all the rain- can be this good, let’s hurry up and get out of the damp recession so we can see what a good year looks like!

Hasn’t been above 32 degrees for 5 days now. While we are getting used to the cold, I’m ready for spring. People have been renting bikes and going out on the trails. I am still busy getting rid of this chest cold, but I’ll be out riding in a few days. Training for the Icycle race at Fontana Dam Village.

I’m sure that by now everyone has heard about my encounter with the bear that tumbled down the hill and landed on the trail near me, right? Awesome encounter.

Looking forward to the creation of the Tsali Area Mountain Biking Association. Mark it on your calender, the weekend of March 19th through the 21st. That weekend we’ll have the IMBA trail crew here, and the rest of the fun festivities that got postponed last year. More to come on this really great way to protect and improve Tsali trails.

Getting ready to order the new rental bikes for the fleet. 29ers, here we come!