I made and unmade the decision to go to NEMBAFest probably 50 times. Last year I could have gone, but didn't because, well because I didn't. I had the weekend free and really could have gone. As people posted pictures from last year, I was really slapping my head wondering why I wasn't there. Despite that memory, I still waited until the last minute to sign up. Once I got past all the "early bird" special pricing, I figured I might as well wait and see what the weather was going to be like, the weather guys said great weather 10 days out so I bought my ticket. I hadn't really made plans to hang or ride with anyone in particular, I know a ton of people who were going so I figured worst case I'd find some folks to ride with when I got there. About a week before launch I was talking to Pat and I guess I kind of invited myself along with the group he was hanging with - its a group of guys I've ridden with many times in the past. I decided the Fit would be the vehicle of choice, it surely gets better mileage than the Element, I had no problem getting my stuff in there: And yeah, I brought the new bike with me figuring I'd take it out when we were hitting the XC stuff, but honestly it saw little use besides running back and forth to the car once or twice.
I had no idea what kind of production I was getting involved in here. When I got to the meet point for the caravan there was a fully loaded trailer being set up, it seemed excessive at the time, but the canopy proved to be the saving grace for the weekend:
The "campground" was a hillside at the mid-lodge point on Burke Mountain - far from ideal for tent camping as I think there were three flat spots on the entire hill. It really wasn't that bad, but it could have been better.
As soon as we got unpacked and the 10x20 canopy set up we were off on our first ride. I think we were all sort of thinking of this as a warm up ride, but it slowly got out of hand until at the end of the day had ridden 21 miles or so. We basically hit all the cool stuff on the XC side, and there is a lot of cool stuff there.
We were lucky to be there with a near full moon, terrible picture, but it was very cool, and gave a lot of light:
Overnight the last of our crew of seven arrived and in the morning he was raring to go for a ride. Most everyone was pretty beat from the mileage we did on Friday, but three of us set out for a morning cruise. We did some XC and lift served and ended up back at camp in time to rally the team for another afternoon ride.
I can't say the afternoon ride was "fun" exactly, we hit up some more XC trails and they were cool and all, but my legs were pretty cooked and I would say I survived it rather than really enjoying it.
I didn't take any riding shots, but the trails at KT are among the best I've ridden - they are super fun, buffed out with just enough technical stuff to make it fun. Riding it with good riders made it even better.
On Sunday we pretty much concentrated on lift served, although to get to the lift we had to do a bit of climbing, it was hard!
I have never done any kind of lift served riding before. I had the impression that it wouldn't be fun on my bike, man was I wrong. It was fantastic. A view of Jester from the lift - this trail is 100% berms and jumps top to bottom, just amazing.
Here's a video I found on line of someone going down Jester - I can see they've made improvements in the trail since this was taken, but you get the point, just more fun than I can describe in words.
At the bottom of the lifts they had a bike Expo which included free demo bikes from a ton of manufacturers. Getting the bike and the size you wanted proved to be tough, but I did get to ride two bikes.
I took a Rocky Mountain Instinct out (5" 29er) and a Niner RIP9 Aluminum out. The challenge of course is getting a bike set up to your liking in 10 minutes by a guy who is rushing to meet the demands. I did not like the RM at all - perhaps something was set up wrong, but it felt very XC and not at all comfortable when I pushed it a bit. The RIP felt perfect, it was a lot like my current bike, but it was more stable, lighter and of course being a new bike it was crisp all around.
I could have waited around for more bikes, but I wanted to spend that time riding. Santa Cruz seemed to be a crowd favorite there was literally a line outside their booth all the time.
We got some rain (actually quite a bit of rain) on Saturday night and again as I was leaving on Sunday, but really it didn't interrupt the riding at all, though if we didn't have the 10x20 canopy, I probably would have left on Saturday after riding. Being able to have a few beers and move around was pretty key. The trails were pretty slick after the rain though making for a few scary moments.
So despite the rain and the somewhat crappy showers at the campground, it was well worth it. I'm going to do everything I can to do it again next year, great time. I know that I could just get a crew together and go ride there anytime, but its nice to have set date when everyone is aiming for. The fact that you can ride the lifts all weekend doesn't hurt either.