Friday, December 28, 2007

Anybody need a Buddy?

I may have a need for one soon. A bike riding buddy, to be specific. You know, the one that you can always count on to show up and endure with a smile whatever diabolical plan you have in mind.

I have one of those and he is picking up stakes, most likely. My Buddy is one of the lucky folks who work in the entertainment biz (set lighting) and THAT whole movie/tv production machine is pretty much dead right now as a testament to greed and the lovely world of Labor Unions. Combine that with a bike riding injury and the result is a practical decision on his part to head his family back to the midwest and live cheaper for a while till things resume....if they ever do. Live cheaper than So Cal? Imagine that!

And so, I contemplate the endurance races I had planned, the big rides and the camping trips. The next year's road trips. The after work rides. Sure, there are other folks to ride with, good folks too. But they are not my Buddy.

My Buddy is heading to Ohio and I am feeling a bit lost by it all.

Godspeed, Buddy Steve.


To the guy or gal that puts in 50 miles in the cold and snow. To the SS'er that racks up more elevation gain in one ride than I do in a week. To the endurance racer and the route finder. To the blogger, the BB poster, and the page linker that shares it all on the net for me to read and chew on.....

I am inspired by you.

You make me want to be better, to ride longer, to get out when it is cold and ride anyway. You have me dreaming of new ways to put big loops together, to think 'epic' and pack extra food expecting an adventure. You give me hope that this next ride of mine will be as great as yours was, maybe better.

You make me want to ride. For that, I thank you and in return, I promise this: I will do what I can to inspire you and others you will never know to feel the same way.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Off Day

No, not Day Off. Off Day.

Yesterday I had the first ride in a week and a half due to sickness and honey-do's. Nothing much, just an hour blast around the local hills. Temps were on the cool side, probably in the low 60s but the wind chill from the blustery day made it feel like the 50s. Still, it was better than ice storms in Indiana, so off pedaling I went.

I knew from the first 1/2 mile that I was nowhere near recovered from last week's plague. The antibiotics were doing their thing and the left side of my face no longer felt like it was packed full of cement but I was running on a low fuel warning lamp status. Topping that off was a bit of digestion upset from lunch that kept reminding me of the previous unhappiness by the way it resented the waist strap of my Camelback.

It felt good to be out anyway and the 29er wheels sung along in their baritone voice (26" wheels are sopranos, don't 'cha know). I had planned a nice loop up to and overlooking the east side of Lake Castaic, but that would have put me into a cold headwind on an exposed paved road for too many miles. Time to tuck in a bit, so I headed over to the Castaic Race Course. The race course is a network of trails used for...hey, you guessed it...NORBA style races, etc, but we old time locals were riding it when it was just ranch access roads and cattle paths. Now it is a challenging workout with steep climbs and fast descents on a mix of fireroad and singletrack.

I was on the Karate Monkey with no grannygear, and the low energy factor conspired to keep the loop short. I was thinking of some rippin' blend of trails for the day's ride, but I stopped to rest three times on a middle chainring climb that normally is just a good warmup. Hmmm...I think my eyes are bigger than my legs today for sure.

SO, I cut it short and rolled over to an overlook and prepared to drop down a fast section of trail that I normally grunt up. The last time I rode down this, it cost me a new frame. I overcooked the corner and slid into a concrete drainage ditch at slow speed, weight back off the saddle, front wheel barely able to keep from locking up, on the brakes hard...aaaannnd *smack*. Heck, I did not even tip over, but the impact was so direct, brakes all on and upright and all, that I bent the downtube on my Manitou FS. Man I loved that bike.

Today would not see that happen again. I am on my trusty 29er, and I am invincible. I am fast, confident and might even say god-like (small 'g'). Off the lip of the downhill and gravity takes over....down I go. As I said I am on the big wheeled wonder bike, I am....I am...well, nuts, I am wobbly, I am over braking, I am wiggly, in short, I am a mess. The switchbacks were awful, the bike was awkward, the trail seemed too narrow, and I was looking like noob central, or at least it felt that way. Is this the bike/rider combo that recently rode 4+ hours on singletrack, rocks and sand and barely blinked? I think not. Different guy. Dang alien abduction again...lights in the sky, body snatchers, cloners. Something.

Based on that ride, 29ers suck, I suck, riding sucks.

Time to go home without coming to any conclusions other than chalking it up to an off day. Glad it was a short one. My fragile ego can only stand so much of that.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Canyonlands Fat Tire Festival: circa 1988. First Road Trip

"Halloween of 1986 saw the first unofficial Canyonlands Fat Tire Festival, put on by Rim Cyclery. It was an organic, spontaneous event that grew over the years to legend status. This was a time for the industry “hotshots”, racers, and the “regular folk” to get together, ride hard, relax, and have a good time. There are too many stories from the festival days to recount here, and most of them are better told over a campfire or in the backroom after a long day of riding."

Copied from the website here:

Yep, been there, still got the T-shirt. I had wondered if Kevin (see last post: Lines on a Map)and I had been there for the first one, but we missed that by a couple of years. Still, I remember Moab as a VERY sleepy little town with one, maybe two bike shops, but I think Rim Cyclery was it. There were a few restaraunts, no fast food that I recall, and not much else. But, the rocks were there, no doubt.

We rolled into town in the afternoon and stayed at the Bowen Motel, still there I think. Not much else to do as evening approached, we drug the motel room chairs out onto the sidewalk and watched the town roll up for the night. Later we amused ourselves by swatting flies off the ceiling. High times I tell ya.

The next day, we rode over to the Rim bike shop. The vibe was awesome as all over town, mtn bikers were riding by on all kinds of cool bikes. It felt so amazing to be part of that atmosphere. We were so stoked; The red cliffs, the cold air, the whirr of freewheels and buzz of knobbies. I still remember that feeling. We were less jaded then, no doubt.

Wow, Rim Cyclery was a candy store for sure. We saw more cool bikes parked outside than we could believe. Hand made Ritcheys, Potts, Fishers, Goats, Ibis's (Ibii?), Fats, and all the other more common stuff that we could afford was just everywhere. We registered for the festival and picked the rides we had to try. The land of Oz at the end of the yellow brick road for sure, and we were among the tribe in the Emerald city.

Some of it we were going to do on our own. the Slickrock Trail was one of them. We looked at the distance for the full loop (10 miles or so), figured we could knock that off before lunch and then get something else in that afternoon. Silly us. It was a hoot of a ride. I could not believe how far you could lean over the bars and pedal without losing handlebars into the belly button stuff. And the ledge descents were just as amazing with rubber stripes worn into the crotch of our riding shorts from buzzing the rear tire. I still can hardly believe we rode that on rigid bikes. Slickrock is deceptively bumpy. It looks smooth, but it is not really. But hey, that was the way it was, no other options. Fat 2.2 Hardpack IIs aired down and that was that, elbows and knees provided the rest.

10 miles later, we were totally thrashed. We had cleaned the whole trail as far as I recall. There would be crowds of folks at the top of some of the tougher climbs just watching everyone try to ride them. My Schwinn Paramountain with its silly long chainstays and pretty light build was a monster on that rock and I cleared it all to the hoots of the crowd. At least, that is the way I remember it;). Either way it went, we had gained an appreciation for the riding here. It was sweet and sassy and the sassy part had kicked our butts. We felt like we had gone to the gym and done squats and bench presses more than a bike ride....totally anarobic. We barely had enough energy to eat a huge pizza and ride over to the Rim bike shop to take in the atmosphere.

I remember one led ride where the local giving the tour was amazing, riding in Teva-type sandals and worn out tires that had been sewn back together to get a bit more use out of them. He was such a good rider. We held up the California end of things and rode the techy stuff well, but that was where Kevin and I had cut our teeth, riding rough trails, exploring, etc. Shoot, now most 16 year old riders can clean our clocks with doubles and 10' drops to flat but back then, we were pretty good and we rode it for all we could. I remember there was a guy...he even had his own poster (which I have at home IIRC)...can't remember the name, but he rode a very high end bike, some hand made aluminum thing and just did the most insane bowl rides and OMG roll-overs into steep drops on the slickrock trail. We were not THAT good, just to set the record straight. Todd something? Hmmm.

We went to the Halloween party. Wow that was an interesting look at the Tribe. There were some children of the earth types there that had some...ahhh.. interesting costumes on.

It all seems so long ago. I have been to Moab several times since then either for biking or 4wheeling and it has grown so much, I hardly know it from that week in 1988. But I bet you all remember your first road trip and that was mine.

I wish I could find pics of that trip. Got 'em somewhere, I think. So far, no luck on the pics and my memory is pretty sketchy for a lot of it. I do remember I was there. The T-shirt proves that.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Lines on a map

I remember it well, when I met Kevin. I had been riding for a couple of years or so and had built up a pretty nice bike, a Schwinn Paramountain frameset with Deadly Nedlys signature decal on it. He and Cindy Whitehead had recently won the NORBA championships or the Worlds or some such thing, and they celebrated with a pretty nice lugged frameset out of the Waterford plant. Prestige tubing and XT parts. Sweet. The problem was, I did not know where to ride the dang thing. There were a lot of mountains out there, in fact I live practically surrounded by National Forests or parklands but it can be intimidating to just head out with no idea of what you are getting into.

The bike shop guy had mentioned that there was a local mtn biker that was doing a lot of exploring and we should meet and talk shop. He said he was kind of a character in that he rode with a full backpack, army sleeping bag, etc. Really? My interest was peaked.

The fated day happened and we met over the counter at the Schwinn shop. He was kind of a character, but Kevin impressed me with his open attitude about wanting to explore the areas trails and roads. His way of putting it was to ride "all the lines on the map". Cool. I'm in.

In fact, he was planning a trip to Moab, Utah to check out this thing called a Fat Tire Festival. I am not sure of the year, but I think it was very early in the life of the festival. I still have the t-shirt and the water bottles from that trip.

Oddly enough, I am a pretty careful kind of guy and it really is not like me to jump in a truck with a near stranger and head across three states. Still, I must have trusted him or seen something I liked in the guy as two weeks later we were rolling into Moab for the best time on a bike I had ever had. I will save that story for another blog entry. Maybe I can dig up pics.

Over the next several years Kevin and I rode nearly every line on the Angeles National Forest map and a few that were not shown. I still have the map with all the highlighted lines, torn edges, and scribbled notes. That map has seen a lot of dining room table talks, spread out and studied as rides were planned, loops closed, dots connected. Every faded highlighted line is a memory. We wrote two books together on where to ride and saw them published, some of which lives on in current trail guide books. We started a Mountain Bike Trail access group, the Grapevine Mountain Bike Assoc., adopted two local trails, named a few trails that still carry the monikers we broke them with, and remained friends for many years.

I will always remember how good a rider he was. Really a great singletrack rider, he never used toe clips, always rode in hiking boots and wore underwear under his lycra shorts. I never could break him of the habit of carrying the 'survival pack' he rode with, usually some kind of army grade fannypack with shoulder straps. this is waaaay before Camelbacks were on the scene. He could climb too and had the constitution of a goat. Many a time he would show up for a ride with a Taco Bell cup of refrieds and green sauce, shovel it down and then hammer up the trail leaving me amazed.

In the early days, we pushed and carried our bikes a lot. That is the fate of those who choose to blaze trails and be a pioneer. His favorite line was "just one more hill". It must have worked cuz I always fell for it and kept on pushing, riding and carrying.

As time went by and bikes changed, I was always trying the newest thing, SPDs, front suspension, etc. Not Kevin. He just shook his head, grinned and said he liked it the way it was and saw no need to change. Then he would proceed to set a trail pace that would leave the racer boys wondering and woe to the 'fast guy' who went on an exploration ride with us. Two hours into the push out of some lost canyon, they would be wishing they had never met us.

I remember one huge loop we were doing in the Los Padres forest. We had connected several Jeep roads and motorcycle trails together and were pretty worked over. As we hit the pavement for the last leg of the journey, about 10 miles of rolling 2 lane through the junipers, one of the three of us was really shelled and had decided to call for a ride back to a bar we had started near. Kevin was to wait with him until the truck got there and then join me on the ride back. I started down the road, barely able to turn the cranks and had not gotten more than a mile or two along until I saw the rescue truck coming towards me and past to pick up the one guy. I expected to see Kevin in a few minutes, pedaling along to suffer with me on the last leg home. Soon I heard a vehicle approaching from behind. As the mini truck passed me, I saw the driver, the guy who was too bonked to continue, and hanging out the passenger window looking at me with this sheepish grin, was Kevin taking the SAG wagon for all it was worth. I was struck with an odd combo of anger and humor. At first I felt betrayed, then as the lactic acid buffered the anger, I had to shake my head and laugh, thinking of the beers that they would be drinking while I pedaled along.

I rarely see Kevin anymore. He lives a ways from me, but not that far. I miss him, but I am a lousy 'pen-pal' I guess and he is no better. I don't think he rides much anymore but hikes stuff like in and out of the Grand Canyon in a day. He still finds those lines on a map.

I could not have found a more inspirational, willing, and humble partner in crime for all the exploits to come. Thanks, buddy. It was great.

I bet he still rides without toe clips, SPDs, and wears whitey tighties under his lycra, but don't tell him I told ya so.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Plague, I'm sure of it.

So, I am sitting here with great weather outside for this time of year, blogging instead of riding. The Santa Ana winds have things warmed up for the moment and the rain is a few days away, possibly the same storm that has the Pacific Northwest under water and in the dark right now. And here I sit, plague ridden, Bubonic probably. Could be Cholera or Dengue fever though. Hard to say.

Kinda achey, kinda drippy, kinda tired-wanna-crawl-under-a-blanket-and-sleep-all-day feeling. Yep. Malaria, I reckon. A quick perusal though my favorite blogs says much of the same thing. Apparently it is a nationwide plague as many other blogger/cyclists are stricken. I know how they feel, to be cut down in our prime like this. Pity.

Hopefully I will be done with this soon, this viral drip machine that is my sinus, and I will return to normal, whatever that is.

Now that I have had time to think about it, definitely Yellow Fever, likely the 24 hour kind.