proper noun: a mountain biking event among friends where all must ride up and down beautiful trails, picking up the pace in friendly competition especially on the downhills, but ultimately sticking together for the camaraderie. Frienduroing
verb: the act of participating in and having a head-explodingly ridiculously good time on the aforementioned Frienduro.
Brooke on the Origins of Frienduro
Now how does one come up with a route so epic that it can be called Frienduro? It all began 2 years ago when Sean and I were looking for a home in the Mad River Valley (MRV) of Vermont. We’d been to Kingdom Trails, but realized this lesser known pocket of trails could be just as fun. Fast forward to now: we own a house with a trail just out the back door up to an amazing lookout, and then down into a network of mountain biking trails! We wanted to get our friends to experience this - some of the greenest trails we’ve ever seen, and so Frienduro was born.
Curating and connecting all the fun single track we’ve been riding here was an interesting problem to solve, which took many maps and much exploring. Whenever we needed a break from the renovation work on our cabin, we’d go conduct "Frienduro Research”. Trails are quite difficult in the MRV - when they say expert, they mean it! Sean tried a lot more of the unknowns first. Then I would go out with Sean to decide which bits would suit our group best by testing which parts I could ride and combining our skillsets. Once we decided on a route (Is it too long? Is it long enough? Is there too much climbing? I mean, it is VT - the Green MOUNTAIN State - which can never have too much climbing ;)), the map was created and shared with friends. We are very proud of the map as we hand watercolored it for our wedding stationary and were able to overlay the Frienduro route!
I knew I’d be the ride leader at the back and Sean at the front. I hadn’t realized how different riding as a group leader would be. I’d planned for extra water & snacks, map, emergency kit, etc., Mentally, I immediately assumed leader responsibilities - not just Brooke riding. I would remind myself to do everything my body needed but also check in with others, making sure they had everything they needed and checking how they were feeling. Were they really having fun or were the trails starting to beat them down?! Did everyone who came truly enjoy our area and see the beauty like we did?
The first half took a little longer than planned but we got to our cars containing coolers of snacks and had lunch by the river. After refueling & recaffeinating, we headed back out. We rode right past where Sean and I got married just over a month before and up some of our favorite trails. After 45 minutes of climbing, we reached a point of decision for anyone who wanted to cut the ride a bit shorter or continue up. I went back down the amazing flowy singletrack with a friend who didn’t feel quite up to the last push. We went back to the cars and went right in the river. Not too long after, the rest of our group joined us for a swim and then we all headed out for tacos.
I’m very excited for Frienduro next year and am already planning for future routes on the growing network of trails!
Darcey on Lessons in Fueling
Ever since Brooke bought a house in Vermont, she raved about the trails nearby and how she could show us the amazing riding in the area. Part friendly competition, part MTB hangout, the premise of Frienduro was born!
In late August, some dear friends were getting married in Brooke’s neck of the woods, which meant the day after the wedding was a perfect date to continue to the friend hangs and celebrate the summer MTB goodness in Vermont before the start of CX season! When the morning of Frienduro came (after a somewhat late night of wedding celebrations), there was a mix of logistics, hype, breakfast and generally all-around smiling. For some reason, all of the guys in the group decided to carve out mustaches for the occasion. In my rush of packing and actually getting myself to Vermont, I didn’t really look at the route ahead of time. But we were all able to wirelessly sync the route on our Wahoo Elements and Bolts via the Wahoo app, mere moments before the ride started. Cool!
The Frienduro route started with a technical climb right from Brooke's backyard, and a little hike-a-bike to connect two trail sections. But it soon opened up to a gorgeous, breezy outlook overlooking the valley. Classic Vermont. Then we descended. A lot. On trails, and then a bunch more on the road. At one point, I glanced at my Wahoo and saw we were doing 35-40 mph down the dirt road on our mountain bikes – wow! Then, I realized that we’ll need to climb next. A lot. Immediately. It started to rain a little, which was actually a cool & welcome relief from the heat of climbing. Up up up the next mountain. At a particularly steep part of a long dirt climb, I realized in my morning rush, I probably didn’t eat enough for breakfast. Oops! I got to the top of the climb and shoved some snacks into my mouth. I already felt those all-too-familiar early signs of bonking: sweaty, shaky hands, etc. Still, the view was gorgeous at the top, reminding me how much I love riding in Vermont
Needless to say, my handling was pretty bad through the next section of trails. I grew quiet, mad at myself for not planning better and hoping no one else would notice. I ate some more on the bike, and had a big egg sandwich and a cookie when we stopped for lunch, hoping that the afternoon would feel better.
After lunch, we had an hour-long climb up a series of switch backs. I mentally noted the time we started, so I could track how much climbing would be left. After every switchback, I could coast a few seconds and recover. “Okay, I can settle into a rhythm,” I told myself. How long have I done so far? I looked at my Wahoo – we’d been climbing for 5 minutes. Ha! Okay, there’s a lot to go! I turned off my brain to focus on climbing. After many, many switchbacks and singing my guilty pleasure climbing rhythm songs in my head, I caught the front of the group waiting at what I (wrongly) assumed was the top. Whew! I braced myself on a tree. “Was everyone suffering as much as I was?” I thought. Sean then announced we still had 800 vertical ft left. Wow! Time to scrounge my pockets for more food, and pound some emergency Nuun with caffeine (ginger lemonade, of course!).
Every time we stopped to regroup, I hoped we were at the top. I followed Hannah as we passed under maple lines, and I looked longingly at the raw maple sap, contemplating my own riding fuel supply. The group became quiet, as everyone had their heads down to climb. I tried to add up how much we still had to climb, but math was proving to be difficult. When we finally stopped, I gave 1 of 2 salted watermelon blocks I had left to a friend who ran out of food, and ate the other. I was feeling pretty salty myself, thinking we had another few hundred feet to climb, but Sean said we were at the top! Wahoo!! Time to descend.
I tried to take it easy on the descents, not knowing how my handling would be after furiously eating to combat the bonk monster. But I couldn’t help it. It was fun! I picked up speed and got a tiny bit of air over a few of the bumps. I tried to catch Hannah in front of me (Ha! Like that ever happens) and put some distance between myself and the rider behind me. I got to the bottom of the descent with a huge smile on my face. Whew! We made it! Now just a few (mostly flat) miles on the road to get to the swimming spot. I think everyone was hungry, because some of the folks at the front were really drilling it. I saw Lucia get out of the saddle and push the pace with Dan, and a gap opened up behind them. Maybe they were going for that friendly final sprint to the finish. When we rolled up to our cars, I slammed a protein drink and went to the swimming hole to wash off and cool down. I swam and floated in the water, listening to the breeze and friends laughing and recounting the ride.
We must have looked like a bunch of zombies when we rolled into Mad Taco. Frienduro was really hard. And really fun! We were together, and we all enjoyed the day. A huge THANK YOU to Brooke and Sean for welcoming us into your home, showing us your local trails, and putting together an incredible day. I can’t wait for next year!
Lucia on a Chance to Escape the City
Enjoying life (and bike racing) is all about balance. For me, that means taking an occasional weekend off from a packed racing schedule to JRA (just ride around) with pals. Especially if it involves cabins, maple cremees, and hero dirt in Vermont! When I heard about what Brooke & Sean had planned for Frienduro (and having enviously followed photos of the transformation of their VT cottage, which they renovated themselves), it would've been much FOMO if I'd missed it. So, I schlepped up to the Green Mountains for an adventure with my #NECX fam.
I love technical climbing as much as technical descending, so the trails surrounding Waldhaus (nickname for B & S's cottage) couldn't have been more perfect - a welcome change from the flatland, rolling & punchy terrain near NYC. The weather was ideal, as was the company. We all were out there to push ourselves, but equally embraced the chill vibes via regular regroupings.
From start to finish, the Frienduro did not disappoint. Amazingly challenging, technical, and super flowy singletrack. Gorgeous views, great local food options, and a delightful swimming hole to round out the quintessential Vermont experience. I stayed a couple extra days with Darcey & Dan after the rest of the group left, and we enjoyed some more riding (another chance for me to climb those amazing switchbacks just behind American Flatbread) and more R&R. I also had the best maple cremee of life at Palmer Lane Maple. Get the maple cremee coffee float & the maple covered kettle corn. You won't regret it. If you do, please bring some back for me...