White Rim Loop in a Day : Gear Testing for the Tour Divide 2018

2/4/18

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Sun is waking up – let’s ride! – Parked at the lot on Mineral Bottom Rd

The White Rim Loop in Moab, UT at least on paper, seemed like the perfect ride to test out some new TD bits on the Cutthroat, and my body.  I hit up my buddy Adrian, and the trip came together quickly.

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Shedding layers with the low sun rising and warming the soul.

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Riding down Shafer in the shade.  Simply magical.

After some interweb recon, we decided it would be totally feasible to do in a day (although most people camp for a night or two along the route).  The loop is about 96 miles with 6,500′ climbing according to my gps and Adrian’s (a little more than bikepacking.com led me to believe – great planning resource, btw).  I read a blog from the Petervary’s and Grizzly Adams that confirmed the choice to do it in a day.  I spoke to a Ranger from Canyonlands NP about the plans – he tried to discourage it at this time of year – park is closed until March, it’s cold, nobody around if crap goes sideways, ice/snow/mud in parts, etc.  Adrian and I kept an eye on the weather, which has been abnormally warm.  We saw a nice window, and decided to give it a go.  Got our day use passes and paid for park entry online to be legit.  And we were off!

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Waiting for Adrian to drop a deucer!

Logistics and Geeky Stuff:  We camped on BLM land the night before, and then drove to the start/finish around sunrise.  There are no resupplies along the route.  I tried out my new 4L Dromlite water bladder, and carried about 6L water total – roughly the max I’ll  ever carry on the TD.  The bike was fully loaded except for a sleep kit (that’s the next bit I’ll be dialing in – stay tuned).  For a little peace of mind, we each had emergency bivy’s and I carried a Spot Tracker.  I wore the merino wool baselayer I hope to use on the TD and was trying out some glove options and new shoes.  Most importantly, I rode with no chamois/no cream – to see how my backside would handle approximately 12 hours in the saddle completely bare-assed.

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Views for days!!  Adrian!!

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Lunch break #1

New gear and stuff to try for TD Prep: This was my first ride since adding a Fred Bar and tweaking aerobar positioning.  I also just got a Garmin eTrex 30x GPS, Sinewave Revolution USB Charger, and Exposure Revo Dynamo light.  Couldn’t wait to try powering my GPS and charging my iPhone simulaneously, and using the kLite steerer mounted switch to swap between charging and powering my light.  Geek mode explode.

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Fred Bar.

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Geeky electronics stuff – dynamo light, usb charger, and switch with some custom wiring

It seems most people start/finish at Islands of the Sky Visitors Center.  We decided to follow Jay P and Grizzly Adams recommendation for doing it in a day, based on their experience – and that is to start at the dirt parking lot by Mineral Bottom Rd and Mineral Springs Rd.  This turned out to be perfect.  We started around 7:15am, a little after sunrise.  You get the most boring 15ish miles of the route done first (a subtle dirt road climb up Mineral Bottom Rd to warmup, and then a fast pavement flat/descent to the park entrance).  This also set us up to ride the last portion of the loop along the river with beautiful light at the end of the day, and you finish with a grunt of a climb up from the river back to your car at last light.  Perfect way to cap off the ride, and the way I’d recommend it to anybody going for it in a day.

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Yes, that’s me.

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Lunch break #2 – we found some bikes, but never the owners… Spooooky…

Here’s some notes / thoughts about the day:

  • All in all, it took us about 10.5 hours total with just over 9 hours of ride time.  Even with the short winter days, we made it back in plenty of time before dark.  A little bummed I never got a chance to test out my new dynamo light – oh well 🙂
  • Adrian was on a plus bike and we each had areas where our bikes were better suited.  A plus bike with squishy fork is definitely a good choice for this one, but my Cutty held up fine.  I was having an easier time in some sections, but the slickrock pounding and sandy bits were better for the plus.  The mix of dirt, slickrock, punchy climbs and fast descents keep you on your toes the whole time.
  • No mechanicals for either of us – yahoo!
  • Perfect amount of water.  We each had a couple liters left (better safe than sorry).  Temps were cool (50’s mostly) so we didn’t sweat a ton either.
  • Packed the perfect amount of food too (3 bananas, an apple, 3 picky bars, salami, cheese, cashews, macademia nuts, sour patch kids, pb&honey sandwich)
  • Other than a few short sandy spots, some mud/ice on Schaffer and around the river, conditions were super awesome.
  • We saw no living souls in the park.  We found 3 Surly bikes (2 krampuses and a karate monkey) parked by White Crack, but never saw the owners.  Figured they had a support vehicle and were off driving somewhere.
  • The views were rediculous.  90+ miles on insane 360 degree beauty, with the La Sals looming for much of it.  My favorite was coming along the river towards the end.  So beautiful.  And that ass-kicker of a climb up from the valley floor to finish was the icing on the cake!
  • The “White Rim” reminded me of salt on margarita glasses and had me jonsin for Fiestas! (we ate there the night before)
  • Lots of out houses all along the route – Adrian made good use of one 🙂
  • Burger at the Brewery after to celebrate with a Root Beer float.  Camped again, and jammed home!!  Highly recommended ride!!  Do it in a day or get an overnight permit and camp – either way, super dooper memorable!!

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    Are you frickin kidding me???!!  The views along the river were insane!!!

Gear Notes:

  • Absolutely love the Fred Bar.  Gets my aerobars to a super comfy position.  Gives more cockpit mounting room for gps, light, etc and opens up access to the top of my handlebars for more hand positions, mounting feed bags, etc.  I found myself riding in the “Mary Poppins” position too – back straight up and down, with hands in the elbow pads of my aerobars for a nice resting position while still pedaling… will definitely come in handy on the TD!!
  • Learned some stuff with electronics.  If you power the Garmin eTrex directly through Dynamo power, it will constantly (and annoyingly so) warn you that you’ve “lost external power” and ask if you’d like to keep it turned on with batteries (and gives you 30 seconds to decide before it shuts down.  So when you’re pedaling around 5mph on climbs, etc it’s constantly wanting to shut down and start back up as the dynamo makes enough power / goes to battery power.  Two fixes – first, turn off the annoying beep alarm.  Second, which was on my list anyway – get a USB cache battery.  Charge the battery via dynamo, and then use the battery to power the Garmin so it’s getting “clean” power.  Good to have a cache battery anyway so you can charge stuff when not moving, etc.
  • Also realized it was super easy to bump my charging switch the way I had my wires routed.  On technical terrain, the wires would hit the switch and I wouldn’t notice my light was on, but nothing was charging.  Easy fix.
  • The MSR Dromlite is a great bladder.  Realized I need to order the drinking hose for it.  Initially I thought I’d just use it as storage and refill my bottles as necessary – but that’s too much of a pain… I need to be able to drink straight from it so I don’t have to stop and refill bottles as often.  I also decided to order the 2L version, and mess around with some Platypus soft bottles for more modular water packing options, best use of my frame bag space, etc.
  • My arse – no chamois.  no cream.  no saddle sores at all.  Score one for the gipper.
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    Finished the last grueling climb out from the river / back to the car right at Magic Hour.  Couldn’t have dreamt up a better way to finish this adventure!!

**I’m Alan – passionate cyclist and owner of The Maven Bike Shop in Mammoth Lakes, CA – if you ever wanna chat bikes, get a price quote, or anything else – please contact me.  Let us help get you on a Salsa, Pivot, Niner or Surly.  — Ride bikes.  Drink beer.  Live happy.

 

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Shakedown Ride #1 – Salsa Cutthroat Tour Divide 2018 Rig

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Lucy approved! My freshly built rear wheel

1/23/2018

Alright.  It’s been super hectic with family, holidays, the bike shop, and all that jazz.  That’s a good thing.  I’ve been riding a decent amount – splitting time between my gravel bike and fat bike, getting some base miles in and trying slowly gain my fitness back.  Crazy that when I left Seal Team just before Christmas I weighed 167lbs.  Now I’m back to a respectable 157lbs.  The difference between eating at home vs. catering and craft services, and getting some exercise.   I’ve pretty much cut out processed sugar, and back to healthy eating habits and an active outdoor lifestyle.

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At work.

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All put together, perfect and new. Time to get her dirty like my teeth!!

So, yesterday – I finally had time to put on the bar tape, slap on some eggbeater pedals, give the bike a once over, and head down to Lower Rock Creek to do some laps and start seeing what this bike is all about!!

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Possibly my favorite part of the bike. Yoda vibes from Visibilia headset caps

I know I’m gonna try a bunch of stuff and probably tweak on every little thing for the next 5+ months before leaving on the Tour Divide, but I’m very happy after the first ride.  I know this bike is going to be fun and comfy, and a fantastic partner to ride down the spine of North America with.

INITIAL SETUP:

I won’t get into specifics too much here, as I’ll make a detailed “specs” post once the rig is completely dialed for how I’ll take it to Banff.  Once I’m set on the final components/gear/pack list, I’ll also include naked weight, loaded weight without food/water, and simulated weight filled with the max amount of water and food I’ll likely ever have on the bike.  But for now, here’s how I set her up on the Maiden Voyage:

  • 2018 Salsa Cutthroat Force 1 Build – Silver Fade – stock build except for:
  • Nox Composites Teocalli Carbon Rims (26mm ID) laced to Industry Nine Rear Hub and SP Dynamo Front Hub
  • Continental Race King 2.2 Tires / tubeless – 25psi (but will play with pressure more as I get the bike loaded with weight)
  • Sram XX1 Eagle Cranks (170mm arms) with an Absolute Black 36T oval chainring
  • Wolftooth GCX 46T Cog mated to an X01 11-42t Cassette (it replaces the 42 with a 46 granny gear)
  • Easton EC70 AX Handlebars (44cm)
  • Syntace C3 Aerobars (MD)
  •  Fizik Gobi Saddle mated to a Syntace P6 Hi Flex Carbon Seatpost
  • I used some Lizard Skins DSP 2.5 bar tape over Fizik Gel Inserts
  • Crank Brothers Eggbeater Pedals
  • Salsa Nickless stainless steel bottle cage on bottom of downtube.
  • * No electronics hooked up yet – Shey / KLite has my Revolution USB charger and is wiring it for a a top cap switch / the USB charger / and an Exposure Revo light
  • **For now, I only have the Salsa EXP frame bag and top tube bag mounted to the bike – will get into more packing options as I continue to shakedown the bike.  I use Lizard Skins silicone tape at all contact points to keep my frame from getting marred and bags from slipping around.

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INITIAL THOUGHTS AFTER FIRST RIDE:

I took the bike to Lower Rock Creek.  It’s a trail I know very well, and it’s clear of snow right now.  I’ve ridden it zillions of times, so I can really “feel” out a bike here.  Fast flowing singletrack and I can either ride back up on the dirt or on the paved road to make a few laps.  I also spent some time on the fire roads above LRC just to get some more miles in.  I rode about 20 miles with 2,500′ of mixed terrain climbing.

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My wife loves purple. It makes me think of her.

  • The bike is light and nimble.  I haven’t weighed it, but with the carbon wheelset and handlebars, it’s probably coming in just under 20lbs naked.  I’ll weight it for fun, soon. Sure it’ll get loaded down a bunch, but the bones are light and solid.  The wheelset, cranks, and rigid fork make pedaling super responsive and efficient.
  • For now, I have plenty of granny gear with the 36T oval ring up front and -46T WolfTooth GCX in the rear.  Top end wasn’t bad either.  We’ll learn more as I load the bike up and take bigger rides – but happy with gearing for now.
  • Sram hydro disc brakes, stellar – powerful with great modulation.
  • Digging the Lizard Skin dsp bar tape (I’ve used this many times) and Fizik gel.  It’s my first time using the gel inserts, but I like the squishy feel, and my hands were very comfy with zero numbness or tingling – I need to try out some gel gloves too, once I get to doing longer rides and overnight shakedown rides – I’ve always had hand problems, so wanna sort that out.
  • 170mm crank arms felt great on the knees – I decided to go a little shorter than what I normally ride (175mm) so my pedal stroke is shorter / knees don’t go up as high – to alleviate some strain on the knees over long rides.  I’ve never had knee problems, even with all my singlespeeding, but I dont’ wanna start either!!
  • One bummer, which I kinda already knew about – I could not fit a normal 24oz water bottle in the low cage, and barely got a 20oz to fit (it was hitting the “hairs” on my brand new tire, which is way too close for comfort).  I remember Josh Kato saying he had to modify the lower cage to get a bottle to fit.  I’m thinking about using the Wolftooth B-Rad system , but for now, I’ve got a Specialized KEG loaded down there… filled with tools, spares, etc that weight a bunch, but I hopefully wont need to get to often.  Depending on how my packing works out, this might be better than a bottle covered in cow crap anyway.  If I do wind up using a bottle down there, I’ll surly have to cover it with a ziploc and a rubberband to keep it from getting grotty to the max.
  • I like the Salsa EXP top tube bag.  It’s huge!!  Much bigger than the Revelate Gas Tank and Mag Tank I currently use.  I still like the ease of the Mag Tank, but for this adventure, I like the extra volume and the zipper down the middle is pretty sweet too.  Also nice how it bolts on to the Cutthroat – steezy.
  • I love the zippers on the Salsa EXP frame bag.  Silky smooth.  But not super stoked on the volume of the bag itself.  It’s very “skinny” and doesn’t seem to lend itself to “shoving a ton of crap in it” like I’m used to with more the Porcelain Rocket and Revelate Frame Bags I have on other bikes.  Either way, I’m gonna stick with it for now, and see how it goes when I start to load it up.

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    Taking a break during the maiden voyage.

STUFF TO CHANGE:

  • The biggest change, that I kinda already I knew I’d need, is adding a Siren Bikes Fred Bar to the cockpit. I was waiting to see, but I just ordered it.  The aerobars take up too much valuable real estate over the handlebars including one of my favorite “upright” hand positions.  I know I’ll also need more cockpit room for mounting crap too (gpx, dynamo light, etc).  I think moving the aerobars up some will be more comfy and easier on my lower back as well.  Hey, at least that’s what the website says as well!  We’ll soon see.
  • As I mentioned, I wasn’t super stoked on aerobar placement.  However, I am stoked on the aerobars themselves.  I’ve used them plenty before, especially on my singlespeed for routes with a lot of flat sections.   The Syntace’s are very comfy for me.  I can’t wait to get them dialed in on the Fred Bar, put some bar tape on them (hmmm… what color?  I’m thinkin pink or blue??  Yeah, blue!!) and start dialing in the rest of the cockpit (gps and light placement, and handlebar bag/sleep kit placement)
  • My seatpost was a tad to high, will drop 1/4″ and see if that feels better.
  • My saddle also needs some tweaking, will move forward and mess with angle slightly.  I’ve done well with Fizik Gobi’s over the years, but I measured my sit bones, and I’ll try a narrower saddle and see if it’s more comfy – we’ll see.
  • My stem height might need some tweaking as well, and I might have to go with a different length, but ok for now.  Will wait until Fred Bar arrives and top cap electronics switch to mess with that, as they both take up stack height on the steerer tube.
  • I need to tilt the handlebars down slightly as my wrists were slightly too bent in the drops when braking/shifting – but the angle of the hoods was nice on the bars.  IMG_8750

WHAT’S NEXT?

I’ll address the small tweaks mentioned above.  Keep putting in “shakedown” miles.  Add the seatbag (most likely gonna go with my Revelate Vischacha (the roomier the better is my motto for the Tour Divide – never know how many Subway sandwiches you’re gonna have to cram in there).  Try some different mounting options for sleep setup in the cockpit area.  I’m really leaning towards the Salsa EXP after messing with Hunter’s a little.  My electronics (usb charger, dynamo light and charging harness/switch will be in soon) – looking forward to getting that dialed along with the Fred Bar and the rest of the cockpit…

Lots to do… get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.

**I’m Alan – passionate cyclist and owner of The Maven Bike Shop in Mammoth Lakes, CA – if you ever wanna chat bikes, get a price quote, or anything else – please contact me.  Let us help get you on a Salsa, Pivot, Niner or Surly.  — Ride bikes.  Drink beer.  Live happy.
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Committed to “Raoring” the Tour Divide 2018

1/5/18

Oh boy.  It’s been a couple of weeks since I sent Matthew Lee my letter of intent to “do” the 2018 Tour Divide.  What is the Tour Divide?  If you don’t know, click here for Wikipedia’s explanation.  Feelings of excitement, fear, anticipation, and apprehension have been swirling for sure.  This little adventure’s consuming a big chunk of my brain and wallet, so I guess I’ll start journaling – sometimes it’s helps me with clarity and anxiety.

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My letter of intent – sent in on 12/23/17 – the start of the reality

Angie Baker was hanging out in the bike shop the other day.  She asked me what my plan was for the TD.  “Are you racing?  Touring?”  Hmmm.  I though for a sec – and replied, yes.

It really got me thinking.  My dad always taught me the necessity of goal setting, writing things down, and making lists.  Conceive and achieve.  So…. my goal for the Tour Divide is a combo platter.  I guess you could call it “Race Touring” – or as Angie coined, “Raoring.”  — I definitely wanna enjoy the vibe, “live in the moment”, meet people, see places, and immerse myself in the adventure.  I definitely don’t wanna be stressed out by letting the “race aspect” consume me.  If I feel like a beer, I’m gonna hang out.  If I wanna sleep in, I will.  A big part of the draw is the FREEDOM of the open road… not feeling pressured by a bunch of blue dots on Trackleaders.   That being said,  I also want to push myself.  Move at a fast pace for me and my fitness level.  Find some limits.  Push some limits.  Break some limits.  Cherish the lows and the highs and remind myself constantly that this adventure is a blessing not a sentence.  I like to make goals finite by writing them.  So here we go… My goals for the Tour Divide 2018:

  • HAVE FUN.  STAY HEALTHY.  STAY POSITIVE.  CHERISH THIS FLEETING MOMENT IN TIME.  MOST OF ALL – FINISH.
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A little bit of light studying 🙂

As of late, I’ve gotten much joy, insight, and information by reading other people’s TD blogs, so maybe some poor saps like me will gain something from reading this too??… Probably not, but years from now, my great-grand kids can get a sense of what a kook great grampa Alan really was.  You kids don’t know me, because I’ll be long gone by the time you read this – but I love you and you’re my flesh and blood and I wish for you a happy, healthy life of doing good stuff and achieving lofty goals.

So here we are, January 5th.  The Grand Depart is June 8th.  Six months should be plenty of time to prep, right?  We’ll see… All I know is right now, the reality of riding 2700+ miles across the spine of our continent on my bicycle will be the most daunting, liberating, mentally and physically challenging endeavor I’ve ever set out to accomplish.  I read a good quote the other day, from Ty Domin, a 2017 TD Singlespeeder: “Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.”

1/16/18 — UPDATE

It’s even more real now. I ordered a Salsa Cutthroat.  Although singlespeeding the TD was my initial goal 7 years ago, I’ve chosen against it.  I smashed my left knee up pretty well on Longmire, and it’s never been the same since.  Although it feels pretty good these days, it tends to scream at me randomly on long rides on the SS, so it’s gears for me.

  • Booked a one-way flight from Reno, NV to Banff, AB on June 6th $$.
  • Renewed my passport (just lapsed after 10 years, wow)! $$
  • Booked a shuttle from Calgary Airport to Banff $$
  • Booked a room at the YWCA $$.

Super stoked to learn my buddy Kevin Hinton is gonna do the TD too – he just texted me a picture of his plane ticket!!  We’ve been talking about it since the first Caldera 500 – and now it’ll be a reality for both of us!!  Each step solidifies the reality of the endeavor, and scares the crap out of me at the same time.  I’m starting to pedal into better shape on my gravel bike and fat bike.  I just finished lacing my custom wheels $$ yesterday, and pretty much all the parts are in to get the Cutthroat built to how I “think” I want it… at least enough for me to start riding it and deciding what I like and don’t like.  I’ll devote a blog to the bike build later…

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Nox Teocalli Rims with some purple and blue bling for fun

  • Bought a new rain jacket $$ and an ultralight puffy $$.
  • Bought a new Garmin $$ to replace my slightly antiquated eTrex Vista HCX.  I’ll devote a blog to gear later.

Getting stoked.  A dream that started seven years ago, when I first heard about the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.  I watched Ride the Divide and started reading books.  The fire was ignited.  But the timing wasn’t right.  The stars did not align.  I started Longmire, which shoots from March – July.  The exact window I’d need to be prepping and training for this ride of a lifetime.  Longmire lasted 6 wonderful years, and we were blessed by that job.  Longmire is over.  I started Seal Team.  But I quit just before Christmas.  Need to be home.  Family.  Gotta grab it now.

I’ve been re-watching the Mike Dion movies (Ride the Divide, Reveal the Path, Inspired to Ride, etc).  I’ve been re-reading all the Tour Divide books in my library… and finding tons of literature and blogs on the web.  Immersing myself in the maps and cue sheets.  Immersing in mental prep.  Lot’s of time on the mental.  Every time I take a ride, I focus on my attitude, and how I respond to different situations.  Maybe I’m a schmuck?  Either way, you can’t go wrong staying positive and happy and friendly… I really need to practice the friendly part…

**I’m Alan – passionate cyclist and owner of The Maven Bike Shop in Mammoth Lakes, CA – if you ever wanna chat bikes, get a price quote, or anything else – please contact me.  Let us help get you on a Salsa, Pivot, Niner or Surly.  — Ride bikes.  Drink beer.  Live happy.

 

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Daddy Style Moab Enchilada with a side of Fruita

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Good times with good friends! – 18 Road, Fruita

Way too long since I’ve taken the time to journal.  Working too much this year.  After Longmire ended, I jumped straight on to Seal Team and we opened a bike shop.   Go figure.

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Working with the brothers on Seal Team.

The last time I took a “guys trip” to Moab, was in 2007.  Sure, I’ve been back plenty since then (24 Hours of Moab, and lots of visits going to/from Longmire, with and without the fam).  But never with “just the guys”.  Back in May of 2007, we got skunked out of the top portion of the Whole Enchilada due to snow, and we had to start at Hazard County.  Dem dukes, dem dukes.  The ride was still epic, but it’s always nagged at me, being the ocd weirdo that I am – we never did the “whole” enchilada.  I knew I’d get back to it… just didn’t think it would take this long!

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All aboard!  — To the top of the La Sals, no waiting!

Fast-forward 10 years to 2017.  I now have 2 kids (9 and 4).  Half of the homies I used to go to Moab with moved away, or I lost touch with… probably because I’m a dad now, and dude time has dwindled heavily in favor of family time and daddy date nights.  Luckily, Stu (the mastermind behind our old Moab trips) decided to commit to Moab in early October.  He’s now a daddy too, and finding the time to get away is rare.  So he booked our old camp spot 178, told us all the dates, and said show up if you want.  Boom.

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The three amigos, somewhere on the Navajo Rocks trail system.

I NEEDED this getaway, and Angela gave me the hall pass!!  Next thing I knew, John  (another daddy who needed a getaway) and I were carpooling out to Moab to meet with Stu.  I grabbed a Niner RIP9 RDO from our demo fleet (perk of owning a bike shop) – and was stoked to have a full squishy for the trip – Our posse of three was ready for shreddy.

Rain.  The shuttles were not going all the way to the top yet.  So we kept pushing back our shuttle dates, in hopes that it would dry out enough.  In the meantime, we hit some other prime riding spots:

1st up – Sovereign / Klonzo Loop – Sovereign is one of the older trail areas in Moab, and is shared with motos.  Surprisingly, I’d never ridden there before, and honestly, I’ll probably never go back.  It was ok, but there’s so many better singletrack/bike specific options these days.  Sure there were great views, but it was soft and sandy and much more enjoyable for motos than human powered units.  Klonzo, on the other hand, exceeded my expectations.  Right next to Sovereign, bike specific mix of singletrack and slickrock – mellow climbs, with fun flowy descents – now we know to skip Sovereign and head straight to Klonzo 🙂

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Stopping for a much needed break on Mag 7

2nd up: Navajo rocks – It rained more on day two… and everyone at the bike shops recommended Navajo Rocks as it’s the first to dry out, and doesn’t get as effected as other areas.  One of the newest trail systems in town, it’s still not too well known.  It’s “hidden gem” status is no longer and we saw Ryan Leech / Norco posse, so we knew we were in the right spot.  Now we’re talking.  This system was fantastic.  We finished with just enough light to get back to our cars.  So good.
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Posers.

3rd up – Mag 7 – the “other” sweet shuttle ride in town that some people like more than the Whole Enchilada.  I’d call it a close 2nd, but definitely doesn’t have the magnitute of starting at the top of the La Sals.  Still, it’s a blast, 100% worth doing.  Some tough climbs sprinkled in, great views, etc – somehow got on a jeep trail and missed a small section of Golden Rim Singletrack – so yeah… now we’ve gotta go back and hit that!  The views on Portal lived up to the hype, and so did the exposure.  It’s legit.  DH skills tested after a grueling day and fatigue.

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Unloading at the top – after our van broke down for 1/2 hour!

Ok.  Now to the highlights of the trip – this fat dude rockin a GoPro in the jacuzzi at the campgrounds giving John the stink eye.  Maybe he wanted us to jump in and make some Albondigas soup??  All the ladies in Active wear (inside joke)… Rainy day fossil shopping, a Fiesta margarita with carne asada at the mexican joint… pissing off our waitress at the Blu Pig (she mistook my sarcasm and got offended that I called her out for making us wait 2 minutes)… eating at Sweet Cravings for brekky every day.  Getting a chicken sandwich and root beer float at the brewing company… the bike wash at Poison Spider, the far right shower at the campsite, busting air drops, building Stu’s new bike from scratch on morning one, cramming 17 euros in with us on the Coyote shuttle and fuel pump goin out 2 miles from the top.IMG_8481
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View looking back from the Burro Pass high point of the enchilada

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In the end, we got it.  The whole enchilada.  Other than the long techy rocky crappy doubletrack section of porcupine rim, nothing holds a candle to the whole enchilada – 10 years we waited- and for icing on the cake, we hit a little Fruita action, got some Hot Tomato pizza love and capped off a sick trip.  Let’s make another one soon yo.

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The fruits of our labors

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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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