From now on I’m going to be more careful about what kind of tires riders take on The Ledges on Bella Vista’s Back 40.
My brother and I enjoy showing other riders our local trails. He and I learned, in large part, by riding with groups who already knew what was coming next. Watching someone in front of you often allows you to see when you need momentum, or to slow down for an upcoming steep switchback.
What it can’t make up for, however, is your equipment.
On a recent ride, while still on the relatively innocuous Pinyon Creek Loop I rode through a cloud of sealant after one of our tubeless riders sprung a leak. There was at least one more flat before we ever reached The Ledges–a portent for the next few miles.
Later, I watched in horrified awe as a rider worked to lift his bike back up onto the trail, and his tire barely glanced the hillside. A sharp rock slit the sidewall and very freshly added sealant couldn’t heal it. He inserted a borrowed spare tube in among the sloppy synthetic soup and got rolling. Within a half mile, we heard a pop like small-caliber gunfire. The 26″ tube had given up inside the 29″ tire.
In the first five miles of our ride, the group suffered at least seven flats and exhausted its supply of plugs, tubes, and C02 cartridges–a patient and mighty struggle to stay on two wheels. I offered my spare tube, but by that point they had decided to walk their bikes out of the woods and head to a local shop for what they needed to ride that afternoon.
A rider took one for the team and followed my brother back via the road to get a rescue truck for the walkers. The remaining riders and I covered another 10 miles in less than half the time we had limped through the first five. When we returned I called local Bentonville shop Mojo Cycling, and owner David Neal confirmed he had plenty of what they would need.
They had driven four hours to ride here, and their second day started out pretty rough. To their credit, the victims I saw never once cursed or otherwise acted out in frustration. They went on to ride classic Bella Vista gem Blowing Springs later that day, and on Sunday morning they journeyed to Devil’s Den State Park for Fossil Flats Loop. Oh, the irony.
Our tires and, in part, our familiarity with the trail carried my brother and me through the whole morning without incident. We felt horrible for the guys, but never once heard a hint of blame. Despite that, I think our mantra from now on should be, “Ride The Ledges when you have the tires for it, and even that is no guarantee.”