Sunday, December 14, 2008

Vuelta de las Colinas Doradas

Although the forecast called for rain, I awoke yesterday to clear skies. It was cold and breezy, but nothing a few layers of clothing couldn't fix.

I have been exploring the area around my home lately looking for trails. After over five years of living in Shingle Springs, I thought I had found everything. But a recent MTBR post tipped me off to a few new ribbons of dirt I didn't know about. After a few shorter scouting runs, I was ready to put together a big loop.

I like doing rides that combine the road and dirt. I don't know why, really. I guess mostly it's because I hate driving somewhere to ride, so a combo ride allows me to get my dirt jones right from the house.

First up was a gravel fitness path on the south side of Serrano:



Which drops down to a wider gravel road:



After that a short road connection to a bike trail, then to a piece of singletrack. It's really bumpy in spots and pocked by gophers/moles/squirrels—the only place on the entire ride that really hurt my wrist:



Towards the end:



After 150 yards of road, a double-track:



The double-track dumps you out on Silva Valley Parkway. Right across the road is another fitness trail:



After that a short climb up Serrano Parkway and a descent down the Most Dangerous Bike Trail in America:



Built by drunken Austrian mountain climbers, it features steep grades, smooth asphalt and off-camber turns. A coworker's husband once broke his clavicle and a few ribs crashing on it.



Next up was a quarter-mile ride up El Dorado Hills Boulevard to Saratoga, which dead ends at a short double-track:



Another quick ride through an El Dorado Hills neighborhood to the recreation trail over Empire Ranch.



It's about two miles in length with rolling terrain:



After a short transition on Sophia Parkway, it's on to the trail to Brown's Ravine:



Right across the street from the Brown's Ravine entrance is the trail to Wild Oak Park. I have ridden past it HUNDREDS of times without seeing it. What a cool little trail this is:



Flowy and fun:



Nice:



Stairs:



After a short transition on Francisco Drive, the New York Creek trail. I took a crappy picture. This is really a cool little trail, about a mile long, very much similar to something from Salmon Falls/Sweetwater/Brown's Ravine:



Another short transition to the fitness trail through the north side of Serrano. It's about 1.5 miles long. Yeah, it's a gravel road, but if you use your imagination, it's JUST LIKE singletrack:



After that, about an eight-mile ride home. Final stats: 36 miles (about 16 on dirt); 3:04 ride time; 3:18 total time.

Later.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Slacker

Since Monday was a holiday and Wednesday is my regular day off, I took Tuesday off. It would be stupid not to, right?

I took the opportunity to ride out to Granite Bay again. After five days of winds, it was dead calm and cool. I got out early and had the trails to myself for the first two-thirds of the ride. I love the feeling of being out early on a weekday and feasting on all the morning has to offer. It feels like freedom, like sticking it to the man, a little bit like stealing. There are times when I like sharing a ride like this with a friend, and times like yesterday when I dig the solitude.

I tapped out a nice 33-mile ride on the single speed. It was pretty much the same ride I did Friday, but with enough variations in the route to keep it fresh. I'm loving all the single speed rides I have been doing lately.

My wrist felt pretty good. Although I have been riding on the road all spring and summer, I only began riding off-road at the end of July. It seems every MTB ride in the last couple weeks I see progress in strength and flexibility. Since The Crash, I have only been able to climb with bar ends. I simply haven't had the range of motion necessary to climb holding the grip. Yesterday I was able to do a couple short climbs without moving to the bar ends, albeit with a little pain, but still it was a small victory. It's nice to see progress once in a while.

Unfortunately, the new position and stress I put on the joint led to stiffness and a little swelling today. That's pretty much how rehab works--with forward progress comes a backslide. I'm used to it.

A much calmer Lake Natoma:



I actually took another properly framed picture, but I like this one better:



On the parts front, I ordered one of these today:



It's the '09 Reba SL, only $413 and free shipping from Speedgoat. I can't wait to see how the increased offset (46mm) makes my Waltworks hardtail handle. I was never really happy with the slow steering with the old Reba at 38mm of offset.

Later.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cheapo

I have to build a retaining wall on my property. I have built a couple small ones, but to this point I have left the bigger ones to the contractors. This new one is not contractor worthy, but still a bit more involved than anything I have done before. To do it right, I needed a tool called a tamper, which is used to pack whatever base layer (gravel, sand, road base) you are going to use under the blocks.

It looks like this:



Home Depot wanted $40 for one. Yep, forty bucks for a stick and a metal plate. Well, I just couldn't pull the trigger on that one.

Enter . . . do-it-yourself guy.

First I built a cement form out of scrap wood (anything to use the nail gun). Then I found a handle from an old, broken-down hoe. I drove two bolts through it so it wouldn't pull out or twist.



Secured the handle perpendicular to the ground:



And poured the cement. This is what I got:



It ain't pretty, but it will do the job. Cost: nothing. Everything I used was left over from other projects.

I know, I know. My talent makes you feel inadequate. Sorry.

- CW

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fifteen

On the rear end of my single speeds, I am a fan of V-brakes, horizontal dropouts and solid axles with 15mm nuts. Set it and forget it. No creaking EBB, so slipping sliding dropouts, no fussing with disc brake adjustments. Simple and effective, if not a bit crude.

Consequently, this requires that one carry a 15mm wrench. There are a few made by single speed companies, like Surly, but they are short and too damn expensive. Really, $30 for a wrench? So I can open a beer with it?

I prefer a nice Craftsman wrench. Nice and long for leverage, six-point to keep your nuts from rounding, and at a cost of eight bucks from your local Sears. Throw it in the Camelbak and forget it.

Oh, and with practice you can still open a beer with it and show your single speed attitude.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Rat Race Break

I took Friday off from work and went for a little ride on the single speed. Work has been grinding on me lately, so it felt good to get away and do something fun.

I started at Lake Natoma and rode out past Granite Bay and back. This is a pretty standard ride for me lately as my wrist heals. It's pretty mellow as far as technical features go, so I don't have to endure a lot of banging on the wrist.

There is a responsible way to do this ride, and a not-so-responsible way. One legal, one not. One way is fun, and one way is much more fun. I had more fun.

I think there are places to poach, and places to stick to the rules. This area sees heavy bicycle use, low horse use, and there is little in the way of enforcement. There is a paved bike trail along much of the route, which invites people to explore the dirt when they see it. The signage is spotty, which leads to some gray area as to what is legal and what is not. The park rules I read on the Internet state that ALL dirt is off-limits to bikes, even the fire roads, which is ridiculous. At any rate, I ride the "illegal" singletrack and rarely ever see another user. Ironically, on my return route I use the multi-use trail on the other side of the lake, and get numerous dirty looks from runners. Go figure.

It was really windy, and I saw a few freshly downed trees. It always gives me the creeps riding in the trees when the wind blows. I heard a few smaller branches come down in my vicinity, but nothing too big.

I got in 32 miles and cleared my head a bit. Mission accomplished. Off to the pictures.

The wind whipped up an angry sea . . .


. . . which devoured everything in its path.



The levee is being raised for flood protection . . .



. . . even though Folsom Lake is a mud puddle.



Cockpit upgrades: XTR levers and FSA stem



The new bridge is now connected. This replaces the dam road, which we haven't been able to drive over since 9/11.



Later.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Shattered

So, about that picture. The photo in my header probably doesn't look that special, especially to anyone familiar with mountain bike racing. It's just a racing picture, the likes of which you could see on hundreds of racer-guy blogs just like mine. To you, it says very little.

You can see that it's cold. The trees are void of leaves. Some guy is glued to my wheel. I'm smiling or grimacing. Our numbers are pinned to the front of our jerseys. We're on single speeds. The course looks boring. That's about it. Far short of the requisite thousand words a picture should tell.

I can add a few details. January. Completing the first lap of a two-lap race. A bitter north headwind. A flapping number. I muster a smile for my spouse. I'm oblivious. Care-free. And minutes away from my first real injury in 23 years of racing. Wrist. Broken. Shattered. Shadoobie.

It was a TBF race held out at Granite Bay on Folsom Lake. I had done a number of TBF races in the past. They are expensive, and the course isn't very exciting, but they are only 30 minutes from my house. I used to live less than a mile from a ride that included parts of the race course, so I know the area well.

Race day began like any other except for the bizarre request at registration to pin our numbers to the front of our jerseys, something I had never done in all my years of racing. It was breezy that day, and the number flapped about and made a lot of noise. It crackled with nearly every pedal stroke. Did it distract me enough to make a big mistake on the course? Probably not.

I don't want to go into a blow-by-blow account of the race, so I will get to the juicy part. Basically the guy you see on my wheel was there for about eight miles, and he was getting on my nerves. I decided to either get rid of him or blow up trying. I knew a little area with some technical sections was coming up, so I hit the gas. There was an S-turn with a big granite boulder in the middle of it that you go over. I went into the first turn way too fast, swung too far outside over the top, then ended up too far inside on the second turn. I clipped a smaller rock and went down.

Typically one wants to tuck-and-roll in this situation, but there was a rock heading straight for my face. I put my left hand out to protect myself and that was that.

The pictures below tell the story:










The result was surgery, a plate, screws, rehab, and some time off the bike. It's been far too long a journey for this post, but I'll add tidbits here and there when relevant.

Later.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Brown Fox

Sunday my friend Doug and I rode out at Sly Park. Located up Highway 50 near Pollock Pines, Sly Park has the distinction of being the venue of our first mountain bike race in 1985. We were kids back then, and that first race, the "Spring Runoff," proved to be tougher than we thought. Doug and I came in dead last in the Saturday hillclimb, and the Sunday cross country was long and hard. Still, we caught the racing bug.

Back then there was only a network of logging and service roads to ride. We rode there into the early '90s before abandoning the area. Years later a trail was built around Jenkinson Lake, and just recently a trail system called Fleming Meadow was built across the road from the lake. I rode it a couple years ago when it was first built, but had not been back.

First up on the agenda was a loop around Fleming Meadow. Wait, I take that back. First was a wrong turn (my bad) which plunged downhill for 1.65 miles and dead-ended at a creek. We had to climb back out without so much as a warm-up. We walked two short sections, but rode all the hills for the rest of the day. Doug rocked a 32x18 on his Flight 29er like a Viking.

There is some really good singletrack out there. The Fleming loop has a lot of climbing, and the trails were pretty much up or down. I'm always searching for a comparison when I ride something new, and for this trail it would be some trails I rode in Oregon with Doug's brother Steve. Narrow singletrack, steep hills, and shady forest with ferns and green plants. Really fun but taxing on me at my current fitness level.

After Fleming we did the "loop" around the lake. The first half had some fun sections. The trail had been rerouted farther up the slope since the last time I rode it, making it flatter and less exposed and scary. Still, there were a couple places that freaked me out. I actually got a little vertigo, I guess? I walked a couple times. It has NEVER happened before, but I'm finding I have some lingering issues with my confidence since coming back from a long layoff. (Again, more on this later.)

Once we reached the campground, which is the halfway point, the trail kind of came and went. Much of it has been eroded away by the lake, so there was a little road riding involved to link sections of trail.

Towards the end of the ride, my handlebars spun in the stem going down a hill. It's a cheap two-bold stem, and I know better than to use one on a single speed. I really think the torque that single speeding puts on the bars forces the face plate to pivot back and forth on the bolts, and it will eventually back them out. The funny thing is, I checked the bolts the night before the ride, knowing full well what could happen when using a cheapo stem. And it did. So to any single speeders out there, get a good stem. I picked up a four-bolt FSA stem the next day.

Otherwise, it was a cool ride. I only took one picture, and it's not great (sorry Doug). I think the lens might have been fogged up like my glasses were at the time.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Leverage

When I walked by my Redline last night I thought it looked . . . sad. Like me, I guess the onset of fall has made for a case of the blues. I figured something new and shiny might make me, I mean the bike, feel better. I picked up a pair of these today:



Yeah, they cost more than my frame. I don't care. My old Avid brake levers were getting kind of sloppy. They have been on a number of single speeds over the years, and a crash (THE crash) last winter bent the crap out of the left one. I bent it back with a pipe, but it's looking a little suspect. You know, teeny, tiny little cracks. Dangerous. I NEEDED to replace them.

So have I justified it enough?

Later.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Phoenix

A little math will show that this blog has sat dormant for over three years. Don't know why, really. I have thought about about posting to it a number of times, but I never make the time. I realized, though, that I pretty much do the same damn thing all the time by sending long e-mails to friends, complete with a gigabyte's worth of pictures, which completely blow up their mailboxes.

For a while I am going to try communicating more though the blog, thereby saving people the aggravation.

Rise . . .



Back from the dead it rises, with a sinister new look, new title photo, and new name (couldn't believe SS29er was available). The title photo has special significance, which I will talk about another time. Let's just say it was the last glimpse of what life used to be.

Edit - 03/21/2010 - The title photo referenced above was replaced, so I thought I would drop it in here:



Later.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Cronan Ranch

Since my son started kindergarten I have been able to ride a little bit on Wednesdays, my normal day off of work. I usually throw my cross bike on the back of the car; after dropping him off, I can leave for my ride right from the school parking lot. I was getting bored with the normal road ride, so last Wednesday I took my single speed to a place called Cronan Ranch. It's a fairly new multi-use trail system on Highway 49 between Coloma and Pilot Hill. The map I saw stated there are various trails totaling about 12 miles out there. I figured it was worth checking out.

It took about 25 minutes to get there from the school, so I would have about two hours and 15 minutes of riding time before I had to go back. I left from the car with a rough memory of what the trail system looked like. After about a half mile I came to a fork in the trail with these signs:




Well, hell, I figure anything with a "no horses" designation must be the way to go!

The trail quickly dropped me down to a river trail that was rocky and pretty technical. There were some rocky sections that forced me off the bike. Other places were a mix of sand and river rock that were tough to power through on the single speed. After about 1.75 miles of this the trail kind of petered out here:



That type of rock was prominent on the trail. To my right was a dirt road leading out. It was a steep, loose dirt climb and I had to walk the last 50 feet. That was the only climb of the day that forced me off the bike.

At the top of the climb I picked up a trail. It was a nice, smooth trail. I figured I was now on the right track.

I crossed a creek and the trail started going up. And up. And up. I cursed the people on MTBR who called this trail system "mild and rolling." I would have gone with an extra tooth on my rear cog if I had known this was coming. I must have hit a dozen switchbacks as I went up the trail. Again, very well made trail with manageable grades on the single speed. Expertly made switchbacks. Nice.

I crested the top and was rewarded with a nice view:



I then went down just a little bit before the trail dead-ended at another trail called "Down and Up Trail." Unfortunately it was more of a steep fire road (think Olmstead Loop in Cool) and I lost all of my hard earned elevation on a descent which wasn't much fun.

I wound around for a while before picking up the Long Valley Trail. It was basically a straight, mild climb all the way to the main trail, Cronan Road. I then picked up one called West Ridge Trail. It started with a tough climb before topping out on a ridge. For once the name of a trail matched its description. It was a pretty cool trail. We don't often see a trail around here that is right on the crest of a ridge. It was awesome to have a 360 degree view as you rode along. It stayed on top of the ridge longer than this picture would indicate:



Another nice view at the end of the ridge. As you can see, the area has roads and trails all over it, certainly more than the map indicated:



I then descended for a while and ended up at river level again. There wasn't a lot of signage, so I rode on a singletrack trail along the river that eventually climbed back up to Cronan Road. I rode past the Long Valley Trail again (been there, done that) and continued up the road. Truthfully, the double-track road wasn't much different from most of the trails.

At the end of the road the parking lot came into view. It did not look familiar. It wasn't where I parked. I looked at my computer and saw that I had been riding for 90 minutes, meaning I had 45 minutes to get back to the car--wherever the hell that was. I panicked a little. Where the hell was I?

I rode down to the lot and looked up at the sign, which looked just like this:



The little "P" you see waaaaaay off to the right was actually where I parked. I had no idea there were two parking areas. The one I was standing at isn't visible from the highway because you come in on Pedro Hill Road.

So none of the trails I rode prior to Down and Up were even on the damn map. I knew I couldn't get back via the trails in 45 minutes, even if I DID know where I was going, so I rode out on the road to HWY 49. I rode about two miles on the highway and was back to my parking area. I looked at the sign and it didn't even SAY Cronan Ranch. Doh! My powers of observation are stellar!



I now had about 30 minutes to kill, so I decided to see what was up the first multi-use trail that I opted out of.

Well, I was only able to ride about 1.6 miles of it before I had to turn back due to time constraints, but it was the best trail of the ride. Smooth, flowing, expertly built singletrack. It reminded me of Auburn's Connector trail many times, and I think we all can agree the Connector trail is great. Here is a sample:



Most switchbacks and corners going through ravines had drainage pipes for runoff. Very nice work:



So I will definitely go back to explore a bit more. I'm betting that the above unmapped trail is the same one I ran into with the great switchback climb. If that is the case, there might be a nice loop out there that can be pieced together. I didn't hit a few of the Cronan Ranch trails, either, so more options to explore.

When I got home I couldn't find much of anything regarding the Magnolia Ranch area. Not even on the Nor-Cal board on MTBR. Maybe I found a little unknown jewel? Not sure, but I can't wait until next Wednesday to get dirty again:



Later.