5-30-19 Basch- Spring Sender

New England Mountain Bike Association White Mountains Chapter President Chris McKay addresses mountain bikers on the deck of Zip’s Pub at Cranmore during last Saturday’s Spring Sender. (MARTY BASCH PHOTO)

An estimated 200-plus mountain bikers from across New England attended the debut of the Spring Sender Saturday, a new event hosted by the New England Mountain Bike Association White Mountains chapter.

From families to hardcore downhillers, locals led group rides for various abilities from Cranmore Mountain Resort across the east side of North Conway on familiar trails like Sticks and Stones and The Knot while also highlighting three new gravity trails off Hurricane Mountain Road: Parking Lot Smoothie, Sendero and Charlie Don’t Surf.

A chapter fundraiser sponsored by Cranmore and REI, the event also included bike demos, raffle, auction and entertainment.

“We were absolutely blown away by the turnout, which was beyond our wildest expectations,” emailed New England Mountain Bike Association White Mountains Chapter President Chris McKay. “However, we feel there is a lot of room for improvement as this event could bring thousands not just hundreds of mountain bikers into the valley. This was our first event of this magnitude where we were actively fundraising for our organization so we certainly have some kinks to work out for next year.”

He urged people to go to the chapter’s website ridenoco.com and make a donation.

About 30 to 40 expert level riders took part. There was a larger continent of beginner/intermediate riders than anticipated which McKay believes were families up from around Boston for the weekend.

North Conway’s Al Hospers led one of those rides and was impressed by the showing.

“While I know there are a lot of local mountain bikers as well as folks who visit and ride our Valley on a regular basis, it’s quite something to see them all in one place at the same time,” he said.

The notion for the Spring Sender started in 2017 when local rider Pat Noonan talked up the trails to shop owners and industry people. That led to the Leaf Peeper Pedal that year (canceled in 2018 due to weather, it’s returning this fall).

Building off momentum from the Pedal, the chapter built those three trails with the support of Glen’s Chris Lewando, owner of Tyrol Trails, and Mike LeBlanc —both chapter vice presidents.

McKay said the idea behind the Spring Sender was to showcase the new trails and continue to raise funds to support sustainable mountain biking opportunities here.

“The network that has been built in the Valley over the last 20 years has been done on a shoestring budget and relies predominately on volunteer work,” McKay said. “We want to continue to grow the area into a world-class mountain bike community. In order to do that we need funding for things such as a paid trail crew for maintenance on the current trails and to continue to expand the network as well as to hire trail builders which is well beyond our current operating budget.”

Lewando said he was hired last year by New England Mountain Bike Association to complete Parking Lot Smoothie, a mile-long intermediate run. The project started out with the help of volunteers, including Lewando and Corbett Tulip in 2017.

Last year, Lewando and Tulip went back to finish some machine work on the area’s first gravity fed machine-built downhill trail on municipal land.

“We were able to blend a lot of what is up there, like natural single track,” he said. “We combined that with man-made berms using smaller excavators.”

He said Parking Lot Smoothie has straight down fall line pitches and a big berm section. It flows through near the top of Black Cap with some scrub and exposed ledge into some rooty stuff.

“Then as you get further down you get to experience a lot of what we were able to create with the equipment and then it blends into the Red Tail Trail,” he said.

Sendero, designed by LeBlanc, is fall line fun and goes through some hemlock forest before tying into the lower end of Red Tail. Charle Don’t Surf has some nice flow off the top.

Lewando, McKay and LeBlanc represent an infusion of new energy into the chapter and a shift in trail philosophy.

“We’re now adding turns and really changing the way that trails are designed around here,” said Lewando. “We’re trying to incorporate more fun stuff. Bikes have come so far since we all started riding and allow us to do so much more.”

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