Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Return of Single Speed Wednesdays

The single speed hung lonely and neglected in the garage all year. As summer draws to a close, and with the kids now back in school, it was time to dust off the big orange bike and resume my Wednesday rides.

I had not been out to do the Hazel-Granite Bay ride in a while, so I decided to do that. After a quick tune-up to the bike and dropping off the boy at school, I headed down.

After not riding a single speed for a while, the first thing that struck me was how light and fast the bike felt. Just a few pedal strokes and the bike was up to speed. I also enjoyed the quickness and precision that the rigid fork offered.

It's a ride I have written about numerous times, so I don't have anything new to say. I did have a little red fox run in front of me on a trail, which was cool. I also saw a really big turtle that wouldn't sit still for a picture.

The water is as high as I can ever remember this late in the year. Considering how long it took for the snow to melt in Tahoe, I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

 I had to turn back at Doton's Point because the trail was under water.
I liked the reflection of the rock formation on the still water.

I ended up with a nice 35 mile ride. It was great to get out on the single speed and reacquaint myself with the kind of pain only riding a single gear can offer.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Test Flight

Since I had to go up to the condo to set up for some guests, I took the opportunity to swap out bikes. My Jamis 29er hardtail was performing well everywhere except when things became steep. On technical downhills I just didn't feel comfortable. I didn't know if it was just my rusty skills or whether another bike would be better suited to the Tahoe terrain. I took the On-One Inbred 456 thinking the long-travel fork would be perfect for the type of riding I wanted to do.

I only had time for a quick ride, so I did the Highway 431-Diamond Peak Flume-Tunnel Creek loop. It was a good ride to judge the bike.

On the climb up the bike was a little sluggish. The 26-inch wheels tend to be a little slower anyway, and the bike has big tires, wide bars and an upright riding position—all things that inhibit climbing. However, when I hit the flume trail, everything changed.

Once things flattened out, the bike came alive. My speed was greater than on the 29er, and I was riding with my old aggressive style again.

I mentioned in a previous post that long-fingered gloves were a necessity. The manzanita will let you know who's boss.

There is a narrow plank crossing a creek that I have walked over a number of times with the 29er, but with the Inbred I rode right over it. Same thing on a very steep downhill with stairstep dropoffs. On the 29er I chickened out halfway down, but on the 26-inch bike I rode it out without much effort.

I like these little areas near creek crossings where the ferns have enough moisture to grow.

After the flume trail I bombed down Tunnel Creek at speeds that were probably a bit reckless considering the number of trail users, but I wanted to push the bike a bit. Still, I kept it under control and slowed to a crawl as I encountered people. As fun as it is to fly, you can't be a complete idiot.

I rolled back to the condo after a nice 16-mile ride. The bike performed well in most situations. Every bike seems to have a weakness, so you have to decide what you can live with. I guess losing a little climbing ability is better than losing some teeth.

With a few adjustments, I think I can alleviate some of the climbing deficiency. A seatpost with some setback would definitely help with the climbing position. A drop in fork travel would help, too, but it's just so fun to have big travel when the trail tips down . . .

That's it for now. Later.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

This Is the Place

I am sitting in the Starbucks in Incline Village with my netbook, the morning cool, crisp, clear and clean. A window to my left reveals a picture not unlike something you would see in a magazine. Green pines reach up to a sky whose color defies description, deeper and more pure than the best day in Sacramento. Mountains all around me. A crystalline lake out of sight, but only a half-mile away. Cars and trucks loaded with mountain bikes roll by, preparing for a ride they'll complete today but may talk about for years to come.

I am only here for a quick overnight trip to bring supplies and clean, but I too will ride. It will be one of many rides, but something during this ride will surely end up etched in my memory. That's how it is here. The riding is that good, the place that special.

I am off. Time to ride.


Monday, August 08, 2011

Stretching It Out

Yesterday I completed my longest ride of the year so far in Tahoe at 30 miles. It had been many years since I used the traditional Flume Ride route, so I decided to give it a go. However, that ride would only get me about 21 miles, so I added a bit to it.

I started with the short but fun trail right across the street from the condo and then used various roads to climb up through Incline Village, eventually popping out on Highway 431. After four miles of climbing I turned onto the Trail With No Name.

This is the trail I spoke of in a previous post that is definitely an old flume. It is quickly becoming one of my favorites, although it appears on no map. I have scoured many maps and it doesn't seem to exist. When I first found this trail many years ago it was overgrown and about 25 trees had fallen across it. At one point there was a closed gate with a no trespassing sign. It took me about two hours to traverse the six miles. I marked it off my list.

Fast forward to this summer and I gave it another try. I'm glad I did, because it's an incredible trail. Someone has put a lot of love into it, and I am grateful. Until I figure out what the name is, I'll call it the Diamond Peak Flume.

Towards the beginning of the Diamond Peak Flume. Unfortunately this picture doesn't adequately capture all the colors I saw in person. (Click to enlarge.)

As is typical of most flume trails I have been on, there is little elevation change. Occasional deviations from the original route of the flume are evident, and in these places there are some climbs and descents.

A mistake on this sketchy, off-camber downhill corner would send you cartwheeling down the mountain.

The last time I rode the trail my arms and knuckles took a beating from the trees and shrubs. This time I wore long sleeves and full-fingered gloves and came out fine.

Chairlift down to the Diamond Peak ski area.

The trail ends about halfway up the Tunnel Creek climb, which is nice; you avoid the steep and sandy part at the bottom which isn't that enjoyable.

After finishing off the Tunnel Creek climb, you descend down a steep, loose hill made up of equal parts deep sand and chunky rocks. I didn't like it when I first did it in 1985 and I don't like it now.

After getting that out of the way, the Red House Flume starts. It includes both wide road and singletrack, and varies from OK to boring.

Red House Flume trail. I hopped over about 10 downed trees.

At the end of the Red House Flume you cross a dam and then the tough climb up Sunflower Hill starts.

Franktown Creek crossing. It's not that high or narrow, but I still don't like crossing it very much.

In 1985 my friends and I did the Great Flume Race. Up to that point I had experienced some extended climbing in a couple races, but nothing as steep as Sunflower Hill and not at high elevation. It hurt in 1985 and it still hurts now.

Taken from halfway up the climb where the flowers fade away and the forest begins. Again, the picture doesn't do justice to the scene.

The climb tops out overlooking Marlette Lake at about 8300 feet. Marlette Lake itself sits at 7800 feet and Lake Tahoe at 6200 feet. The three elevation differences make for a unique view.

Marlette Lake with Lake Tahoe in the background.

As I bombed down the hill I took a drink of water and realized my 100-ounce Camelbak had run dry a little over two-thirds of the way through the ride. Luckily all that was left was flat trail and a downhill to finish it off.

After descending down to lake level, you circle around Marlette toward the Flume Trail.

The west side of Marlette Lake.

Once on the Flume Trail it's clear why the trail is so famous and popular. Although it is relatively flat and straight, the view is simply spectacular.

Sand Harbor.

About halfway through the Flume Trail my legs started cramping. I put away the camera and got down to business. Without water, stopping all the time for photo opportunities would only make it worse.

Flume Trail

I fought through the cramps and finished off the Flume. The descent down Tunnel Creek was fun as always, and I especially enjoyed passing a number of guys on full suspension bikes.

I was glad I did the old Flume Ride. So many places along the route trigger powerful memories from years gone by, and it's great to relive them. Still, there are much better routes in the area, so I think it will be a few years before I do it again.