Double Oak / EBSCO trails – annotated maps

Posted in ride reports with tags , , , , , , on August 11, 2014 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

I’ve been on somewhat of a kick lately of trying to catalog my riding routes on top of Double Oak Mountain, primarily within property owned by EBSCO.  As I’ve mentioned before on this site, EBSCO requires a permit to ride their trails and I am one of a few lucky people to have such a permit.  So….don’t say I didn’t warn you if you get caught up there without one.  Also, it should be mentioned that their trails are very secluded and could be difficult to find help should any accidents arise.

With that said, below are some annotated maps I took from Google Earth.  I imported around 7 or 8 rides from 2014 into one kmz file and then brought them into Google Earth to see how they stacked up with each other.  There are a few places where I briefly lost GPS signal, which caused some errant straight lines, but otherwise they are pretty accurate.

A brief rundown of the trail options is as follows: from Highway 41 I typically access the trails via Double Oak Way, which is a paved road going up to a cell tower on top of the mountain.  The entire road makes a Cat 3 climb, though the bottom portion can be ridden by itself for a Cat 4 climb.  From Double Oak Way, there are doubletrack trails that can be taken from 5 different points, though really only 4 of them are navigable.  Furthermore, most of these trails have multiple splits that lead to different areas.  It is possible to link up to Forest Parks, Jones Valley Urban Farm, Dunnavant Valley Greenway Trail, Stonegate Farms, Hw4 43, and even the top of Hwy 25 without ever leaving the doubletrack.  Also, there are multiple trails on the opposite site of Hwy 43 that are controlled by EBSCO, many of which I still haven’t had the chance to fully explore.  The maps below show just a portion of those trails.

google earth - forest parks and old 280 and soccer blast

google earth - gate 4 to gate 7

google earth - jones valley farm and forest parks soccer

google earth - mt laurel and double oak way

google earth - other side of 43

google earth - stonegate farms and smyer lake

Google Earth overview map with no grid

Google Earth overview map

strava heat map Feb 2014 to July 2014

Saturday 08-02-14 ride report – more double oak exploring

Posted in ride reports with tags , , , , , , on August 6, 2014 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

This past Saturday morning I set out with Brian P to do some exploring on the southeast side of Hwy 43 within the EBSCO property limits.  I have ridden up there several times in the past, but still had a few trails I had yet to try.  After leaving Mt Laurel and riding up Double Oak Way, we dropped from the top of the mountain down to Hwy 43 via EBSCO gate #4.  Then it was just a very short ride to the southwest and across the road into more property via gate #3.

The great thing about accessing the land via gate #3 is that you can either take the trail/road straight until you reach the top of the ridge, or hop onto any number of it’s little off-shoot trails (probably at least 5, and some of those likely also multiply).  I’ve gone to the top a couple of times, where the trail dead-ends and you are forced to go right (towards hwy 280) or left (towards hwy 25), and have only gone to the right a short distance.  I told Brian that I would like to go right until it eventually connects up to some other road near 280.

Upon hitting the top, we first decided to go left a short distance just to see what the trail was like.  We only went maybe a half mile or so before the trail began to nosedive downhill.  Rather than being forced to then climb back up (or hike up….it was that steep), we just decided we had seen enough and would return another day to fully explore that route.  But we passed at least 2 other trail off-shoots in the short distance we rode, which tells me there is some good exploring to do up there when I have more time.

After turning around we stayed along the ridgeline going towards hwy 280, eventually surpassing a point where I had never been before.  The trail was great up here – just smooth doubletrack with little rolling hills.  We naturally assumed that this trail would eventually lead us back to some form of civilization.  We eventually reached the end of the doubletrack and there was a little needle-head shaped turnaround point, but the trail then became grassy singletrack leading deeper into the woods.

Staying on the singletrack, we took a lot of spider shots to the face as we were in prime spider web country.  None seemed too large though, so we kept on trekking.  After a while the singletrack just sort of stopped.  We couldn’t tell if it had simply gotten grown over, or had actually reached its terminus point.  Not wanting to believe it had ended, and still holding out hope we could find our way to 280, we started basically just bushwhacking and riding through the woods.  We pulled up our position on our phones’ satellite maps and could see that we were right above the Forest Lakes neighborhood.  So we kept going, until it just made no more sense to continue any further as we had officially gone about as far as possible with the forest getting denser and denser.  We reluctantly would backtrack all the way back to the main doubletrack trail….a lot of wasted time.

Once back on the doubletrack, we found a trail off-shoot that went downhill in the direction of Forest Lakes.  We figured “no problem”, it will bring us down to Forest Lakes where we can have an opportunity to get onto some pavement.  Having never been inside of Forest Lakes, I was sorely disappointed to find that it was a continuous wall of houses backing up to the mountain, all with fences in their backyard that prevented any sort of passage opportunity for us.  We ended up exposed on the hillside trying to scout for locations to cut through.  After lots of time and some more guidance by our phone maps, we were able to locate on the satellite imagery a house at a cul de sac that appeared to have no fence in the backyard.  We hacked our way through some really dense pine forest to eventually find that house, along with a ton of neighboring dogs.  After we decided the opportunity was as clear as it was ever going to get, we made a run for it through someone’s backyard, sideyard, and eventually driveway to haul butt onto some pavement.  All told, we probably spent almost an hour that morning just getting lost and/or hacking our way through the woods.

By now we had been riding for around 2 hours but had barely gone 13 miles.  A quick steep climb up through the backside of the bottom of Forest Parks on the opposite side of Hwy 43 and we were back on top of our original Double Oak ridge.  We capped off the ride with a fun downhill into the Jones Valley Urban Farm property and then onto Hwy 41 where we could finally get some easy spinning done on the way home.

I told Brian as we pulled into Mt Laurel that I didn’t know if I should say this was a good ride or an awful ride.  He responded that at least it was a fun ride.  I think I can agree with that.

No pics today, but the strava data can be found here.  Basically just 19 miles but with well over 2600 feet of climbing.  I still plan to do a post soon with some detailed ride maps for the area, so I will be sure to note some of the sections of this ride on those maps.

double oak property

Posted in ride reports with tags , , on July 30, 2014 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

I’m trying to sort through a bunch of my ride data to build a comprehensive map of the trails along Double Oak Mountain, most of which are on EBSCO property.  Until I can finish going through everything, the strava heat map with notes added below is a good start for anyone interested in seeing what’s up there.

strava heat map Feb 2014 to July 2014

Ride Report – Russell Lands at Lake Martin trails

Posted in ride reports with tags , , , , on June 27, 2014 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

About a year ago I had my mountain bike with me while in Alex City for a meeting and decided to hit the trail system owned by Russell Lands…..ride report from that day can be found here.  A few days ago I was on my way back from some meetings in Montgomery and just so happened to have my bike with me again (I had planned to ride Swayback in Wetumpka on my way home) so I made a beeline for Alex City again so that I could see how the trails were shaping up.

Like my first trip to this trail system, I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun they could be.  I was also surprised by how much elevation gain there is considering the entire system is just a stone’s throw from Lake Martin.  There are just a number of punchy little climbs that add up over the course of a ride.  All told, I did around 1300 feet of climbing during the course of a 16-mile ride, which is not that far off of what I would climb on a typical 16-mile ride at Oak Mountain State Park.

I started at the Willow Point Cutoff Road trailhead, first getting on the E.W. Rail trail heading back towards Willow Point.  Aside from a fallen oak tree blocking the trail early on, this was a really fun doubletrack trail.  I eventually made my way back to the trailhead parking lot, where I would get on the Big Way trail and take it to its terminus point.  It was really hot and humid and I was needing to head home sooner rather than later, so I elected to ride pavement along Hwy 63 from Russell Crossroads back to the trailhead.  Probably not the best move considering the crazy amount of 3pm traffic on that highway, forcing me to ride in the knee-high grass on multiple occasions, not to mention the headwinds out in the open areas.  Nonetheless it was a fun little ride, and it was a nice change of scenery from my normal riding routine.

Random snap shots below.

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Stumpjumper HT 29er mid-term review

Posted in gear review with tags , , , on June 27, 2014 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

A while back I did an “initial impressions” type of review for what was at the time my new 2014 Specialized Stumpjumper Comp Carbon hardtail 29er.  I now have put around 900 miles on the bike, including racing at Southern Cross and Skyway Epic, and can offer up some additional thoughts regarding the bike.

FRAME – First off, as to be expected, the carbon frame is stiff yet comfortable.  The bottom bracket area is massive, giving it stiffness where it counts (at the cranks).  The downtube in general is fairly massive as well, but the other tubes are scaled back a bit.  I seriously feel much more comfortable on this bike than any other mountain bike I have put miles on, including my steel Vassago Bandersnatch.

WHEELS/TIRES – The bike came with Specialized “Roval” rims laced to Specialized hubs and DT Swiss spokes.  The tires are Specialized “Fast Trak”, with the rear tire being the Control version for extra durability.  I was skeptical about the tires at first because of a previous bad experience with Fast Traks, but I’ve got to admit I have really liked them.  With close to 900 miles on them, much of it being on pavement, it’s time for me to get new tires and I will strongly consider replacing them with the exact same tires.  The wheels are super stiff and ride much better than my last Stan’s Arch wheels.  The front thru-axle undoubtedly has something to do with that.

COCKPIT – Standard Specialized componetry here, though after going over the bars back in November I have since replaced the stem with a longer version (110mm in lieu of 100mm).  It’s got a 700mm wide Specialized alloy bar, Specialized grips, Specialized alloy seatpost, Specialized “Phenom Comp” saddle, and the Specialized stem.  As mentioned above, everything is plenty comfy, especially the saddle which has been a favorite of mine for years.  If I ever get the itch to upgrade anything, which is really not necessary, I might opt for a carbon bar and carbon seatpost.

DRIVETRAIN – Good, sturdy components here.  Highlights include a Shimano XT rear derailleur, SLX shifters, and SRAM cranks.  With routine care and regular lubing after muddy rides, the bike shifts great and the cranks feel nice and stiff.  The gearing is set up with an 11-36 cassette in the back and 38/24 chainrings up front, which provide as much gear range as I’ll ever need.

BRAKES – I was skeptical about the brakes at first, which are Formula C1 with 180mm and 160mm rotors, because I really wanted Shimano brakes instead.  In the past I’ve had trouble with brakes from Magura, Formula, and Avid, and just had my heart set on Shimano.  But so far I have been pleasantly surprised.  I had one minor issue with brake line pressure, but it turned out to be a quick warranty fix by performing a bleed to remove some tainted fluid in the hose from sitting at the manufacturer’s warehouse for too long.  But, I still plan to reserve final judgement until I’ve put a couple thousand miles on this bike.

FORK – The fork is a Rock Shox Reba SL.  So far so good, as it performs like I have come to expect most mid-level forks from Rock Shox to perform.  I’m sure there will come a day when I need to rebuild it to keep it smooth, but for now I am enjoying it.  The fork comes with a lockout dial on the top of the fork leg, rather than a remote lockout, but that’s fine with me as it keeps the cockpit clean.

RIDE EXPERIENCE – For a hardtail, this is a very comfy ride.  Tubeless tires combined with the carbon frame makes it about as good as it can get for a hardtail bike.  I’ve done several long endurance races on it and never felt like comfort was an issue.  It is also very fast on the straights due to its relatively low weight and stiff frame, which I really appreciate.

Overall, this has been a great bike for me and for once I am completely content to not feel like I need to tinker with my bike or constantly upgrade its parts….something that has plagued me with my previous bikes.

Some random pics below….

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my HERO

Posted in gear review with tags , , , , , on June 9, 2014 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

A really great client of mine, Merrill Stewart from Stewart Perry Construction, recently gifted me with an awesome bike to cruise around the neighborhood and take on day trips to places like Railroad Park when I take my kids.  I have written a backstory to how I came to receive the bike, as well as the meaning behind HERO and what it is that they aim to accomplish, at my office blog for CMH Architects (found here).  This post is more about doing an initial gear review and introducing you to a really cool company from right here in Alabama.

The bike, which I have named #1 Pencil (because it doesn’t need to be demoted to the more commonly used #2 Pencil) and in looking at the pics below I think you will see why.  As many of my friends and blog readers know, I name all of my bikes (the Stumptress, Great White Hope, Sexy Lady, Snatch, Yellow Submarine, to name a few recent bikes of mine).

This particular bike is a sweet cruiser for going around the neighborhood with the kids, riding to the community pool, or even rolling to the local grocery store for some light shopping.  I plan to eventually add a rear rack so that I can strap a cooler to it for when I go to friends’ houses for a few beers while watching a game.  The front triangle is made from hex-shaped bamboo tubes with internal carbon fiber lining.  That’s right, bamboo and carbon fiber….good stuff.  It makes for an incredibly smooth and comfortable ride.  Just ask my friends who have ridden it and loved it.

The gearing is straight-up singlespeed, which is perfect for how I use it.  You can opt to buy it with an internal geared hub, but that’s not a change I plan to make.  The rims are 700c Weinmann DP18, and the tires are Kenda.  Even better, the bike is built with a coaster brake, so I don’t even have to fuss with brake levers.  Plus, the coaster brake makes me feel like a kid again on one of my early childhood bikes.  Pedals are platform, and the saddle is a retro-looking Origin 8.  The handlebar is a Porteur bar with cotton grips that have twine wrapping….makes it very comfy when holding on.

With the bamboo frame, skinny rims/tires, and minimal setup, the bike is fairly light.  I haven’t weighed it yet, but regardless of whatever the actual weight is, it just feels light.  Simplicity + handmade + locally sourced bamboo + old school looks = a bike that should be a lot of fun for me for years, as well as something that will provide some real-life usefulness.

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Dixie GA ride

Posted in ride reports with tags , , , , , on June 3, 2014 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

My in-laws recently completed an addition to their farmhouse in Dixie GA so I went down there for a couple of nights this past weekend.  Since I basically had taken the week off from riding, I brought along my cyclocross bike so that I could sneak out for an early morning ride on Saturday.  The knobby tires came in handy on the clay dirt road that the farm is on, along with the poor pavement on the nearby roads.  But what can I say, I was in Brooks County GA and didn’t expect great pavement conditions anyway.  But as evidenced by the pics below, the scenery was great.

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