I was happy to get out and check over the site for the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo for a short period recently. This place is amazing. Okay, let’s imagine for a minute that Nebraska is something other than what most folks think. (In other words, not flat!) Yeah, yeah, I know. You don’t believe it. Nebraska is boring. Well, if you think so after this post, you’re just being stubborn! Check this out……….
One thing that most folks don’t realize is that the “interstate”, (I-80), is built to use the path of least resistance through Nebraska, just like the railways used, and the wagon trains before that: Right along the Platte River valley. (“Platte” means “flat” in French) Get away from the Platte valley, and you’ll find a much different Nebraska than you ever thought of.
That’s what we have found at Potter’s Pasture, an amazing landscape that is at once beautiful and surprising in its unique makeup. Potter’s Pasture is just what the name implies: a grazing land for cattle which roam freely about the approximately 1600 acres of ground here. The cattle do a unique and cool thing to the land. they make “cow paths”, yes, but because of the nature of the soil, these paths evolve into ruts in many places. These can swallow a rider whole in spots. Kind of like riding in narrow trenches, only at really steep angles!
The nature of the cow’s trails are such that you have barely enough room to keep your pedals, handle bars, and at times, your shoulders from contacting the trail. It is like a 3D single track: At once narrow in a lateral plane and a vertical one. But that isn’t the whole story here. Not by a long shot. Climbs are long, gradual, steep, and you are definitely going to need a granny ring here. Many times there are step ups created by roots, and technical moves are called for quite often. The down hills range from fast, wide open, rippin’ types to switch backed, slow speed, tree lined, and exposed. The way a trail you are on changes is fun in this way, because one downhill can have all the aforementioned traits in one run!
The soil is a “loess” type. Very silty, fine, and tires get a great bite in it. Knobby tires with good traction are recommended here. I also found that a dual suspension rig was really the ticket to ride, but we had fellows on hard tails on our ride that were having a blast, and even single speed rigs have a place at Potter’s. I chose a Big Mama, which I have reviewed for this site. There were also two other Big Mama bikes on this ride as well. All were set up differently, but this bike was a perfect platform to base a ride of Potter’s Pasture on.
The full suspension 29″er rig is tailor made for Potter’s Pasture with its rooty, step down, and technical descents. The way the Big Mama handles this is awesome and climbing is where I thought the Big Mama was really tops here. The traction necessary to step up over roots, and dig in on the steepest sections was quite evident. I think lots of rigs are capable at down hill runs, but the nimble handling and climbing abilities of the Big Mama were really the thing that impressed me. All three of us cleaned really tough climbs and we were told afterward that we were “walking away” from the other bikes being ridden in the group on the ups. Pretty impressive.
In my opinion, I have always thought Salsa Cycles philosophy on the Big Mama was a perfect fit for a remote, back country type ride. Potter’s Pasture bore that out for me in spades. It is a reliable, fun, capable handling rig that I never thought was holding me back. Even set up with the 120mm travel Reba Team fork, which jacks the bottom bracket height far beyond what Salsa designers intended, this bicycle was really sharp. Maybe a tad bit tippy in a couple of really tight switchbacks, but doable all the same. In the 100mm setting, the bike would definitely be even better, and my riding companions bore that out for me. (Both having 100mm travel forks on their Big Mamas).
So, that’s the report on the site of the 2009 Big Wheeled Ballyhoo and a bit of a Big Mama update. Check out the event if you can, or if you are ever in the area, it is worth a side trip to Potter’s Pasture to taste the “big country” of western Nebraska.
All Photos- Credit: Kyle Vincent