The day began at the south trailhead, water bottles full, E-gel and phone packed. The main loop is 17 miles and there have been add-ons; my guess was 21 miles on the day. How long could that take? I ride 18 at Wilkesboro in around 2:15, so it was going to be a smooth, fast morning spin.
Delete comment above. This riding area is wonderful and well prepped but there are an abundance of rocks and roots. Some sections are quite rideable while other sections were dismount and walk - see image at left.
Stopped to talk with one older guy on a truly retro bike and mentioned I was going the entire loop. He gave me a cautious stare and pointed up to a treeline. "That's where the red trail goes," he stated. "You can try it but there's always a way to bail out onto the road and ride back if you can't make it."
The ride was a bit long, but not that difficult when you've been training in the NC mountains. There are times I'd like to get on a light, full suspension bike and Oak Mountain once again propagated that vision. But then I think of the hair trigger hydraulic brakes that would come with that package and that's not in my future. My 29er hard tail was a rough ride and even in standing off the seat position, I was taking quite a beating. My hands ached and I tweaked my separated shoulder several times.
I took my time, rode safe, and finished in 3:45. That's a long day and it isn't really mountain biking by today's standards. Let's call it woods touring. I like to ride alone, no stress to keep up with faster riders, and listen to an audiobook. Today's choice was the conclusion of "American Desperado" about the #1 American in the cocaine trafficking frenzy of the 1970's and 1980's.
When I look in a mirror, I see a rider in out of date riding gear, on a less than cutting edge bike. Some will respect me for that while others won't. I still have the moxie to put in a solid day of riding, at my own pace and in my own style. If you're a master competitor that will always be good enough.