PMBAR 2014

Posted: May 4, 2014 by Mark in Uncategorized

PMBAR is an awesome mountain bike adventure race in the Pisgah National Forest. The race is like a chess game. Two person teams use strategy and riding skill to collect checkpoints.

I partnered with Thomas Boylen. We had a good plan but made some mistakes. Our strategy and riding was pretty good but our navigation was quite bad.


00:35 START
Eric hands out passports, many teams pull out maps to study. We decided on a simple race strategy. Our plan was to simply head out as soon as the first few riders get rolling. Getting out early on the climb before congestion makes it easier to ride sections. Following experianced riders with good local trail knowledge gets us started on a good route. We plan to check the map later and only when needed.

After the Black Mountain trail, we descend quickly to the first intersection. Following Rich Dillen we go left on FR5022. Chasing them, we ride FR5058 to Horse Stables. Left on Avery Creek Road to the paved Highway 278. Right turn on Highway 278, we form a pace line. The next bit was FR475 followed by Headwaters road, and Cove Creek road takes for the first checkpoint of the day.

After the checkpoint, we start thinking about strategy. Until we lose them we decide to follow Rich and Zack. Back down Cove Creek to Headwaters then left on Highway 278 and right on Yellow Gap. From there 321 trail and push our bikes up to the top of Pilot Rock then head down trial 110.

03:52 MISTAKE #1
On the way down 110 trail, Rich and Zack use their superior descending skills to distance Tom and I. At the 121 trail intersection, we stop to consult the map. Logically it is pretty clear but somehow we get confused. After a short while we realized our mistake, turned around and corrected course. It was a small mistake and we only lost 10 minutes. With the correction we reached checkpoint #2 on Laurel Mountain at riding for 3:52 so at this point we were still in good shape for the “race”.

After mistake #1 we took time at the checkpoint to plan out the remainder of the day. Our plan was to head down to Yellow Gap road and take Pilot Cove Loop to reach checkpoint #2.

06:31 MISTAKE #2
In areas like Pisgah trail marking can be confusing. From Yellow Gap, we made the mistake of turning on Pilot Cove Slate Rock. We also did something else wrong as well. On my map, I don’t see the connecting trail but after about an hour of hiking up unrideable singletrack we reached a checkpoint only to discover that we were back at the Checkpoint #2. Standing in the same spot where we had been at two hours earlier.

After this mistake, we decided to retrace our steps and take the correct trail and this time we reached the correct location for checkpoint #3.

Checkpoint 2 and 3

Leaving checkpoint #3 we rode back down Pilot Cove Loop to Yellow Gap with the plan to ride Bradley Creek Trail for checkpoint #4.

07:53 MISTAKE #3
We missed our turn and rode back up a climb to the intersection of Yellow Gap and Laurel Mountain trail. Some backtracking to get on to the 351 Bradley Creek Trail. We lost about 30 minutes and a bit more energy with the mistake.

351 Bradley Creek and 115 Riverside trails took us to Checkpoint #5. After the checkpoint we took 326 Mullinax, 147 Squirrel Gap, 133 South Mills River, and 103 Buckhorn Gap to reach the intersection of Clawhammer and Black Mountain trail.

We took Clawhammer then went down 5057 to reach checkpoint #6. After the checkpoint, we used 5057 and Clawhammer to return Black Mountain trail.

13:17 MISTAKE #4
At the Black Mountain trail intersection we got confused and headed out the wrong way on the trail. Eventually we reached a “T” intersection where we realized that once again it was time to backtrack. We lost a solid hour in this mistake but eventually reached checkpoint #7. The problem is that at this point we realized that it was not possible to make the cut off time using Black Mountain trail because with underpowered bicycle lights we would have to hike/n/bike down the trail.

The game was over and the race had beaten us.

Our exit plan was to ride down Clawhammer and Avery Creek to reach highway 276 for a short and easy ride back to the start finish area.

14:57 MISTAKE #5
When we reached highway 276 we turned right when we should have turned left and rode three miles the wrong direction before we realized the mistake. After backtracking yet again we finally reached the start/finish area with about 100 miles for what we will both remember as a totally epic ride.

Even though we finished outside the time limit I am still very proud of the ride. Of the seven race checkpoints, we got to eight (we collected one of them twice so in my book it counts double).

To see the full route we road check out the Strava GPS track.


  1. Bob Moss says:

    Great write up, fortunately for me I had Dave that really knows the forest.

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