You may be asking yourself, “Just what is the NETT and why would I ride such a thing.” Good question. Let me shed a little light for you. The Northeast Texas Trail (NETT) is a rail-to-trail program that is working to develop a trail system through 19 cities from Farmersville to New Boston. This 130 mile stretch of abandoned railroad tracks is slowly but surely being converted in to a trail system where the potential for eco-tourism is tremendous. Cyclists, hikers and equestrians are taking to the trail and enjoying all it has to offer. This trail has been under development for over 10 years and the status of the trail is in various stages from; concrete, to asphalt, to granite, to rail bed, to completely overgrown. Some sections are currently impassable due to growth or adjacent landowner disputes; however, the current motto is “Use It into Completion” thus enters Spinistry and Cadence Cyclery.
On Saturday, November the 2nd of 2013 the NETT encountered it biggest event since its inception and Spinistry along with Cadence Cyclery, co-lead Ride the NETT. This one day event would allow cyclist to travel the NETT to various destination and back. Allow me to introduce you to each of these leaders of Ride the NETT.
Spinistry’s director, 48 year old Kevin Lee of Roanoke Texas, got into cycling in 2003 as part of an exercise routine because; he said, “I was very overweight. I was living the cubicle farm existence and had become very sedentary. A combination of diet and exercise helped me drop 60 pounds over the course of a year.” He told me why he started Spinistry. “Initially formed in 2009, as an idea for a cycling oriented website; kind of like Facebook for cycling, but we weren’t really sure what it would evolve into. I was big into riding dirt roads and wanted to show other people how enjoyable that type of riding was. We put on our first Red River Riot in January, 2010. It was more successful than we expected and we shifted our focus to the rides from that weekend on.”
When asked, why he chose the NETT for this fall ride, he replied. “I’ve personally been interested in the NETT since I first heard about it 6 years ago. Conceptually it’s really the type of long distance riding I enjoy most. Solid information about conditions, access, etc. was difficult to come by. People would touch base with me on the idea of hosting a ride, so I’d check the latest news and the timing never seemed right. This time it looked like enough pieces were established to make an event viable. It’s been a wonderful experience. It’s combined so many aspects of the things I love about the outdoors and cycling communities. I’m exploring trails new to me, working side by side with a wide range of people who are very passionate about the NETT and seeing corners of Texas I’d have never been able to experience without this event.”
When I asked Chris Lorance, co-owner of Cadence Cyclery in McKinney (new location now open in Lewisville), How did you guys get involve with The Spinistry for this event? He replied, “Spinistry has been doing an amazing job of promoting adventure style bike rides for a few years. They have done a great job creating these amazing cycling experiences for people that don’t fit into the normal race/rally/road/mountain categories. I felt that these sorts of experiences would be a perfect match to the North East Texas Trail so I approached Spinistry’s about it. We began brainstorming ideas of what the first Spinistry/NETT ride would look like.”
As co-host what was your role in Ride the NETT? “We helped with connecting the right people, brainstorming, working with vendors, marketing, gathering volunteers and then mechanical support on the day of the ride”. Chris then humbly added, “However, it should be noted that whatever support that we offered was only a tiny fraction of the work that Spinistry put into the ride.” (Side Note: Chris recorded the start of the ride, click here for feed)
Lastly, I asked Chris why did you choose the NETT as a focus trail for Cadence to put sponsorship behind? With delight he said, “The Northeast Texas Trail is the future of cycling. To understand what the NETT can do, read up on the Katy Trail in Missouri and what it means to the surrounding communities and people involved.” Chris took a moment to express appreciation, “I would like to thank everyone that has spent their free time improving the trail. You all are what make a community strong!”
To Ride the NETT, one must have a sense of adventure and love the great outdoors. 230 mountain and cross bike cyclists came from all over the metroplex to Farmersville to start their journey north on the NETT. The excitement was thick as most of the rider had never been on the trail and many had heard enormous hype.
Although I heard positive feedback all round it is impossible to give the perspective of every rider. Several cyclists with varying backgrounds and experiences, allowed me to interview them (link is photo’s of interviewees) Perhaps their experience will encourage you to come on out and enjoy this challenging natural resource.
Click here for Shawn McAfee’s Ride the NETT Review
Give a little history about yourself and how you got into cycling?
Lynn Ballard/56/McKinney. Back in 2000, I decided I needed to get into shape… I had battled knee injuries that had sidelined me for more than 15 years and I was sadly out of shape and overweight. I decided to start running and didn’t stop until I found my niche… ultra marathons. After a number of 30, 50, 60+ and 100 mile endurance runs, my knees came back to haunt me and I decided to try biking. I love being in the woods so the trails are a natural calling.
Robert Tracy/35/Dallas. I started mountain biking about 12 years ago when I lived in San Angelo, Texas. Riding San Angelo State Park’s trail system got me hooked on riding, and I haven’t looked back since then.
Kim Jennings/33/ Waco. Just after college, I started. I was working at a road closure in Cameron Park for the NORBA National Mountain Bike race in 2004 and saw all the women racers; I was inspired to try this myself and started riding every day and racing a few months later. I’ve been hooked ever since, and raced mountain bikes for a while and am now focusing on the road racing scene.
Dean Nix/44/Plano. While living in Columbia SC I was a daily runner for fitness only, but had no passion for running. I developed a stress fracture in my foot from running. The Doctor, who was a “Master Runner, said you cannot run that much….buy a bike. I did buy a cheap MTB and after I was hooked. I rode daily on trails that I could access from my neighborhood.
Have you ridden the NETT before? If so; tell why, what your motivation for doing so and a little about your experience.
Lynn: I first rode the NETT in June of 2012. I began to learn about this fantastic asset and to understand some of the challenges that had been overcome (and still to be overcome) to get sections open. I went out on Summer Solstice and rode from Farmersville to just past Pecan Gap and returned to Farmersville. I went back a week later and rode from Pecan Gap to Paris and back. It was nasty hot and I had to crawl through some very heavy overgrowth dragging my bike in places. I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT!
Robert: I heard and read about the NETT a couple of years ago. The idea of a rail-to-trail somewhere in North Texas was appealing, but there wasn’t much information about it. Then last summer I stumbled upon Dean Nix’s NETT Awareness Ride and followed his adventure on Facebook. That’s when I learned where it was, its distance and just how difficult the ride was. I knew I would ride it someday.
Dean: Dean is well known in the some cycling circles for his previous end to end NETT Awareness Ride. It seems appropriate to offer his informative video so you can view detail about his journey. Click this NETT Awareness Ride link.
Click here for artistic photos of the NETT
How did you learn about and why did you choose to do Ride the NETT?
Lynn: I have done several events that have been put on by Spinistry and read about it on their Facebook page. Also, I frequent Cadence Cyclery in McKinney, who partnered with Kevin Lee of Spinistry in putting on this event. I believe anything that is worth doing, it is worth overdoing… once I lock onto a concept like trail riding, I read all I can find on the subject. I actually was able to see this idea unfold from some of the first stages of planning.
Robert: When Spinistry announced Ride the NETT on Facebook, I might have been the first to sign up — that’s how excited I was to ride the NETT.
Kim: I have done a few of the Spinistry events in the past, and saw that Kevin was putting this new event on the calendar. It’s off season for me, and I’m always looking for something new to try and areas to explore. Plus the t-shirt design was awesome, and there was mention of homemade pie!
Dean: While doing the Awareness ride in July, I thought about Spinistry and Kevin at Spinistry. I knew he would be the perfect promoter for a NETT event. I reached out to him after my ride, met with him and then hosted a meeting between him and Mayor Joe Helmsberger (Farmersville’s Mayor). Kevin and I rode sections of the NETT to scout the ride and we had lunch with him at Gloria’s Kitchen in Ladonia. This is when the “Pie Stop” idea was born. The NETT ride that happened on Nov 2nd was a goal of mine I set while riding in July. I was not the promoter nor could I do what Kevin is so talented at accomplishing but I could not help feel a sense of accomplishment as it came to fruition and would not have missed it for anything.
What was your destination and why you choose that destination?
Lynn: I did the century, the route that went from Farmersville to Roxton and back. I rode this same route back in August 2012 to attend a meeting about the NETT and have been anxious to get back on the trail. The Spinistry/Cadence event was a good excuse. I guess I chose this destination because I really wanted to go further, but didn’t like the idea of routing from Roxton to Paris on roads. Ideally, I would have loved to do the round trip to New Boston but didn’t feel I could commit the entire weekend to this event.
Robert: I like to challenge myself with endurance events. I’ve competed in a 12 and 24 hour time trial and other marathons. Doing the NETT round trip seemed like a realistic challenge. Leading up to the ride, I pored over cyclists’ notes, trail reviews, pictures and posts. I quickly realized the endeavor was pretty ambitious. Pictures of tube-tearing honey locust thorns made me doubt my gear. It was too late in the game (and cost prohibitive) to go tubeless. I started Ride the NETT hopeful I could make it to Paris, where my girlfriend would be waiting as SAG. A series of flat tires botched that plan. Considering I was still on the cleared sections of the trail, I knew I would encounter many more flats upon reaching uncleared portions of the NETT. I abandoned a roundtrip ride between Ladonia and Roxton and returned to “Pie Town,” completing on 40 miles of the ride.
Kim: I chose the 70 mile (closer to 63 miles) Ladonia pie route because the distance seemed about the right amount I wanted to ride and there was pie at the halfway mark.
Dean: I selected the Roxton and back to Farmersville. It was the longest route of the day and I felt obligated to do that distance. Although I knew it would be a lonely day after Ladonia and I would return to a mostly empty parking lot as most riders who had done shorter distances would be gone. Seeing Kevin Lee, Mayor Joe, Chris Lorance and Suzee Bolton at the finish was actually the highlight of my day.
Now that you have participated in Ride the NETT what are your post ride impressions?
Lynn: Having seen the NETT before the “Ride the NETT” event, I was amazed at how much progress had been made at clearing the overgrowth that welcomed me during my first visit. I am so proud of what the volunteers have been able to accomplish, coming alongside the Spinistry organization to enable a one-of-a-kind event that provided huge fun for participants and benefitted the NETT trail user community tremendously by breaking in a lot of trail where it needed use.
Robert: The trail conditions through Ladonia heading toward Roxton are pretty good. There are some sections that are sketchy. The bridge crossings were pretty terrifying for someone who’s afraid of heights, but I managed to cross each that I encountered, becoming more confident with each one. The careless cyclists who rode across a couple of them not only endangered themselves, but also other riders. Please walk those bridges. God-knows-how-old they are and it’s only a matter of time before someone breaks through and falls. Post-ride, I think the NETT has a lot of potential, but there’s still plenty of work to be done. The overgrown areas, the landowner disputes and the sketchy bridges make it a less-than-desirable trail for someone like me who lives an hour away from Farmersville. I’d love for more organized rides to be held on different sections of the NETT, which would be a boon for potential host cities like Paris, Clarksville, Roxton or New Boston. I think these types of rides are the key to the NETT becoming a viable, 130-mile trail.
Kim: The rail road trestles were just amazing. I got off and walked across, just in case I had to put a foot down at the wrong place and risked falling through a missing rail tie space. Plus it was a nice break to get off and stretch out my back from the rougher parts of the trail. I loved walking across them and looking down at the water below. I envisioned the millions of trips these old bridges have seen over the years and I felt like I was going back in history. There were many highlights. All kinds of folks who showed up to ride the NETT (all ages, abilities, and riding styles). The entire trail was very beautiful. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to ride down some rail road corridors; they always look so peaceful, and now I’ve experienced it on my bike thanks to the NETT. I felt like I was riding down an ally and peering into people’s back yards. It was a view that you don’t often see. The pie and the grilled sandwiches were a golden reward at our halfway mark.
Dean: I am so proud of and happy for Kevin Lee and for the NETT with a turnout of 230 riders. The establishment that many wheels made on the trail and the wide eyed enthusiasm in the riders, but even more so in the wide eyed townspeople. Both groups realizing what could be.
If asked by other cyclists what would you tell them about the NETT?
Lynn: Go ride it… pack a lunch and tell everybody you know!
Robert: If they’re looking for something different — a change of pace from road riding or mountain biking singletrack — the NETT could be right up their alley. A cyclocross or touring bike is probably the best option; however, there were some rough sections on the NETT that made me wish I had ridden my full-suspension mountain bike. Riding tubeless is the only way to go. The trail is enjoyable, and the towns you pass through are worth exploring. It’s unlike any ride I’ve done. One minute, you’re riding through a corridor-canopy of trees and brush, the sun breaking through the leaves to guide you down the path. The next minute, you are hopping off your bike to negotiate a dilapidated bridge, and then the next minute you’re in the middle of a quaint town — stray dogs standing in the middle of the streets, friendly townspeople waving and humble homes lining the roads. This pattern repeats itself, and it’s a pleasant ride.
Kim: I rode my cross bike and was happy with my decision until about mile 20 where the trail conditions weren’t as smooth and it was pretty bumpy. If you are going a longer distance and want to be comfortable I would recommend taking your mountain bike with a tubeless set up or bring extra tubes. Check out some maps and plan to take some of the gravel roads that intercept the NETT so they can break up their route. I would stay on the NETT first 15 miles or so, and then explore some gravel and jump back on the NETT and bypass some of the rougher terrain. We were able to ride everything on our cross bikes, but I would break up the NETT with gravel roads next time, or ride my mountain bike for the longer distances on the NETT. The local people we met were very friendly and gracious hosts. We will definitely be back!
Dean: It is ripe for you own adventure. Any distance. Any surface. Any duration. The tools are there…… the NETT is there………. Now is the time to “Use it into completion.”
You may have noticed a theme throughout the interviews; the mention of pie and grilled cheese. As I stood in the middle of Ladonia’s square welcoming cyclists as they arrived, smiles beamed on each face as I said, “Welcome to Pie Town.” Gloria Kitchen treated the cyclists to an assortment of fruit, cream and nut pies. YUMMY!!! If you are reading Gloria, your pies made the ride a special treat. The added indulgence was the Texas Toast Grilled Cheese with or without bacon provided by Dennis Welpe. Ladonia will always be known to those who rode the NETT as “Pie Town.”
First cyclist returned around 10AM, which would be me, as I only rode with them out to Merit. The last, whose destination was Roxton returned after 7PM. As I lingered at the finish line to visiting with cyclists and bask in the afterglow of a grand event I heard only praises for Spinistry, Cadence, Farmersville, Pie, Grilled Cheese, Towns along the trail and last but not least the awesome NETT and the challenges it has to offer.
Many have gone on for days talking about this event, but as the saying goes, all good things this must come to an end. So to wrap this up, Kevin Lee concluded by saying, “We hope to come back year after year as the NETT progresses and evolves. The biggest take away from this event is just more time in advance. We put this one together quickly. Each of the communities we have worked with has been extremely accommodating, but I would have liked more time to help them coordinate their involvement with the ride. Each of those towns has a lot of personality to showcase. Kevin then added, “I really want to thank each person who has helped the NETT get to this point. We have an amazing outdoor resource available to us now and it’s getting better every day.”
“RIDE IT INTO COMPLETION” – is the slogan Dean Nix coined during his NETT awareness ride and you should come out and help fulfill this mission. Also, make plans to Ride the NETT with Spinistry next year. You might be surprised what small country town hospitality has to offer.
Click here for photos of Ride the NETT