Thursday, August 11, 2022

AHRMA’s Appalachian Adventure: Bridgestone Off-Road Nationals Double Dip in the Mid-Atlantic

 Author: Joshua Schucker

Pictures: Geoff Kemp

The AHRMA Bridgestone National Motocross (MX) and Cross-Country (CC) series made a trip to the eastern part of the country beginning in Mid-June. Over the course of a three-week span, the competitors were treated to two top-notch venues, three different motocross courses, and three iterations of cross country.


Photo "Brandon_DroneMX" is by Brandon Auvdel - drone shot of the MX course at Reynlow Park

On the 18th and 19th of June, AHRMA rolled into the small town of Reynoldsville in Jefferson County, PA. The county’s Reynlow Park and its wealth of off-road access has become a regular staple on the national series stage for several years now and once again welcomed the organization with open arms. Shortly thereafter, and less than 150 miles south, the equally established and welcoming Shady Acres Motocross Park in western Maryland was the temporary home for the gang on July 8th and 9th. Both facilities are located on the eastern edge of the Appalachian Plateau near the Ridge and Valley Appalachian topography that arcs majestically through the heart of the Mid-Atlantic region. The Appalachian Plateau incorporates a significant rise in general base elevation over the areas to the east. While certainly insignificant to those accustomed to the much larger mountain ranges in the western US, to those traveling from the east, the 1400- and 2400-foot elevation respectively is quite a departure from the norm. Geography lesson aside, both venues reside in a truly beautiful, rural area of the country with dense forests, mountains, valleys, streams, and lakes. The trip to either weekend’s locale will not disappoint from a touristy perspective, and the racing is quite an attraction as well!


I am sure the residents of Reynoldsville would be surprised to know that competitors made their way from over a dozen states to visit the park near their charming little town to kick off AHRMA’s residency in the region. The ample parking area at Reynlow Park is full of RVs and trailers and folks enjoying the atmosphere and picturesque countryside in anticipation of the Father’s Day weekend events. The sound of dozers and skid loaders manicuring the adjacent motocross course helps build the energy that one feels as Saturday’s schedule draws near. As will be the case in Shady Acres a few short weeks away, the Reynlow weekend follows the typical multi-discipline off-road format. Vintage and Post Vintage cross-country races held each day bisected by moto one of vintage motocross Saturday and post vintage/next-Gen Sunday. Moto two of the respective motocross events are then held following the afternoon’s post vintage cross-country race. Another similarity between the events is the excellent food-vending provided by WingNutz Grill, which is always sure to please.


With these events residing in the Mid-Atlantic (MA) regions, AHRMA’s regional team is on the scene assisting National CC Coordinator Becky Hayes. One of the MA’s secret weapons is trail-boss Mike Zdybak. While Mike is always committed to maintaining a clean and well-trimmed course, he excels at learning a property and lacing together an extraordinary course through years of event experience. In the past few years, the National event at Reynlow typically followed a mostly unique course for each day. Typically, one course in the eastern portion of the park, and subsequently the other toward the western area. This year, Mike took some of the best attributes of each course, added a splash of freshness to connect, and ran a five-plus mile loop that encompassed both “sides” in prior year lingo.


Riders lined up for the start at the far end of the parking area in easy view of the spectators. With the flash of the green flag, the riders are out of sight and into the woods quickly where they are greeted with a stretch of fresh singletrack that soon begins to follow a small stream’s meandering flow as the trail snakes up and down the adjacent banks. Climbing one last time up the streams bank, the course jumps into a mix of sweet back-and-forth action through a stand of immature pines and an open fast grass-track. Don’t let the grass-track’s perceived flatness fool you though, being a reclaimed strip mine area, there are plenty of hidden bumps, g-outs, and abrupt nastiness hidden in the tall grass. It is best to stick to the mowed areas here! A final long grass straightaway provides a great opportunity to outgun someone as the course moves into the true woods’ goodness of the property. Here the course enters the higher ground to the north of the parking area where the topography is a mix of natural elevation changes as well as remnants of man’s work through years of mining and relocating overburden.


Although physically impossible to always go down without the reciprocal up, there are enough thrilling roller coaster downhills that you get a general feeling of going downhill through the wooded section of the course. As you descend into the forest, you cannot help but notice the thick canopy of trees that filter the sunlight to a cool shadowy atmosphere. While the open sun areas of grass track were kicking up plenty of dust, the shade works wonders on the soil here as the composition is dark, organic, and provides heavenly traction. Be sure that there are some uphills along the way with plenty of roots and off-cambers. The majority of the wooded portion of the course is singletrack with great flow and plenty of alternate lines for passing opportunities. Surprisingly, for Pennsylvania, rock content is limited to a few sections and are hardly a major hurdle to most participants. For a finale, the course gains elevation as it approaches the north side of that parking area where the infamous Reynlow hill is lined with on-lookers. In a change from prior years, the riders are headed down the incline keeping with the general theme presented earlier. Pull the clutch and let it roll but be sure to start upshifting as your go down because you’re moving once you hit level ground below! The scoring tent lies just beyond, and the lap is complete. In the tradition of using an alternate course for Sunday’s races, the starting line was inverted, and the course was run backwards on Sunday. So, all those aforementioned declines were now a climb including the fan-favorite, which now served as the first major obstacle in the race. This really changed the character of the course more than you would expect but was equally as fun and challenging as the prior day and lap times among the top ten were remarkably similar.


The motocross action took place on the mile-plus long grass track that was prepared just for AHRMA’s National series in its Reynlow debut in 2021. With another year of planning and massaging, Tim Doan and the Reynlow Park crew were hard at work kneading some wood chips and loose dirt into the course to add to the experience. From the rubber band starting line, a slight uphill takes the riders over a couple mild step-up obstacles before entering a string of 180-degree switchbacks. Here the tilled ground and wood chips quickly formed deep ruts that will suck you in if you’re not paying attention. A long straight along the top side of the course developed some fun natural whoops and terminated in a left hander into a tapered landing area tabletop at the farthest point from the start. The return trip to the flag stand involved several more sweeping turns and 180s before the final approach over two more gentle jumps. In general, the course is technical, competitive, and entertaining. There is minimal penalty for rolling jumps if you are uncomfortable and the obstacles themselves are not far removed from naturally occurring and completely suitable for the nature of the machines in use while big enough to get some air if you choose on a more modern bike. Dust was a minor factor and there are plans to improve upon this for next year as well as some course changes to improve passing opportunities.

Highlights for the Reynlow weekend included:

·       Brett Reichart taking his first overall win in Sunday’s vintage race after several runner-up finishes on his Puch.

·       Nancy Lisey taking home a first and two seconds after deciding that racing MX was a great hobby to start in your 70s.

·       The hospitality of Reynoldsville locals, vintage racing devotees, and Paradise Cycle owners Cindy and Marty Strouse as they hosted an impromptu ice cream and pizza social at their hauler for anyone within earshot on Saturday evening. 

After a couple weeks of downtime to work through the race, repair, repeat cycle, AHRMA rolled through the gates of Shady Acres Motocross Park with a new approach to year’s past. Despite the facility’s name, it has only been used for National Cross-Country events in the past, but that changed in 2022 as the facility would play host to both CC and MX. Owners Tim and Paula Thomas were as excited as the competitors to welcome this addition to the annual Shady Acres festivities.


Considering that the family’s business revolves around hosting motocross races on the former dairy farm property, and with Tim being a well-established vintage enthusiast, the match is symbiotic. Of course, given the current state of modern MX and the need to cater to the expectations of those consumers, the legacy MX track at Shady Acres is leaning a bit away from the core desires of the 4-inch travel crowd. However, Tim and Paula have proven over several years of hosting AHRMA to never disappoint in their preparation. To that point, Tim marked out a full-blown virgin grass-track over the farm’s ample open space that served as the site of Saturday’s vintage MX action. Over one mile of turf was marked out over several neighboring fields where slight elevation changes between served as perfect natural terrain jumps and bumps. Feedback on the grass track was great as many enjoyed the fast, open nature, vintage friendly intentions, and generous passing opportunities. Sunday’s post vintage and next-gen racing would move back to the established Shady Acres track. While built with modern MX racing in mind, the course is by no means a triple-jump, stadium whoops, affair. It is still quite approachable in its nature and when larger leaps are encountered, they are built for the average rider rather than pros. Tim spent considerable time grooming throughout the weekend and incorporated sand and wood chips as alternative terrain throughout the course. Tim fought a good fight against dust throughout the day, but unfortunately it was a losing cause as the bright sun and dry summer won out in the end. Despite the dust, and in mimicking the grass track action Saturday, the racing on Sunday was competitive and action packed as well. The tabletop along the spectator area was certainly a favorite!

The cross-country races followed the same course each day, and if you’ve been here before the overall layout was familiar. The property is limited to several wooded areas with plenty of available trails that adjoin the farm’s various fields and pastures. The nuance of each year’s course is the manner and order in which the trails and fields are connected with a Zdybak stamp of approval. Leaving from the ample starting area adjacent to the full parking area (probably a dozen states represented here as well), the course heads onto the MX track for a few turns only used on lap one before barreling across the open field toward the first woods section. Here, the course winds along an off-camber hillside in a chain of sweeping turns where you can clip along at a good pace despite the growing emergence of roots. It is not long after and riders are returned to the starting area and through scoring for the first time as the layout requires a partial lap one to situate the course properly. Immediately after scoring, the participants make their first pass through the dairy barn, Shady Acres’ trademark feature. Exiting the barn, the course hits some high-speed grass areas to between the two farm ponds to enter the woods section at the far east end of the property. This is the tightest and most technical trail found in the course. A vein of rock runs through the center of this area and produces a couple challenging sections. Proceeding across the farm’s driveway, the course enters the pasture section where a winding path is cut through the tall grass that encounters some embedded rock, several small stream crossings, and accompanying mud and ruts. A full throttle blast across an open field reintroduces the riders to another patch of woods with a few sections of fresh singletrack cut for the ’22 event. There are plenty of elevation changes through the back half of the course and the flowing nature of the familiar trails here is very entertaining. A dose of rain Friday evening made the course a bit slick for the morning’s vintage race on Saturday but following that the soil tacked-up nicely and the remainder of the races were blessed with excellent conditions. After the muddiness of the first race, a couple difficult sections were chewed up enough that they were rerouted in subsequent races. In fact, one long uphill was rerouted mid-race after a combination of off-camber, mud, and exposed, angled roots made this spot a serious bottle neck. Great job by the course workers to deal with the challenges and create alternatives where needed.


Highlights for the Shady Acres weekend included:

·       Experiencing young Logan Holley flying through the woods on his Husqvarna with the Husky of four-time AMA Enduro Champion Terry Cunningham hot on his heels (yeah…lapping me). Logan would take the Post Vintage overall win both days over Terry. Quite an accomplishment for the young man and no one was prouder to see it than Terry himself (and Logan’s parents, of course)!

·       Watching Becky Hayes present special Director’s Choice awards to Mark Sturtevant and Chris Gillespie for their contributions to the sport and the AHRMA community.

·       Hearing big-bore vintage bikes wide open in a power slide on the flowy vintage MX track

The competitors are lucky to have two great events this close geographically and on a calendar. It is remarkable in a series crossing the entire country and we hope that the region continues to be able to support this investment by the national series. As always, a small army ensures the success of these events as well as the willing participation of landowners. A big thanks to Tim and Paula Thomas of Shady Acres Motocross Park and Tim Doan with the Reynlow Park Authority. Cross-country coordinator Becky Hayes puts in a tremendous effort to keep these events in motion along with the cooperation of the Mid-Atlantic region’s team that took care of scoring, trail work, and much more. Throw a “thank you” their way as you see them. Please support Bridgestone Tires and their commitment to the sport as the primary sponsor for the 2022 AHRMA National Off-Road Series. Full results and national series point standings can be found at https://www.ahrma.org/schedules-results/.






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