For those about to rock..

When people ask about mountain biking in my area, Vietnam is the key word that separates the serious riders from the wanna-bes. I say “yeah, I’ve been to Vietnam..” but I definitely stop short of saying anything like “I’ve been all over Vietnam” or even “I’ve done it enough to talk intelligently about the terrain.” Most of the time it’s more like, “Vietnam. Yes, it’s as tough as they say.”

That’s because Vietnam, partially in my hometown of Hopkinton, is one tough mofo in places, exactly why mountain bikers love it. And I have to admit I’ve just gotten soft riding those swoopy, smooth trails in Plymouth and Cape Cod. I’d been there one day a couple years ago when my Giant was new to me and I didn’t have much fun. It was all mud and mosquitoes and .. rocks. I wasn’t in a hurry to return but it was always in the back of my mind. I knew I’d eventually revisit that place.

Today I went back. I’ve got a few more years of experience and skills under my belt. I’ve got a different bike that handles those short, steep hills better. I consciously stayed away from the side of the property I’d been on before that left a gritty taste in my mouth, and I brought my Deep Woods Off.

bikers call it Vietnam, locals call it the College Rock area.. here's why.

bikers call it Vietnam, locals call it the College Rock area.. here’s why.

It was much like I remember it, but this time I was better equipped to handle the property’s lumps and bumps. It’s still tough: I’d be zipping through some curvy singletrack only to get dumped onto a rock garden without warning. Or riding up a washed-out jeep track only to hit something even more challenging, like vertical rock. There are lots of steep drops, roots, and have I mentioned rocks?

One of the challenges of mountain biking is that it requires second-by-second decision making, leaving little time to space out and think about other things. I’d say Vietnam requires millisecond decision-making in plenty of places as you navigate rock heads and notice — oh crap — you’ve got a big drop coming up and you can’t see the bottom. That’s what separates it from average riding.

an average passage between rocks that requires... riding on rocks

an average passage between rocks that requires… riding on rocks

this doesn't look like much in the photo but it's vertical rock

this doesn’t look like much in the photo but it’s vertical rock

once in a while there's something other than rock.. it could be a nice drop into a washout like this one

once in a while there’s something other than rock.. it could be a nice drop into a washout like this one

Despite the existence of a trail map, I wandered as far as possible in the 90 minutes I allotted for this visit and navigated by the setting sun. By entering from College Road I stayed on the drier side of the site’s 1000 acres. At times there was enough space between rocks to get up some speed … enough to tackle the next rock garden. One cool thing I noted was the opportunity for many, many more trails here. I’m not one to stop and look at a map but as I rode along I realized there’s plenty of space and terrain for more trails here. Maybe they’ll develop more when everyone gets bored with the current challenges ..

 

pass between these trees and you enter an epic extended rock garden

pass between these trees and you enter an epic extended rock garden

the mud hasn't gone away -- and the mosquitoes love it

the mud hasn’t gone away — and the mosquitoes love it

There were places I definitely walked — even climbed — but Vietnam didn’t beat me this time. On my way out I even found some amazing curvy, smooth singletrack that wound among ferns and through a young stand of trees, yet another side to this multifaceted challenge called Vietnam.

I’ll be back.

the actual College Rock

the actual College Rock

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One Response to “For those about to rock..”

  1. Quan Says:

    Looks fun!!

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