The Fall Flurry


Kale Poland uses a “fat bike” to test out some of the Gunstock Nordic trails he’s prepared for the Fall Flurry on Nov. 4. He expects participants to bring a variety of styles of trail bikes to the event. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

Mountain bike race features 'pandemonium' at Gunstock Mountain Resort


GILFORD — Mountain bicycling has enjoyed a surge of interest in recent years, fueled in part by a diversity of bikes available for taking into the woods – "gravel" bikes look like traditional road bikes but with wider tires and sturdier frames, "fat" bikes have balloon-like tires that can traverse any surface, including snow; and full-suspension downhill bikes that can bomb down a mountainside as fast as its rider dares. But with this diversity has come a kind of sameness – with events designed for specific types of bicycles and for cyclists with a specific set of skills. And that bothers Kale Poland, of the Gunstock Nordic Center, who thinks that the woods should be a place of surprise and exhileration, not predictability. So, he's concoted an antidote, which will be available on Nov. 4.

"It's time for your mountain biking intervention," he announced on Facebook in late September. "You love flowy singletrack, however something in your life is missing. You can't pinpoint it. You want to feel alive on your bike. Maybe it's time you stopped riding... and started adventuring! You will see Gunstock Nordic trails in a way you never have before. Presenting your inaugural, coddle-free bushwhackin', uphill pushin', downhill flyin', no-whining-allowed FALL FLURRY MOUNTAIN BIKE ADVENTURE!"

The Fall Flurry is Poland's attempt at providing the kind of mountain biking that he grew up with in rural Maine – where he would head off into the woods and see what he and his bike were capable of. 

"I'm excited, this course is really cool. It's not a race course, it's an experience, an adventure," he said.

The course he has charted covers 7.5 miles of terrain, including a mix of wide cross-country ski trails and narrow, technical snowshoe trails, some of which had never been open to wheeled travel. Though it's a relatively short course, for a cycling event, Poland said it will challenge even hardened cyclists. There is more than 1,000-feet of climbing between the start and finish lines, including some long climbs that will require riders to dismount and push their bikes to the top. He expects most participants will require at least an hour, perhaps 90 minutes, to complete it. But, Poland is a guy who likes to work hard and to have fun, so for every long climb, there's a thrilling descent.

Tough uphills, fast downhills, and technical single-track stretches, means that there's no type of bike or rider that will feel at home in the Fall Flurry – deciding which bicycle to bring will be part of the challenge. And part of the charm, too, as the event should feature several different kinds of bikes all on the course at the same time.

"This one is a 'run what you brung' type of race," he said.

And if that doesn't sound strange enough, there's the starting procedure. The Fall Flurry will feature a mass start and pandemonium is the intended result.

The Fall Flurry, which will start at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 4 – the same day as the Gunstock Ski Club's annual equipment sale – has about 15 pre-registrants. Poland expects that most participants will sign up that morning, as race day registration will be available from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. He will be happy with 50 participants for the first event, but is already planning to hold a similar event this winter, and again next fall.

"It's like when you are a kid, bombing through the woods. You're not looking for a pristine trail, you're looking to go somewhere cool." He thinks the Fall Flurry will evoke that childlike enthusiasm in its participants. "I think they will find the course to be exhilarating at times, frustrating at times, but at the end, they're going to say 'That was a great experience.'"