Preview: Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic

More and more multi-day stage races have been coming to the surface in the past few years to challenge riders that are looking for more than the standard 24-hour or 100-mile race. In 2010, central Pennsylvania will be added to the list of premier multi-day racing venues with the introduction of the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic.


The Trans-Sylvania Epic is the brainchild of Mike Kuhn and Ray Adams. They first started working together in 1994-95 as racing teammates, and in 2005 they began the race team. In 2010 the partnership with will continue to exist, albeit with a more centrally located title sponsor, They also began the Outdoor Experience Organization, a non-profit with the objective to build, create, and improve trails in Pennsylvania.

I had the chance to ride a few portions of the racecourse and tour the camping area this past November. I walked away with a positive impression of the trail system and participant accommodations, and a deep respect for the mission behind the race.

The Trans-Sylvania Epic will be a seven-day stage race through the Appalachian Mountains and will be held on May 30th through June 5th, 2010 near State College, PA. (This area hosted the 2005 Single Speed World Championships and is home to the annual Wilderness 101). In addition to the 25-60 mile cross country stages, the week will begin with a 10 mile time trial and the last stage will be an Avalanche format consisting of a mass start with several short Super-D courses.

The trails are a good mix of rolling fire roads, traditional east coast rock gardens and roots, fast rollercoaster singletrack, tough climbs, speedy descents, and tight technical sections that will keep all seven days interesting and relatively different. The terrain will be tough enough to impress the experts and keep the novices motivated to finish without being totally drained. “It’s an athletic challenge that puts an emphasis on completing something that’s kind of difficult to do,” commented Adams.

If you’ve ever considered racing a multi-day event the Trans-Sylvania Epic would be the perfect opportunity to test your ability, without having to commit to riding or staying all seven days, because of the way the race categories are setup. Sure, there are the standard classes for single, duo, and corporate teams—but the open and tandem classes ensure fun for everyone.

In the open class you assemble a group of how ever many friends, share at least three timing chips, and just make sure that at least three people from your team start and finish the stage each day to be counted in the G.C. You’d still get to race as many days as you’d like, have all the fun of a 24-hour race (without worrying about night laps or adequate lighting) and save some stamina to continue through the week.

Another appealing aspect of the Trans-Sylvania Epic is that you could spin your desire to race into a family vacation. The Seven Mountains Boy Scout Camp that will be used as a home base sits atop some serious wooded acreage. Four of the seven stages will begin and end within pedaling distance of the camp. The other three stages will be within an hour’s drive and encompass trails at Raystown Lake, Bald Eagle State Forest, and Rothrock State Forest. (Shuttle to those starting lines will be available).

Not only would it be convenient to ride your bike to most of the starting lines, but it also makes the race a very family friendly atmosphere. Camp only needs to be set up once, which will allow more time for relaxing after each stage. “We want to allow for people to get out and watch the race without having to find their way around the course. We’ll take care of that. Just hop on the bus and we’ll get you out and you can cheer for someone or heckle,” said Kuhn.


Because this is a Boy Scout campground and the adults there are expert at entertaining large groups, while you’re out riding, the family could go canoeing, fishing, hiking, swimming, or perhaps try their hand at archery. After the race the entertainment will surely continue. I spotted two extremely large fire pits about 20’ apart from each other surrounded by stadium style seating and a lake. The possibilities of what could occur there are endless. Basically all you need to do is get to the race then relax. All other services, lodging, food, shuttle, and entertainment are provided.

Camping and RV space is plentiful, but for those that would rather not sleep in a tent there is an abundance of bed space. Private cabins  that hold two people, and  kitchen-equipped lodges that accommodate 20-40 people are available. The price per bed ($100) is the same no matter what style of cabin you choose, but the availability is on a first-come, first-served basis, so sign up sooner rather than later. (Kids under 12 get discounted lodging and food service).


The actual food is still in the planning stages, but will also be provided if chosen as an option. Think back to your week at camp during elementary school, the wooden décor, Indian decorations and cabin names. The mess hall will be your dining room, minus the singing and piggy-waste. (That’s what the weighed leftovers were called anyway. Don’t take more than you can eat. Remember that?) Just visualize being hungry after a race, and not having to cook your own meal. Just walk in and be served.


The town of State College is less than 20 minutes away from the campground and is stocked with hotels, restaurants, pubs, and breweries. The area is relatively cheap and in the summer the college student count will be at a seasonal low. Great trails, good food and micro-brew. What more could you want?

When I asked Mike and Ray about their motivation and future plans for the race, I was reminded that all of this is not for profit and for the good of all trail users. Kuhn stated, “ We started a non-profit around the race and the race at this point is going to be our major fundraiser. The whole purpose of the non-profit is to improve access to and contribute to building and maintaining trails in Pennsylvania for multi-use purposes.”

“If there are profits we will throw that money back into the infrastructure of the trails around here and improve upon the experience that people will have in the following years,” added Adams. “Our goal is to make sure everybody has a good time, that’s the first thing, to publicize the mountain biking in Pennsylvania, and to make sure people have a memorable vacation as they are riding here.”

Mike and Ray hope to make the Trans-Sylvania Epic into an annual race and rotate it around the state after showcasing each area for 3-5 years, thereby encouraging people to come back to the race by offering fresh trails and experiences. Sounds like they are on the right track.