The Angry Singlespeeder: You’re Using the Word “Epic” Too Much

Opinion

Blue Pool on the Upper McKenzie River Trail is fascinating. No, this photo was not altered in any way. Stunning color.

The sights along the upper McKenzie are almost too vivid to believe. The color of Blue Pool is the most electrically radiant shade of turquoise you’ll ever see. The filtration of water through endless piles of lava rock give the water its clarity. Clear Lake is also striking, with colors and clarity more impressive than Lake Tahoe.

As much as I love McKenzie River Trail, day three was the pinnacle for me, literally and figuratively. Riding a 30-mile loop around Mt. St. Helens was an absolute mind blowing experience. If any single ride qualifies as an epic, this is surely on the list. Mt. St. Helens isn’t just a ride, it’s a history lesson and firsthand encounter with the raw, destructive power of nature wrapped into a mountain bike ride.

Left: The Mt. St. Helens ride starts in a beautiful, lush green forest before it pops out into barren moonscape. Right: Ranger Dave riding the moonscape beneath Mt. St. Helens.

While most rides are judged based on the quality, flow and technical nature of a trail, Mt. St. Helens is more about the otherworldly landscape, going from lush green forest and loamy singletrack to barren, treeless moonscape littered with pumice and volcanic rock so thick that you can barely keep the bike upright in corners.

Smith Creek Trail give riders a glimpse of the devastating destruction that Mt. St. Helens caused.

Trail quality isn’t as high as McKenzie River, thanks to a completely sketchy, loose and dangerous descent down Smith Creek Trail; a trail that’s overgrown, ultra tight and chock full of deep, loose pumice sand that is guaranteed to make you fall and curse like a sailor at least one time during the heinous four-mile descent.

The destruction Mt. St. Helens caused is almost too enormous to comprehend. The blast decapitated the top 1,200 feet of the mountain, taking it from roughly 9,600 feet to 8,400 feet in elevation in the matter of about 20 minutes. The mudflows were devastating, completely wiping out Spirit Lake and filling it with thousands of trees nearly 200 feet tall. Small streams turned to massive rivers of rock and molten lava, wiping out everything in its path including roads, bridges and homes.

Smith Creek is a football field wide of nothing but volcanic rock and dead trees from the eruption.

The choking clouds of ash turned day into night, killed nearly 100 people and blanketed hundreds of square miles surrounding the mountain in nearly four inches of volcanic spew. Trees in the blast zone were snapped dead flat like toothpicks and both humans and animals perished, frozen for all time like the people of Pompeii.

Riding through this natural wasteland was absolutely stunning. The weather was crystal clear, enabling us to see Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier as we rode along the foot of Mt. St. Helens. The trail took us down a spine of pumice, with 100-foot drop-offs to either side. We hit a section that was more bike surfing than bike riding, forcing us to get behind the saddle, stay off our front brake and float down the steep drops lined with pumice sand four-inches deep.

Although I was bloody and my clothes were covered in a fine layer of pumice dust from a couple falls on Smith Creek, when we got back to the parking lot at the foot of the mighty Mt. St. Helens, I realized it was one of the greatest rides in my life. A true mountain bike epic, where the trails challenge your mind and skills beyond reason and the massive, raw power of nature make you feel completely small and insignificant in comparison.

The Angry Singlespeeder: You’re Using the Word “Epic” Too Much Gallery
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Oakridge

Alpine Trail in Oakridge is a screaming fast 2,300 foot descent over more than seven miles.
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Lewis River

Lewis River Trail in Washington features some of the most spectacular waterfalls you’ll ever see.
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Upper McKenzie

Completely different than the lower section, Upper McKenzie River Trail is highlighted by technical lava rock, waterfalls and crystal clear bodies of water.
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Lower McKenzie

One of may log bridges on Lower McKenzie Trail
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Clear Lake

Clear Lake at the top of McKenzie River Trail is a fun and technical four mile loop around the lake.
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Blue Pool

Blue Pool on the Upper McKenzie River Trail is fascinating. No, this photo was not altered in any way. Stunning color.
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Mt. St. Helens

The Mt. St. Helens ride starts in a beautiful, lush green forest before it pops out into barren moonscape.
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Hekel

Ranger Dave riding the moonscape beneath Mt. St. Helens.
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Descent

The descent off Mt. St. Helens is more like bike surfing than bike riding.
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Smith Creek

Smith Creek Trail give riders a glimpse of the devastating destruction that Mt. St. Helens caused.
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Destruction

Smith Creek is a football field wide of nothing but volcanic rock and dead trees from the eruption.
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Carnage

Bruised and bloody, the ASS had a sampled some pumice soil at Mt. St. Helens.
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Rafters

Bobby relaxing along the McKenzie River after another great ride.
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About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.


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Wordpress Comments:

  • the-one1 says:

    This story is epic!

  • Luis says:

    Not too concerned with vocabulary words, but those trails in those top pics sure look nice.

  • Don says:

    At least he followed his own rule by making sure this article was not epic.

    For the rest of us, epicosity is in the eye of the beholder.

  • Evan says:

    Epic is when something goes wrong and you have to spend the entire day or even several days getting yourself out of a big mess. To say you had an epic, is to say that you survived something that was intense and dangerous. Just like the definition states, an epic is something that is prolonged, like when that two hour ride turns into a nine hour survival-fest because you broke your chain 20 miles from the car and it’s 110° outside. That is an epic.

  • RoweVelo says:

    Perhaps you might be a little less angry if you didn’t judge your fellow rider. Be it time constraints, technical skill level, physical endurance or logistical feasibility, a lot of riders have EPIC experiences where you might be lead to publish another “This is how I see it and so should you” article.

  • EpicAndy says:

    The word “epic” was used 13 times in this article.

  • James says:

    Yes! Epic is a handful of times in a lifetime. It should be hard, unpredictable, and long. It should probably suck a little bit at the time too. That’s my idea of “Epic”. If yours is every ride, that’s damn cool too, come to think of it.

  • jaxprat says:

    A S S, spot on. May get to ride Plains of Abraham in Sept. Keeping my dirty, grimy arthritic fingers crossed. Thanks for whetting our appetites.

  • Johny says:

    I rode lewis river in 1990 on a old bridgestone, got stung in the ass by a bee and crashed. Let’s see if I got this right, my first mountain bike + beautiful scenery + wildlife encounter + pain = EPIC!

  • Johnny Got Dough says:

    My five year uses EPIC…. no one I know that really rides uses EPIC to describe any cycling event.

  • Gazmend says:

    Does the White Mountain ride qualify as epic?
    14000 + elevation , freezing rain / snow/ 65 miles on moon surface its probably the only epic ride in California that qualifies for it .
    Two times failed to reach summit due to weather closing at Barcroft station .
    I have heard epic used on a 13 mile ride many times and is a joke.

  • EP says:

    The word epic is overused in mountain biking, for sure. Can we blame Specialized?

  • Satch says:

    might have been a decent enough article if it didn’t get off on that vacuous ‘epic’ rant.

  • rob black says:

    The word “awesome” drives me over the edge. Half the dopes on the trail use it constantly and it’s on just about every commercial on TV.

  • professed says:

    Awsome dudes..sooo Epic! I love to exaggerate and overstate. I love America !

  • Albacore says:

    The height of that seatpost is EPIC!

  • Krash670 says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this topic. I’ve been telling my son this for the last 1.5 years. The over use of the word is actually why I let several magazine subscriptions expire. I’m no literary savant, but if your job is to write stories for a living you might want to pick up a thesaurus once in a while and pick a different word to express your thoughts. Now we just need to teach the general public that “alot” is not a single word, and that it is really two words: “a lot”.

  • Jeff O'Hara says:

    According to http://www.thefreedictionary.com/epic

    Epic means

    Surpassing the usual or ordinary, particularly in scope or size
    or Heroic and impressive in quality.

    It may be relative, but to what, just yourself, only the best or what 90% o riders would say fit that description? Maybe 99% of riders.

    I would say If a ride surpasses the usual or ordinary, particularly in scope or size relative to what the vast majority of riders or has heroic and impressive in quality, then it qualifies. You can look at milage, but more so, elevation change and technical difficulty and duration for size ad scope. Hours away from safety, trials overcome, riding 30 miles with a broken seatpost or with your geared bike rigged to run SS, might qualify. Or some combination of the either.

    But you may think I am biased given the name of my blog http://www.mtbepicrides.com/

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