On August 9, 2023

Q&A with Ethan Bruce Nelson, Brandon Area Bicycle Association   

 

What makes the trails in Brandon unique to the area? 

Brandon’s situation is interesting.  We are exactly at the hub of all the greatest trails in the region.  We are almost the exact geographical center point between Rutland’s Pine Hill Park, Middlebury’s TAM and connected systems, Rochester’s top notch network, Slate Valley’s Fairgrounds, and Killington’s Sherburne.  The unique thing about Brandon’s trails is that they are the epicenter of this glorious region as a whole. 

What do you wish the first time riders knew about these trails before they arrived?

I would just like them to be able to experience the full measure of joy available when one let’s go of the competitive mindset.  The Brandon cycling community is a lot more laid-back and family-oriented than others.  These trails are for being in the moment.  There’s some gnarly tech, there are long gravel grinds, there’s even a little bit of flow to be found up in Goshen, but really riding in Brandon will never be about beating strangers on strava as much as enjoying nature with friends and loved ones. 

What’s your favorite trail and why?

While this is not technically my favorite trail, I’d like to spend some time discussing the Moosalamoo campground.  It has a pump track in the center of the campground, a one mile extra dank flow track (even allowing for one to catch a little air), and for the bolder cardio hounds, a nice switchback climb that gets quite close to the summit of Mt. Moosalamoo (no bikes at the very top).  This is in Goshen, adjacent to Brandon.  I mention it because despite my critical tone toward strava in my last answer— I hold the strava “Local Legend” title for most laps on the flow track.  This little trail system is perfect for families and beginners. For the more advanced riders, this same trail extends all the way to Route 125 and drops you straight into Addison County on a truly amazing, flowy, and lengthy descent.

Which is best for a beginner? Which would you recommend for an advanced rider who wants a challenge? 

For the beginner, there is the Moosalamoo campground I recommended above which also taps right into some serious cardio challenge as well.  For the advanced riders, we are home to Chandler Ridge and Leicester Hollow.  When Chandler was built it was the very first legit bike trail of its scope in the region.  Now, it is an extremely technical and cardio-heavy loop that is sure to provide plenty of challenge for advanced riders.

 When did you first get really into mountain biking? How did your passion begin? 

I’m not a competitive cyclist. My passion for road cycling started in college as it gave me freedom and joy without a car.  My passion for mountain biking came when I moved back home to Brandon and married into a family of excellent mountain bikers including my father-in-law.  Local legend and Ridgeline Outdoor Collective’s vice president, Karl Fjeld, who gave me my first mountain bike.  I was reluctant at first as it sounded dangerous to me.  Karl quickly persuaded me that there was far more danger sharing the roads with drivers than there was out in the woods where I can choose my own risks. 

Who or what inspires you to ride?

Mountain biking is so meditative and freeing.  I love riding socially and bonding with friends.  It is a way to get off of screens, get into nature, and connect deeply with others who are doing the same. 

Do you have a favorite local spot you’d recommend for folks after riding? 

Brandon is the best. I strongly recommend Mae’s Place for a decadent lunch after the Chandler-Leicester Hollow loop.  You’ll need that Reuben and French fries.  We are also home to two award-winning breweries: Red Clover and Foley Brothers.  The Brandon House of Pizza can recharge your carbs.  

Is there anything else local riders or visitors should know?

The best part about being a cyclist in Brandon is centrality.  Rochester’s trails are a 25-minute jaunt and I really just can’t say enough about how amazing they are.  They’re the best in every conceivable way.  Being in Brandon gives you central access to all of it. Within the 25 minute radius we have ROC (Rochester), PHP (Rutland), and TAM (Middlebury).  Within the 45 minute radius we have GMT (Pittsfield), Sherburne (Killington), and SVT (Poultney).  As the Velomont project continues, this just keeps becoming increasingly true.  Brandon is right at the center of all the very best biking, terrain, eating, and drinking in the region.

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