Friday, February 09, 2018

Solved

Starting to look like a bike.


Saturday, February 03, 2018

Mystery

Those are some narrow tires. As someone who has embraced fat tires and wide rims, I have no idea what those could possibly be used for.


Later.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A Tale of Two Poachings

Sometimes you just have to poach.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term as it applies to mountain biking, it's the act of riding on trails that are deemed off-limits to bicycles. Yes, it's illegal. No, it's not very responsible. Yes, it makes all mountain bikers look bad. Yes, it could threaten the access we currently have. I've heard all the arguments, and yet I still poach. So why do I do it?

The main reason for poaching is pretty simple: Convenience. Time is in short supply these days. Most every trail close to my home is illegal to ride on, so when I only have a couple hours to spare, it's poaching time. Terrible excuse, sure, but convenience is only part of a complex equation.

Most of these trails see little use by the vocal minority, i.e., the hikers and equestrians. I rarely see a horse on a ride, whereas I see many, many mountain bikers. Seem fair? It doesn't to me. But life itself is not fair, and I accept that, so fairness is only part of the problem.

I don't think I have ever traveled anywhere outside of my home region and ignored a "no bikes" sign. I don't go to Marin County, for instance, and poach a trail. The people who live and ride there have their own land access battles to fight, big ones, and they don't need outsiders screwing things up. In general, I am honest to a fault, and I obey the rules handed down to me. I use my turn signal while driving, return shopping carts to the corral in pouring rain, never run with scissor and sit up straight at the dinner table. Hell, I've never had a speeding ticket.

Which brings us back to my local trails. Over 30 years ago, my friends and I graduated from BMX bikes to the then-new mountain bikes. We left jumps, berms and 45-second BMX races behind and embraced singletrack and grueling multi-hour races. We began riding the horse trails around our two local lakes, and having a blast. We had miles and miles of it at our disposal, more than we could ride in a weekend. We saw the occasional horse, and it was no big deal. But within a few short years, the all-too-familiar circle-slash signs went up. To my knowledge, there was no discussion or public forum, no debate. Just a knee-jerk reaction to complaints from horse owners. Case closed, never to be opened again.

For people who came to the dance late, they see a "no bikes" sign and shrug their shoulders. They never knew any differently. Those who were there in the beginning feel that something was taken away from them. For me, today, it is this: The Good Old Days.

For many years I obeyed those signs, obeyed the law. I rode the boring, short, multi-use trails and looked longingly at the fun stuff across the lake. I drove for an hour or more to do legal rides. Finally, I really lost my way. I rode a damn road bike. The horror.

Then one day you reach a point where you start yearning for those Good Old Days. You're spinning along on the paved bike path, and you think, "What if I slip down Shady Trail, just this once?" Nobody is around, it's near dusk, and you go for it. And it's as good as you remembered it. Better even. At that point it is all over. You are a poacher.

So before you point toward me, perched high upon your horse (or worse, your bike), calling me the problem, know this: I am just a guy, a tax-paying guy with a job and a family and a mortgage and a yard. I'm just stealing little pieces of my past, little pieces of the miles and miles of enjoyment stolen from me, little pieces of The Good Old Days.

Most of the time, when you choose to poach, things turn out just fine . . .

Back in my racing days, we had a team single speed ride on Tuesdays starting at the fish hatchery. We were a competitive bunch, so the pace was fast and painful and often dangerous to others. Many of the trails we used were not especially legal. This combination could, on rare occasions, lead to problems.

One day I showed up for the ride after a long absence. I had raced with the Rio Strada team for seven years, but my participation had tailed off greatly due to a number of outside factors. I pulled into the parking lot apprehensive about my ability to keep up after the layoff.

The 3:00 start time came and went, and only Curtis and I were there. This left me feeling a bit uneasy, as Curtis was coming off a fine cyclocross season which saw him place 11th overall in the Master A class. I, on the other hand, was finishing up a fine season of, well, absolutely nothing. I was hoping for a little pack fodder to hide among.

For the first time in eight years, I raced not a single time all season—not a criterium, road race, nor a mountain bike or cyclocross event. Without any racing under my belt that year, and nearly all of my riding being done solo, I again questioning my fitness as we saddled up. I told Curtis, "Take it easy on me, Racer-Boy."

Whereas I usually start out my single speed rides with some spinning on the flat, somewhat boring (but legal) multi-use trail on the south side of the lake, the team ride jumps right into the illegal stuff by traversing the cliff near the dam. This is the toughest climb of the entire ride, steep and rocky and loose, and it's right out of the parking lot. Curtis flew up it, his spinning tire spitting rocks backwards into my spokes. I barely hung on, thinking this was going to make for a long day.

As we descended down the backside, I easily caught up. Coming from a road racing background, Curtis simply isn't the descender I am.

The next few hills yielded the same result: Getting killed going up, catching back on going down. We were really flying, and I was very uncomfortable with the ungodly pace. It hurt. I tasted copper and lunch was lurking right behind my tongue.

On the next hill I went around Curtis and gave it everything I had to crest the top first. On the descent, a long winding one, I really let it go and put some time into him. This worked well, and was to be my strategy for the remainder of the ride. Using the gap, on the next climb I was able to climb comfortably at my own pace. And so on.

The trails were completely empty except for a couple other riders near Beal's Point. Curtis asked them if they knew they were riding on illegal trails. They didn't get the joke, but Curtis and I laughed anyway. Nope, no runners, hikers, horses or dogs. It was nice. A great afternoon for poaching. No harm, no foul.

On the way back I started getting my legs, bringing the hammer down on the climbs, descents and everything in-between. I was hurting Curtis a little bit, and it felt good. He said, "Take it easy on you? Take it easy on ME!" I felt a bit more confident that I could still ride with these guys who raced all year.

Sometimes, when you poach, things go terribly, terribly wrong . . .

The scheduled Sunday ride was supposed to be in Georgetown. Scanning the dead and dying bikes strewn across the garage, I decided that I didn't have a running machine up for the task. Georgetown is rough—trails maintained by motorcycles, basically. A rigid single speed and a cyclocross rig were the only living soldiers; neither was going to cut it.

I woke up on Sunday morning and saw an e-mail from Dave. It said the ride had been changed to El Dorado Hills due to the freezing temperatures that would make Georgetown miserable. Sweet, I'm in.

I scrambled to change the gearing on my 29er single speed to accommodate the ride at Brown's Ravine, a trail I've poached maybe three times in 15 years. I grabbed some food, changed clothes, and flew down to the pizza place where we park.

Due to the cold, the group was small. It ends up being me, Craig Peterson and a tatted up dude named Robert on single speeds, with Dave opting for his old Merlin geared bike. We took off and it was a little cold, but nothing like the temperatures we would have dealt with up in Georgetown.

Everyone agreed to a slow warm-up, but almost immediately Craig P. broke the truce and put the hammer down. I jumped on his wheel. Craig is a strong rider, but I was pretty much sitting in comfortably. Even so, we put a big gap on Dave and Robert, who actually stuck with the warm-up plan.

The trail was in prime condition from the rain on Friday, and we railed through the turns with seemingly endless traction. We regrouped at a crossroad, and Robert took the lead followed by Craig, Dave and me. We were going through a long series of downhill left turns followed by gradual uphill right-hand bends, over and over. So fun. Robert bobbled on one of the short, steep climbs, and Craig passed him. This would prove to be our undoing.

We continued in this order for a couple miles. I was actually spinning along very comfortably in back, enjoying the ride for the sake of riding. Sometimes it's nice to just cruise along with a slower group and not feel like puking.

Suddenly I came around a corner to catch the beginning of a discussion that was quickly escalating to an argument between Craig and an equestrian. She was in her early sixties, I'd say, with three dogs in tow. Craig had moved off the trail, to the downhill side, and issued a good morning. What he received in exchange was not quite as pleasant. Within moments there was a cussing and pissing contest involving who had been riding the trail longer, who did more for it, and who was more wrong—us for riding the trail or her for letting three dogs run wild. Since Craig lives right up the road, he rides the trail often, and claims to clear poison oak every spring, fix washouts, etc. She admitted to never doing any trail maintenance, giving Craig more ammunition against her, but this only pissed her off more.

The argument lasted for some time, and the old woman was really dishing out the profanity. Craig and Robert responded in kind, and quite frankly it was embarrassing to witness. Robert finally had enough and continued on. Craig finally did the same and issued one last "fuck you" as he rode away. Well, this riled her up again and she took that damn horse right down a steep ravine and up to the trail again, cutting Craig off. She positioned her horse right in front of him and said, "I could crush you right now and nobody would care because you're illegal."

Craig said, "Yeah, well I could shoot your fucking dogs because they're off a leash."

More arguing, more cussing. We tentatively went around her and tried to ride again. This time she decided to chase us while trying to call someone on her cell phone. Unfortunately, I was at the back and the fucking horse was running right up my ass. It was scary. I could actually feel the ground shaking beneath me and feel the horse's breath on my neck. I couldn't believe how fast she was riding that horse on the narrow trail.

After a couple minutes of this, I'd had enough. I was getting mad. What the fuck did I do to her? I hadn't uttered a word to this point. I started to brake and hoped she wasn't serious about stomping on someone. Thankfully, the horse did stop. I tried to talk to her, tell her this wasn't really a constructive way to spend a morning, but it didn't work. She only had eyes for Craig, and rode around me in the weeds, taking off in pursuit. I took off after her.

Riding behind her, I saw her feeble attempts to get a cell phone signal out there. Finally, as we neared the road, she registered a signal and stopped the horse. I blazed by. I knew I had to get back to the guys to warn them about the call she was about to make. Not a half mile later, I was descending down to the creek that runs under Salmon Falls Road, when I saw a ranger getting out of a truck. He told Craig and Dave to stop. Robert was nowhere to be seen. As I pulled up, the ranger, who looked like he was rousted from bed, asked, "What's this about you brandishing a gun, son?" Craig, who is normally pretty quiet and laid back, went off. You could almost hear the capillaries bursting in his eyes.

At this point Dave jumped off his bike and pulled Craig away, while I slipped in to diffuse the situation. Although the lady told him that shots were actually fired, I explained exactly what happened. The Ranger nodded knowingly, like this lady was a constant pain in his ass. Or maybe he was humoring me because he thought we did have a gun. I wasn't sure. Still, he clearly intended on giving us citations and we knew it. I think the fine was $500 back then.

Craig said OK, have a nice day, and started RIDING AWAY. The look on the ranger's face was priceless. He couldn't believe it, and he stood there frozen. Then Dave said the most brilliant thing: "Let's just ride back to Falcon Crest, get in the car, and go home."

Well, we were actually parked on the opposite end of the trail in El Dorado Hills. Dave and I slowly rode away and Ranger Rick didn't immediately come after us. However, I did see his radio come out.

Once out of sight, we regrouped with Craig. We agreed to ride up to a point where we could jump off the trail before Falcon Crest, where the posse was surely assembling, and come back on the road.

So we were riding along, and out of nowhere the psycho horse lady came flying in again. It was like something out of a bad Western movie. She was pretty mad that we kept getting away. She said, "If the fucking rangers won't do anything, I will!" She then started snapping limbs off of trees and throwing them at us. The situation had reached the point where all we could do was laugh.

We took off again in a hail of tree branches and put some distance between us. If she stayed within sight of us, it would make positively identifying the "shooter" very easy. Without her, we were just three guys poaching a trail. The terrain was flat and fast, and the horse couldn't keep up as well as in the tight woods. Craig suddenly took a hard left and went right off the trail and over the embankment towards the lake, diving behind a bush. I looked back and realized that she didn't see him bail. I let Dave ride for about a quarter mile before I whistled at him to pull over. She stopped briefly to ask us if we give up yet, and I said, "Nope, just stopping for lunch." She looked up the trail and headed out in pursuit of Craig, who was now actually behind her.

Dave and I sat there for a few minutes and shot the shit. All of the sudden, a new ranger on a horse appeared from the direction the lady just went. Dave and I quickly turned around and high-tailed it. We were hauling ass and the ranger was losing ground. He pulled his radio out, so he was probably calling ahead. We were getting boxed in.

I told Dave to hit it hard and look for a place to bail. After about a half-mile, we came to a faint cross-trail. We headed uphill and it became too steep to ride. We ran up the hill cyclocross style to who-knows-where. We ran under a line of trees and shrubs, and came to a barbed-wire fence. We ran along it for a while until we saw a break in it. We ran through and found ourselves on someone's ranch. We rode on a dirt road until we hit an asphalt road, which we took towards where we thought Salmon Falls Road might be. It ended up being a gated community, and we rode through it to a chorus of dogs barking; it was like they knew we were on the run. Residents looked at us like we were already in orange county jail jumpsuits. We found the gate and of course it's closed. And of course it's six feet tall with spikes on it. I carefully hopped over. Dave handed me the bikes and followed. An old lady watched us from her garage and pulled a cell phone from her robe.

Dave and I rode for a while on the road until we saw the Deputy Sheriff cruising slowly behind us. Luckily he was combing the woods to his right, so he didn't see us yet. I ducked down a dirt driveway and Dave followed. We hid behind some bushes and thankfully he drove right past us. We then decided that we preferred park rangers over El Dorado County Sheriff's Deputies, so we rode up to a trailhead and continued back on the trail where the first ranger stopped us. Screw it, we weren't going to miss the best part of the ride.

The last few miles were uneventful, and we didn't encounter a soul. Knowing we likely escaped a fine, arrest or being stomped to death made the curving ribbons of trail that much sweeter.

When we arrived back at the cars, Craig was there and Robert had just pulled in. Rob had ridden non-stop and went all the way through Falcon Crest to do the Sweetwater Trail before riding back on the road—a nice ride. He never saw a soul or knew of the chaos we were dealing with.

It was a wild day and I probably left out some details. One thing I do know is Brown's Ravine is one of the best single speed trails in the region. I had forgotten how great it is.

Sometimes you just have to poach.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Extinction

In the last few weeks I have rid myself of two unwanted bikes. First was the Marin that my son quickly grew out of:


Then tonight this old Performance bike:


Lots of old technology went out the door, like triple chainrings, front derailleurs, nine-speed drivetrains, V-brakes and 26" wheels.

I let them go pretty cheap. However, it was nice to take some parts from the archives—parts I would never again utilize—and hang them on a couple frames to make two perfectly usable bikes. The same guy bought both and he was very happy to get them.

Except for our travel bikes, which must have 26" wheels to fit in the boxes, this pretty much ends the 26-inch era in my household. I had a long history with them dating back to 1984, but the larger wheel sizes are simply better in almost every conceivable way.

Time to buy some new and modern stuff.

Later.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

More

For many years I kept detailed mileage and training calendars. You know, obsessive-compulsive, super annoying racer behavior. These numbers were then entered into spreadsheets so I could see comparisons and trends, understand why I lost a particular race, and generally just geek out on the numbers.

These days I don't keep track of much, mostly because my mileage is so much lower. Quite frankly it's depressing when old, fat dad me is compared to younger racer me. However, it is pretty easy to hit the buttons on a GPS and let it keep track of rides. Mostly I do this just because I like to know how far I am going on a ride-to-ride basis.

Last year I discovered I could export the data in a comma delimited format and import it as a spreadsheet. I added up my 2016 miles, looked at the total, couldn't believe how little I rode, double-checked the total, cried for a while, and then drank beer until I passed out.

I did it again this year, hoping I hadn't become even more of a lazy slob. Shockingly I was LESS of a lazy slob. I actually rode 720 more miles in 2017.

To celebrate, I am going to drink beer until I pass out.

Later.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

New Year

I have never been one for New Year's Resolutions in the past, but there's a first time for everything. While I don't have any specific goals for the year, I do want to reinforce some general life guidelines with myself:


  • Work less
  • Ride more
  • Eat less
  • Have more fun
  • Quality family time
  • Live in the moment
  • Don't take everything so seriously
  • Observe the beauty around me


Nothing earth shattering, but hopefully seeing it in print occasionally will be a reminder to live a simpler, healthy lifestyle.

Later.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Biker Bucks 2017

I just finished my last ride of the year, so I can close the book on the money I found in 2017: $3.18


Not too bad.

Later.