The Mountain Bike Life

For the past few years now, NEMBAfest has been held at the Kingdom Trails in Northeast Vermont. Don’t know about the Kingdom? This trail network was voted best mountain bike trail network in North America by Bike Magazine in their annual readers poll. This multi-use non-motorized trail system is operated year round and has trail options for riders of all abilities. Sounds fun right? Now add camping, a weekend trail pass to the 100+ mile trail network, live music, a bike expo, access to a bike park, near perfect weather and what do you have? A recipe for awesome.

Kingdom Trail Association was established in 1994 by a group of visionary residents and business leaders in the area. Their mission to provide recreation and education opportunities for local residents and visitors while working to conserve natural resources and create economic stimulation. They’ve been able to provide trails for all abilities while incorporating the best of the natural scenery and natural diversity. Major support for this effort has come from the National Park Service; the Vermont Community Foundation; the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation; the Connecticut River Valley Partnership Program, The Windham Foundation, KTA members and volunteers. KTA has obtained land use permission of over 50 local landowners and businesses to make this all possible.

The view from Heaven's Bench | Photo: David Stowater

The view from Heaven’s Bench | Photo: David Stowater

So who is NEMBA? NEMBA or the New England Mountain Bike Association is a community of mountain bikers committed to creating epic riding experiences, preserving open space, and guiding the future of mountain biking in New England. They are a recreational trails advocacy organization with 25 chapters throughout New England and about 5,000 members. Their mission is to promote the best that mountain biking has to offer while stewarding the trail systems where they ride and preserve open space. Their members lead nearly 1000 rides a season, put on various trail building schools and skills clinics and donate over 8,000 volunteer hours to local parks. To put it simply, they’re awesome.

Riders young and old gather to watch Jeff Lenosky's trials show | Photo: John Ruiz

Riders young and old gather to watch Jeff Lenosky’s trials show | Photo: John Ruiz

After our overnight stint at Millstone, Javier made the hour drive up to East Burke anxiously anticipating…well everything. We drove through town and up to the parking area on Darling Hill. Darling Hill holds the majority of KTA’s singletrack trails. We parked and unloaded our gear. Lucky for us ATV’s with trailers were being used to shuttle gear from the cars to our campsite, that was awesome. We were meeting friends there so we found their tents and put up ours. Then off to register and get our wristbands to enter the expo area. prepaying online for NEMBAfest got us the following…

$140 for full access, camping, music and shuttles
* Camping
* Weekend Trail Pass to Kingdom Trail Association 100+ mile network
* Complimentary Shuttles to and from town and camping venue
* Entry to the Bike Demo Industry Expo Arena
* Live Music on Saturday Night
* Giant Pro Rider, Jeff Lenosky, Trial Show.
* Scores of Led Rides
* Discounts from many local businesses
* 50% Discount to the Burke Bike Park

Even through we had ridden that morning at Millstone we were eager to get out and ride again. We walked down to the expo area for a quick look around and then decided to go on a group ride. We chose a group ride, which were being led by Kingdom Trails staff, and was to be a two hour ride. Against my better judgment we chose an inter-mellow paced ride which as I suspected was a bit too fast a pace for me to keep up. So I dropped an hour into the ride and headed back to home base for a quick shower. A short while later our friends showed up and we all got ready to go into town to eat at the Pub Outback. Great food and friendly staff always make it a pleasure to eat there. After some good food and cold beer we made our way back to the campsite for some well deserved rest.

Bikers and a bonfire | Photo:  John Ruiz

Bikers and a bonfire | Photo: John Ruiz

The next morning we woke early, as most campers do, and prepared to go on our own ride. We had a map and chose which route to take. It’s so hard to get lost there, the signage is great and there are always other riders you pass that can sometimes point you in the right direction. The trails this weekend are fantastic! We heard from one of the KT staff that most of the work that had been done this season were all trail improvements and it really showed. Tons of hard-packed and bermed corners, well thought out reroutes and bridges galore. We were having so much fun riding that it wasn’t till after I came home that I realized i had taken no pictures on the trail. After being out on the trail for several hours, we got back to the campsite, showered and went back into town for dinner. The Pub Outback was again our choice for dining and afterward we went across the parking lot to an outdoor tiki bar where we saw Jeff Lenosky eating dinner. Even though I’ve seen it a dozen times, his trials show is still amazing. After a beer we headed back to camp. That night NEMBA had a bonfire, good thing too because it was in the 40’s (Fahrenheit) each night even though it was in the 80’s during the day. Perfect sleeping weather as far as I am concerned.

Another blessed day of trail riding, thank you Jesus! | Photo: Javier Perez

Another blessed day of trail riding, thank you Jesus! | Photo: Javier Perez

Morning came and all I could think about was the pancake breakfast being put on by the Wildflower Inn at the expo area. I couldn’t tell if I was just super hungry or the food was that good, but it was delicious. I washed it all down with a couple fresh cups of coffee and I was ready to go. Riding today was going to be a bit slower pace for me so we decided to try a beginner paced ride and I think it was a good thing. We were able to actually enjoy the beauty surrounding us instead of huffing and puffing just trying to keep up with the group. We were able to hit some areas like Heavens Bench and the Chapel that I don’t normally do when I am up there. Also hit up a new trail which was gravity fed, super twisty and lots of fun. After this ride we took a break and then headed up to Moose Alley for some fun downhill action. The climb up to the top of the trail head from the base lodge was brutal but I managed to pull through. We rode some more but after a while I was wiped. The rest of the group wanted to ride some more but i decided to ride down to town and catch the shuttle back. I got cleaned up and spent some time at the expo area. So many nice bikes and components. Such cool gear. It really is a good time to be into mountain biking, there are just so many things to choose from, regardless of what piece or part you’re looking for. I saw lots of fat bikes, I test rode one earlier that day…it was fun, also lots of 27.5 and 29 inch wheeled bikes.

The Ibis Ripley 29 and its dual-eccentric dw-link suspension | Photo: John Ruiz

The Ibis Ripley 29 and its dual-eccentric dw-link suspension | Photo: John Ruiz

One booth caught my eye in particular was Osprey’s. I’ve been looking for a new hydration pack and i liked the one my friend Jeff had gotten last year. After talking with the Osprey guys about the different packs, I decided to try out a Raptor 10. It was very comfortable, could take a two or three liter bladder and had plenty of pockets for organization. When I got back they gave me the bladder (for a suggested $5 dollar donation to Kingdom Trails) to keep, along with four packs of tabs to clean it, and extra bite valve mount for a different pack, stickers and a set of tire levers. I also got a coupon for 20% off at the bike shop in town if I wanted to buy the pack on my way home, which I did, but I’ll review this pack at a later date for you guys.

The Osprey Raptop 10, cool pack in a cool green | Photo: John Ruiz

The Osprey Raptop 10, cool pack in a cool green | Photo: John Ruiz

Well with the expo winding down I was able to pick up a new set of wider low rise bars for my Titus. Cost me $25 for a set of bars that were used as display only. I just put them on and they look and feel awesome. We got back to the tents, packed up and headed out. Leaving these events are always bitter sweet for me. I am totally wiped from so much riding and sleeping in a tent, but I think that this is exactly where I’d want to be if someone were to give me a choice. Everything about this weekend was great. From the expo to the venue to the weather, it was over the top awesome. One of my favorite parts of these events are the people. I went with a really great group of guys, same guys I usually ride with here at home. We had a ton of laughs as well as some serious discussions. I really had such a good time. These events are my favorite because its not just about the bikes but the people who ride them as well. Can’t wait till next year!

NEMBAfest 2014 video courtesy of Kingdom Trails

Interested in visiting the Northeast Kingdom or going to NEMBAfest next year? Visit Kingdom Trails or NEMBA for more info.

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