Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Long December

Lots going on and not enough time to document it all. Here's a quick and dirty update:

On December 7, we had a little snow flurry. It was easily three times the snow we have ever seen up here.

The next night we went to see the mighty Metallica. Jen bought the tickets back in July for my birthday.

I was first introduced to Metallica in 1985 when I was 18. Over the years I have seen them six times, but the last time was way back in 1991. A lot has changed since then.

Truthfully, I was a bit apprehensive about going. In the "old days" I would be in the pit, moshing with my inebriated friends, thrashing my grand head of hair around. This time, at 42 years of age, I stood around, contemplating my bald spot, not really knowing what to do with myself. I thought about my friends who used to accompany me to these concerts, the ones who have scattered about, the ones who are now doctors and policemen.

They put on a great show, as always, and for me it was fun and sad and nostalgic and uncomfortable and comforting all at the same time. In the end I was glad to have experienced it.

During this time we were trying to get hardwood flooring installed. What the contractor said would be a three-day job ended up taking seven. This is not counting the days they didn't show up due to the snow. Here's a little sample:

There's still a lot of finish work to be completed, but the flooring itself is done. I actually contemplated laying the floor myself, but after seeing what these guys went through, I would have been in way over my head. Today we're having some carpet installed.

On Sunday we took time out to go for a little ride. It was cold, but it was nice to get out.

Trail conditions were just about perfect. I hope to get out for a single speed ride soon. It's been a while since I have been out.

That's all for now. Later.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Goin' to Mexico

This is the cruise ship Carnival Spirit, anchored in la Bahía Zihuatanejo, México. Two months from today, we will be on that ship, in that bay. Yay.


Monday, November 09, 2009

Turn the Page

Yesterday morning my buddy Doug called to see if I was up for a ride. I had no plans, so we talked about where to go. I secretly hoped for someplace other than Auburn. Naturally, that was the ride Doug chose. Auburn was the last local ride on my recovery checklist, a ride that I knew would be a challenge. To be truthful, the idea of riding there scared me a bit.

I started my comeback by riding Granite Bay, the least technical of my local rides, way back in July of 2008. It was only about six months after my wrist was repaired, and it was tough going even though the ride is really very smooth overall; it's a place you can take a very green beginner. Even with a suspension fork set up as plush as possible, I would finish the ride in pain with an angry, swollen wrist. Now I ride there almost every Wednesday, and I have progressed to the point where I now ride with a rigid fork with little difficulty.

In the fall I rode Sly Park with Doug and it gave me some problems. I was very slow on the singletrack descents, and the exposed ledges around the lake freaked me out. I walked down a number of technical sections. I cursed at myself for wimping out, but at that point I just wasn't ready. My hand still wasn't doing what my brain told it to do, and psychologically I was still flashing back anytime a ride feature looked similar to the one I crashed on.

This spring I started riding in Cool, which introduced steeper, rockier terrain and longer descents. Again, at first it gave me problems. On numerous occasions my hand nearly slipped off the bars. My hand strength was slow to return. Since the left hand is responsible for most of the braking, I had issues with fatigue on long downhills.

This summer I rode in Tahoe, where you get into longer downhills, often with features like drop-offs, stair steps, boulders, tight switchbacks, and deep sand. I spend much of my riding time there uncomfortable and timid. I walked down a stair-step drop that I used to do without much thought, a trail feature I used to look forward to doing. It sickened me. I wondered if I would ever ride like I used to.

The turning point came when I did the 50 mile race at Cool. In hindsight, I should have raced much sooner. In the racing environment I completely forgot about my wrist. Instead, I worried about fuel, hydration, cramps and chasing Doug down every hill. I finished with a little soreness, but during the race my wrist didn't hinder me much at all.

A couple weeks ago I tried Salmon Falls. It's a rough ride, but it gave me no issues. I could feel my confidence and speed increase as the ride went on.

Yesterday I arrived at the trailhead and Doug was already there. After dressing and gearing up, we rolled out. I asked Doug whether he wanted to just (hopefully) roll down Stagecoach, or hit the Manzanita Trail. Again, he wanted the tougher of the two options.

When we first hit the trail I felt a bit apprehensive, but before long I was in the groove. At the end of the trail section there is a sheer rock face, about 30 inches tall, that you have to wheelie up. When I saw it I thought, "Oh crap," but it was a pretty easy move. After that I felt like I was going to be fine.

We then descended the rest of Stagecoach and started the long climb up Clementine. It seemed like it went on forever, and it was undoubtedly the longest climb I have done on a single speed in a couple years. After that we did the Connector trail, which is one of the best trails anywhere. Then we started the Forest Hill Divide Trail (FHDT). I had forgotten how much climbing this ride has. The first half of the ride seems to be nothing but climbing. When we hit the 16 mile mark, I was seriously wondering if I was going to make it. When we crossed Forest Hill Road, Doug assured me that we were at the high point, and the rest of the loop was mostly downhill. And it was.

The second half of the FHDT and the Connector on the way back was some of the most fun I have had on a bike in years. The trail was in perfect condition. The mostly downhill, rolling singletrack was fast and buffed, with incredible traction. I was up front and riding well, as comfortable on the bike as I used to be. I was smiling to myself as we ripped along, carving through perfectly radiused corners, many of them with berms. So fun.

We dropped down Clementine rather than bombing the Culvert and Confluence trails. My wrist was tired and a bit swollen, so I opted to play it safe rather than ruin an otherwise perfect ride with a fatigue-induced mishap.

All that was left after that was the climb up Stagecoach, which has always been one of my favorite climbs.



We ended up with 29 miles. It was a super fun ride, and I rode everything just fine. My wrist isn't perfect, but I have learned to ride with it, and it doesn't limit me too much at this point.

I feel like my wrist has been a central theme in my life for a while, and I am tired of talking about it. After yesterday's ride, I feel like I can close the book on that chapter.

I won't mention it again.


Friday, November 06, 2009


Tuesday was a rough day at work. Tension is high. Furloughs, budget cuts, deadlines, low staffing levels, ill-conceived projects, the oncoming tax season and the general dissatisfaction that has crept into the minds of most Californians all contribute to a very tense workplace. Tuesday I had two arguments with guys who are normally very laid-back and level-headed. I could have prevented either or both arguments by simply keeping a level head myself, but I didn’t. Quite frankly, it felt good to lose it a little bit. Unfortunately, I sit right next to my boss, who heard it all. He doesn’t handle conflict well, and it drove him over the edge; he’s back on the glue again. We all have our ways of dealing with life.

Wednesday I was looking forward to my weekly single speed ride more than usual. I needed a release. I needed to breathe.

After dropping my boy off at school, I headed down to the trailhead. The morning was clear and cool, but not cold, the morning dew providing perfect, grippy soil conditions. I warmed up briefly, then quickly settled into a fast and somewhat uncomfortable pace. Over each rise I hit it hard, relishing the resistance of the pedals as I powered over hill after hill.

The frustrations of the previous day melted away as I became more and more absorbed with my ride. It was just me, a narrow trail, and one gear. No thinking, only reacting. The world beyond my tunnel of vision faded away, the trees only a blur in passing. The fall colors wrapped around me like an old, comfortable blanket.

Before long I had traveled 15 miles. I sat up and ate an energy gel on a smooth section of trail. I cruised slowly and looked around a bit, enjoying the scenery after redlining it for over hour. A call of “on your left” brought me out of my daydream as two guys motored by. I stuck the empty gel pack in my pocket and went after them.

I tend to ride under control on singletrack these days. Anybody who has ever suffered a head-on collision with another rider probably does. So when a couple guys go by at race pace, it’s fun to jump on the train because you can ride at otherwise dangerous speeds without worrying—you have two crash test dummies ahead of you.

Because they were on geared bikes, I had a difficult time catching up to them at first because the terrain was flat. As the trail became more hilly, I reeled them in with each successive climb. Finally, I bridged up on a long, steep ascent. I rode behind them for a few more miles before they turned off and I continued on to do another loop.

I stopped at the top of a hill overlooking (the mud puddle that once was) Folsom Lake. I rarely even set foot on the ground when I ride, preferring to ride straight through. On this day, however, I had a different mindset. I sat down and enjoyed the day. The warm sun felt good on my face. I called my wife. I called a friend. I drew in the dirt with a stick. I took a picture.

After about 30 minutes, I started the 14 mile ride back to the truck. The rest of the ride was more mellow. I rode at a good tempo and finished the 41 miles feeling tired but fresh, if that makes sense.

The only hiccup in the whole ride was when I realized, after reaching El Dorado Hills, that I had left my front wheel in the parking lot back at Hazel. I rushed back down, terrified that I had lost my DT Swiss wheel. When I arrived, I was relieved to see that some nice person had placed it in the dirt median of the lot where it wouldn’t be run over.

Thanks, nice person.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

El Viento Grita Maria

When I woke up yesterday, I wasn’t motivated to ride. I could hear the strong wind blowing from the north, and I don’t care for the wind. In fact, give me anything else—searing heat, freezing temperatures, rain—and I’ll be happy to ride in it. However, the wind and I have always had an uneasy relationship. When I say this, I’m just trying to be nice. The truth is, we absolutely hate each other.

Until the last few years, I have always been a pretty skinny guy. Even now, at 5-10 and 167 pounds, nobody would call me fat. But as recently as five years ago I was racing at 148 pounds. The wind has its way with someone that size on a bike. The wind is a bully. It pushes, shoves, pulls and kicks sand in your face. It laughs at you. Calls you weak. Says stuff about your mom.

Ask a big, strong rider how he feels about the wind, and he might just shrug; it has little effect on them. Ask a skinny guy, and he will tell you in great detail how much he hates it, his diatribe most likely peppered with expletives.

Years ago, I remember my buddy Steve and I setting out on our daily training ride on a windy day. We were planning on a ride around Folsom Lake, which was about 65 miles round-trip from where we lived. After around 15 miles of the wind blowing in my face, I turned around and went home. Steve completed the ride alone, and didn’t speak to me for a couple days. I loved riding with Steve, but I hated the wind just a little bit more.

Since Wednesday is the only day I’m guaranteed a mountain bike ride, I felt like I had to go. I dragged myself out of bed and prepped the bike, ate breakfast, and headed out the door with the kids. After dropping them off at school, I drove to the trail.

It was clear and cold, and the north wind made the 46 degree morning feel much colder. I spun out of the parking lot eager to reach the woods where the wind would be blocked somewhat by the trees.

Riding in the woods on a windy day has always given me the creeps, and yesterday was no different. It’s unnerving to ride under huge trees and hear the creaking and groaning coming from above as they sway in the wind. It was only a couple miles before I saw proof my uneasiness was not unfounded:

The branch was so freshly snapped the scent of pine was still in the air. Nice.

I rode on and enjoyed myself in spite of the cold. When I reached Beal's Point, bulldozers were working on the dyke. The dirt levy road was blocked off and a detour sign pointed me down the entry road to the left. When I reached the bottom I found this sign:

Yep, the detour was through illegal singletrack.

While part of me was happy to ride some of my favorite trails without fearing The Man, part of me was also pissed. If riding these trails is such a horrible, heinous crime against humanity that it carries a $270 fine, why is it OK now? Shouldn't we be routed out to Auburn-Folsom Road so that no horsies or hikers lose their outdoor experience? So that no calamitous collision occurs between equine and our knobby-tired killing machines?

Yes, I'm being over dramatic. Sue me. But if mixing user groups on these trails is a huge problem, a dangerous situation, then wouldn't the trail just be closed to mountain bikes during the dyke work?


Monday, October 26, 2009

Got Milk?

The last race I had planned to do this season was yesterday, and I was not there. I elected to skip it because I was feeling pretty tired.

Last week was rough as far as rest and relaxation were concerned. The typical week is crazy anyway, with long work days, the kids’ homework, Taekwondo, running errands, making dinner, etc. We never get enough rest considering we get up at 3:30 a.m. for work.

Normally Friday night is a time to lie around and unwind, but we scored free tickets to the last Sacramento Kings preseason game Friday night. After working our 10-hour shift, we rushed home to grab the kids. We then ran errands related to the next day’s birthday party before grabbing a quick bite to eat and barely making tipoff at 7:00. After the game was the long drive home for me, in horrible post-game traffic, while everyone else slept. My head hit the pillow at 11:30 p.m.

On Saturday we got up (too early) and started preparing for my son’s sixth birthday party. It went off fairly smoothly, although herding six-year-olds through a movie and pizza party can be a bit stressful. We were finished and back home by 3:00. I was exhausted and knew at that point it would be dumb to race.

Yesterday I woke up and lounged around, eventually parking myself in front of the TV to watch the first half of the 49ers game. At halftime, with the Niners down 21-0, I suddenly wanted to go for a ride. Although it was late in the day, I decided to go mountain biking.

I performed a quick maintenance job on my single speed, which hadn’t been touched since the race two weeks ago. I threw it in the truck and headed to Salmon Falls.

I had not been to Salmon Falls in about two years. Due to how rough the ride is, I didn’t want to do it until I felt my wrist was ready. After banging through the 50-mile race a couple weeks ago with no issues, I was ready.

Right out of the parking lot is the most technical, rocky climb on the ride. I almost made it all the way up before screwing up right at the top. After that I cleaned every hill and rock garden the rest of the way.

Along the way I saw this guy:

Since I had my camera out, I took the obligatory MTBR bike + scenery shot:

Towards the end of the ride I was feeling a little weak. I really needed something other than water. That's when I saw this Holstein cow:

I hadn't milked a cow since high school agriculture class, but I figured I would give it a shot. I needed some energy drink!

It was tough to aim the milk into the small mouth of a waterbottle. Milking a cow is much easier with a proper milk bucket. I wish I could have taken pictures, but my hands were full of teats.

After the milking I continued to ride while the milk cooled in my bottle. Who wants 101.5 degree milk? (That's the body temp of a healthy cow.)

After a few miles I stopped to try it out:

Hot damn, did that hit the spot!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Race Report: Knickerbocker 50

It’s been a while since I typed the words “race report.” It feels quite nice.

Saturday was the Knickerbocker 8-hour/50 miler, which took place in Cool, CA. Since my first couple attempts at 8-hour races were not very successful, I opted for the 50 mile option in the Beginner/Sport Single Speed class. I’m OK with being a sport class racer, but I hate the fact that “beginner” is part of the class name. I have been racing for a long, long time, so I am no beginner. However, by no means am I an Expert/Pro anymore, which was my only other option for racing single speed.

I broke one of the cardinal rules in racing by making a big change to my bike the night before the race. I had been running a 34x20 (1.7 : 1) gear for the past few months, but last time I rode the Cool course the gear was a bit tall for my liking. I called around looking for a 21-tooth freewheel, so I could run a 34x21 (1.619 : 1), but this podunk cow town was fresh out. I had to switch out my cranks to get a 32-tooth chainring on there, which gave me a 32x20 (1.6 : 1) gear.

I went to bed that night and had a tough time sleeping. It had been 21 months since I last toed the starting line, and my wrist was still a question mark. I had not stressed the joint like it would be in this race. I was concerned about my wrist, my fitness, the distance, the cramps . . .

One thing that helped greatly was my buddy Doug deciding to come out and race. I felt a lot better about my chances of finishing the race with a partner to ride and pace with.

On race morning it was a bit cool and breezy. Reports from the course all said the same thing: super dry and dusty.

The course would be a 12.5 mile loop that we would ride four times, each lap with about 1750 feet of climbing.

We started with a Le Mans start, which means you run to your bike. I really hate having to run in cycling shoes, but the intent was to spread out the pack before hitting the trail in an effort to make the dust more manageable. I don't think it helped much. The dust was pretty bad for the first couple miles.

After that things spread out a bit and the dust was manageable, but still ever present. Doug and I settled into our race pace, which was a pretty comfortable tempo that never really taxed me much aerobically.

Lap one was pretty uneventful. There was more singletrack than when I last raced there in 2007, so I was actually enjoying the ride. We walked up the steep climb out of Knickerbocker Creek. I ride this climb during regular rides, but there's no reason to do it in a race; you can go just as fast walking and not destroy your legs.

The climb out of Salt Creek was great. My gearing choice was perfect and I was very comfortable on the climb all day. When we crested the top I was actually kind of surprised how easy the lap was. I felt confident I could finish the race.

Not too far into the second lap I had a twinge in my calf. I could not believe a cramp was coming on already. I upped my fluid and fuel intake and hoped for the best.

The second time up the Salt Creek climb the cramps really started to creep up. They weren't full on cramps, but I could feel them lurking. When we arrived to the start/finish area, I gorged myself on energy drink and gels. After lubing our bone-dry chains, we rode off for lap three, and I felt uncomfortably full.

On the third lap my triceps started cramping, so I tried to stay seated. Doug was spending much more time in the saddle on the climbs, so I tried to do the same to give my arms a break. At the rest stop, which was mid-lap, I again fueled up with a small cup of sports drink and a gel. On the third trip up Salt Creek my legs wanted to blister it, but I was still barely holding off the cramps, so I rode a nice tempo. Even so, I was passing quite a few people. It's a weird feeling to have really good legs and not be able to use them because of cramps.

Before the fourth lap, I drank about 30 ounces of sports drink and ate another gel. We soft pedaled much of the first half of the fourth lap because both of us were on the verge of cramping. At the rest stop they gave us some Endurolytes, which are capsules filled with electrolytes. I don't know if it was the capsules or just the fact that I was smelling the barn, but on the fourth trip up the Salt Creek climb I felt great.

After that we rolled down to the finish and it was over. I felt pretty fresh, and were it not for the cramps, I really felt like I had another couple laps in me.

Doug rode really well. He consistently pulled away from me (and others) on the downhills with the rigid fork, and climbed really well even though his 32x19 gear might have been a little tall for 7000 feet of climbing. I certainly couldn't have pushed that gear.

We ended up first and second in the Single Speed Beginner/Sport class. This may sound more impressive than it was, since there were three people in our class.

We had a cold keg of microbrew waiting at the finish, which tasted pretty damn good after the effort. It was a fun day and it felt great to finally get back out there and do some racing.

On to the pictures. Me after the race:

Doug bringing it home:

"Are you talking to us?"

Talking to Roger as he refuels for his next lap with PBR:

Roger describing how he passed me like a rocket:

Tinker wins the overall LNT series title:

Tinker attempts to run over me with his new scooter:

Todd and Roger mugging for the fans:


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Go Time

Doug's getting ready rumble!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Redemption Song

After my horrible ride on Wednesday, I was dying to get back out and see if it was just a fluke, or if I was going to have cramping issues in my upcoming race.

I was supposed to go on a field trip with my son today, but he ended up getting sick. Since I had the day off anyway, I slipped out for a ride.

I rode the same route I did on Wednesday and had no issues with cramps. I felt good and rode strong. I guess I just had an off day last time.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday Wreckage

The human body is a funny thing. I say this as sit here with my legs burning and my back spasming. A very funny thing, indeed.

Today I did a ride not unlike the others I have been doing for the last six Wednesdays. I stretched the mileage out a bit, but only an extra five miles or so. I rode a little harder this week, but not that much harder. I also rode the night before and probably didn't hydrate very well afterwards. I also lost a good portion of my fuel somewhere during the ride. All or some or none of these things contributed to some of the worst cramps I have ever experienced toward the end of the ride.

Everything started well enough. I set off from the truck on my single speed with 100 ounces of water in the CamelBak, two packs of GU, and water bottle filled with Accelerade sports drink. The morning was cool, which was nice after the seemingly endless string of hot rides this summer. I felt good and clicked off the first 10 miles easily and quickly. Same for the next 10.

Somewhere after that halfway point I reached down for my energy drink and it was gone. It had ejected and I hadn't noticed. I didn't even take a single sip. No worries; I had a packet of GU and kept going.

At the 30-mile mark I had the second GU and figured I had plenty in the tank for the last 10 miles back. I took a sip out of the CamelBak to wash down the GU and came up empty. I had downed 100 ounces of water in 30 miles.

I stopped at Beal's Point for a sip of water from a fountain, and it tasted horrible. Really bad. I opted not to put any in the CamelBak, which might have been kind of dumb.

At around mile 35 the cramps started. At first they weren't too bad, just some twinges in the quads. By mile 38 I was in full cramp mode. I had them in my triceps, quads, groin and calves. It was awful. I couldn't pedal in the saddle without cramping so I stood up for the last couple miles, pedaling a few strokes at a time and coasting. If I kept my knees locked I could keep the cramps at bay. This is not the preferred method of pedaling a bike, and I'm sure more than a few people who passed me in the final stretch wondered what the hell was wrong with me. "I saw this guy today, and I think he crashed and jammed a log up his ass."

When I made it back to the aquatic center I made a bee-line for a water fountain and drank for a solid two minutes. As I rode away I could hear the water sloshing in my stomach.

In the end I got the 40 miles I wanted, but it hurt. I hope it was just an anomaly since I have a 50-mile race on the horizon that will be much tougher than this little ride.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Master Your Race

Bike race, that is. Do it on a 29er: the blonde-haired, blue-eyed super bike.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Feels Like the First Time

One of the enduring themes when recovering from an injury is the list of "firsts." You continually find yourself saying, "For the first time since I tore/separated/sprained/broke my (insert body part) I went (insert mundane activity). I'm really tired of saying it at this point, but it just seems to keep coming up.

In early 2007 I contracted Walt Wehner to build my ultimate single speed. Ultimate, at least, for an able-bodied rider who had never sustained an injury worse than a scrape or bruise in 23 years of mountain biking. How quickly that ultimate bike became a wall-mounted display.

When I designed the bike, I went with a rigid, non-suspension corrected fork. It is roughly 2.5 inches shorter than a suspension fork would be. If you were to install a suspension fork on the bike, it would ride horribly because the head angle would be about 2.5 degrees shallower. Think chopper. Add the change in bottom bracket height, seat angle and top tube length and you have a real mess. That didn't matter, though. I would never want a suspension fork. I was a single speeder, man. Pure. Hard core. Tough.

About 18 weeks after placing the order, the frame and fork showed up at my door. I built up the bike and rode it a grand total of three times before breaking my wrist in The Crash. But three rides was enough to know it was a great bike. We (Walt and I) nailed it.

Fast forward to last night. I eyed the dusty orange bike on the wall in the garage, the bike that had taunted me for almost two years, and I decided it was time to ride it. Since my wrist has been feeling pretty good lately, I figured I might as well see if this bike was ever going to be useful to me.

Up to this point I have been using a suspension fork for all my off-road riding. I was able to get past my hatred for climbing on a single speed with a suspension fork. Really, I had no choice. If I wanted to single speed, it had to be with suspension. In time I actually grew to like it.

Would I even LIKE riding a rigid bike now?

The last time I rode the bike was night ride with Doug in October of 2007, so I gave it a quick tuning last night, although it didn't need much more than air in the tires, some chain lube and a rear brake adjustment.

I took it out to do the normal Wednesday Lake Natoma-Granite Bay ride this morning. After riding the Moncog for so long, it was a real eye-opener to ride something light. Railing out of corners and flying over steep little climbs was a blast. I was climbing up many more hills in the saddle with this bike. It's SO fast.

The rigid fork wasn't much of an issue, really. The lack of bar ends was a much bigger problem than the fork. It was the first time (hey, another first!) I have not used bar ends, and my wrist wasn't digging the lateral bending when climbing. That's a good thing, though, so I'm not going to put bar ends on this bike. Oh, and I'll be keeping the bike.

Anyway, here's a picture from the top of one of the climbs:

So is there really a difference between a $175 Chinese frame and a custom-built frame? Um, yeah.

I need to wrap this up, so here are the final ride stats:
  • 35 miles
  • 3 park rangers
  • 1 rattlesnake
  • 1 ground squirrel, crushed, RIP (sixth career kill)
  • 1 flat tire (shocking, I know)
  • 1 sore wrist
  • 1 happy camper


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dirty Pigs

The swine flu is coming. This is fact. I know it because my employer, the illustrious State of California, is preparing for it. The government of California is never wrong.

Witness the new sign in my restroom at work:

It joins the helpful sign from earlier this summer which pleads with us to save our water:

The hand washing sign goes into great detail regarding the proper way to wash one's hands:

I especially like the part where you are told to leave the water running, walk to the paper towel holder, dispense the paper towels, dry your hands, walk back to the faucet, and THEN you carefully use the paper towel to turn off that precious water.

Nice. I wonder why this state is bankrupt?


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Breakin' the Law

Sometimes life gets a bit boring. When it does, I like to get a shot of adrenalin by performing death-defying feats on the mountain bike. When that isn't enough, I ride the single speed to make it tougher. If that doesn't do it, I ride at night to make it even more difficult and dangerous. And when that doesn't do it for me, I like to go out and break the law and get chased by the fuzz, man. What a rush.

Today I was out doing the normal single speed ride around Lake Natoma and Folsom Lake. For the last few rides I have been adhering to the rules, as ridiculous as they are, and not riding on the illegal trails. Today, however, I decided to poach a couple little stretches that I really like. The first section was fine, but when I reached the end of the second section, a ranger was there waiting for me.

I quickly turned around, hoping he didn't see me. In a couple minutes I got back to the start of the section, and what do you know: another ranger was waiting there.

They pretty much had me trapped.

I turned around again and rode while I looked for a place to bail. I decided to go over a ridge and down to the main gravel levy road, the very one the rangers were parked on.

I ran and pushed as fast as I could over the ridge. My plan was to get back to the first ranger so quickly that he would think there was no way I could be the same guy. As I approached the road, I looked both ways and I couldn't see any rangers. I mounted up and rode as fast as I could toward ranger one.

When I came around the last corner, there he was sitting on the bumper of his truck. As I rode up to him I said, "How's it going?"

He eyed me for what seemed like forever before giving me a very slight nod.

I rode past and waited for him to stop me, but he didn't. I think being bold and aggressive might have saved me. Whatever it was, I was thankful to escape the lecture and/or $270 fine.

A couple minutes later I looked down and my socks were full of foxtails. I was so obvious I went boonie crashing. I really think he gave me a free pass.

I enjoyed the rest of the ride, as always. On the way back I kept it cool and avoided the temptation of the forbidden singletrack.

About the only other thing worth reporting on was a tortoise sighting. I can't recall ever seeing one on a ride before. He was a big guy, about nine inches long. He wasn't very interested in coming out for a picture, though:


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Goats Head Soup

The basic plan for Wednesdays is to go mountain biking. However, since I did a couple tough rides on Monday and Tuesday, I wasn't up for a full-on mountain bike ride yesterday. I opted to do an "easier" dirt/road combo ride from the house.

I have a general route that connects a lot of the trails in the area, but yesterday I did it in reverse for the first time. You don't really realize how much descending you are doing on a ride until you reverse the route and climb up all those fun downhills.

The first section was the trail through Serrano, which is basically a gravel road. Then it's on to New York Creek, a great little piece of singletrack. I usually do this ride with a rigid fork, but yesterday I was riding the Jamis Dragon with a Reba, and it was so much more fun. Since I have been hitting the dirt a bit more, I really feel like my handling skills are coming back.

The next trail is Hidden Acres, another cool trail that almost connects New York Creek with Brown's Ravine. It's a no-no trail for bikes, and since a park ranger was camped out at the gate, staring me down, I rode right on by.

After a short road transition, I was on the Brown's Ravine trail. I really like that trail. Again, I felt like my old self. Finally. Just riding and not worrying about my wrist. It is what it is, and I've learned to ride with the "handicap."

It's sad to see Folsom Lake without water again. The marina is empty. All the boats are in the parking lot.

On the plus side, without boats the lake is calm and peaceful.

After Brown's, it's another short road transition on Sophia Parkway to the next trail, which is another gravel fireroad. It's about two miles long with a tough climb at the beginning and a ridiculously steep climb at the end. I had to climb it out of the saddle in a 32x32, stuck in that precarious place between spinning the rear tire and flipping over backwards. Very steep.

After a short singletrack descent I was back on the road where I noticed I had a rear flat. I stopped and found the goathead. I looked for a shady spot to throw in my spare tube.

When I got going again I jumped on the trail that links Iron Point Road to El Dorado Hills Blvd. This is where I got the second flat, this time with five goatheads in the front tire. I patched the previously flat tube with only one hole and put it in front.

On the long singletrack climb back up through the back side of Serrano I picked up a couple more thorns in my front tire. I didn't seem to be losing air, so I just kept going.

By the time I got home the front tire was going a little soft, but I made it. Within an hour it was totally flat.

It was a really great ride, especially since doing it backwards made it so much different, but the flat tires took some of the fun out of it.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

California Dreamin'

When I set out to partake in an activity, I usually assess whether or not the activity is worth blogging about. Does it have blog appeal? Does the activity inherently possess the ultimate essence of blogginess?

If so, I grab the camera as I head out the door and start formulating the post in my head as I drive. Today's post was to be about a really great ride I did, in a place I haven't been to in a while, and all the great memories the area would invoke: the 24-hour races, the cross-country races, the victory, the defeat, the heat, the cold, the dust and the mud, the friendships that were forged, and encountering Sasquatch in the night. I would expertly weave all these things together, and produce my greatest post ever. My epic. My Moby Dick. People from every corner of the world would be saying, "Did you see SS29er's last post? It was . . . awesome. It changed my life."

Then I arrived at the trail to find this shiny new sign, and everything vaporized.

California is crumbling: our economy, our jobs, our infrastructure, our government, our parks. The standard of living we were used to is gone. Our status in the world is gone.

So due to budget problems, the parking area that was free for as long as the recreation area has existed now has a day use fee. Is it two bucks? Nope. Four bucks? No, it's TEN freaking dollars. Really, how many people are going to drop a ten spot to ride around in circles on a boring loop? It's not like it's Tahoe, Crested Butte, Marin or Moab. It's a dusty damn fire road in Cool, California.

Schwarzenegger took 15% of my pay, but he wasn't getting my ten bucks, so I drove across the street to a church and parked. But when I saw this sign, I left. I thought they were just too damned pretentious. I mean, what makes them cooler than the next Lutheran church?

Then I drove a little farther and found this:

Park and ride. How appropriate. I find it very funny that this free, state-run facility is a quarter mile from another state-run parking lot that charges $10. Suck it, Schwarzenegger. Dirty bastard.

With ten extra bucks in my pocket, I went out and did my ride. It was not epic. It was not that fun.

I rode the loop from the 2007 24-hour race, which is about 11 miles. One of the trail sections built for that race was overgrown and obviously had not been used since then, so I took about 1000 star thistle thorns in the shins. So nice.

Most of the loop is wide, dusty, rocky, rutted fire road with the occasional piece of singletrack. The only thing that keeps the loop from being completely useless is the tough climbing. People usually get readings between 1200 and 1500 feet per lap on their GPS units, so at least it's good training.

On the next time around I avoided the trail of shredded shins and took a new trail that looked to be recently built. It was actually pretty good, and a nice departure from the crappy fire road. Unfortunately, the damn horses had turned everything into powdered sugar. Worthless beasts. After a couple rains it should be nice.

This section gave me a break from the sun, and I briefly forgot that I was riding the boredom loop in Cool.

Although I set out to do three laps, the boredom kept me to two. I wanted 30 miles but settled for 24.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dirt Wednesdays

With the start of first grade, for the first time since my son's birth I will have enough time to do legitimate mountain bike rides on my Wednesdays off. Unfortunately, starting this year, the school chose to let the kids out an hour early on Wednesdays. At "back to school night," the principal blathered on about better test scores being the reason, but I fail to see how this hour per week matters one bit. So they can get home an hour earlier to watch TV? Because you know that's what most of these kids are going to do.

Anyway, that missing hour makes a long ride an exercise in planning and execution. Today I rode conservatively and made it back to the school with time to spare. I'll keep stretching it out and seeing just how far I can ride in my time window.

I chose to ride from Lake Natoma out past Folsom Lake because it's the shortest drive from the school. Once I reached Granite Bay, I did a couple laps on the race course which means . . . I rode over the Rock of Destruction. Twice.

When I first rode the area again in July of '08, I actually walked over the rock. The flashbacks freaked me out. I hadn't been back until today.

When I rode over it today, the rock came and went so quickly that I almost missed it. After rolling over it, I thought to myself, That's it? You crashed on THAT?

In the 17 months since I broke my wrist on that little obstacle, the legend of its difficulty grew in my mind. In my memory it was a sheer 20-foot drop with a nasty rock garden at the bottom, something better traversed with a freeride bike than the rigid single speed I was on:

. . . a deep chasm that would eat many riders alive.

In reality it's just another feature on a pretty easy trail. A granite boulder, maybe six feet high, with a gradual decline and easy exit chute. On my second time around I had to stop on top and take a picture. Much ado about nothing:

In the end I put in a solid 39 miles and had a good time. It was great to get out and rail some singletrack on the single speed, and feel the deep fatigue in the legs that only a single speed can give you. Until it starts raining, Wednesdays are going to be fun days.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

The End

Well, my son goes back to school on Monday. Summer is almost over. This is the end, my little friend, the end.

So yesterday was our last Wednesday ride of the summer. We went out in grand style.

Once again we started from our normal spot at the aquatic center and headed east on the bike trail, around the south side of Lake Natoma, and headed up towards Beal's point. Normally we turn around a little past Beal's when we hit the magic 10-mile mark, which occurs about a quarter mile down the dirt levee road. Yesterday, though, he wanted to keep going. "You want to ride farther on the dirt?" I asked. "Yeah, more dirt, Daddy." Music to my ears.

Up to this point he had never wanted to ride in the dirt, preferring smooth pavement. I figured he didn't feel secure sitting behind me, not being able to see, and being bounced around without much warning.

We rode on the flat, dirt levee road. When we reached the end, my stoker commanded me to push on.

At that point the road narrows a bit, becoming hilly, curvy and a bit bumpy. I could hear laughter behind me. The rougher the terrain, the more he laughed. When we reached the end, at Granite Bay, I was told again to keep going.

We hit the single track. At first my passenger was fighting the bike a bit, making it hard for me to steer. We hit a couple steep little downhills, and he thought it was the greatest thing ever. He laughed and laughed, and said "this is fun" every time we hit a sharp corner or downhill section.

After a couple miles I could feel him relax, and we found our flow, snaking through the single track as a team. He was leaning into the corners with me, and we were carving perfect arcs. It was one of the coolest experiences I have had on a bike: I was there the day my boy fell in love with mountain biking.

Even though mountain biking is fun, sometimes you have to grit your teeth and make it hurt:

As we neared the 15-mile mark, I told him it was time to turn around. Although he didn't want to, I knew by the time we reached the truck he would want off the bike.

The return trip was even more fun. Much of it is downhill, and I was thankful for that. Hauling 60 pounds behind you can get tiring. When we arrived back at the truck, I was the one who wanted off the bike.

We rode 29 miles, which was our longest ride of the summer.

While it was the end of our summer rides, hopefully it was the beginning of his love afair with the bicycle. With any luck he will discover the joy and freedom I did when I bought my first mountain bike in 1984.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On the Road

“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have,
but in my lack of control of them.”

- Jack Kerouac

Since I started cycling some 26 years ago, the road bike has always been an integral part of my fleet. Although I will always pledge my first allegiance to mountain biking, the truth is I have always tallied far more miles on the road than on dirt.

When I moved up to the hills six years ago, I had a nice Lemond. I had been road racing on a local team, so the bike was set up more for speed than comfort. When I look at it now my back hurts.

As I have mentioned before, the area around my house is characterized by narrow roads that are often pot-holed, chip-and-seal ribbons of punishment. Some are gravel and even dirt. One local road is absolutely horrendous because the locals want it that way. They discourage through traffic by keeping it rough, and it hasn't been paved in many years. Patch after patch after patch has been applied. It's so bad my spouse refuses to drive on it.

After spending many years riding a rather flat and boring bike trail in Sacramento, I was excited to move to the hills and enjoy epic road riding. It took about a month of flat tires and spine hammering before I tried to cram bigger tires on the road bike. I managed to get a 28mm in front and a 25mm in back. It helped a little, but not enough. Since I had quit road racing, the frame went on eBay.

After that my cyclocross bike became the primary ride.

It was closer to what I wanted, but being a racing bike the position was still pretty aggressive and the braking left something to be desired. Cantilevers can either be set up to work well (short straddle cable, pads close to the rim) or to give you the tire and rim clearance (long straddle cable) necessary for riding and racing in the dirt and mud. On more than one occasion lousy braking caused some close calls in traffic. Plus, quick adjustments in the middle of a ride are a hassle. I like caliper brakes much better for day-to-day riding.

In early 2005 I bought a Karate Monkey 29er.

It's original purpose was for mountain biking, but I quickly discovered it was a pretty good bike for my area. The tires were fat, it was comfortable, the brakes worked and it opened up more options around my house as far as terrain was concerned. It's been my primary ride ever since.

A couple years ago, I caught the road bike bug again (probably during the Tour) and bought a Surly Pacer. Touting that "Fatties Fit Fine," I thought it would be perfect. However, I was only able to successfully run 28mm tires. When I tried 32s, the front tire hit the brake return spring and the rear tire was just barely missing the front derailleur clamp. The frame went on eBay.

I went back to the Karate Monkey and things were swell. Still, sometimes I wanted something a bit faster than a porky 29er.

Perfection in my eyes has always been the Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen. There is nothing I dislike about the bike. Caliper brakes, big tire clearance, laid back geo and a quill stem. I have no doubt it would immediately end my quest. I mean, look at it (not mine).

But at two grand for the frameset, it's not going to happen anytime soon.

This spring I again decided I wanted a road bike. I researched and read, looked at pictures, pored over geometry tables, and came up with the Salsa Casseroll.

My intent was to buy the frame for $550 since I have all the necessary parts sitting in a box. But when Webcyclery put the complete single speed on sale for $735 and threw in a bunch of goodies, I pulled the trigger.

Here's what she looked like out of the box:

Relaxed geo, long head tube, and the ability to run huge tires (currently 37mm) with caliper brakes. Lots of clearance still:

I'm in the process of building it back up with gears, and the parts I don't need are going on eBay. I will easily make up the difference between the frameset price and complete bike, and get a lot of free stuff in the process. Pics to come when finished.