I started this post earlier in the year when I decided to update my racing results dating all the way back to my first mountain bike race in 1993. My latest foray into mountain bike racing (winning the Chain Buster Battle at Oak Mountain 9 hour race on Saturday) has had me reminiscing into how I first got into mountain biking back in high school in 1993 so I thought I would go ahead and wrap up this post. Most of it centers around Oak Mountain. In fact, if you go back even earlier to the late 80s, my dad and I used to do road biking on a 10 speed (eventually 12 speed) with down tube shifters at Oak Mountain. We’d park outside the park at the info center and then ride in through the front entrance. I’d always start out fast and ride off ahead of him and his work friends, but then even before we made it to the golf course I’d be tired so my dad had to ride with me slowly the rest of the way to the spillway in the back of the park and then back to the car. Probably a couple hours for the 15 mile ride.
Fast forward to 1993 – my junior year of high school, and two of my friends on the math team (Steve Montgomery and Jeff King) were into mountain biking. Steve said his dad had a mountain bike I could borrow, so the three of us set off to Oak Mountain one day after school in two cars. We parked Steve’s Bronco II at the picnic area parking lot and then piled into Jeff’s jeep and hauled ass up the Peavine Falls road (seriously don’t know how we didn’t roll that jeep) up to the overlook area near the end of the red trail. We took off up the red trail and then turned left into the BUMP downhill. I don’t remember my first experience with blood rock, but I assume we walked it. We flew down the trail past what is now the berm (I don’t think there was a berm back then) to the twisty section of the downhill, popped out onto Peavine Road followed it for a tenth of a mile or so to reach the Johnson’s Mountain climb. It started out with a tricky entrance with a short log bridge over a small creek crossing, and then the super steep trail with the rubber run-off protectors across the trail every few feet. I eventually could clear all that on a good day, but I definitely walked it that first time up.
From the top of the steep section, you had a nice pine-straw covered straight gradual climb until a couple twists at the steeper section near the very top of Johnson’s Mountain (super fast coming back the other way) at the park boundary. Then you came down through some tight small trees, small logs turns entering the rocky bumpy section (where I would sheer a seatpost off in a ride the next year) that is now the opening climb for Johnson’s Mountain (when coming from picnic area parking lot). My first big wreck was on the downhill after the giant log (the log is long gone and replaced with some rock steps now) where there are some wood trail run-off protectors now. There were no wood steps back then (unless we were going so fast through there I forgot about them), just a fast downhill with me going right off the side of the steep hill falling halfway down to the creek at a high rate of speed.
Then it was up the shallow switchbacks and the fast straight section (now called Foreplay) across the horse trail intersection into the long set of twisty turns (now called Mr. Toads) through the picnic area parking lot down to Steve’s Bronco II for the shuttle back up to the top. I think that was it that first day out, but eventually we got into good enough shape to not need the shuttle any more, and we would just start out in the parking lot head up the climb to the red trail, turn around at the top and then come all the way back down adding on the lower section of singletrack by the paddleboats. This section was an out/back trail that wasn’t finished. We would ride it through to the end and then just keep riding a ways through the woods before turning around and heading back up. After buying my first mountain bike from James at River Oaks Cycles in Hoover (the Mongoose Alta shown in the top pic), I made this trip pretty much an every day after school experience. The lower section of trail was finished shortly after all this began so eventually I started to park at the old boy scout road just past the golf course where the lower trail section ended. I would ride from there all the way up to the Bump trail, turn around and ride back.
By April of 1993, I raced my first mountain bike race — the Cumberland Classic in Sewanee, TN — where I finished 6th in the juniors and 25th in the beginners (our fields were combined). There was more than 100 people in the race (IT WAS HUGE!!!) and I still remember starting and climbing out of a gravel parking lot area, racing across some huge field by a barn or something, and then a double track road before making the left into the singletrack. Whenever I think of “hole shot”, I still have this mental image of the gravel hill, followed by a wide open field leading to a double track leading to a lefthand turn onto singletrack overlooking a valley far below that made me think I was in an airplane (which I had never been in before). Later in the year, during the start of my senior year I would see a flyer for the Bull’s Gap time trial and race that as my second race (see pic below), following that up with two more mountain bike races (the Maddog Mountain Bike Race in Springville, Alabama and the Suck Creek Classic up in Chattanooga, TN).
Eventually, I’m going to link these pictures onto my results page, but in the interim, I’ve included a gallery of pictures that I scanned in from 1993-1998. If you are wondering how I could remember these results from way back then, I still have my “bike racing photo journal” (see pic below) that I kept which included a description of the race, the number of people in the race, my result in the race, as well as two or three 35mm snapshots. When I started college at Clemson, I kept track of everything in a Microsoft Access database (see other pic below).