Becoming a Dirt Rag at the Dirt Fest
Fat tires for stomping through the roots and through the mud.
People have been telling me for years now to try trail riding. I've heard over and over again how much I would love it...how much fun it would be...how they could just SEE me becoming obsessed.
Not that it's always been too easy to just jump on a mountain bike and find a trail around Cleveland, but I also never really made the effort to try. It wasn't for any particular reason, I simply just hadn't gotten around to it yet.
The Dirt Rag Dirt Fest changed ALL of that. It's a three day thrill ride on some of the most well manicured trails many riders say they've been on. Three days of riding bikes so far out of my price range it made my eyeballs spin. Three days of nonstop biking, beer drinking, eating, camping, and a ridiculous amount of fun.
The festival is put on by Dirt Rag Magazine, an all-inclusive mountain biker's wonderland of gear talk, trail gossip, and constant running dialogue of the 26/29 wheel debate (if you're not familiar, I'll catch you up in person sometime). It's held in Raystown Lake Pennsylvania, right near a tiny town called Heston, which is about 40 miles out from Altoona. It's remote and it's wonderful.
This year drew about 2500 people, which sounds like a lot, but given the large expanse of trails offered and the impressive size of the campground, it felt packed but not necessarily crowded. All of the major bike vendors were present, allowing riders to demo their top-of-the-line bikes for hours at a time, only asking for an ID in exchange.
The trails ranged from beginner to expert difficulty, but even as a very literal fist-timer, I was able to do all levels of trail (although I didn't ride EVERY trail available). There were downhill spots that were incredibly tempting to just let loose on, pump tracks that literally made me giggle uncontrollably every time I went flying through them, and uphill climbs that made me want to puke and laugh and cry all at once.
When all was said and done, the entire experience resulted in one of the most satisfying sore and exhausted feelings I've ever had. In addition to all of the crazy fun the festival had to offer for biking, the campground was beautiful--our spot was directly on the lake, the trees in full-green glory of early summer. The nights were bug free and warm, and who can complain about drinking booze with a bunch of really great people?
The festival is annual, and you can find it easily by searching "Dirt Rag Dirt Fest" in your favorite browser. You'll pay $60 for all three days of camping, biking, and some free beer, all well worth the price tag. And for those of you who want to check it out before next year, campsites go for just $20 a night and the trails are free to be used at your pleasure.
For me, even after being told over and over how great it was going to be to ride trails, it turned out to be more fun than I ever imagined. It's what I would consider to be "kid fun"--the kind where you are doing extremely strenuous and tiring activity but no matter what, you just don't want to stop. And now that I'm home, I still don't want to stop. The only problem is I need to borrow $6000 so I can get a sweet bike. Call me if you can hook a sister up.