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March 7, 2011

Record high

Filed under: Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 8:47 am

Was it the incredible, pinch-me-it’s-february azure skies and temperatures, fueled by powerful offshore winds, or the flow of those lovely trails in the forest, best enjoyed in the company of some good friends?

Santa Cruz trails

Point is, yesterday was a day of record highs. The three dudes (druids?) we ran into at some point must have taken that in a different sense, but this was Santa Cruz, and reputations have to be kept up.

Wilder Ranch

Inge demonstrates that Titus lives, and today she had her bike properly baptized.

In other news, Coe-sorcerer and trail builder extraordinaire Paul has a new blog up, with lots of fascinating Coe-centric stuff – check out his photos of an amazing sunset.

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?

December 10, 2010

Scenes from the HC100

Filed under: Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 8:47 am

Knew the video footage would come in handy to fill up a rainy day… prepare for iPhone-definition, in all its stunning shakiness:

Meanwhile, I’m somewhat stuck in an mtb-rut – can’t remember when I last rode or touched a mountain bike. Not to worry though, there is a psyclocross bike to keep me entertained during these rather rainy days. Since it is a modified road bike, there’s no real mud clearance or serious braking power, so I stick to trails and roads that dry quickly… such as those found in Death Valley:

Titus Canyon road
November 26, 2010

Kennedy Turkey day ride

Filed under: Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 8:46 am

Every year on the morning of Thanksgiving day, a spontaneous and rather miraculous gathering of close to a thousand cyclists takes place on the summit of Kennedy fireroad in Los Gatos. Food and drinks are carried up the 2000ft hill and shared. I finally made it this year, and it was quite a spectacle – great to see many familiar faces and to reunite with the other Hard COEre 100 riders (or should I say, my fellow Coe nuts?).

Turkey ride 2010
Lechon!
Turkey ride 2010
“One gear, one beer” (aka best – and most useful – costume award)
Turkey ride 2010
Crowd with Switchbaxr/Ron in the foreground swinging his camera around

November 15, 2010

The Hard COEre 100, revisited

Filed under: Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 8:46 am

It’s now more than 24 hours ago since we finished but I’m still in some state of delirium… where to start? After last month’s attempt we had learned a few things, about batteries, nutrition, gear. But we would also lose almost an hour worth of daylight. The day that presented itself was promising to be an ideal opportunity though: the forecast said sunny with high temperatures in the 70′s, with trails turned uber-tacky by previous rains and now dried out to perfection. So I put my excuses aside and lined up with Patrick and Roy on Friday just before midnight on a frighteningly frigid Hunting Hollow parking lot… I had no idea how we would fare, but was trusting on our collective bull-headedness to pull us through.

On such cold and dark night (the moon had set a few hours before), climbing Lyman-Willson was a great way to get the blood flowing and we slowly started to warm up. The ridges were again much warmer than the canyon floors, with their pockets of seemingly arctic air stuck to the surface. On Steer Ridge we had our first noteworthy wildlife encounter: a skunk was running along in front of us, sticking to the trail rather than just moving to the side (the same, not-too-bright skunk of last time?). I lost my patience, launched into a sprint and successfully completed a ‘safe’ pass. This must have ticked it off a bit and poor Patrick was to pay the price, as he got sprayed by the cantankerous creature. Luckily for us, he managed to avoid most of it, though the unsavory aroma would accompany him for a while.

Descending Spike Jones and Timm in the dark was loads of fun again, I can highly recommend it. No trace of mountain kitties, though Patrick did spot a bobcat. We slowly made our way up to the top of Cross Canyon, then more fun ensued with the high speed descent and traverse through the canyon floor. The bottom was frosty and humid, and the slippery mess of vegetation and wet rocks made it a precarious and slow ride. We all failed miserably on the Cross Canyon Wall but didn’t really do an honest effort – saving our breath and legs would be the motto today. During the climb out, Roy got held up a bit, and Patrick and myself were to witness Roy’s extraordinary self-motivational skills again – the ungodly screams rising out of the depths of the canyon must have sounded terrifying to the untrained ear, but we knew better.

Twilight at Coe

Willow Ridge road was next, then Hoover Lake trail. By means of contribution to the trail work day, we left rock cairns indicating where rework was needed (more seriously: Paul and co would end up doing a great amount of work, thanks!). Last time around I was rather miserable on the Willow Ridge singletrack descent, with my dead battery and wimpy bar LED – not so today, all was well in the battery department and the plunge into the Narrows was a blast. After the climb on Lost Spring trail, the descent then ascent of China Hole we started to tire a bit of the nightriding, and were looking forward to dawn, which we were able to witness in all its glory on our way to Headquarters. We arrived there pretty much on schedule, but unfortunately the schedule didn’t involve waiting around for HQ to open up so that we could storm the coffee machine inside. No coffee for us today, but that was fine, we had Flat Frog and Middle Ridge to look forward to, not a bad way to start the day.

Middle Ridge

Everything looked glorious in the early morning light and I was flying down Middle Ridge – on one occasion, a bit all too literally, as my handlebar clipped a tree and bike and pilot got launched off trail. Fortunately, no real harm was done (except to the mount of my bar LED). I guess this was the first time I was having some second thoughts on having installed a wider bar and bar ends. Patrick also had a minor stumble, but we were fortunate that in terms of incidents this was all we would encounter today – no other crashes or bad mechanicals (my main fear for the day) were to be reported.

Crossing the creek at Poverty Flat Camp we started to feel the impending doom of Bear Mountain, but we first needed to deal with its little cousin: Poverty Flat road. The recent rain has been a godsend – it turned the unclimbable mess of moondust into a nice firm tacky surface and I think I haven’t seen it in any better conditions yet. On our left, we saw some smoldering remains of the controlled burn that recently took place in the Blue Ridge zone. At this point, we’d done over 40 miles and were close to having climbed 10k feet, but we still felt in decent shape – I tried to ignore the fact that we’d just done a six hour night ride and imagined we were instead just starting out our ride on this bright sunny morning. More mind games were going to be needed to pull this off, I figured. As we knew from past experience, our paces were pretty well matched, and it certainly helped to have someone to complain to when needed close to you.

The big one was up next: Bear Mountain. I felt better than last time and attacked the lower section with some amount of success. Of course, all resistance was futile once we got to that ludicrous 40% section. Patrick was a beast again and cleaned more than I thought possible or advisable. After the seemingly endless sequence of false summits, we finally made it to the top; meanwhile things had been nicely warming up and we could finally strip some layers and bask in the sun a bit. We had a few ‘easy’ miles to look forward to then, the descent to and circumnavigation of Mississippi Lake. A bit of climbing on Willow Ridge road got us to the top of Heritage: a bumpy descent leading to the even bumpier, pothole-ridden upper Pacheco Creek trail. I was not in a happy place on my hardtail here, and upped the pace, looking forward to get it over with quickly and to some rest and repose at Pacheco Camp. We rolled into camp almost exactly at noon.

North Fork

I considered beforehand the third part of the course, which was up next, to be the make-it-or-break-it part. It’s a deep excursion into the backcountry, and even on a ‘normal’ ride not for the faint of heart. But by now the miles had started to weigh real heavy, and we entered deep into our respective pain caves. To describe the horrors Kaiser-Aetna (‘a mile and a half of hell’?) or Center Flats road inflicted on us at this stage of the ride is difficult, it’s something to experience rather than explain. But the payoff is we got to ride incredible and unique gems of singletrack (Dutch’s trail: undiluted awesomeness! That superfast downhill stretch of Burra Burra!), in the middle of nowhere, the trails all for ourselves. On Dutch’s I even retrieved a water bottle (one with an integrated filter) that I lost there some time last August.

Center Flats

Not surprisingly, our pace had been dropping a lot, and on this short November day we were soon going to embark on part two of our night ride. We had planned for this and made sure we had plenty of battery juice. After we had dragged ourselves off of Center Flats road, we witnessed a spectacular sunset on Wagon road, and hooked up our lights (and warm gear) again. The last 20 mile leg of the route had been designed to be a bit faster and easier, though that was all highly relative at this point. The Kelly Lake trail descent in the dark was certainly fast and fun, just as Dexter/Grizzly Gulch trail, a wonderful combination. Then there were a bunch of slow fireroad grinds (Crest road, Coit road from Kelly Lake, Grizzly Gulch road/Wagon towards Camp Willson) that certainly felt easier than the earlier butchery on Center Flats and its likes.

Sunset in Coe

To add mileage to the route (and ensure a clean 100 as per the official Coe map), I had included a slight detour off of Camp Willson in the end, featuring sections of Vasquez and Long Dam trails, and I hadn’t bothered to preride them. Roy and Patrick gave me a disparaging look once we had regrouped at Camp Willson, and I was unsure why. As soon as they sent me ahead down Vasquez I understood. The downhill part is horribly rutted, the short climb out vicious, and the descent down Long Dam most possibly the worst trail I have ever laid wheels on (basketball sized potholes, ruts and ditches are literally all over the place). But in a way, I guess it’s not unfitting for a ‘hard’ Coe ride.

Even though we were plodding around like zombies now, I was getting quite excited, knowing that we had it almost in the bag. The last-but-not-least hurdle however was the 500ft climb on Wagon road. A smooth fireroad, but the bottom part sports a sustained 18% section and I had to use all my willpower to refrain from dabbing and ditching the bike – having Patrick climb next to me helped to ease the pain and at last we made it to the top. I must have fallen half asleep, as I missed the spectacular meteorite that Patrick and Roy were gazing at (I did see a smaller one earlier on). The fast and furious final descent down Wagon road upped the adrenaline level again, and we stormed back home through a frosty Hunting Hollow road to claim our 100 miler, which had taken us a grand total of 21 hours and 12 minutes. We were pleasantly surprised to see a welcome committee on the parking lot, which we highly appreciated, thanks Paul and Bryan! Some numbers needed rounding up (damn GPS receivers), so after a bit of bonus riding we were finally able to enjoy the festivities while staving off onset of hypothermia. Best – and hardest – ride ever! Thanks Patrick and Roy for sharing in the madness. Next year, I’d love to see some strong riders show up and shatter our time; after all, if we can do it, why not you?

P.S. This is pretty much a transcript of what I posted on the mtbr thread – check it out for Patrick and Roy’s version of the facts. Ride stats and many more photos here.

November 12, 2010

Rematch

Filed under: Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 8:46 am

We tested the waters (for some of us, quite literally) and since a nice meteorological window of opportunity has opened up, we’re on for a rematch:

Hard COEre 100 flyer

We wouldn’t have been able to wait until next year anyways..

October 17, 2010

The Hard COEre 100 – first shot

Filed under: Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 8:46 am

We came, we saw and Coe won.

For a while I’ve been fascinated by the idea of pulling off an unsupported 100-miler at Henry Coe: riding one giant, pure dirt loop, without repeats, out-and-backs or pavement. The vast amount of terrain Coe offers does allow this – it would allow even more if you’d be inclined to want more, with its 87,000 acres and 300-something miles of trails and dirt roads. And so the Hard COEre 100 was born (follow the link for route details and more). A century at Coe means one should count on at least 20,000 feet of climbing, as the trails – a concoction of bumpy singletrack, steep firebreaks and jeep roads, half-overgrown game trails, rocky creek beds and old horse carriage trails – tend to go either up or down, at mostly unforgiving grades.

I probed around a bit and found Patrick and Roy – two of the strongest Coe-riders I know – prepared to share in the madness and line up with me for a 2AM start of this inaugural version. The evening before, my goal was to get at least a few hours of sleep in before the start, my main fear was not to hear my alarm and suffer rightful embarrassment. Carbo-loading by drinking two IPA’s was just right to obtain both objectives, and would hopefully provide good energy for the ride as well.

start of Hard COEre 100
The inaugural crazies riders right before the start

And so three souls lined up at the start – we’d be carrying more weight than usual (lights, batteries, warm riding gear, all our food), and it finally started to dawn upon me that the schedule and route that I had thought up in front of my computer was verging on the edge of madness, given what I thought my own capabilities were. But I quickly pushed the worries aside, I wanted to play and see, and just try to make the best of the curveballs that Coe would throw at us.

A ride like this needed an appropriate warm-up, so what better way to start it than the slow grunt up Lyman-Willson? The most memorable part of it turned out to be a skunk running along in front of us for a while, forcing us to opt for the steeper part of a short braid in the trail. After reaching Camp Willson we decided to not pause and push through to Willson Peak, climbing further up Steer Ridge. Unfortunately the moon had set already, as the nocturnal views from Steer Ridge would have been magical. Now the fun could really begin: the combo of singletrack descents Spike Jones / Timm was a total blast in the dark – my setup of strong helmet incandescent light and bar mounted LED worked great and I hesitated only on the trickiest log rolls on Timm. Roy took out some snagging branches with his sheer enthusiasm, I believe. We were up for a 5 hour night ride, on its own already respectable, but I remembered this setup worked perfectly for almost 8 hours during the Moonlight Madness ride, so I didn’t worry too much about battery life. Alas, I should never trust anything using batteries, as I was about to find out.

Lost Spring trail
Roy climbing out of Lost Spring trail, after ritual release of inner demons

Next up was a bit of Coit road, a bit of Anza (up, then down) and more Coit. Coit Spring / south Cross Canyon was the next notable climb, and at the crest we took our first real break. So far all was good, and we dived into Cross Canyon, a fast, furious descent. Then: my helmet light started to get dimmer and dimmer, and quickly failed entirely; another lesson learnt (test everything thoroughly and preferably right before you use it) but not a good spot and time to learn it, with Cross Canyon being among the most rocky, techy parts of the route. I still had my LED bar light of course, and it took some getting used to, and a few clumsy stumbles on the tricky dried out creek crossings, but it worked.

We told ourselves to not bother trying to clean the hardest climbing sections on this ride (one of our normal passtimes on Coe rides) – though Patrick in particular gave honest attempts on many of them – so the Cross Canyon Wall remained undefeated. Really hard to imagine it can be cleaned anyway these days, it is looking more rutted and loose than ever.

A few gentle miles of Willow Ridge road were up next and then it was time to check up on our recent trailwork near Hoover Lake. I couldn’t enjoy it very much due to my challenges with illumination but it rode well – minus dabs on the early switchbacks but I’ll blame those on the darkness.

In my current predicament I wasn’t particularly looking forward to Willow Ridge trail, a steep plunge on narrow, poison oak infested singletrack to Los Cruzeros, and I had to take it very slowly. But once we started the climb out of the Narrows on Lost Spring trail, dawn broke and my battery worries were over (for a while). Seeing the sun rise after a long night ride always gives me a good morale boost, and I enjoyed the climb out towards the top of China Hole East. After Patrick and I had crested the climb, we were upset by a loud, infernal grunt rising from the depths of the Narrows – the only thing this could signal was Roy not cleaning a climb. Coe cries every time Roy dabs!

Sunrise  in Coe

Sunrise in China Hole
A rather awesome part of long night rides: witnessing dawn

The descent into China Hole was fast and fun, and particularly nice in the fresh daylight. Next up was the, for Coe standards, easy, ‘family-oriented’ climb up China Hole West. After jointly dabbing on the toughest part of it, the first, elusive switchback, we slowly but surely dragged ourselves up Pine Ridge. The Manzanita Point fireroad leading to the park’s headquarters (HQ) had recently been graded (a mountain biker’s curse) and turned into a sandy mess in spots. The plan was to take it all the way up to HQ to refill on water and enjoy some other perks (full service bathrooms, instant coffee or hot chocolate for 25 cents!), which ment we would have to deviate a bit from the ‘rules’, as it implied a short out-and-back section, and even a very short stretch of pavement. But as it really falls in the noise overall (the out-and-back is about 0.6 miles), and it serves a clear purpose (water supply), we decided it was an acceptable exception (that’s the advantage if you make up the rules yourself!).

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Roy needed some dusting after Patrick was done with him here
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A sea of fog rolling into the valley below

Our pace had been dropping throughout the ride, or rather, our breaks getting increasingly long and more frequent – and I knew it was going to be very hard to finish it in something resembling daylight, which was weighing a bit on me knowing my battery situation. But the coffee/chocolate at HQ was a godsend and got us all psyched up again for the goodness that was to follow: Flat Frog and Middle Ridge (ok, with some Hobbs-drudge in between). Middle Ridge is of course about the finest singletrack descent one could dream up. I walked the steep climb at the beginning of it to save myself for what we’d get on our plate as soon as the downhill fun would have dried up.

Middle Ridge
The joys of Middle Ridge

So much fun just had to have a price. Poverty Flat would be the appetizer for what was to come: an unclimbable loose mess, an excursion towards the outer limits of what we were willing to put up with. Meanwhile it had started to warm up, and temperatures were definitely exceeding the 80F barrier of my comfort zone. The main course was Bear Mountain. Roy and I had stoked Patrick – a Bear Mountain virgin – about it and I hope it delivered. The first stretch was a long hike-a-bike for the three of us, but it was impressive to see how Patrick managed to clean a formidable section later on. It was clear that he had the best legs today; a climb like this doesn’t leave much doubt. But the mountain did get him in the end: he seemed to suffer a slow leak in the rear tire and needed to replace a tube. Myself, I think I ended up hiking almost half of its 4 mile overall length.

Bear Mountain
Bear Mountain: the Crusher of souls, the Obliterator of hope

hikeabike on Bear Mountain
Bear Mountain: delivering on its evil promises


We pretty much looped around this lonely house-on-the-hill

Fortunately, Bear Mountain road does have an end, and we were relieved to zip down towards Mississippi lake along County Line road, on occasion staring into the Orestimba Wilderness on our left. It’s always a joy to see Mississippi Lake appear and after riding a fun stretch of singletrack around it we took a break and filtered some water. The next part of the route was the only one I hadn’t ridden before: a stretch of Willow Ridge road followed by a descent on Rat Spring trail – the Willow Ridge part seemed innocent enough on the map, a gradual climb followed by some ‘rollers’. But these rollers turned out to be a rather painful affair – ridiculously steep walls that were generally just a tad too long for me to power up through momentum – I was still in the process of recovering from Bear Mountain and felt beat down by the heat and now this. I suffered/hiked through them, but needed a long break at Pacheco Camp to regain my composure and some strength.

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A typical Willow Ridge ‘roller’

But a worse thing was that we were now more than three hours behind schedule. I had tried to design the route so that leg 2 (which we just completed) and 3 were the hardest, and leg 4 easier and faster. Riding legs 3 and 4 was going to leave us with an ETA of at best 10pm. Given that I would have to rely on a wimpy bar LED, and Patrick and Roy’s lights may have had only one or two hours left, we made the hard decision to pull the plug on the whole route, skip leg 3 and finish by continuing with leg 4. It would still give us 80 miles with ~15,000 foot of climbing.

After eating a bit and employing my secret end-of-ride weapon (GU shots) I started to feel better again. The last part of the route was a bunch faster indeed and featured highlights such as the Kelly Lake trail (East) descent, the Dexter + Grizzly Gulch singletrack (great downhill!) and some exhilarating high-speed downhill fun on Wagon Road (speeds approaching 40mph). Roy started to look a little pale and we were afraid that he would decide to climb up Serpentine rather than stick to the route (yes, he’s one who would opt to climb more in order to feel better!), but our fear was fortunately ungrounded.

On Wagon road
Roy cresting the final climb on Wagon Road

It was very rewarding and great fun riding this in a small group, but there is a final, near-500 foot climb on Wagon right before the descent home, and my original intention was to propose to Roy and Patrick to duke it out here, close to the very end, for the ‘win’. Of course that wasn’t relevant anymore, and Patrick would have handily smoked us anyway, so I didn’t even bring it up. Hence we rolled together through Hunting Hollow right before sunset, around 6.15pm, back to the lot, to enjoy some post-ride festivities. Too bad that the mtbr HCFC crowd had left already, but we did manage to sweep up Brian/knobs from his ride and chatted a bit.

A great adventure was had – thanks Roy and Patrick for the company and willingness to take part in my borderline-ridiculous plans – and we all learned something. For instance, that it should be possible for us to finish this thing, given a better preparation, some minor tweaks and perhaps a longer day. This ain’t over yet!

at the end of our HC100 attempt
‘After’ shot, enjoying some well-deserved goodies

October 3, 2010

A Hole in the Ground (and a broken link, a sheared bolt)

Filed under: Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 8:46 am

The plan was simple: enjoy the DRT+HitG yet one more time this year, before it gets too cold, before it gets snowed in – and introduce Tom to its glorious goodness.
Connector to the Donner Rim trail

Sometimes not everything goes according to plan though.

Just over one mile in, after finishing the initial climb from the Donner Lake traihead to the DRT, I felt something funny at my left crank. It started to feel even funnier when it completely detached from its rightful location, the bottom bracket, and was just dangling from my foot. The crank bolt had sheared in two sections and there was nothing we could do to get the bike to somewhat work again. Well, it was possible to descend with one crank back to the trailhead, which actually did provide some entertainment.
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Truckee was close by so we went there to look for a bike shop – our luck took a turn for the better as the great folks of Cyclepaths in Truckee were able to quickly fix things and set me up with a replacement bolt. But we still had wasted a good chunk of time driving around so we decided to settle for the regular HitG loop – which made me suspect for a second that Tom might have sabotaged my bike, to prevent me from dragging him along on a 30+ miler in the high Sierra, a thought that earlier on hadn’t been able to extract much enthusiasm out of him…

We started out with the road and fireroad section – and then the fun could start. Conditions were perfect at the time – not too warm, not too cold, some clouds, fall colors here and there, and the climb up Andesite provided plenty of purrty views. Soon we got into the flow of the trail, and took on a brisky pace. There was a group of three ahead of us going at an equally brisk pace, and we passed a friendly couple from New York state vacationing in the area while they were acquainting themselves with the Sierra granite.
hitg

At the midway point of the loop, about 7 miles from each trailhead, I stopped right after a chunky section to get some photos; while Tom was descending said section, a loud popping noise accompanied the downhill action, a noise that had the unmistakable and terrifying character of disintegrating bike parts. It turned out the linkage of his Santa Cruz Blur LT rear suspension had broken (in multiple pieces, not all of which we were able to retrieve) – a perfect spot for this to happen, we couldn’t be farther out from civilization and the impending dread of a 7 mile hike-a-bike under looming thunderstorms didn’t exactly lighten up the mood.

McGyver linkage fix

However, as the stereotype has it, in every crisis there is opportunity, and Tom got the bright idea of lodging a rock in between his seat tube and the seatstays. This would prevent his bottom bracket from sinking down to near-ground due to the defunct linkage and now dangling free shock, effectively turning it into a hardtail: the Santa Cruz limited edition Blur LT ‘Hard’ Tail with custom rock-link! He had wrapped some duct tape around the rock and I suggested using his cellphone pouch to spread out the contact force and protect the seat tube. More duct tape was dug up from the depths of his backpack, to keep the entire assembly in place and I had to bow my head in respect for such preparedness (previously, I had given him plenty of flack for carrying too much stuff around ‘that one would never use’ on rides). I now agree, there can never be enough duct tape!

Duct tape to the rescue

It all worked surprisingly well, even on the chunkier sections of trail (of which there are rather a few). I had a pretty great time on the rocks and didn’t even have to feel bad for Tom’s misadventure, as he was able to maintain a very decent pace, taking it easy on the hard sections, to protect the integrity of his brand new hardtail as much as possibe.

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Close to the end, at the staircased hairball section I dabbed on the same tight right hander I had trouble with last time; next time, third time right perhaps?

It was an eventful day out in the woods, and to conclude I’d say that the fabric that keeps mankind going must undoubtedly contain some McGyver-style thought processes and ample supplies of duct tape.
Oh, and get up there if you have the chance – there’s still time before the snow, and the fall colors are starting to break out…

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September 17, 2010

DRT + HitG

Filed under: Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 8:46 am

Or, Donner Rim Trail plus Hole in the Ground (I finally closed the loop). These trails could and should never end. Some photos below, to keep the stoke, while the next Tahoe excursion is being staged…

Donner Rim trail

Summit Lake

Donner Rim Trail

Donner Rim Trail

Everything is still in good shape (i.e. you won’t eat too much dust) due to the late snow, so go get it while it lasts…

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