First Ride: Niner RLT 9 RDO – ABQ Century

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The new Niner RLT 9 RDO, fresh after being built up

With the plethora of gravel roads and doubletrack in the Eastern Sierra (hundreds and hundreds of miles), and the rise in popularity of “gravel grinder” rides and races all over the place, I’ve been thinking about a gravel bike for a while.  My main criteria:
  • Comfy for long days in the saddle on exploratory “b-road” journeys.
  • Can handle singletrack if I wanna sprinkle some in.
  • I could use for overnight touring/bikepacking missions.
  • Lightweight with a “racey” feel.
  • I don’t own a road bike, so I’d also want the option to use it for local Eastside Velo road rides (hopefully without getting dropped 🙂

I chose the Niner RLT 9 RDO with the 3 Star (mid-level) build.  You can check out the specs on their site.  I’ve loved Niner Bikes since the company started (I’ve owned countless Niners over the years). So I was confident with the purchase.  I’m 5’9″ which always falls between sizes with Niner, and I always choose the smaller option, as they always “ride bigger” for me.  In this case, I went with the 53cm.  I liked the quiet and clean Black/Silver/Red color scheme.  After a call to my longtime friend and Niner Sales Rep, George Wisell, the new steed was waiting for me at the Longmire Stages a couple days later.

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My new steed waiting for me in the Red Pony!!

The Build:

I don’t have my workshop here in Santa Fe.  So it was a little bit of a mish mosh to get the bike built.  I had to borrow a workstand, bearing press, saw guide and saw from Kevin Hinton.  I borrowed a hydraulic cable cutter, and some other bits from Frankie Flats.  I took the fork by Broken Spoke and they smashed on the crown race for me.  IMG_6224

Other than that, it built up super simps.  Niner includes a cheat sheet for installing the full-length internal housing runs, which made that very easy.  There’s a removable port under the BB that further simplifies the routing process.  Stans Grail wheels came taped for tubeless, and the Schwalbe G-One tires set up with my floor pump.  No compressor needed!!

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The cool BB port for internal cable/housing routing

I pressed in the PF30 bottom bracket, and the Sram Rival 22 cranks and drivetrain went on without a hiccup. *One note – the clamp band on the Yaw front derailleur barely gets low enough without hitting the bottle cage braze-on to allow the derailleur to get to the recommended height above the 46T front chainring.  I would’ve liked a little more adjustability here – works fine, but just noting it – I’d like to have the derailleur another mm or two closer to the ring…

The Sram Rival HRD shifters/levers and hydraulic brakes also went on great.  The rear hydraulic brake line was a little tricky. I ran a piece of shift housing through the chainstay to the BB port.  Then I cut and ran the hydraulic line through the downtube port to the BB port.  Normally, I’d use a Rockshox Reverb internal cable routing tool to connect the two lines together and then fish the hydraulic line out the chainstay.  But since that tool is back home, I used electrical tape to join the lines.  After a few tries, with some delicate pushing/pulling and the aid of a pick, I got the brake housing to pop out of the chainstay – woohoo.  I had the bike turned vertically in the stand for this, with the hopes I wouldn’t lose much fluid – and as luck would have it, after cutting it to the proper length and installing the new olive/barb and nipping it up, I did not need to bleed it.  Score!!  Cutting the front brake line was simps – but of course, since it’s my bike and not a client’s… I didn’t really “measure” – and cut it a little too short.  Perfectly functional (bars turn all the way, etc) but my OCD mechanic brain is annoyed – so I’ll change out the line when I get back to the shop.

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Nice little touch – in case you didn’t know, RLT = Road Less Traveled

Indexed the shifting, pumped 45psi into the tires, slapped on a frame pump, a couple bottle cages, and a saddle bag… rode it around the block, adjusted the saddle a bit and it was ready for the maiden voyage:
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Figured a nice, hundred mile road ride with my buddy Kevin would be a great “shakedown” to see how this bike rides.  Gotta say, the century route was not amazing.  The loop start/finish was at the Sandia Casino & Resort.  For the most part, no views.  Mostly urban sprawl, depressed reservations, and modern casinos.  I almost got hit by a driver who was oblivious, and it was super windy.

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Albuquerque Century – official route

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Representing SEMBA in New Mexico, yo

That being said, it was still a day spent on a bike, so it was still a blast.  There were a few nice sections.  My favorites were passing the Blunt Mobile and waiting at a signal with a dude on the corner swinging a sign for “Papa Johns” who was rockin out to his tunes.  Also, the peaceful bike path along the home stretch of Tramway Road definitely did not suck.

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Bike path along Tramway Road – technically not part of the route, but I’ll take a path over a street any day.

So How Is The Bike?
Fantastic!!  Other than me not setting the high limit correctly (which I’ve since fixed and is shifting brilliantly) on the yaw front derailleur, the bike was 100% spot on.  I know it’s only been one ride, and it was mainly on pavement.  But I’ve since ridden it another 30 miles on gravel and singletrack, and this bike is the real deal.  The Sram groupo shifts crispy and the hydraulic disc brakes are a game changer.  Lots of stopping power, great modulation, and super easy to engage – very important for a “non-roadie” like me who still gets gripped on high speed descents.  Most importantly, was how comfy the bike was.  After 6+ hours in the saddle, I felt fresh as a daisy.  The bike eats up chatter and vibration so much more than I ever imagined.  Even on singletrack and washboard gravel, I’m amazed at how smooth it feels.  After initially setting my saddle, I haven’t touched it once.  I’ll start playing with lower tire pressure now, which will only make it better.  I don’t have a scale with me, but assuming it’s around 20-21lbs right now.  Could get down to 18-19 pretty easily I bet.
Changes / Upgrades?
The one part of the bike that is not “stock” is the saddle.  I put on a Fizik Gobi right away.  Other than that, I’ll probably leave it bone stock for a while.  That being said, there are a few things I’d do right now if money were no object.  The most sluggish bit of the bike is the heavy Rival crankset.  It works fine, but the first thing I’d do is upgrade to Red cranks.  They are .65 lbs lighter and much stiffer.  The stock cranks are 46x36T which seems fine for most gravel rides.  I did find myself spinning out once in a while on pavement.  I intend to keep this bike mostly on dirt, but would consider switching to a 50×34 or 52×36 compact if racing/higher top end is a factor. I would also go with a carbon RDO seatpost to further lighten it up/ soak up more chatter and swap to Easton’s new EC70 ACX carbon gravel bars (very light, with a 16 degree flare in the drops for added comfort on long gravel rides).  I’d also switch out the cassette to a Red, which would further lighten up the rotational weight.  Throw on a carbon wheelset, and this bike could be an absolute race rocket.  The stock 35c tires seem fine for now, but knowing my terrain back home and riding style, I’ll probably switch to 40c tires with a little more aggressive tread when I get home to Mammoth.  I love that the fork has bosses for bottle cages or everything cages… and it can fit a Revelate Tangle Bag in the triangle with two bottles… so for big rides, or overnighters, I’ll be ready to go 🙂
Anyhoo… all this writing is killing me… this bike is begging to be ridden – time to pedal 🙂
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Singletrack Deja Vu – Some Old, Some New

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This is it.  One last hoorah to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Netflix has officially announced this will be the Final Season of Longmire.  When I took a gig for an unknown TV show six years ago, I figured “cool… I’ll hit Santa Fe for three months, make some cash, ride some new singletrack, and be on to the next…”  Clueless that my kids would grow up on the set (Lucy was 3 when it began and Molly was born just after Season 3 wrapped).

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Throwback to 2012 – Lucy, age 3 – making my day brighter on a set visit

 

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Angela, prego with Molly during Season 3 in 2014

So here we are.  I know that come end of June, there will be a lot of teary-eyed hugs as I wish my surrogate family one last farewell.  But before the long days of shooting devour my time, energy and fitness… I had 3 days to ride my bike and get my mind right.

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Mindblowing.  Singletrack.  Zippity.  18 Road.  Fruita, Co.

Woke up at 2am.  Insomnia.  The thought of an 11 hour drive to Fruita the ensuing 3.5 months weighed heavily.  Screw it.  I’m awake.  Might as well put some miles behind me.  Warm up the trusty old Tacoma.  Throw my last luggage in.  Wake the girls.  Kiss them up.  Family hug.  Tell Miko to watch over my angels while I’m gone.  Hardest part always. Never gets easier.  Luckily, they’ll be visiting in 3 weeks.  But still.  Facetime is no substitute for family.  I miss them so much.

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Mammoth > Fruita > Grand Junction > Moab > Cortez > Santa Fe = 1238 miles

The wee hours passed quickly – somber thoughts interrupted by short breaks for nature and petrol .  Poof, it was 2:30p after the time change, and I was rolling into City Market in Fruita.  I’d only eaten a Noosa yogurt and a couple of turkey jerky sticks.  Grocery time.  A pear, two bananas, raspberries, crackers, hummus, water, peanuts, and pickles should do it.  Wasn’t planning on riding til the next am, but I couldn’t stay away from 18 Road.  I’d ridden there a few years back, and it’s never left my “best singletrack” list.

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Making my way up Western Zippity, spinning the drive out of my legs.

Did a sweet loop of Western Zippity, Zip Off, Frontside, and Zippity Do.  Strava link here. The temps were high 70’s/low 80’s.  After leaving the snowy cold of Mammoth, working up a nice sweat under the beating sun was just the ticket.  The trail conditions were fantastic.  It’s just one gigantic velco rollercoaster out there.  Even better than I remembered.  After 15 miles of ups and downs, ins and outs, and feeling like a Star Wars TIE Fighter, it was time for beer.
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Copper Club Brewing.  Fruita, Co

 I treated myself to an 18 Road IPA (and took a bottle to go) at Copper Club Brewing.  When in Rome, right?  Paired it with a couple slices from Hot Tomato (YUM!!) and I was pretty much ready for beddy bye.  Back to the Balanced Rock Motel, chatted with the fam, cought up on some UFC fight news, and dozed off while watching Gangs of New York on the laptop.
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Finally got to ride the Lunch Loops #stokeyface

Got an early start.  Oooh, chilly!  With heater full blast, I drove 20 minutes north to Grand Junction.  Only one reason to do that, right?  LUNCH LOOPS!!  Don’t know why, but that’s gotta be my favorite name for a trail system- and the trail names are even better.  Heard so much about it.  Been on my radar and bucket list for years.  I’ve even driven right past the trailhead before, but never able to squeeze it in.  Until now 🙂  Did.  Not.  Disappoint.
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Climbing up Eagle’s Tail

Being a nube, I consulted MTB Project to determine how best to enjoy area.  The 12 mile loop was a fantastic blend of everything I love about mountain biking, and a departure from the perfectly manicured trails at 18 Road the day before.  Nutshell:  Tabeguache > Eagle’s Tail > Pet-e-Kes > Holy Cross > Prenup > Gunny Loop > Holy Bucket > Coyote Ridge > Ali Alley > Curt’s Lane.  Strava link here. Nice gradual climbs, with techy punchy bits to get the heart rate up and keep your “A-game” on point.
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Memorial for Pete Larson along the Pet-e-Kes Trail

Sprinkle in some well-placed grade reversals to catch your breath.  Right when you’re tiring of the slow goin and rock garden step ups, boom – fast flowy singletrack takes over, etc, etc… I’d love to come back and do the whole Tabaguache Trail, so now that’s on my list.  P.S. – If you do come to this area, take the time to drive through the Colorado National Monument.  You’re basically there already.  Totally worth it, especially when you learn the history and what it took to build the road.
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Heading towards Prenup.  Would be nice to see a sign like this on Lower Rock Creek Trail, huh?

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Taking a break to admire the splendor

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Awesome rock features everywhere

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About to drop in on one of the fastests sections of the Gunny Loop

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You guessed it.  Holy Bucket.

After waving bye to GJ, and thinking about how much I’d love to come back for the Grand Junction Off-Road, it was off to Moab.  Time to cross Klondike Bluffs off the list.  Another spot that’s been on the radar for quite some time, but just never got around to it.  Probably because it’s 20 miles out of Moab, and Ive been too lazy to hit it when there’s so much goodness closer to town.  Not this time.
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Taking a minute to soak up all that Klondike Bluffs has to offer

So cool to ride in “Dinosaur Land”.  I kept pretending it was pre-historic times, and my imagination mixed with endorphins and adrenaline made for a supreme experience.  My own little Jurassic Park.  Klondike quickly worked it’s way into my favorites.  Why?  The blend of singletrack and slickrock.  My only gripe is that the slickrock is “too well marked”.  I feel it’s a bit overpainted.  Some of the best fun of slickrock riding is freeballing your own line.  I know you need some markers to stay on course,  but it’s a little overkill.  Otherwise, this network is impeccable.  Like the Lunch Loops, the climbs are totally manageable, with a few steep punchy bits here and there to keep you on check.  The rest is stick icky grippy slickrock with swoopy singletrack tying it all together.
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Super fast section of Little Salty to UFO ahead

I did what’s called the “Outer Loop”.  About about 15 miles, with 1,400′ of mostly slickrock climbing.  Bummer, my Strava failed on this one.  But it goes kinda like this.  Megasteps > Baby Steps > Little Salty > UFO > EKG > Dino Flow
After hitting Lunch Loops and Klondike Bluffs on the same day, I rewarded myself with a smoothie at Peace Tree before heading off to Cortez, CO.  Let’s call a spade a spade.  Cortez is pretty much an armpit.  I was there simply to eat and sleep, so I could go to the Disneyland of mountain biking the next day.  Phil’s World.
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Ready for shreddy down the famed “Rib Cage” – Phil’s World

What’s there to say about Phil’s World that hasn’t already been said?  Check out my first adventure to Phil’s World for more words and pics.  Simply one of the most magical trail systems out there.  Another example of a trail system that has “everything”.  From rediculous fast and grippy flow, to some techy up’s and downs with rock gardens, to the highlight “Rib Cage” – there isn’t a moment where you’re not grinning.  I’m still smiling just thinking about it.  It was the perfect “last ride” of this quickie road trip.  Strava link here.
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Phil’s World is known more for it’s perfectly crafted flow trails – but there’s still nice views to be had

Afterwards, I passed through Durango for a well deserved brekky.  My friend Michele recommended the “Verde Breakfast” at the 35 year-old, Oscar’s Cafe.   Score!!  As she called it, “So much yum”.
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Then it was 4 hours of driving.  Just like that, I arrived in Santa Fe.  My home for the next 3.5 months.  Gonna try and ride as much as I can.  I’ve even got a new bike coming my way (can you say Niner RLT9 RDO?).  More on that soon…  But inevitably, no matter how much I try to bike commute and ride on weekends, I always lose fitness during filming.  But the memories and money earned make up for it and fund future adventure.  Just a few weeks until my ladies join me.  Longmire Season 6, here I come.
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Quick Sedona Shred Sesh Before Turkey Day 2016

For Turkey Day 2016, we once again headed to the land of Peoria, AZ to visit the oldies.  Lucky for me, Peoria is only 1.5 hours from Sedona.  Great excuse to get a little riding in before stuffing our faces in way too much food.  Anyhoo… just a few pics from the fam bam quicky weekend shredding in Sedona…

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Will the Real Slim Shady Trail please stand up?

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Good morning, Sedona

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Still some leaves turning along the creek

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Molly Love on the the Bell Rock Pathway

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Oak Creek Brewery is definitely kid friendly

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Can’t mask happiness

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Views don’t suck

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Single and Rigid

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Can we sleep in the tub after bath tonight, daddy?

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Sunday Sand Church in Hilton Head, South Carolina

So I took a job in Savannah, Georgia for a few weeks.  A cinematically beautiful period project about slavery, called Underground (follows a group of slaves on their daring escape from a Georgia plantation as they travel 600 miles to freedom in the north).

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Underground.  It’s worth a watch.

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Hard at work, shooting nights in and around the local plantations

Savannah is beautiful and historic.  My hotel was right on Bay Street by the Savannah River, just behind Factors Row and the River Walk.  The old brick buildings on cobblestone streets were once bustling as the original Cotton Exchange.  The are now trendy bars and restaurants, but the rich history is undeniable.

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One of the converted cotton warehouses.  Yup, they serve cheap, cold beer.

I was only a few blocks from Chippewa Square and got to geek out at the spot where they filmed Forrest Gump on his bench.  There were large, weathered trees everywhere with looming arms and branches.  Simple beauty.

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Where they filmed the “bench” scenes in Forrest Gump.  The bench he sits on was brought in for the movie, and is now in a museum… but this is where it was staged.

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One of our filming locations – those trees were amazing!!

I didn’t fly with my bike this time.  I was only going to there for a couple of weekends and there wasn’t much mountain biking to be had anyway.  But I was jonsin’ and had to get on a bike in some fashion.  So on one of my weekends, I decided to check out the famed Hilton Head, South Carolina.  The beach getaway for the rich and famous was only 45 minutes from my hotel.  I heard there was a well-developed bike path system and legal beach riding, so I decided to check it out.  I wound up renting a beach cruiser for $9 at Hilton Head Bicycles and toodled around.img_5249

Quite a departure from my normal riding endeavors… but human-powered, two wheeled exploration is fun no matter what.  Got to see the town very well, and had a blast riding up and down the shoreline while checking out the multi-million dollar beach homes with views for days…

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Cruising up and down the shoreline was a blast.  Just me and the gulls and multi-millions worth of McMansions.

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Gator country.

Afterwards, I headed over to Reilley’s for lunch and football with the locals.  Washed down my chicken quesadilla with a Sweetwater 420.  Not a bad Sunday.  As a bonus, I hit up the Levi’s outlet and got a couple pairs of new jeans for $20 each to replace my previous pairs that are all holy in the knees.  Stoked.

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Chicken quesadilla, Sweetwater 420, and Sunday football at Reilly’s.

Like I said, not my normal mountain bike adventure – but an adventure nonetheless :).

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Annual Flip A Coin Roadtrip HOME

Man, it’s been a while since I’ve put digital pen to paper.  7am, sitting on the brown coach in front of my blazing fireplace.  Soft wood to start, now the hard wood has the BTU’s cranking.  Step out to the deck for a sec.  Pastels streak across the sky as the sun wakes up.  The air is crispy and quiet with a hint of smoke… I’m not the only one wood burning this a.m.  38F.  Winter is closing in.  The resort even got snow earlier this week, allowing me to check one item off my list:  I freerode my fat bike down Cornice Bowl.  Actually, I was kinda gripped and conservative due to the pitch at the top (and being alone), so I glissaded for a bit, and then rode the rest.  Got Gremlins Gulch too and had a super fun descent all the way down.  Just me on a private adventure ride.  Pretty fantastic!!  I think next time I can clean the whole thing.  Drop the seat and the tire pressure even lower (4 or 5psi).

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10/22/2016 – A little storm brought just enough white stuff to freeride Cornice Bowl.

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Looking back up Gremlins Gulch – in just a couple weeks, this mountain will be packed.  For now, my own private playground.

Anyhoo… I digress.  Lost on tangents… where was I?  Oh yeah, the summer has flown by.  Fall has strangled all the yellow, orange, and red out of the trees… And I never got a chance to journal about my family 4th of July road trip – 3 1/2 months ago!!   I’m so scared of alzheimers (I watched both my grandparents deteriorate before they died), and my recollection skills  are trash as is.  Must write stuff down.  Must save photos.  Do not forget magical times.  So now, with a Downieville trip cancelled because we lagged on reserving bike shuttles and they got booked up, I sit here with a couple free minutes.  Time to re-live some good times before they fade away into my jalopy of a memory.

For the 5th year in a row, March 20-June 30 had me in Santa Fe, NM shooting Season 5 of Longmire.  (BTW it just got renewed for it’s 6th and FINAL Season).  I hear it’s pretty good, by the way, maybe I’ll watch it soon.   A little over 3 months of complete dedication the craft.  With 60+ hours of the week going directly making a tv show, what’s left of time is a competition for sleep, riding bikes, catching up on movies, and of course when they’re in town, every free moment is with La Familia.  While you’re on a show… that’s it.  It consumes you.  Everything revolves around “getting the shot”.

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Day job.

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My bike goes everywhere with me.

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Cuddles from Rob.

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That’s a wrap.  La Cumbre Elevated IPA at the Sheriff’s desk for a farewell to Season 5.

My friends in real life have no clue what I do outside of Mammoth… it’s kinda funny.  Then, in a poof, the job is over.  A welcomed poof, yes.  So what happens after every poof?  Back to the chosen life of a ski/mtb bum that I’m instilling in my kids.  Back to shaving once every month or two and super duper family time and wrenching on bikes and SEMBA and SUP’ing and hiking and camping and skiing and drinking beer and lying on the couch and watching UFC and cartoons with the kiddos and crap shows with wifey.  The best part of Longmire is always looking forward to going home… the the ensuing adventures, all of which begin with the illustrious “road trip home”.  Angela and I sit around and think… hmmm… where should we spend 4th of July this year???  Ok, Santa Fe > Salida > Crested Butte > Fruita > Zion > Home, with lots of stuff in between.

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Fill up with some petrol, and we’re off!!

I chatted with my homie George from Niner Bikes… he’s based in CO, and drives the demo van all over the place.  Finger on the pulse.  He heard a new brewery opened in Crestone. Perfect, it’s on the way to Salida.  Snap.  Some trippy hippy’s with a birth-defected camel on a leash caught Lucy’s eye.  Bought some camel’s milk fudge from them and tried not to get eaten alive by all the ‘squitos that accompanied the smelly beast and it’s equally stankified master.  Ducked into the brewery.  Now we’re talking. Shared a fantastic nitro porter and camel chocolate with Angela… perfection.  Off to Salida.

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Camel toe.

 

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Mocha Porter with the camel chocolate was a slam dunk

Always LOVE Salida.  Last time I was here, I rode the magnificent Monarch Crest.  This time, decided to hit up the local Arkansas Hills Trail System while the girlies played in the river.  You simply ride through town on F Street towards the big “S” on the hill, cross the railroad tracks, and start climbing.  Before you know it, you’re in singletrack heaven.

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See the “S”?  In a few minutes, you’ll be up there, with views back to town.

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Taken from just below the “S”, looking back to the quaint town of Salida – Sweet, right?

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As far as local trail networks go, the singletrack here is top-notched.  I was lucky enough to hit it just after a rain storm.  Super fun and flowy and tacky, well marked, and just a stone’s throw from town.  Some nice climbs, and fast downs – I was stokey faced the whole time… and as pictured above, beautiful views around every turn.  Frontside to Lil Rattler and hit Backbone and Cottonwood Trail to Happy Ending.  Great little loop – here’s the Strava link.   Chug down a local Elevation beer from Poncha Springs, and you’re good to go.  When in town, I always pop into Absolute Bikes, and this time we had a fantastic meal next door at River’s Edge. GOOD TIMES!! 

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Tourist time.  Cruising by the continental divide up at Monarch Crest.

After a couple nights in Salida, we were on our way to Crested Butte for the 4th of July, with a quick stop in Gunnison.  We needed our fill of mullets and cut-off sleeves.  Just kidding… not.  We stopped in at High Alpine Brewing for a wood-burned margherita pizza and a flight of yummy suds to wash it down with.  Always peepin’ out the bike shop scene, so I dodged a hail storm to check out Double Shot Cyclery while the girls avoided golf balls falling from the sky by waiting in the car.  I don’t even drink coffee, but was stoked on the vibe in Double Shot.  Bike culture is alive and kicking in Gunny…

Arrived in CB early evening on July 3rd.  Checked in at the Old Town Inn… grabbed fresh baked cookies from the lobby, jumped on our bikes, and headed out for some grub.  One of the homies had mentioned Teocali Tamale and it didn’t disappoint.  Their burritos were sooo good.  Topped it off with some homemade ice cream from Third Bowl, and made our plan for the 4th.  

I got up early and put our blankets out on Elk St to reserve a good spot for the parade.  Then I headed out for my “Merika F Yeah”  bike ride.  I’ve previously done the magical 401 Trail and wanted to do something new.  So I decided to ride Lupine, Snodgrass, and Slate River lower loop. It did not disappoint.  Great views, great climbs and descents, in and out of aspen groves and slipping and dipping through wildflowers and along the river.  Quintessential CB ride, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how blessed we are for the quality of life afforded to us here in Merika.

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Early morning on the town loop, heading up past the resort to the Lupine Trail

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The wildflowers in CB are out of this world.

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Lush and divine.  A ribbon of singletrack along the Slate River.  One of the most beautiful sections of trail I’ve ever ridden.  Period.

After a sweet ride, I met the ladies for the town parade.  A bloody mary from The Last Steep was just the ticket for a post-ride recovery beverage.  We hunkered down in front of Big Al’s Bike Heaven and watched the melee ensue.

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The 4th of July parade in CB is no joke, son.

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OG original gangsta

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Water fight after the parade – the girls loved it!!

Later that night, we snuck onto the ski resort, hiked out on one of the ski runs, and had the perfect vantage point to watch the fireworks from.

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Ready for the fireworks to start!!  That look on Molly’s face tho 🙂

As much as we didn’t wanna go, we had to leave Crested Butte 😦 – On the road again.  We stopped in Paonia for some of their famous cherries before heading to the mountain biking mecca of Fruita, CO.  Picked up some palisade peaches from a roadside vendor — delish!!

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Took the drive through Colorado National Monument, and it did not disappoint.  The history behind it, and the treacherous feat of building the road is super interesting – highly recommend if you get the chance.  In terms of riding bikes in Fruita,  18 Road is on of my list of all time favorites, but I decided to try riding the Kokopelli Loops in nearby Loma.  Completing the whole 150 mile Kokopelli Trail from Loma to Moab is on my bucket list, so I figured I’d check out the fun loops at the Loma trailhead.  I got out early and did a traditional loop which included fantastic singletrack on Horsethief Bench and Steve’s with some slickrock and tech sprinkled with Mary’s and Moore Fun.  The views on Horsethief along the Colorado River were fantastic and you could look back and see Mary’s and Steve’s that you just rode.  Some of the riding got a little techy, and had me wishing for a squishy.  Very Moabesque.  Somehow, I lost one glove while eating a banana mid-ride.  Bummer.

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Obligatory stop and take a photo by the river.  Looking down Horsethief Canyon and the Colorado River.  Magical.

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More stellar views and fantastic cliffside singletrack

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The Kokopelli trailhead – lot’s of Kokopelli’s in Santa Fe, so the kids got a kick out of this sign 🙂

After departing Fruita, we made our way to Hurricane, Utah.  Distance-wise, it breaks up the final leg of the drive for the kids well.  Bonus is that there’s exceptional riding to be had, and it’s next to Zion National Park.

I’d previously ridden the amazing Gooseberry Mesa, so this time I decided to hit the IMBA Epic / Hurricane Rim Loop.  We arrived in Hurricane in late afternoon/early evening.  Before hitting the Chinese buffet joint we like, I popped into the awesome Over The Edge bike shop, chatted with the owner for a bit and bought a map.  He gave me some trail beta and I was stoked for a morning spin.  Got out nice and early to beat the heat, while mom and the kids got brekky at blah blah coffee shop and then played in the river by the JEM trailhead.

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A little play time in the Virgin River while daddy slayed some trail.

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These historic markers were super interesting and a great excuse to catch my breath.

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Another obligatory river shot – this one above the Virgin River

It was a perfect ride to end a fantastic trip.  It combines the Hurricane Cliffs Trails with Gould and JEM for a 25 mile loop, almost completely singletrack.  There is a reason this is considered an “epic” and there’s a little bit of everything.  Heart-pounding climbs, super flowy descents, techy rock sections, 360 vistas and views everywhere, you name it.  What a blast!!  The last few miles on JEM had me smiling from ear to ear as it’s just downhill enough to keep your speed high and the flow is PERFECT as you zig zag your way home.  Here’s the strava link.

After the ride, we spent the rest of the day in Zion.  Normally, I’d love to spend more time there, but with the kids and the schedule to get home, one long day was plenty.  They enjoyed the tram rides more than anything… and we did a bunch of hiking and soaking in the river.  What more could you ask for?

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More river play in Zion NP

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Nothing makes a daddy happier than seeing his angels cuddling and loving on a cheap motel bed.

And with the blink of an eye and an ice cream cone from the McDonalds’s drive through, we were back to home sweet home and real life… camping and fishing and riding bikes and hiking and paddle boarding await.  It’s always exciting to finish a vacation knowing that you live in a perpetual vacation town.   Funny how that works…

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Palm Canyon Epic – Bikes, Beers, and Singletrack Balyhoo

Pretty, pretty please… with a cherry on top.  Can I go for a “guys” weekend to Idyllwild?  So I can drink beer from stainless chalices and shred the fabled Palm Canyon?

And so it began.  Jumped in Ted’s spiffy new Forerunner.  Loaded gear in the back, bikes on the rack.  A quick weekend of campfire stories, bluetooth tunes, singletrack slaying, and a stack of memorable memories.

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Popped into The Hub Cyclery in Idyllwild, but Brendan was off in Sedona – boo hoo.  Cruised over to the art school, met up with Big Joe, aka “Missing Link” to get the lead out of our legs.  A nice warmup ride on the singletrack network to get the blood flowing and sweat dripping before grabbing some mexi food and a negro modelo.

A quick run to the grocery, where Joe promptly had a six pack fall apart in his hand.  Beer down!  Mop mop, grab another out of the fridge… some fruit, some nuts, and a pumpkin pie later, and we were on the way to the campground.

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Oops.

Met up with the rest of the San Diego tribe that’s made this ride a yearly ritual.  Lucky that Ted invited me along to hang with this great group of peeps.  Pinion Campgrounds.  Flush toilets and hot water – nice!  Kevin’s RV was plopped right in the middle and served as the epicenter of activity.  Got my tent pitched, and before long, a fire was blazing, Pandora was jamming, and Pizza Port brew was flowing down throats.  No better way to meet new friends and catch up with old, than by the glowing embers of a campfire.  Eagerly, we chatted with anticipation about the ride we would embark on in the a.m.  I couldn’t believe that it started right next to our campsite.  Pizza and beer and shuttle vehicles would be waiting for us at our final destination in Palm Springs.  Are you kidding?!  Sounded too good to be true.  I was the only “first-timer” in the bunch, and by the way everyone’s eyes lit up as they explained the ride, I knew I was in for a treat.

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After a windy night and tough sleeping, I was happy when the sun woke up.  It was like Christmas morning.  Let’s get going!!  The ride lived up to the hype and then some.  Sure, it’s an considered an “epic”, so people know it’s good.  But it’s still a fairly unknown, somewhat “hidden” gem.  Fine with me, and obviously fine with the locals.  BTW, there’s a chance this trail could be lost forever due to a potential land exchange between the BLM and the local Indian tribe.  Learn more and PLEASE sign this letter!!

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Palm Canyon is the Full Monty.  You’ve got rocky sections and techy, exposed descents to keep you on your A-game.  Punchy climbs to keep your cardio on check.  Magic carpet,  butter smooth singletrack that will put you in a trance, as you ebb and flow through cholla-lined ribbons of bliss.  On and on it goes.  30 miles of singletrack magic.  Top notch desert riding on par with anything you’ll find in AZ or NM.  We came across a rare desert tortoise, and a few other humans, but for the most part, pure solitude.  When all was said and done, we descended over 6000′ with 2,300′ of climbing sprinkled in.  A fantastic blend.

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Most everyone was on 6″ trail bikes.  I brought the 29+ rigid bike, and it was perfect for me.  Plowed through rock gardens and slashed up the trail.  Albeit, my forearms took a beating at points… but overall, it was a great tool for the job.

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Pizza and beer and fellowship to put a great stamp on a wonderful day.  Back to camp, and a Mike Hess DIPA by the fire, before my tired body told me it was time for bed after a solid day’s work.  In the morning, poof – everyone said their goodbyes, and another annual homage was in the books.  A breakfast quesadilla in Idyllwild, and before I knew it the 80 degree temps had dissipated, and we were greeted back in Mammoth with some fresh fluffy white and shivering temps.  Just another dream induced by the insatiable urge to spin pedals in new places.

Strava Link

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My Stab at the Burning Man of Bike Races: 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo – 2016

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24 Hour Town – Life in the Old Pueblo.

It’s been over two years since I did a 24 hour race (24 of Halloween in Los Olivos, CA).  Honestly, I’ve grown bored of the format for solo racing.  I don’t really get stoked to do lap after lap of the same 10-15 mile loop.  I’d much rather be bikepacking or doing one big  100+ mile loop, where I get to explore more terrain and enjoy solitude – like the last race I did (JayP’s Fat Pursuit).  ps – some pics are mine, some I stole from instagram.

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The lamp zone – where you decide to go for the rock garden, or bypass to the right.

But the magnetism of “The Old Pueblo” was just too much.  It’s been on the radar for way too long, and this year, I woke up at midnight to register before it filled up.  The mayhem takes place on Valentine’s weekend, and my daughter gets President’s Week off from school.  The perfect excuse to rally the fam bam in the Suby wagon and make road trip memories –  away from snowy mountains and off to 80 degree heat and Sonoran singletrack bliss.  Tucson, baby!!FullSizeRender (5)

Here’s how it went down:

Got a motel room 1/2 hour from the race venue.  With a 2 year old and a 7 year old, 24 Hour Town isn’t ideal for 3 nights, especially for a solo racer who’s wife is also the pit crew, who’s also tasked with taking care of the groms while I ride.  So we minimized our camping to one night, and went civilized leading up to the race.  Good decision.  Set up my pit area on Bag It Rd on Thursday.   Believe it or not, all the decent spaces were already taken, so I was a little bit off course, which is a bummer for solo racing… oh well.   On Friday, I threw back some In and Out before the pre-ride… after pre-riding, watched Collateral on tv in the motel room, kicked the legs up, ordered some pizza, and got a good night’s sleep.IMG_3531IMG_3614

Race Day:

Got pulled over by the fuzz while driving to race venue on Sat. morning – gave me a fix it ticket for the crack in my front windshield.  Some rookie with his boss watching on.  Comedy.  Anyhoo, soaked in the vibe, went through all the pre-race rituals, got to the start line and before long, the shotgun sounded… 400 yard Lemans run at the start, with a nice beer handup to keep my hydration game strong… found my bike in the sea of anarchy, and off I went.  Single dingle with 32×20.  There were 47 peeps in the Solo Singlespeed field.  Awesome!!  This was the easiest 24h course I’ve done.  16.2 miles with only 1200′ of climbing per lap.  Never had to hike my bike once.  But it felt like I was on a crowded Los Angeles freeway.  For a rider that longs for solitude, this was tough to handle.  Constantly getting passed by the speedy team riders, or making passes myself, I felt like I could never “relax” and get into the flow… right when I would, I’d hear “on yer left!!” — It’s one thing to yield and let riders pass, no problem.  It’s another issue when they expect you to go off into the cholla to let them around.  Not gonna happen.  Some douches would get agro about waiting 10 seconds for a safe place to pass.  I saw a couple crashes in front of me because of this, and I tangled bars on more than one occassion… luckily never went down.  I did have the “Good Times” afro pick in my jersey just in case I had to extract cholla.  Luckily, never had to bust it out.  I saw one dude get air lifted on the bitches (a part of the course with steep climbs and super fast descents), and was forced to walk my bike another time by an evacuation crew as they took a bloody bloke out on a stretcher.

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Mi Chorizo – My team name.

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All in all, my favorite lap was the pre-ride, sans rush hour traffic.  Of course, the sunset lap and sunrise lap were magical with the desert sky, and the night laps were not as crowded… but it made me realize why I don’t do 24 hour races… it’s just not my style.  So I stopped at the whiskey tree.  That’s my style.  Wished I was on a team, so I could drink some beer and watch people endo on the Sierra Nevada rock drop.  That’s my style.  Anyhoo, I’m not a negative nelly, so back to the awesomeness.  The singletrack was fast, flowy, and narrow.  The camaraderie of participants and stoke factor was off the charts.  I loved all the motivational signs that lined the course.  My favorite was “Ride Smooth” right after the exchange tent.  That was basically my plan.  Ride smooth.  Ride consistent.  And do what another one of my favorite signs suggested, “Keep on keepin’ on”.FullSizeRender (31)

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Beer can corner. It got bigger and bigger as the race progressed

Saw countless flat tires, and other mechanicals – very happy that my bike performed flawlessly, and I only crashed twice.  Once around 2am, I was reaching for my Camelbak hose and looked down for a split second trying to get the nozzle open – next thing I know, I’m face down in the dirt.  Luckily, I avoided cacti.  Shook it off, adjusted my light mount, and back to the grind.  The other crash was absolute bullshit.  Last climb of the loop, on my last lap.  Only one mile from the finish line.  I got behind two guys and was grinding out of the saddle, up the narrow singletrack.  All of the sudden, they completely stopped.  I slammed my brakes, and went to dismount – but my cleat wouldn’t disengage.  I fell over into a cholla.  I made it through the whole race without touching a cactus, until then.  I was livid.  The cholla in my leg didn’t keep choice words from flying out of my mouth to the schmucks in front of me.  I got the barbed pricklies out, and didn’t let the negativity consume me.  After all, I’d ridden almost 200 miles and climbed about 15,000′ – and I was a short descent away from the finish line.

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Whiskey Tree

I got a shot of fireball and a gooey chocolate chip cookie as I passed by the DrunkCyclist pit area. Then, one final time down the rock garden to hoots and hollers from the hecklers before being handed a Dale’s Pale Ale and turning in my baton at the tent.  And so it was.  12 laps.  I had time to go out for 13, but I was content.  10th place out of 47.  I had fun.  I rode long and hard and steady.  Memories that will not soon be forgotten.  Another adventure on two wheels in the can.  Oh yeah, here’s some other random stuff-

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Banjo tunes through the night laps

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Lucy posing at a pit stop on the way to Tucson

What I Ate:

PBJ’s, bananas, macademia nuts, sausage, blackberries, pickles, strawberries, a gu gel, some gu chomps, naked juice.

What I Drank:

Water in a camelbak, and a water bottle filled with gu in a cage.

More Random:

Watching the sun dip over the horizon at sunset was magical in the Sonoran Desert.  So peaceful as it transitioned to night.  Night laps are always tough mentally as the sleep demons get at you and your pit area offers a nice napping opportunity, especially when your wife and kids are asleep.  So quiet, lonely, warm, inviting you go just take a short nap.  Get in, get out.  As long as you can get back on course quickly, the demons don’t win.  Some laps go by fast, some drag on forever.  Hallucination kicks in.  The rodent road kill is like nothing I’ve ever seen.  Tons of dead animals laying in the singletrack.  Weird.  Next thing I know, I’m getting pulled through one of the flowiest parts of the course by EndlessBikeGirl  around 3am, after almost bonking, and my spirits are high again as the buzz from her hubs and glowing angel wings keeps me honed in.  Before long, ambient light overtakes 1200 lumens of man made candlepower and you know it’s gonna warm up… just like Gandhi said, “Every night I when I go to bed, I die.  Each morning, I am reborn.”  The sun streaks over the barren landscape, warms your core, and you wake up.  Recharged.  Riding fast and strong.

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Someone offering a beer handup to EndlessBikeGirl

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And just like that, poof.  It’s over.  Some nagging neck pain, foot pain, and some numb fingers linger for a bit.  24 Hour Town is but a distant memory.  Everyone is gone in one big dust cloud.  Lucy and Molly and Angela and I.  Off to the next –  adventure on two wheels seeking singletrack and solace and peace with this gorgeous earth.IMG_3583

Figured out the design for my first Maven t-shirt in my head somewhere along the ride too – stoked to get it made soon.
Ride bikes.  Drink beer.  Live happy.

Posted in Favorite Rides, MTB Racing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Mid-Pack Racer’s Night Adventure – JayP’s Fat Pursuit 2016

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photo by Gary Lee Chrisman, stolen from Fat Pursuit FB page

I get cold easy.  I live in a ski town.  I love snow.  But I still get cold easy.  Brrr.  I guess that’s why I decided to do my first winter fat biking ultra.  To test myself.  See how I’d hold up mentally and physically while riding in conditions where survival can become a factor if you don’t have your shit together.  Where taking your hand out of your pogie for an instant to slam a frozen peanut butter cup in your mouth, unzip your top layer, guide your hydration hose into mouth, gulp gulp, re-zip, and put hand back in pogie, can mean ten minutes of wiggling fingers to get them happy again.

After some research, I decided to test my grit at JayP’s Fat Pursuit in quaint Island Park, Idaho – population five hundred something.  2016 marks the third running of the race.  What is so special about a 200k loop on groomed snowmobile trails through Idaho and Montana, going as far out as West Yellowstone and meandering around the Continental Divide?  Exactly.   Note – there is also a 200 mile version that Jay added this year for those that qualify by first completing the 200k.  Hmmm… already thinking about next year 🙂

Anyhoo… daydreaming about the massive, open beauty of the region and serenity of quietly pedaling through this winter wonderland stoked the fire for this adventure.  I longed for the solitude – being alone, in my head, with my thoughts and my opaque breath and the sound of rubber crunching on hardened snow.  Yes, I’d spend more hours in the car getting to and from, than actually on my bike (at least that’s what I was hoping).  But this one is worth it.  I could tell.  This one was gonna be special.

Getting out there:

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Bike loaded in the back of the truck – ready to roll!!

I met up with a bikepacking buddy Blake, who also happens to be one fast badass.  He completed the 200k last year, but wasn’t stoked on his performance – so he was out for some redemption.  Which he got, btw, along with a sweet custom belt buckle reserved for the podium peeps.  Yahoo!  So yeah, Blake lives in Truckee.  We met in Reno.  I left my truck in a hotel/casino parking lot, and we rolled in style with his brand new 4×4 Sprinter.   Jay P told us about Island Park Cabins, and we reserved bedrooms for $25/night from Pam in a sweet 5 bedroom cabin.  Only a couple others booked – Scott, doing the 200k and Bill doing the 200m, while his wife Mo held down the fort.  The cabin was huge and we were all pretty stoked – even though we wouldn’t be spending much time there.

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Our bikes, riding in comfort in the back of the Sprinter van.

 

Bike and Gear:

I’m adding links to some “gear lists” and race reports at the bottom.  If you’re planning on giving this beast a shot – set yourself up for success.  Read up.  I used these to help my planning and try to wrap my head around the event.  Neil, who won the 200 mile race this year with a blistering pace, also just posted his 2016 gear list – very helpful.

In terms of my bike, there’s not much to say.  I own a Salsa Mukluk.  Tried and true.  And heavy.  30lbs, 6oz naked, and 48lbs 4oz loaded (without food or water).  Ouch.  Here’s a few specs:

  • Panaracer Fat B Nimble 26×4 tires – pretty light, not too bad, but not enough side knobs – mostly around 6-7 psi, but lowered to 4-5 later in the race and never re-filled.  Tubeless with orange seal regular and subzero mix.  I would go with 5″ tires next time… not much heavier, but in variable and sloppy sections of the course, I definitely could’ve used the added float.  Surly Holy Rolling Darryl rims are pretty heavy – if someone gives me some carbon hoops, I wouldn’t mind!!
  • 1×9 drivetrain with 32T front ring, and 11-32T rear- if I do this again, will definitely go 1×11 – my knees were killing me half way into the race, trying to push that hard of a gear, and not being able to get out of the saddle was a killer (I’d just slip and slide) – People would pass me by spinning, while my legs were yelling at me.  Yes, better than SS, but life would’ve been much better, I wouldn’t have worked as hard, and would’ve ridden faster with a “real” drivetrain.
  • PDW Aether Demon red light mounted to seatstay, Princeton Tec EOS mounted to fork – those were my safety lights, worked perfect.  I had a Exposure Joystick on my helmet and a Fenix LD22 light packed as a backup for night riding.
  • Low end Avid Elixir 3 brakes worked flawlessly.  Hydraulic, just fine. Cheap.
  • Porcelain Rocket frame bag, Revelate Gas Tank, Jerry Can, Feed Bag, Viscacha, spocket, and Handlebar Harness.  All worked great.  Viscacha a little big, probably use a smaller/lighter seat bag next time, and could ditch the Jerry Can (tools were in there, but I had room in the frame bag).
  • Flat pedals (stupid choice, more details below)
  • Ergon GS-2 grips (on every bike I own)
  • Revelate Pogies (only ones that I’ve found where I can still use my bar ends)
  • Inverted canister stove – MSR whisperlite worked great.  I tested it down to 0 degrees without inverting.  So I knew that it would be fine, since inverting also gives you 10-20 more degrees.  I kept the IsoButane fuel (make sure to get 80/20) in my jersey pocket as well, to keep it warm, just to be safe.  My 8oz of water boiled in just a couple minutes at the mandatory check.  Sweet!  PS – don’t use an Esbit stove.  Takes forever and everyone who uses one regrets it.  Take the weight penalty and use a “real” stove.
  • I brought a closed cell insulated foam pad.  It’s super cheap, and super light, but it’s bulky.  For $25 vs $100+ for an insulated inflatable, I went the cheap route.  It also doesn’t need your lung power to use… so if crap hit the fan, it’s quick and easy… never had to use it (thankfully).  Sure, I would’ve liked a gucci one, but this was just fine for me.
  • Sleeping bag – a buddy let me borrow a mountain hardware 0 degree, which again, thankfully never had to use.
  • Lezyne HV Micro Floor Pump – my favorite pump for fat bikes.  Works great and fast when adding air as snow conditions firm up.
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    Ready to roll

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    Just after the mandatory gear check. It’s about to get real.

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    Cockpit – my old Garmin eTrex Vista HCX still does the job… pogies, feed bag, gas tank and my sleeping pad strapped to my sleeping bag

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    Viscacha seat bag, with spocket on top (holds Spot Tracker), and the camo jerry can with my tools

Once I showed up at Pond’s Lodge, I couldn’t believe how many $8k, super spendy carbon fat bikes with HED carbon wheels.  Wow.  This was legit.  People were hardcore.  I felt slightly out of place with my, dare I say it, aluminum bike.  After checking out all the drivetrains, and setups – I got even more nervous.  At the least, people were running 1×11’s with 28T front rings and 42T rears.  My bike is normally set up singlespeed, but I was scared to do this race SS.  If crap hit the fan, I did not want to be hiking for hours on end.  I wanted the ability to soft pedal if cramping, and to regulate my body temp/how much I was sweating, etc.  So I threw on a 9 speed cassette I had lying around the shop.  I had a 32T front and 32T rear as my granny, which is a lot for a singlespeeder.  Still a far cry from the spinning capabilities of my counterparts – but hey, I wasn’t going to pony up for a 1×11 just for this race.

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Cheap gas – and a nice Fat Pursuit welcome sign at Ponds Lodge

 

Hydration:

  • Hydration was spot on – 48oz camelbak under my thermal vest, and a 20oz insulated water bottle in my handlebar feed bag.  I’d read in Andrew’s blog that putting your bottle upside down with a handwarmer in the bottom of the feedbag worked well.  He was right.  Never froze.  Most riders, including Gabe (the 200k winner) seem to route the camelbak tube under the armpit… but I just routed it normally and it never froze.  Blake’s did freeze… so next time, I’ll go under the armpit – but I also kept my hose near my belly so I could unzip on climbs without worry.  I also drank often to keep water flowing.  Zero issues with water freezing.
  • Hot water was also key.  At each checkpoint, I refilled with hot water.  Not only did it keep the water from freezing, but it warmed my core when I drank, and the warm bladder felt good on my back.

Clothing:

My layering system worked pretty awesome.  Granted most of the race was in the teens and single digits, so it never got too cold.  Regardless, I was never too sweaty or cold.   I stayed layered basically the same for most of the race, until I threw my shell on for a little more warmth at the end.

  • Rab super thin next to skin short sleeve wicking baselayer
  • Pearl Izumi Thermal Barrier long sleeve base layer – I love this piece, it’s got windstopper material in the front, but still breathes well everywhere else
  • On top of that was an old Kenda long sleeve jersey that I picked up at a race for $20 a few years ago.
  • On top of that was a thermal vest that I scored on eBay for $10 a while back – no, I’m not really on the Trek Subaru race team.
  • In the seatbag was an ArcTeryx shell and my Rab puffy for peace of mind.  Most people had lighter shells and much lighter puffies (patagucci down sweater, nano puff, etc) – I probably could’ve saved weight here, but I knew I’d never freeze!
  • Gloves – I had two pair – Pearl Izumi Softshell Lite for most of the ride, switched to Pearl P.R.O. Barrier gloves at night – between these and my Revelate Pogies, I was pretty dialed for my hands.  Except for a couple long descents, where my fingers were touching my metal brake levers (not to self, carbon levers next time or wrap them in electrical tape), my fingers stayed pretty cozy.  After W.  Yellowstone  I put hand warmers in my gloves too… extra toasty!!
  • I don’t own tights, so I just used a regular chamois and leg warmers for my bottom baselayer.  I had some loose fitting Spyder long johns over that, and some Marmot nordic pants (that I borrowed from my wife) over that.  Legs were perfect the whole race.
  • Socks and shoes – I wore a thin liner sock with some Darn Tough merino wool socks on top.  I was scared my Lake 303’s wouldn’t be warm enough, because they fit me pretty snug, and aren’t sized up… so I wore Merrell hiking boots that I know are warm for me, and have ample room in the toe box.  I used adhesive toe warmers which I switched out mid race, and my feet stayed warm the whole time.  I also carried a couple plastic grocery bags in case I needed to do a poor man’s vapor barrier – but it never got that cold.  The downside?  I switched to flat pedals because of the boot situation, and it was not comfy.  I’m super used to clipless, and I didn’t like the feeling of my feet “floating” around on the pedals.  Not sure if my knee pain was because of this or my gearing, probably a combo of both.  Next time, I’d definitely buy some bigger sized Lakes or 45Nrth boots so I can ride clipless and have room to layer socks, vapor barriers, etc.  I’d also consider an outer boot and/or gaitors depending on temps.
  • I had sunglasses, but wore my prescription eyeglasses for much of the race.  It was overcast and snowy for the most part.  Switched to clear oakley motocross goggles at night.  They keep my face warmer.  I wound up losing my glasses… they must have fallen out of my gas tank somewhere near Two Top.  Oh well.  I was due for some new ones anyhow.
  • I used Dermatone on my face, lips, and nose to protect my skin.  Worked great.
  • Pearl Izumi P.R.O. skull cap and an Icebreaker merino wool buff on my neck – also worked great… at night I switched out to a light balaclava and it was all I needed to keep my head and ears warm.

Nutrition:

I knew there were 3 checkpoints stocked with warm food, so I brought snacks to get me through.  Macademia nuts, trail mix, and peanut butter cups were in my gas tank.  In my jersey pockets, I also had gu chomps, gu gels, and a pbj.  This kept everything warm.  I also ate a couple of bananas.   I never bonked, granted I was riding very conservatively the whole time.  But I feel my nutrition plan worked well.  Forced myself to down calories and water every 45 minutes or when opportunities arose – like after an endo or during a hike a bike section.

The Race:

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Start line of the 200 mile race which started at 5pm the night before my race

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Jay P, about to send off the 20 mile riders into the abyss!

Absolutely fantastic.  Everything I was hoping for.   I could only eat a few bites of my huge breakfast burrito.  My stomach was churning like it always does.  We made it to the start.  Aaron’s GoPro drone buzzed overhead.  Jay was on the phone with Matt Lee, ironing out the last minute Spot Tracker issues.  7am.  We’re off.  Into the dark abyss.  Yes, all the prep, travel, worry, fear, anticipation, were over.  I was riding a bike.  In my happy place.

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Me, at the first checkpoint, getting ready to boil water – photo stolen from Fat Pursuit FB page

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Blake using a similar inverted canister stove to mine. ICE BEARDS RULE!!

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Gabe (right), eventual race leader, and Blake hustling to get through the water boil test. – photo stolen from Fat Pursuit FB Page

The conditions were variable, of course.  The first 30-40 miles were nice and firm and fast, and the climbs felt great.  The middle 40 miles were soupy and slow, and the slog into W. Yellowstone was the most heavily trafficked snowmobile section – making the trails very energy consuming to get through.  A couple guys flew by kicking up snow and debris in my face and mouth, but for the most part, all the snowmobilers were super friendly.  On the last stretch into W. Yellowstone, Derek came up on me and it was nice to have company heading into town.  I’d met him at dinner/pre-race meeting the night before, and his bubbly demeanor kept me from focusing on my own low point.  Oh yea, Derek and I got cussed out by one dude riding his snowmobile 60mph down the street in W. Yellowstone.  Apparently we missed a stop sign.  Then we went into the gas station to get Derek some batteries, and I forgot to turn my headlamp off… oops, I blinded this nice young lady, and everyone looked at us like we’re aliens.  Haha!! That was awesome!!!

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Some of the awesome volunteers cooking up soup and grilled cheese sandwiches at the W. Yellowstone checkpoint

Night had fallen and I took a nice long break at Checkpoint 2 (Checkpoint 1 was a quick water boil, some saltines, water fill and I was out).  This time, I took off a bunch of clothes, which a volunteer put in the dryer for me.  Nice!!  Put my socks and boots by the fireplace while I ate pickles, soup, grilled cheese, and a bunch of other crap.  I burned 45 minutes easy before getting out of there.  Back out, the night air was crisp and single digits.  The snow was firming up.  The stars came out as I was climbing Two Top (the last major climb of the route) and it was simply magical.  Around every turn, shadows stretched and hallucinations kicked in… tree branches and rocks became ghosts and ghouls… I was in a Tim Burton movie!!!  My legs came around and I was on top of the world – definite highlight!!!  I passed a groomer and for a few miles had fresh tracks.  Caught up with a cool cat named Chris from Seattle who did the ITI last year, and we rode a nice long section together.  I waited as he had to put a tube in a flat tire… stoked that it wasn’t me, as he hustled to keep his digits from freezing!!  Also stoked that I had zero mechanicals the whole race (except putting a little air in my rear tire).  Then we came across Robert, a 200 miler, who was delirious.  Luckily, TJ also came up and knew of a warming hut close by.  We walked with Robert for a bit, and made sure he got into the warming hut for a nap… then kept on pedaling to Man Cave (checkpoint 3).  Oh yeah… scarfed down bacon, potatoes, and pancakes…

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Man Cave – checkpoint 3… I’d been riding for around 20 hours at this point and a little loopy for sure…

Moral was high, only 22 miles to go.  I made this a short stop, and started out with a great pace.  Caught up with Chris and Beth (female winner, she crushed it!!) and then realized I wasn’t gonna keep their pace for the next few hours.  My knees were killing me, and I kinda wanted to be alone anyway… so I let them go, and rode the last 10 miles with a grin on my face.  It was quiet, I was at peace.  I was comfy, warm, confident.  The elements did not defeat me.  I embraced the ice on my beard and the tingling in my fingers.  I was cleansed.  This whole experience was magical, and I was enjoying every second of it.  Sure I didn’t ride particularly fast, but it went by in a blink of an eye.  Then I crossed the finish line.  10th place.  23 hours 41 minutes.  Completed both of my goals.  #1 Finish.  #2 Finish in under 24 hours.  Strava file here.  Blake and Beth and Neil and Jay and Aaron and a handful of others, hanging out at the line.  High fives and more memories.  YES!!!  With the confidence gained, and experience, I know I’d feel much more comfy riding harder, going faster, and pushing myself if I do something like this again (or should I say when I do it again).

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Neil got this shot of me riding across the finish line… whoo hoo!!

A shower and a nap – sublime.  Then a noon toast under the arch and a western burger at Ponds Lodge.  War stories and beer… before I knew it, we were at Perkins in Pocatello for free pie Monday, and back at my truck in Reno.  A blink of an eye later, back in the arms of my loving wife and daughters… with a green hoody and a sweet beanie for proof.  It wasn’t a dream.  I was there.  I finished it.  I got busy living at the Fat Pursuit.

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Nothing but good times!! The traditional noon toast under the arch!!!

Good reads:

 

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2015 Badger Race aka San Jacinto Enduro: Idyllwild, CA

I love Idyllwild.  No need to pull my arm to make a trip out there and see Brendan and Mary at The Hub Cyclery and ride bikes with friends.  Plus, I never felt satisfied with the amount of Idyllwild trails I rode on the Stagecoach 400 – since it merely takes you in and out of Idyllwild as the beginning and end of a super duper lollipop. So when the Badger Race (re-named from the San Jacinto Enduro) lined up with my fickle schedule, it was on like Donkey Kong!  The perfect excuse to conquer 57 miles and 7,200′ of climbing on the best trails in the area!!  So Hunter and I jumped in the trusty Tacoma, and after a stop to fill growlers at Mountain Rambler Brewery, made our way to paradise.

The venue for the movie screening did not suck.

The venue for the movie screening did not suck.

The weekend started off with a movie screening of Inspired to Ride at a snazzy restaurant call Idyology.  Waited an hour for my burger, holding up my skunk cabbage sign.  It finally came and it was pretty darn good, so it made up for the wait.  Before the movie, Hunter played a short film of the 1980 Crested Butte to Aspen Klunker Race (I highly recommending clicking this link and watching both parts on youtube).  A great look back at mountain biking roots!   We all hooted and hollered and got fired up!!  Then, the movie itself was a pretty good way to get you jonesing to ride, as it chronicled last years Trans America Race.  The Italian lady in the movie was super annoying.  She’s a great racer, and demolished the female field… but her arrogance and constant competition with these other Italian guys got pretty over-cooked.  Other than that, it was a great glimpse into minds of ultra-endurance athletes pushing themselves to physical and mental limits.  My kinda stuff!!

Holding up my skunk cabbage sign, waiting for my burger.

Holding up my skunk cabbage sign, waiting for my burger.

Quick note – Brendan and Mary raised $1,500 for the local school arts program with donations from the screening/race – super classy as always.

Hunter and I shared a room at the Idyllwild Inn, the same spot I stayed before and after the Stagecoach.  Funny, we got the exact same room, except this time, the queen size bed didn’t seem so huge when I was sharing it brokeback style with Hunter 🙂  Before we knew it, dawn cracked and the race was upon us!

Get busy living or get busy dying.

Get busy living or get busy dying.  Pre-race meeting.

But first - Brandon's selfie from the roll out.

But first – Brendan’s selfie from the roll out.

Race Highlights:

  • Riding bikes with friends old and new is always fantastic, no matter what – you’re on a bike and you’re riding, and you could be on a coach, but you’re not.
  • The trails were fantastic, the views just as agreeable, and the weather just perfect.  Bliss on a bike.
  • Mary was at a surprise aid station, towards the top of Thomas Mountain (the longest climb), and I sucked down some pickles and pretzels that raised me up and kept me moving.  Trail magic boom!
  • The “b-sides” as Brendan called them were just as good as the “A” trails, and Ramona definitely didn’t disappoint.

    Hunter and I at the aid station where Mary saved my life.

    Coke and pickles.  Hunter and I at the aid station where Mary saved my life.

Race Lowlights:

  • Putting in some bonus miles by missing a critical turn somewhere before a big climb.
  • Physically feeling like doggy do for most of the race (thank goodness Hunter pulled me up the Thomas Mountain climb when I had zero in the tank and jellyfish legs).
  • Choosing 32×18 gearing – not too smart for what wound up being over 7k climbing  – my chicken legs were screaming and yelling at me the whole ride for this, but my arse was smiling as it rarely touched the saddle 🙂
  • On a tight, fast descent, I took a cactus to the shin, and had to spend some time extracting the needles.  Luckily I was wearing leg warmers which took some of the impact, but it was still a big owee and I never did get all those needles.
  • With only a few miles to go, I hooked one of my bar ends around a branch, crashed hard, and snapped off the bar end.  Thankfully, it was almost over, but I couldn’t lock my grip so it kept rotating on me and it felt like I was revving up a motorcycle.

    The reward. A grapefruit Sculpin in the brokeback room.

    The reward. A grapefruit Sculpin in the brokeback room.

Before you know it, it’s all over – another blur of a dream of surreal time spent on a bike.  Next thing you know, you’re kicking it on the Collier’s patio, re-hashing the day and hearing everyone’s highs and lows.  Went back to the room for a beer, a shower, then returned to the party.  Sitting in a fold out chair, wrapped in a blanket, with friends and coversation to fill the night.  Before long, the crisp night lets you see your breath, and the fire pit is glowing high and warm.  The Jeremiah Weed Whiskey from Walmart is spent, along with the Peach Triple from Mountain Rambler (so tasty!).  On cue, KC brought in reinforcement beer (oh the Pizza Port DIPA was spot on!!).  Brendan pulled some Omaha steaks from the freezer, Mary cooked potatoes, and Doug brought some canned creamed corn from his trailer.  As we had fellowship by firelight, I could not help but to feel so blessed for the company, and the beautiful family waiting for me at home.  Probably the best post-race meal I’ve had.

Oops. The broken growler Hunter left in the freezer.

Oops. The broken growler Hunter left in the freezer.

Hunter had a growler of Skywalker Ale filled for KC, but left it in the freezer in our room. Oops.  next time…

This weekend was a great reminder of why I write this journal – so these memories don’t fade off into the abyss somewhere.  After bonking and cramping hard, and watching Tyrone blow past fresh as a daisy, I was extremely happy to finish at all.  When I found out I was 7th overall and 2nd SS (behind “Lightning Fast Freddie”) out of 31 or 32 starters, it was a pleasant surprise.  Strava link.  I would’ve been bumped to 8th, as Hunter was way in front of me, but he missed a critical turn and wound up doing bonus mileage and extra climbing right at the end 😦

Ah yes. The post race brekky gang. Life doesn't get any better.

Ah yes. The post race brekky gang. Life doesn’t get any better.

A breakfast quesadilla in the morning with the boys, then it was back to reality once more.  The ride home was filled with dreaming about the next adventure, and before I knew it, power hugs from Lucy and Molly and Mommy greeted me.  Life is good.  As Gandhi once said:

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.”

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Ummm, DROP – 8,000′ of DOWN on the Cannell Trail – Kernville, CA

The skies opened up as we made "The Plunge".

The skies opened up as we made “The Plunge”.  Can you believe this was the same ride where we started in the snow??!!

This ride has been on the “Bike It List” for a good, long while now.  It’s weird how the rides closest to home sometimes take the longest to tackle.  Kernville is only 3 hours or so from Mammoth.  It’s kind of like living in Hollywood and never making it to Universal Studios.  So, this summer, as I went through my list, I put a big exclamation point next to one of the first IMBA Epics.  It was time to conquer the Cannell Trail.

Load 'em up.

Load ’em up.

A week before the planned trip, my buddy Ted got in the mix, and it became a two-person crew instead of a solo mission.  Ted, along with myself and three others, is a Founding Board Member of SEMBA (Sierra Eastside Mountain Bike Association).  We figured this would be a great scout trip for possibly rallying a group together next Summer.  It’s always fab to ride bikes with friends… and share gas.  Ted was familiar with the area, as he’d done some crazy adventure racing on roughly the same route.  The weekend we wound up going, just happened to be “Shuttlefest”, and Mountain & River Adventures was running shuttles to Cannell and Just Outstanding all weekend long, and there were lots of mtb’ers lurking around.

Yummy beer at Kern River Brewing!!

Yummy beer at Kern River Brewing!!

After getting to town and scoping the free camp spots, we headed over to the Kern River Brewing Company for dinner time grubs and suds.  Super tasty pulled pork tacos were accompanied by a flight of equally tasty beer offerings.  That’s the way to start an adventure.  Our bellies were happy, and the stoke level super high.  As expected, just after setting up my bivy, it started to rain.  It transformed into a magical lightning show.  The numerous strikes  were diffused behind cloud cover and every hit illuminated what seemed like the whole world for a split second with soft, radiant light.  It continued to trickle and drizzle through most of the night, so sleep was a little tough, but it was another great test on my bivy sack which kept me warm and dry.  I got up at 3am for a piss, and the stars were out and skies clear.  One of those “ah yes” moments, looking up at the beauty and wonder while relieving myself.

My bivy spot. Comfy cozy.

My bivy spot. Comfy cozy.

Anyhoo, after a couple more hours of restless sleep, it was finally go time!  Packed up camp and headed over to Mountain & River to catch our shuttle.  After a nice long van ride with stinky, hungover brethren, we finally made it!  Grabbed the bike off the rack, and oh crap – back tire was completely flat.  A little concerning.  Asked the van driver for a floor pump, nada.  Instead of taking a bunch of time to pump it, I pulled out a 16g co2 cartridge.  It was still leaking before I finally realized my tubeless valve stem was loose.  It must’ve gotten bumped during the ride up.  Luckily, I tightened it, and it held air.  I was still nervous though, as I only had a 20g cartridge left, and my pump was not working well on schrader valves (the Stans Hugo rims are the only schrader valve wheels I own, and my pump is usually relegated to presta duty).  Not the most confidence inspiring way to start a 30 mile epic ride.  But the tire held up the whole time, with about 12psi in it.  I never used the 20g, but I liked having it available just in case.

Getting started on the climb up to Sherman Peak.

Getting started on the climb up to Sherman Peak.

Ted and I decided to first climb up to the top of Sherman Peak, which adds some steep, technical climbing to the beginning of the ride (gaining 700′ over 2.5 miles).  We figured we’d come this far, might as well hit the high point of the area and tack on an extra 5 miles.  Well… by the time we got near the top, at 9,900′ it was snowing pretty heavy, and we were freezing and wet.  I knew Ted was cussing me under his breath as we pushed our bikes to the top (I later confirmed this).  But hey, we hit the summit and then mashed down as quickly as possible to our starting point – where all the smart folks left us over an hour earlier.  Unfortunately, while blasting down the descent, I went over the bars and slightly bent my front rim.  I tried my best to field true it, but it still rubbed slightly on my fork for the whole ride.  Crazy – not one mechanical in the last 1,000 or so miles on this bike, and then two within an hour.  Oh well.  Let’s ride.

Yes, it was snowing. Yes, it was cold. But summit we must.

Yes, it was snowing. Yes, it was cold. But summit we must.

The "proof" shot at the top of Sherman Peak.

The “proof” shot at the top of Sherman Peak.

Cannell is awesome.  So much different trail character as you change elevation from over 9,000′ to a mere 2,700′ as you reach the river by ride’s end.  Trippy climate change too… from a lush, foresty, wet roots, rock gardens vibe to flowy velcro, butter smooth singletrack… descend for a bit, then climb for a bit, up and down, up and down… then you hit this wild area that looks like Stonehenge.  A great spot for freeriding some big boulders and such.

Yes, this area is open to motos.

Yes, this area is open to motos.

Pretty hard not to smile on this ride!!

Pretty hard not to smile on this ride!!

Playing around in "Stonehenge".

Playing around in “Stonehenge”.

A sublime piece of singletrack through a gorgeous meadow.

A sublime piece of singletrack through a gorgeous meadow.

There’s a long fire road climb and a couple steep ups on moto trails, but every up is rewarded with a more than generous helping of down… and it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out there’s a lot of down to be had.  Finally, the clouds burned off and when we hit the “plunge” portion of the ride, the skies opened up for us as we hit the most memorable portion of the adventure.  Boom, you drop 4,400′ over the last 7.5 miles – So sick!! The views are breathtaking!!  Brake pads be warned… I had a new front, but my warn rear pad was howling at the moon by the bottom…  All in all, including the summit of Sherman Peak, our ride was about 30 miles with 3,100′ climbing and 8,000′ descending.  Yahoo!  Here’s the Strava link if you wanna check it out.

View of Lake Isabella.

View of Lake Isabella from “The Plunge”.

Ted, coming through a fun section of "The Plunge".

Ted, coming through a fun section of “The Plunge”.

Overall, totally worthy of epic status.  Reminds me a lot of the Whole Enchilada in Moab.  Such varied terrain and geography with a huge payoff at the end.  Looking forward to returning with a SEMBA group and camping for a few days and riding more of the local trails like Just Outstanding, etc.  Hoot!!

 

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