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September 16, 2011

Coe Everest Challenge

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff,Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 8:48 am

A lot has been going on in recent weeks and months, Henry Coe-wise, and an update here is way past due; here’s a brief summary and timeline:

- May 13, 2011: California State Parks announces a plan to close 78 out of its 278 parks due to state budget cuts. The list includes Coe park.

- It becomes clear that due to existing employee contracts, the closure will likely not happen before July 2012

- May 2011: the Coe Park Preservation Fund (CPPF) is formed, by a group of people mostly originating from the existing Pine Ridge Association (a so-called ‘official state park cooperating association’, which was formed in 1975 to assist park staff, create interpretive and educational programs for the public, organizing events and trail work days with volunteers etc). In recent years, mountain bikers in Coe have been very engaged with this group, in particular on the trail maintenance front, and fundraising for the CPPF starts.

- August 2011: we* came up with the Coe Everest Challenge, in order to raise awareness for the closure and more funds for the CPPF; it will run in conjuction with the new edition of our hundred miler (featuring a ‘bonus loop’). Trying to ride over 140 miles with 29k of elevation gain in more or less a single day in Coe (probably more) is somewhat crazy and probably overly audacious, but if we knew it could be done, it wouldn’t be a challenge! (*we = yours truly and a few friends)

- September 9, 2011: an agreement between the CPPF and State Parks is announced and will avert the closure of Coe. CPPF has raised sufficient funds to ensure the park will remain open until 2015.

Some very generous donations from a few individuals made this possible; the Everest Challenge is most likely only providing a very modest contribution, and perhaps the pressure is now a bit off, but it is important to show the state that this park is being frequented by a variety of user groups, including mountain bikers, who care about the place; and the funds will either way go to very good causes, such as trail work, the construction of new trails, an endowment for the future (post 2015) etc. So the challenge is on, more than ever. October 1st, 2011 is the big day!

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January 11, 2011

Another year has passed… (part II)

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff,Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 8:47 am

In late summer 2010 I started to experiment more with gear and practice some bikepacking – so many exciting adventures out there that are luring – and getting your feet wet slowly seems to be the recommended course of action before diving into these bigger things. I’ve done my share of night rides, but a solo night ride in Coe last August will stand out as creepiest one to date.

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There were many after work rides in summer to fondly remember; nothing like dragging your tired ass out of the office and up the mountain, to then watch a brilliant sunset and dive back down the fog blanketed slopes… I even found some new trails where I didn’t expect them.

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In fall, my previously vague plans had finally started to crystallize, and a feverish obsession took hold of me… at last, was it going to happen, pull off that 100 miler in Coe? Many a long solo ride was undertaken to scout out trails and routes. The great thing, Coe being Coe, were the many chance (as well as intended) encounters with the regulars: Roy, Patrick, Jeff, Charlie, Paul(s), Mei and Eric, Jay, Bryan etc. I even managed to convince some of them to join in the madness. A nice side effect of my training regimen was that I was able to shatter my PR on Kennedy trail (another minor obsession of mine).

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Our first shot at the Hard COEre 100 was very respectable on its own but left us hungry; I think all three of us knew we’d be back here in no time, for another attempt, now that we knew some bugs needed ironing out. I was grateful to still have the fitness and stamina required (it was mid-November), and was impressed by everyones resolve.

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Few moments felt so good as the time this shot was taken – Roy, Patrick and I had just wrapped it up and tamed the monster, and found a merry Paul and shivering Bryan greeting us at Hunting Hollow – priceless!

There wasn’t much time to do a lot of exploring out of the familiar areas this year, luckily with one noteable exception; a lava ride on the Big Island – as well as some excursions through the jungle.
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Before we realized it, the holidays were there again; this time I made it to the traditional Thanksgiving Turkey ride on Kennedy – what a crowd, and what fun!
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Meanwhile, I had turned again to my road bike, which had slowly morphed into a ‘psyclocross’ bike… getting ready for new adventures in new places; such as Titus Canyon, in a gorgeous wintery Death Valley.

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It also brought new excitement to familiar trails, and think it will continue to do so.

Looking back, there was a lot to be happy with and thankful for in 2010 – and I’m hoping 2011 will get even better; I’m wishing everyone a great, healthy, injury-free and accident-free year. Cheers!
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January 9, 2011

Another year has passed… (part I)

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff,Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 8:47 am

…which means it’s year-in-review and list season. So below, my list of most-memorable-2010-riding-experiences, with accompanying photographs. Of course, almost by definition these photos helped make the rides memorable, but they may not necessarily represent the best ones. Sometimes, the best rides are those that go unnoticed, don’t leave photographic evidence, but are great because everything just felt right at the time, I was fully in the zone or in harmony with the environment and the universe at large.

But first: it’s 2011 now, with hopefully lots of new rides and some new challenges. How about some resolutions or goals perhaps?

- learning to use the ‘lap’ button on my GPS (this does have its benefits)
- growing the Hard COEre 100 into something much bigger (and perhaps even badder; I have a whole new and additional challenge in mind)
- some bikepacking; in particular, to get ready for this; a ridiculously hard challenge but oh so luring and it would feel so good to pull it off; and most of the route is awesome: in scenery, technicality and fun-ity. The ‘race’ is actually planned for 2012 but it doesn’t hurt to prepare oneself.
- roadie stuff: Climb to Kaiser, Terrible Two? Another clean sub-20 on OLH would be nice too.
- Xterra Tahoe? (requires learning to swim properly) A ‘hard’ hundie? (Breckenridge 100 comes to mind once again; Tahoe-Sierra 100 as well but I don’t like the vibe around it so much nor the qualifier stuff)

With regards to MTBGuru.com: I’m not in danger of overstating anything if I say 2010 has been a quiet year. Aside from minor changes and maintenance, the major new effort was the integration of Google’s Fusion Tables, something which proved to be a very useful feature. Otherwise, ‘steady as she goes’ remains our motto; since it doesn’t look like Tom or I will have a lot of time to develop new things, probably more of the same in 2011; perhaps a redesign (css) if we feel ambitious.

Now back to the program. I want to use photos that I haven’t shown here before so let’s start with this:

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Jeff beautifully expresses his sense of wonder about those adventurous early spring Coe rides. Or is he re-enacting that time when he ran into a raging bull on the trail? Those rides, through lush blankets of wildflowers, the land teeming with wildlife, seem like vague memories now, but soon their time will come again.

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Coe was a bit of a theme, obviously, the Hard COEre 100 being without contest the most memorable riding experience of the year; but the great thing is that Coe lets you explore a lot of new stuff, anytime you’re up for it – I think there may be still a few years left before I’ve touched everything, at the current rate. During winter and spring, Santa Teresa was another fine riding theatre – Rocky Ridge and Stiles Ranch trails being the main poles of attraction.

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It was late spring when I focused on the ‘road’ ahead: the Wildflower tri, with my bike-challenged coworker (resulting in a near win), and more memorably, the Alta Alpina double century, which I sort of haphazardly tackled, together with Jeff and Peter. I learned how also the road bike can dish out formidable levels of suffering, though most of it was probably of my own doing (next time: do not leave the cold gear at home).

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Then summer came by, and I tasted some more Tahoe, but now on dirt. This is highly addictive, so I didn’t think I got enough, but the rides on the Tahoe Rim trail, and the Hole-in-the-Ground + Donner Rim trails certainly made a mental mark, even with mechanical mishaps and all (Tom’s improvised ‘hard tail’ was a McGyverian highlight).
And the trip with Ria on a gorgeous day to the Flume was unforgettable.

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The past year, I’ve become a happier practicioner of mountain bike swimming – or is that swim mountain biking? My favorite places to perform this refreshing endeavour are alpine lakes such as Marlette, Star Lake or Dardanelles Lake – it is of course really great in the summer heat, but even when it’s cooler I found it to rejuvenate mind and body quite well, in particular when half-wasted deep into a tough ride. Maybe next year I will graduate to swimming in Coe lakes?

February 24, 2010

MTBGuru tracks as seen through Google Fusion Tables

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff,Mapping — mtbguru @ 9:02 am

Our friends at Google have been busy as always – you may have noticed their launch this past summer of Fusion Tables, a cloud-based collaborative database application. This description probably doesn’t do much justice to what it is and can do but follow the link for more details – it basically allows people to work with structured data stored in the cloud. Or simplier said: it’s to things like MS Access or SQL a bit like Google Docs is to MS Office. An API has also been released to allow developers programmatic access to the data.




Now the Fusion Tables team is launching some new and pretty cool features, enabling new ways to visualize geocoded data on maps. It quite surpasses what one can do with regular gmaps. To illustrate these new features, data from MTBGuru (public trips) have been used to demo these visualizations. Check out the embedded (live) maps to get a taste for what it can do. The map above shows tracks from public trips in the map area, which are all overlayed as polylines – a huge amount of them – it’s pretty cool to see patterns arise of popular or much-traveled routes and trails (I particularly like the Henry Coe cobweb!)… moreover the polylines are clickable and will show you an infowindow with links to the original trip page etc. The data, which lives in a Fusion Table, can be filtered and manipulated as one can expect in a database environment, and the visualization will be adjusted accordingly.
The map below gives you a ‘heat map’ view, giving you an idea of the density of tracks in a certain area.

More details are announced on the Google LatLong blog.

From our side, we’ve been exploring the API and see how we could use Fusion Tables and its new geocoding features on MTBGuru. We thought it would be great to have a layer with these polyline tracks overlayed on the map on our home page, so that is what we’ve started implementing. The screenshots below show you how the maps on the home and trip pages now look like: on the home map, a ‘track layer’ displays tracks originating from all public trips in the map area – its visibility can be controlled by the check box labeled ‘Show All Tracks’ circled in green on the screenshot. Moreover, when you’re logged in, you can choose to display only your own tracks, using an additional checkbox labeled ‘Show My Tracks’. The overlay works with all map types, so you can view the track layer on MyTopo maps, Open Street Map (OSM) etc.

To avoid making things look like a mess in areas with a dense population of trips, the trip icon checkboxes are now unchecked by default – which means the trip icons are hidden by default. If you do want to get the old view back, check the trip icon boxes and uncheck the ‘Show Tracks’ boxes.

On a trip page, by default only the track representing the trip is shown (as was the case before), but right above the map you now have controls to display the track layer. Again, when logged in, you can choose to display either all public trips or only your own. To be able to discern the trip from the other tracks, it is now being plotted in blue instead of red (see final screenshot).

Note that the polylines from the track layer don’t have as high a resolution as the polyine representing the trip, so the red traces will appear a bit rougher. Also, we plan to use the API to periodically update the Fusion table with the newest uploaded tracks – we’re still testing this so for now the most recent tracks may not show yet. And by the way, private trips will never be displayed, as they are not uploaded to the Fusion Table (private is private!).

Finally, we’ve created a Google Code project with sample code illustrating how we used the API to work with Fusion Tables and create the table with trips.

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January 2, 2010

Bye 2009, hi 2010

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff,Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 10:44 am

A happy 2010 and new decade to everyone, and we wish you keep the passion burning, for whatever it is you have some! 2009 for me was a ‘grand cru’ year for riding: I think I rode more than I was hoping to, explored new places, as well as many familiar ones – with towards the end of the year a little reminder not ever to take things for granted. And we got plenty of inspiration by fantastic trips and rides I see posted on the site all the time (Plymmer’s unparallelled Coe explorations or Skyline35′s awesome photos and trip reports come to mind). Here’s twelve pics, one a month, to hand a proper farewell to the year.

January offered plenty of evidence of why it’s great living in the golden state: you could chose to go snowshoe or ski in the Sierras with your sweetheart, or ride some trails with her in balmy and sunny conditions.
Long Ridge, Saratoga

February was wet at times, but that’s what makes the abundance of rocky creek crossings and streams in Henry Coe interesting.
The hike-a-bike through the Narrows in Coe

Spring! That means: more Coe riding – we were able to enjoy and gawk at a spectacular display of wildflowers in March… and of course the riding rocks.
Hoover air strip in Coe

April is Fort Ord and Sea Otter classic time. I love this annual bike ‘circus’, and though I don’t venture out to the Fort that often, each time I look at the trails I see a lot worth loving!
Part of the Sea Otter Classic XC course in Fort Ord

My Moab-pilgrimage happened in May this year… I need this place, for spiritual renewal, or something. Or it could be for the incredible riding experiences, vistas, vibes, the overwhelming light and sound spectacle of a thundering desert storm (I hit quite a few of those this time around), and finally fulfill an old promise/resolution: ride the slickrock with my dad. Unfortunately in May there was also an immense loss – I didn’t know Anthony personally but had learned about Moab and was ‘primed’ to it, and many other places he visited and rode, through his lens.
Bar M and Circle O trails in Moab

I met new and awesome people in June – that’s what trail work days are really good for. Take Paul for instance, who devised this fantastic ‘devious’ Coe epic that I thoroughly enjoyed. The high lasted for days after!
Late spring ride in Coe, along some 'devious' trails

Summer time – this means Tahoe riding season, and the chunky granite goodness that comes with it. Magical moments in July, and we were delighted with the new (to us) stuff we were able to discover…
Rocky Tahoe goodness!

In August I tackled one of the challenges I set myself for the year: do a ‘hard’ (i.e. with ‘technical’ course) 100 mile endurance race. It was harder than I imagined and I found myself in strange places (physically and mentally), but that’s of course what makes it interesting and worthwile. Oh and the high afterwards, it lasts for weeks!

(photo credit: anonymous friendly trail runner from Bend)
During the inaugural High Cascades 100 in Bend, OR

The sunny season is winding down, summer travels are being wrapped up: this means Coe – scorched by the long hot days – comes back in my sight. I had signed up for a local race in September – the first one held here in ages – and to my own surprise won the sport class. Yay to yet another new experience, though I thought I’d gotten too old for that; I still think the rest of the field probably took a wrong turn somewhere…

(photo credit on this one: sir C. Kortman)
During the Henry Coe MTB challenge

October brought some new and needed rain to the Bay Area, enough to fill up China Hole in Coe and make it a crystal clear refuge from the occasional Indian summer heat…
Another magical Coe moment, in China Hole

A beautiful fall day in November was lit up by some improvised trail work and fun…
Pacheco Creek trail fun

Finally, December brought some injury and illness, enough to make me fully appreciate all the good days. And there were plenty this month too, in very magic places…

Nounou Ridge trail in Kauai

Cheers, and here’s to 2010, and the ‘tens’ (‘noughties’ sounded akward, seems it’s not improving much yet)!

July 14, 2009

Summer update

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff — mtbguru @ 7:37 am

This past weekend, there was a perfect storm of familiar cycling events in my backyard taking place: the Downieville Classic, the Death Ride, the Cascade Cream Puff, the San Francisco triathlon (ok this involves some swimming and running as well), all on the same day. Meanwhile, the Breck Epic hardly ended, the last Tour Divide racers are wrapping up their incredible adventure and of course there is a certain race going on in France. It must be summer!

All this action was inspiring enough for me to kick the blog out of its lethargic comatose state, so be prepared for some new and good stuff!

Some housekeeping info: the canyonfever domain has been temporarily retired until I find a better purpose for it, and announcements and updates related to the more nuts and bolts stuff of MTBGuru.com will be posted using our brand spanking new Twitter account. Follow us there to keep posted on what’s up with the site. All this means I’ll be posting here more about riding, yay!

 

 

December 3, 2008

Comment feeds

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff,Howtos / tips / tricks — mtbguru @ 8:28 am

We’ve recently added comment feeds so that you can more easily keep track of comment threads posted on your (public) trips, using the tool of your choice (e.g. Reader, Bloglines or desktop RSS readers like Newsgator).

To access the feed, go to your ‘My Trips’ page (using the sidebar link) and you’ll find a blue feed icon and link to the feed, see screenshot below:

Comment feed link

Use this link to subscribe to the feed in your reader of choice. Firefox or Safar render feeds pretty well too (see screenshot below), so you can alternatively just stick with the browser. The feed (Atom / RSS) contains all comments left on your public trip pages.

Feed screenshot

November 19, 2008

View or print (large) maps

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff,Howtos / tips / tricks — mtbguru @ 11:28 pm

We’ve added a section on the trip page containing a set of links that will lead you to separate pages showing only the map, in a number of different screen resolutions and map types (see screenshot below). This allows you to ‘set your map free’; useful in cases where you’d like to have more screen real estate to zoom in and view your track in greater detail, or when you want to print* out a map with the track on, but without all the other stuff on the page in your way.

PrintableMaps

An example:

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*Note that the track won’t print properly when using Firefox – it does so however with Internet Explorer and Safari – I won’t bore you with the obscure technical reasons for this, but let me point out that even Google itself applies a rather ugly hack/workaround for this issue (printing tracks/polylines overlayed on maps in Firefox): they run a server that converts everything into bitmaps and serve up the latter when a print request is made. If you do use Firefox and want to print, my best advice is to use the Prtscr button or other screen capture utility, copy and paste the result in an application from which you can print (e.g. Powerpoint or OpenOffice)

July 5, 2008

Topo maps (US)

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff,Mapping — mtbguru @ 7:05 pm

We’ve added a new map type, ‘Topo Maps’ – you can select this type using the selection buttons in the top right corner of the trip map:

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Selecting this map type will serve you USGS topographical map data, with a scale determined by your map zoom level. Thanks to the USGS (US Geological Survey) for providing this great and free service. Unfortunately, only topo data of the US is available – we’re not aware of any similar open online databases like this for other areas in the world (if you know some, please let us know).

An example of how it looks like:
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June 7, 2008

What’s new

Filed under: Admin,General MTBGuru stuff — mtbguru @ 12:38 am

Time to get the blog out of hibernation! We’ve been silently making upgrades, adding new features to the site and testing them out, and there was not much time left to write about it here.

More about that below, but first a service announcement: I’ve created a new home for the more bike and riding oriented stuff I want to write about (and did so here in the past); it’s called Canyon Fever, go check it out.
This place (blog.mtbguru.com) will then be focused on MTBGuru.com support and announcements.

So here’s a quick recap on what’s new on the site, and I plan to elaborate on some of this in subsequent posts…

  • Google Earth in the browser
  • Google recently released a browser plugin as well as an API that enables us to run Google Earth within the browser (only Firefox and IE on Windows are supported at this time).

  • MTBGuru for Mobile
  • We’ve been getting quite excited about the possibilities the latest generation of mobile devices offer (iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia’s NSeries); this is a work in progress, more to follow!

  • Integration of the Garmin’s Communicator browser plugin
  • This allows you to automatically download or upload data from your Garmin devices, rather than by transferring the .GPX files.

  • Support for Garmin’s Training Center format
  • This format is required to upload course files to the Garmin Edge and Forerunner series, which become increasingly popular for biking and running activities; so we made a little exception on our .GPX/.KML centric policy.

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