31 August 2008

31/August/2008 La Costa Solo Ride

After this morning's abbreviated ride with my son, I was still in the mood to pedal. The bike was still on the roof of my car, a fresh riding kit tucked away in a duffel in the back of the car, and my energy was high. I got in the car for drive over to La Costa. Everything seemed to be ready. After about 20 starts and stops as I fiddled with this and that, I jumped on the bike and was riding up the hill.

The temperature was cool enough and even though I was working hard something about the ride was very easy. There were technical sections of the trail that I seemed to be able to just climb like I never had been able to do before. I was on my Mojo and filled with it too. It was awesome.

I had forgotten my heart rate monitor, which usually means that I'm off my mark, but this time, I just listened to my body as it told me how much I could push and when. I don't know how long it took me to get to the top of the hill. It both seemed like it took a long time and like I was there before I knew it. I rode past the kiosk, down the singletrack to the swirly, swoopy trail that crosses the road and then continues zig-zagging around until it finally ends at the road, just primed for the downhill.

Before I crossed the road the first time on the singltrack, I came zipping over a rise and around a corner and ran smack over the neck of a rattle snake. It didn't hurt me although it must have hurt the snake, but it sure did startle me. Since there wouldn't have been much I could do to help the snake if I'd injured it, I just continued riding.

When I got to the downhill section, I lowered my seat and hammered the hill until I got to the bottom. Then, something got into my mind and I lost a lot of motivation. It wasn't physical because I did the climb back up the hill without any problem. I think I was lamenting the way the morning's ride with my son had turned out and wishing again that I wasn't riding by myself.

I rode down past the old green waste site, past the trail marker and continued down the road that eventually just dead ended. I had hoped I'd be able to find a trail out, but there was nothing that looked like it had been used by bikers. I turned around, headed back the way I came--up the fire road climb, back to the singletrack, crossing the road in the reverse of the way I'd come down. I was looking for the snake, which I never found. I figure it either slithered into the grass to recuperate or a hawk saw it and had a tasty snack. Either way, what ever happened to the snake will never be known to me.

The way down the hill was as fun and swoopy as ever, although I was less speedy then I usually am because I didn't wear my guards (the trail rash on my elbow from the morning's escapade would have made wearing elbow guards a bit painful!)

The ride that turned out the way it did

When my son was little, he would accompany me on many rides. They weren't particularly fast or difficult, but I was sharing Mountain Biking with him and he seemed to enjoy himself too. We had great tales and memories; epic explorations and painful crashes. I would push him to do more than he thought he could (or probably more importantly, more than he wanted to do), but he always rode, and always demonstrated that he was both capable and strong and ended the ride with a smile on his face.

The only problem is that I always had to play a game with him that I didn't want to play: he'd balk at putting in any kind of effort. I'd get him to challenge himself because I didn't really let him believe he had a choice. He'd challenge himself and succeed and then we'd start the cycle over. I don't want this to seem like I drove him until he broke, but I pushed him to always strive to improve. Then he turned into an adult, and at this point I figure he's got to want to do something on his own as it's no longer my place in life to push him or provide experiences to him. It's up to him to push himself and expand on his own.The only problem is that he still tries to play the game. I feel like I'm in one of those damned if I do; damned if I don't situations.

I can say that in the past two years I've missed having the opportunity to expose him to more of the world; we had shared almost 18 years as mountain biking partners, travel partners, experience junkies. I knew him at a level of performance that was strong and willing to push forward. So, today it was particularly hard for me because he was neither. We had arranged to ride together in the early morning, although I can now see from this perspective that it was probably more me arranging for us to ride together. I asked him three times about riding after his initial possible acceptance, so it now I can see that there was no drive to do it from his side. Then, I had asked him to get his stuff together last night so that when I arrived we'd just be able to leave for the ride, but no amount of encouragement worked as he was too drunk and stoned to have real drive or ability to push himself forward. I knew, of course, that his state last night and his refusal to do anything to get ready was not going to bode well for today.

As usual, I was running late, but I had the added burden of getting his bike ready so I'll accept my own failing to get moving as quickly as possible. By the time I got to his house, it was an hour after I was supposed to be there, and then he wasn't ready, and this and that happened, and soon it was almost 10 before we were walking out the door.

By 10:30 we were on the trail, and sure enough, it was getting pretty warm. It was not unbearable, and there was a breeze, but it wasn't cool like it would have been at 7:30. And, at the pace we were riding, I was moist but not dripping. If you know me, you know that means I wasn't really sweating.

I didn't expect him to be fast or fit. Yet, we rode to just past the waterfall in about 30 minutes and he was ready to turn back. He would probably have kept riding if I had asked him to, but I could tell that he didn't want to ride any longer. He also complained of needing to study (which I respect if he's going to do it) and that he was tired and hungry and too hot.

So, we turned around and rode back. Since we hadn't gone very far, the ride back was fairly quick. A few times I zipped down a hill or up a hill and turned around to meet up with him again. As we'd pass I offered a warm smile that I hoped would convey that I was glad that at least we'd been out together, and maybe it was a start to something more. I sure miss him and his companionship and sharing explorations with him, and hope that one day in the near future, before I get to the point where I can't keep up, that he comes back around. Until then, I'll just keep trying.

24 August 2008

23-24/August/2008 Mt. Laguna Rides

On Friday (22/August/2008) I started off the day thinking that I might not be able to go on my camping and mountain biking trip to Mt. Laguna with the Great Outdoors group. I woke up with a fever and a really bad feeling in my stomach. I worked from home and then fortunately, by about 3pm, I was feeling better. I loaded up the car, determined to ride even if I wasn't feeling 100%.

On the drive to the mountains, I called Bill R. who was supposed to be meeting me on the trip. But, as I almost expected, Bill was still in Monterey and wasn't going to be making it on the camping trip/rides. I assumed, although I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised, that none of the other guys on the trip would be bringing a bike or if one or two did, the likelihood that there was a similar fitness and skill level was pretty slim. So, when Bill said he wasn't coming, I assumed I'd be riding alone. I called Ron, who had mentioned that he might be interested in coming up for the day to ride, but as always, I got his voicemail, and didn't expect to hear from him because I had no cell reception once I got away from the freeway.

By the time I got to the camp site at the Mt. Laguna/El Prado Group Campground, my stomach was feeling much better and I was excited to meet all of the guys who were on the trip. Just as I arrived the group was going out on a hike. Not being a hiker, and needing to get my tent set up, I declined the invitation to join them and went about setting up my tent. One other man who was still in the camp offered to help me get the tent up, which greatly simplified the task of getting the tent in place. I then inflated my air mattress, and went about setting up my stuff. Michael, the guy who helped me set up my tent, was a really friendly and kind man and we hit it off instantly.

As I expected, I was the only one there with a bike. I still held out hope that Ron would show up on Saturday. When I got his voice mail, I left him a message telling him to meet me at the campground at noon. While I say I held out hope, it was a very slim hope, and in reality, I completely expected that I'd be riding by myself.

On Saturday, I waited for Ron until about 1:30 in the afternoon, and then I got myself ready and took off on the ride. My plan was to do a quick loop around the lake and then down Nobel which is exactly what I did.

The ride down Nobel was a blast. I shot video through the whole thing although it would have been so much more interesting had there been someone in the video. When I got to the trailhead I saw a couple of riders stretching and thought maybe they were going to be riding up. But, they were just finishing their ride and they seemed a bit surprised when they found out that I was parked on the top of the hill and had to ride back up. I was nearly out of water in my camelbak although I had another liter of water in a bottle stashed inside. I figured it would be best if I rode over to the store in Pine Valley and bought a bottle of water and some energy bars which I had forgotten to bring on the ride. (I remembered them about 20 minutes into the ride, but figured I could do the ride without them.)

The ride to the store was significantly further than I remembered it from the first time I rode Nobel Canyon and we drove the car from the trailhead to the store. After I got there, I chatted with a fellow who was waiting for his girlfriend to pick him up after his ride from Chula Vista. Then, after organizing my camelbak and all the cables and wires from my camera and ipod, I brought my bike into the store, leaned it against a freezer and grabbed a gallon of water and a couple of protein bars.

I sat outside and chatted with the fellow from Chula Vista for a while during which time I ate the bars, refilled my Camelbak and drank the water remaining in the bottle. When I got to the point where I felt like I was sloshing, I popped some electrolyte caps and decided to take off for the climb ahead.

At first the road was relatively easy, almost downhill from the store to Pine Creek Road. But Pine Creek Road and Deer Park Road have some very steep sections, and the climb up Laguna Meadow Road was no easier. By the time I got to the top I was pretty tired, but I got energized by the ability to get back on singletrack.

The ride back along Big Laguna Trail was fun and swoopy and by the time I rolled back into camp, I was feeling really jazzed.

The Great Outoors guys were just finishing up eating when I rode into camp. I had dinner, or rather the remnants of what remained that was vegetarian. I'm glad I brought my own food since the only thing that was available was some spaghetti with a tiny bit of sauce. I added some baked tofu and wished I had some vegetables, but enjoyed what I ate.

After eating, I decided that I couldn't wait any longer for a shower, so I grabbed some clean clothes, my shower kit and a towel and walked over to the shower. When I got there I discovered that the showers operated with quarters and I didn't have any with me. So, I had to walk back to camp (about a half mile), rustle up some quarters and then walk back. (I suppose I could have driven, but that's not like me...) I got clean and shaven and was feeling good. When I walked back to the camp, it was dark and everyone was sitting around the fire chatting about this and that. I listened for a while before Michael offered me a return to a big flat rock in the meadow from which we could look at the stars. We hiked out there and enjoyed the view of the Milky Way and a clear sky. Unfortunately, my legs started to cramp, and after several very painful bouts of cramping, we started to walk back. My legs instantly started to feel better as we got moving.

Once back at camp, Michael was so sweet and gave my legs a very thourough and sensitive massage. I felt wonderful after that and we curled up next to each other and I fell asleep.

I awoke on Sunday morning determined to ride earlier rather than later. Of course, for me that means getting my ass organized and in gear earlier than when I did. So, when I finally rolled out of camp it was almost 10am. I was originally thinking that I would ride out Highway 79 to the trailhead that I rode from with Dana and Claus a month or so earlier. But when I actually got on the bike, I headed toward the meadow. Once in the meadow I saw two guys riding and took off after them. It wasn't long before I was on their tails and then passing.

I got on the Nobel Canyon trail and rode past several other bikers who were looking like they might have been a bit out of their league, even with the relatively easy singletrack there at the top. I continued powering it out, practicing skills and reminding myself to stay fluid on the bike. I wasn't wearing my guards, so I was a bit more hesitant than if I had been wearing them, but I was still jamming down the trail. When I got to the Indian Creek trailhead, I decided I'd ride it up to the Pine Mountain trail and then turn around. Once I got to the bottom where the creek is located (actually not much more than some greener plants at this time of year).I stopped to make sure the video was recording and that the track function was enabled on my GPS. I had my earphones on, so I didn't hear it when the two guys I passed back in the meadow jump the creek. I made some poor excuse about being an itard, but then since I was riding alone, and off to the side of the trail, I figure I was OK.

These two guys took off up the hill without being friendly, but they were on big heavy downhill bikes and I was on my Mojo SL, so I easily passed them. When I got to the top of the hill at the point where Pine Mountain Trail comes in, I waited for them to finish coming up so I could head back down. One of the guys showed up and we started chatting while waiting for his buddy. He mentioned that they were going to go down the other side of Indian Creek Trail, then up some part of East Mesa to a "secret" trail that would take them down into Pine Valley. I mentioned that it sounded like a great ride. The guy offered that I could go along, and even said they'd offer a shuttle up from Pine Valley when I said that I didn't think I wanted to do two climbs in as many days. So, once his buddy got to the top we headed down the hill.

The trail was gnarly. There were rocks all over the place that looked like razor blades sticking out of the trail. The left hand side of the trail was a steep slope and the trail itself was narrow. I really wished I had my guards, and so I took it a bit easier than I would have. As a result, the two guys, with their 7" travel bikes, zipped down the hill much faster than I could or would. When I got to the bottom of the hill, where the trail meets up with East Mesa Fire Road and Deer Park Road, they were no where to be found.

I encountered two other guys, David (a really cute guy from Carlsbad who was riding an Ibis Mojo) and Peter, his friend from Germany. We chatted a bit and then I decided that probably the best thing was for me to just head back the way I came. So, I let the two of them head up the trail and then I followed. Peter was the slower of the two, and I quickly passed him. David on the other hand was really fast, even with a caliper problem on his front disc brake. I guess if I didn't carry such a big Camelbak and all the shit I have in it, as well as if I didn't have the pack around my belly, I'd be much faster. But such is as it is, and I still do better than most.

At one point, I was right on David's tail when he had one of those uphill momentum losses and I almost crashed into him. Unfortunately, in trying to not crash, I went over the side of the trail and ended up going down the embankment doing a cart wheel on some rocks before landing in the dirt. I was fine, and handed my bike up to David who said something about how I probably wouldn't continue to follow so close.

We continued the ride to the intersection of the Nobel and Indian Creek Trails at which point I decided I'd head down the Nobel Canyon trail until I got to the paved Laguna Meadow Road and then I'd take that up to Big Laguna. David and Peter went up the Nobel Canyon trail. I zipped down the trail, faster I think than I did on Saturday's ride. It seemed over too quickly and even though I wanted to continue down the Nobel Canyon trail, I opted to head up the paved road.

Except for a couple of nice fast descents, the road is mostly uphill from the lower intersection of the road and the Nobel Canyon Trail. There were some pretty steep sections that got me a bit winded, and how my legs kept spinning I'm not certain. Just as I got to the spot where the Nobel Canyon trail crosses the road at the S curves near the top of the climb, I encountered David and Peter again. Peter let me pass, and I followed David, seemingly pushing him to go faster as we made our way to the Penny Pines watering hole.

I refilled my Camelbak and headed out toward Big Laguna. At one point I found a trail that said "El Prado Campground" and I decided to take it. I don't know if it was much of a shortcut, as it had a lot more of a hill than if I had gone the longer way, but it got me back to the campground and just in time for a late lunch.

21 August 2008

20-August-2008 Los Peñasquitos Preserve ride

I did an after-work/before-the-SDMBA-meeting Los Peñasquitos Preserve with Rich Julien and his buddy Brian since I was carpooling with Rich to the SDMBA meeting and he wanted to do a ride before the meeting. Rich picked me up from my workplace at about We parked at the old "Cantina Bike Shop" parking lot and headed out past the old adobe and proceeded to do a mostly singletrack ride. It was great fun! I did crash at one point, trying to do some fancy line work that left me bouncing too much when I needed to be solid on the ground.

We rode several of the tunnels and some really cool technical singletrack trails. I found that my skills weren't in peak form, possibly due to the late hour and possibly due to being tired. Rich was really fast for someone who claims he'll be in a wheelchair in 10 years due to a variety of physical and physiological issues; I had trouble keeping up with him most of the time.

All in all, a great ride. I shot video, and am in the process of editing it.

20 August 2008

Going to Moab

So, I finally decided to go on a trip, and I decided I'm going to Moab. Even if going to Moab for a mountain bikingr is a bit cliché, I guess it's one of those places that one has to experience just because of all the hype.

I am putting out the word that I would like other's to come along, but even if I don't get anyone else interested, I'll go alone. I just am not going to let the fact that I can't find anyone here in the San Diego area to go with me be a barrior to my enjoyment. I assume that since I'll be in the 'mecca of mountain biking' I should have no problems finding others to ride with. I've been downloading everything I can find about Moab: Hotels, hostels, trails, GPS data, maps, travel information, etc.

I've decided to stay at the Virginian Motel thanks to a recommendation from Rich J. I had been considering staying at the hostel, which would have been dirt cheap, but figure I can afford a bit more luxery. I ended up reserving an upstairs kitchenette, so even though I'm paying a bit more, I figure I can skimp by cooking my own meals. It will, of course, be healthier, and I don't have to worry so much about finding vegan or vegetarian food at restaurants.  On the other hand, it might be a bit less social. So, I'll just have to plan on inviting lots of people back to my room for dinners!

I've created a composit GPS file that I will upload to my GPS unit that includes all the trails and tracks that I was able to find online. I've got most of the major rides, and beyond that I'll just do a bit of exploration.

I'm really excited about this trip. It will be my first real MtB specific trip since I tried to bring my bike to India in 1997.

18 August 2008

17-August La Costa Technical Fiasco

It started off like a great ride. I got to the trailhead at about 4pm and was on my bike by 4:20 (Oh how I wish...) Anyway, video camera was rolling, the ipod was jamming and I was zipping up the hill with all my protective gear in place.

I made some of the switchbacks that usually have me pushing the bike and some of the steep loose climbs were easy with my Mojo SL. I had just made it around one of those corners and up a steep grade when I noticed I had some chain suck. I back pedaled and the chain fell out from between the cranks and the chainstay, but then I noticed that the chain was dragging on the ground. I looked back and saw that the lower jockey wheel was completely forward. I handled the Shimano XTR Shadow derailleur hoping that something would snap back into place or something, but there was absolutely no tension on the chain. A fellow MtB rider came by and offered about the same amount of assistance I was able to provide--pushing the jockey wheel cage backwards only to watch it spring forward.

Fortunately, the return to my car was about 98% down hill, so I coasted back, only having to push a few times. I drove home, put the bike on the stand and grabbed my favorite bike repair manual "Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance." I quickly found the page and discovered that there is a part in the derailleur called a Pivot Spring or P-Spring that puts tension on the jockey wheel cage, and thus, pulls the chain taught. This P-Spring was the source of my issues. I quickly disassembled the derailleur and found the P-Spring, put it into place and tightened everything up, but still no tension. So, it was time to read the manual a bit more closely. It turned out I needed to twist the jockey wheel cage around. But to do that I needed to remove a set screw that prevents the jockey wheel cage from spinning all the way around. I removed the screw, but discovered, to my frustration, that I needed to break the chain in order for everything to work right. I guess it was a good time to replace the chain, even though it was almost brand new.

The original chain was an XTR, which while a good chain, caused me some consternation in that I have been using SRAM 971 chains for some years and don't have any XTR links in the even that I would need to replace a few on the trail. So, with the added benefit of some over-zealous chain breaking, where I knocked the pin completely out of the link, it seemed like a good time to just put on the SRAM chain that I had sitting in front of me in the toolbox.

After breaking the chain, I once again removed the set screw from the jockey wheel housing, twisted the jockey wheel housing around, replaced the set screw, and voila, I had a derailleur that would tension the chain once again. I put on the new chain; tested the shifting, which worked flawlessly, and went about cleaning up my mess.

I'm questioning whether I should take the bike in to the shop to have them take a look at it, or whether I should just trust Mr. Zinn's technical explanation and give the bike a ride. I'll be leading two rides this coming weekend for the California Men's Gathering's camping trip to Mt. Laguna. I think I'll bring along another derailleur though, just in case.

16 August 2008

15-August-2008 Cuyamaca Night Ride with San Diego Mountain Bike Association

I had ridden in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park only a few times before. The first time was many years ago when I first started riding and my friend Alann took me up to ride some singletrack and fire road around Middle Peak. That was before Alann got heavily into his running addiction and dropped out of the MtB world. The second time was just a few months ago when I rode with the San Diego Mountain Biking Association (SDMBA) on a new moon night ride. On that ride I was joined by Claus and Dana and about 40 other riders. Last night, neither Claus or Dana could make it, so I was on my own along with 40 other riders.

In the run-up to the ride, I had helped the organizers by 'doing the paperwork' -- extracting names, lighting requirements, and ability levels from emails sent to the ride coordinator and entering them into a spreadsheet. Nothing flashy, but probably helpful. I had also been in touch with the organizer to discuss meal options -- being mostly vegan I was hoping to avoid the horrible feeling in my stomach that followed the previous ride's pizza dinner. Remarkably, a vegan option would be added to the menu which was well appreciated.

I had posted a car-pooling notice to the other riders who were scheduled to come on the ride. I figured there'd be more people coming from the Torrey Pines area where I work, but only one person responded that he would like to carpool. So, after a few email exchanges, we agreed to meet at my workplace, and leave from there.

My company had their "annual day at the races" so everyone had left around 3pm to go to the Del Mar track. I used the time between 3 and 4:30 (when my car-poolee was scheduled to show up) to get my bike cleaned up, aired up, and lubed up.

Last night's ride was on a different route than the previous SDMBA Cuyamaca ride. There were some elements of the ride that I liked better and some things that I didn't like as much, but that's to be expected. The route started out on some singletrack which was a lot of fun. But we quickly got onto a fire road the had us climbing for some distance. We were pretty much on fire road until we got to Granite Springs where we hit some singletrack for a short period of time. We eventually got to some fire road again, (East Mesa Fire Road) which was actually more like singletrack because of all the fallen trees. We road that trail to a stand of trees and then returned. When we got back to the turn off for Oakzanita Peak trail we met up with the Intermediate group who were just returning from their ascent. It was pleasant to see all the lights streaming down the trail coming toward us, but one thing I've noticed, and it's something I remember teaching my Scuba students to avoid, is that people with head lamps don't consider the brightness of their light as they look at people. So, once the blinding got too bad, several of us decided to take off. 

As we started the singletrack climb, I was second or third in the group. It was a fast and fun trail although it was a bit sketchy at times as there were lots of trail side branches and bushes. The guy in front of me caught a hold of a branch that snapped back toward me with considerable force and speed. I'm just glad I saw what was going to happen because I was able to duck rather than getting smacked in the head. At one point the trail had a slightly increased incline and I didn't notice that the edge of the trail was a bit sandy. Somehow I hit the sand and lost momentum so fast that the next thing I knew I was laying on the ground. Of course, the only rock anywhere to be found on this section of the trail was underneath my leg, giving me a nice scrape and pain that remains now, over a day later. I pulled myself out of the trail and allowed another rider to pass.
The switchback climb up to Oakzanita peak was difficult, especially with the pain in my leg. There were several sections with rock steps right in the switchbacks, so I had to dismount several times and do a few short hike-a-bikes. Even though I was significantly slowed in my ascent, the fellow who had passed me while I was down wasn't making very good time even on his hardtail. I caught up to him with ease and then rode right on his back wheel until he let me pass him, but then we were at the top already. The view from the 'peak' was pleasant, with the full moon mid-way up in the sky and the lights from several riders still making their way up the trail looking like fireflys zig zagging closer to us.

When the 'sweep' made it to the top he offered us all Oreo cookies, though they were a bit on the stale side. I grabbed one and started my descent. With my leg throbbing, I took the descent easy. It seemed like there were moments when the bike just didn't want to move regardless of how hard I was trying to push forward. I think I might have sabotaged myself slightly by grossly under inflating my tires. In the past I had been inflating them up to >3.5bar (>50psi), but after several suggestions, I dropped it to ~3.0bar (40-45psi), but this time I dropped it to 2.4bar (35psi). While the ride was much smoother, I felt like I lost a lot of momentum from the bouncy, squishy tires.

When I got back from the Oakzanita Peak singletrack to the East Mesa Fire Road, I met up with my carpoolee, Sol. We took off together and continued our way down the hill. I hadn't remembered the ascent being as long or steep as the descent seemed, but that could have been my leg, the general fatigue, the fact that now I had to watch my speed on the curves else I could end up in a ravine, or the large amount of dust in the air thanks to Sol's and another rider.

Just before East Mesa Fire Road meets up with highway 79, I took the single track that runs parallel. Again, at some point I felt like I was unable to maintain momentum and came to a complete stop. Fortunately, I didn't fall. But another rider passed me--it was the guy on the hard tail again. Once I got moving, I was again right on his rear wheel. We made it back to the parking lot fairly quickly.

Throughout the ride I was very glad that I had brought my 'Buff' because I was able to put it over my nose and mouth and avoid breathing all the dust. (I didn't bring it on the last SDMBA ride I went on and ended up coughing up dust for two days after the ride.)

We sat in the parking lot and ate dinner. I enjoyed some organic lentil soup with tortilla chips and some very tasty beer. I talked with some old acquaintances for a while and with some of the people I rode with. When we finally left for the drive home, it was around 11:30. By the time I  made it home it was 1:15.

11 August 2008

10-Aug-08 Sycamore Canyon Ride

I couldn't believe it! I was not only on time to the ride, but I was actually early! I attribute it to one thing: I made a list of all the things I needed to do to get ready for the ride. Then I went about checking them off. Shoes, clothes, clothes for after the ride (since I wasn't going home), gym clothes because I missed a workout during the week, GPS, video, etc. (it was a long list). I hit the road and headed south. I was meeting Bill R and Claus. I had wanted to do a bit of exploration, looking for a way to avoid riding on the road from where we park to the trailhead. GoogleEarth images show it's possible, but unfortunately, Claus was given strict time limits on the ride, and exploration wouldn't fit within his confines.

I got to the parking lot and set my bike up, oiled the chain and waited for Bill and Claus. Bill showed up first. We had a good conversation while waiting, including the discovery that Bill had forgotten both his Camelbak and his socks. Fortunately, I had both water and spare socks, so he was in luck.

When Claus arrived, we got our selves moving pretty quickly. I admire people who can just put on their shoes, throw on their hydration pack and ride. It's not something I'll ever be able to do, but I do admire it.

We hit the road, and the singletrack. Claus, as usual was in the lead. For some reason, Bill was slower than normal, asking me to go first. When we started up the "new hill," Claus was in the listening to music and missed the single track, and couldn't hear us shouting to him. So, he headed up the steep jeep road while Bill and I did the sweet single track. We met up at the top. From there we rode along the fire road until we got to the trail that would take us down. At the intersection we encountered three guys, one of whom looked like either he had crashed or was simply exhausted. Regardless, he was just sitting on the ground. His buddies answered for him when asked if he was OK. It turned out it was the guy's first ride, on his CostCo "Mountain Bike" and was certain to be one of those bad first experiences where experienced riders take a newby out and expect the newby to be able to do everything they've been doing for years. While the uphill part might have been easy, the downhill that they were headed for is steep with rutted switchbacks. Oh well, so much for friends!

We zipped down and into the canyon and Bill must have been really hurting because he was so far behind. At one point Claus missed the trail again and I passed them. I went a short distance and waited to make sure they were following. Claus passed me, but Bill never did. I went back to the turn, but Bill wasn't there. I assumed he took the "easy" way, and so I jetted ahead. I met up with them both at the gated entry to Goodan Ranch.

We continued on, until we got to the fire road where Bill said he was going to turn around and head back. I felt bad that he wasn't going to finish the ride with us. I had wanted to hang out with him after the ride, perhaps going for tea and a chat.

Claus and I continued up the fire road, doing the big climb. I was feeling very slow at this point, and was unable to keep up with Claus. He raced ahead while I rested several times on the climb. I guess the extra weight in my pack and the elbow & knee/shin guards probably slow me down quite a bit on the climbs. Once on the top, I was a bit more able to keep up with him as we headed north along the ridge to the road that would bring us down to Martha's Grove.

I ran off the road on the descent towards Martha's Grove, and was glad I was wearing those guards as my forearm banged into the hillside as I came to a stop. The gouges on the elbow guard look like there would have been a significant amount of blood had I not been wearing them. Those guards are ultimately a pain and expense reducing health insurance policy.

Martha's Grove was loads of fun. This time I just zipped over the ugly section like I had no fear. I was hot on Claus' back wheel all the way down which isn't usually the case, so I was feeling very good about my abilities.

The rest of the way back was fairly uneventful. The climb back up the hill wasn't as difficult as before, but I still had to walk a few sections.

06 August 2008

Looking for 'love'

I want to go on a MtB trip. There, I said it! Actually, I REALLY want to go on a mountain bike trip. One of those trips with 5 or 6 days in the saddle.

The part about choosing where to go is probably the easiest part. As long as there is great scenery, lots of single track, good vegetarian food, and I can sleep in a warm and dry tent, I'll be happy.

I've been looking into those MtB tour companies to see what they have to offer. Choosing one of them to supply all the support won't be all that difficult either, since there are only a handful of companies with the requisite reputation.

The problem isn't a lack of money that's getting between me and going on one of these trips. After all, if I'm even looking at those tour companies money isn't a limiting factor.

The reality of the matter is that I want someone to go with me on the trip. I want someone to share the experience with me. I want someone with whom I can return home and have a more solid emotional and intellectual bond. I wish it was another androphilic man, to make the physical nature of the experience even more intimate, but it doesn't have to a guy. In the old days (e.g. up until two years ago) I would have packed up my son and paid his way to do the trip and we would have had a great trip. But when he turned 17, started the teenage smoking thing, stopped doing much physical exercise, and then moved out when he turned 18, my built-in buddy thing ended. I get really nostalgic about it, because it was so nice to have someone to expose to so many different activities and experiences.

A friend of mine suggested that I return to Harbin Hot Springs (about 2hrs north of San Francisco) where I could go riding at Boggs Mountain State Forest. It would certainly be an enjoyable place to ride as I've done it during the past two years, but it's not exotic--I want to go someplace I've never been before where the trails are the main attraction rather than the place I'm staying. Still, I might take her up on the idea, because it's better than nothing for the short term and the liklihood of meeting a nice guy there is probably much higher than say mountain biking in Idaho.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll figure something out in the near future. I'm going to start a concerted effort to find other androphilic mountain bikers. I'll post more as things happen.

05 August 2008

Julius Syvanen Mountain Bike Skills Clinics Experience

On Sunday morning I attended Julius Syvanen's Mountain Bike Skills Clinic. In comparison to the BikeSills.Com clinic with Joe Lawwill, Julius' clinic was much more personal but also much more unstructured. Also, the class only had 2 students as compared to the 7 in Joe's clinic which could have been a benefit in a more structured environment.

The unstructured nature of the class made it more a ride with a professional racer along to provide tips and answer questions as opposed to the BikeSills clinic which seemed more like a class. Also, because of the format, Julius provide more specific tips on how to perform certain skills. For example, as I was riding, Julius pointed out what I was doing during cornering that could result in me skidding out. In fact, just the day before I had skidded out on a corner. Once he pointed out my flawed (and long term) execution, and instructed me how to perform it correctly, I immediately improved. It was like night and day for me.

The unfortunate thing was that the other student was in many respects at a different physical and skills level, and so the least common denominator was usually the case. He simply got tired long before I was ready to quit. That's where I started asking questions and trying to improve on the skills I learned from Julius and from the BikeSkills class. Julius never acted like he had a chip on his shoulders. Instead, he answered each of my questions, provided demonstrations and pointed out what I was doing and how to improve, all with the air of a friend who wants to impart his knowledge.

The cost for the clinic was a reasonable $55, although it would have been a greater value had the skill level between myself and the other student been more equal.

I will certainly go back to take another ride with Julius to get more pointers on my riding.

03 August 2008

02-August-2008 Sycamore Canyon MtB Ride with Claus

I had sent out the message widely that there was going to be a ride at Sycamore Canyon on Saturday morning. Only Dana and Claus responded in the positive. I had hoped for more than three, but three is better than one, so I wasn't about come complain. Dana sent me a text message early Saturday morning telling me he wasn't going to make it--his daughter wanted to spend some time with him. There's no way I can fault him for spending time with his children, so it was down to Claus and I.

Somehow my every intention to leave the house on time backfired, and the next thing I knew I was calling Claus to tell him I was finally on the highway after several false starts and I would only be about 15 minutes late.

When I arrived at the parking lot for Westhills Park, Claus was there and chomping at the bit. I got ready as quickly as possible, but I was worried. First, my experience is that Claus is faster than I am. Second, I commuted four days to and from work on my road bike. Third, I had been pushing myself all week on the commute and broke a personal best two times within the previous seven days. Forth, even though I "took it easy" on Friday's road commute, I still bested my average. Fifth, I couldn't fall asleep until around 1am on Saturdy morning, so even though I got just under 6 hours of sleep, I was still pretty tired. All of those together meant that my legs were a wee bit fatigued.

Never the less, we took off down the road toward the trailhead.

We were planning to take the trail that Dana and I had done on our return the previous week. We headed up the fire road, completely missing the single track we should have taken, and continued up, up and up. By about 1/2 way, my legs were screaming! I have to thank Claus for not being too hard on me. We continued up and around until we found the the single track that would take us down. We zipped through the switch backs, with the view of the beautiful canyon in front of us, until we got to the creek at the canyon floor.

From there the ride went as normal, although my legs never really felt strong. Just at the trailhead to Martha's Grove, we encountered a fellow who had a broken chain. But because he was riding a single-speed and had an 8 gear chain, the links I had in my bag were useless.

I zipped through Martha's Grove, even scooting down the little ugly rocky section. I crashed a few times on the curvy sections because I was going a bit too fast.

We then headed back up the hill via the switch backs, found the singletrack on the other side and enjoyed more switchbacks on the way down.

A great ride!

Sycamore Canyon MtB Ride - Google Maps