Sunday, May 17, 2009

Frazier Mtn Loop With KT and His Merry Men

Any time you join KT on a ride, be ready for anything.

The heat has been pretty intense for May, so any weekend rides needed to be at a decent elevation to avoid major suck-age. I had a solo loop planned that was going to be pretty long and include pavement, fireroad and lots of singletrack. But, another offer came up from KT to join a group ride in the even higher mountains of the Los Padres Forest.

KT is a pretty fit guy and the riders he runs with are all pretty fast, so when I go along I just figure I will be last up the hill and maybe even down the hill. Oh well. Someone has to do it, so it may as well be me.

A few of us met on Saturday AM on a day that was supposed to hit 75*. Notice the lack of baggy shorts or big packs here? Patrick even brought his carbon S-Works Stumpy hardtail, Roval wheels and all. OK, then.

Part way up the 6 mile climb to the top of Frazier Mtn at about 09:00, it was already over 75* in the valley below. It would get hotter, especially once we hit the canyon bottom. I was somewhat familiar with the route and I knew the area, but it had been years since I was on any of the OHV trails that criss-cross the mountain. The 6 mile climb was not too hard and I was pacing myself knowing I was not in top shape. I had a fair idea I should save a bit of oomph for later. Good plan.

Say hi to Lance. No, not THAT Lance, this Lance. Still, a Giant of a guy, I understand.

I was riding the Lev and had two bottles of Accelerade, one 70 oz Camelbak, a bunch of snacks, a burrito, and a Soft Flask of gel. I was using the fuel cell that was part of the ensemble from Carousel Design Works to carry the stuff I wanted quick access to rather than remove the Camelbak all the time. That really worked well. My only complaint was that I found I brushed my knees on it when standing and climbing unless I bowed them out a bit. No biggie.

Soon enough we descended a bit on fireroad and hit the singletrack. This is motorcycle country and the trails are really better suited to a throttle then pedals. I took off on a fast pace only to come around a corner and run right into three BIG whoop-de-dos spaced about 3/4's of a bike length apart. These things looked big enough to swallow up my 29" wheels. Not good.....I got on the brakes hard until I ran into the first one then I HAD to let off the brakes or die. I hit the first one OK, but each one boosted me a bit higher and higher until on the last one I was pretty well airborne and nearly cased it into the final upslope. Made it out, that was a rabbit out of the hat. Thank you God. Maybe I better slow down a bit until I get a feel for this trail. It ended up being fun, being pretty swoopy, a bit loose, but playful and then you would drop down a v'd out, filled with silt and loose rocks chute that got your attention, then more whoops and swoops. I have to say that most of the time, I really do not think much about the legendary flexiness of the classic Reba fork I have on the Lev. But, I don't often ride techy stuff like this. It gave me an appreciation for those calling for stiffer forks, wheels, and frames on 29ers. I could feel the front end squirting and squirming left when I was pointing it right. Everything felt like I had a flat front tire.

I really need to upgrade that Reba and I will never buy another fork that does not have a serious QR interface like the 20mm or 15mm options out there, at least on a trail bike 29er. Very eye opening. One day I will replace the Lev with a better rig suited for rougher trail, 120mm fork, etc, but I sure hate to give up the lighter weight of this bike. Oh well, tradeoffs.

I would have taken more pics, but KT cracks the whip pretty good and his rest stops are barely anything at all. No tea and finger sandwiches served. Get 'em up, move 'em out, Rawhide! It was absolutely the hardest day I have had since my crash and maybe even since Vision Quest. We hit the creek bottom and found that the trail which we had expected to continue at riverbed level out to the road instead turned upwards and climbed back in the direction we had come from. Bummer. It was really hot now and the warm water in the pack and what was left in the bottles was not at all satisfying. Pedaling was beyond me. The group was gone out of sight. I was pushing a lot while ahead of me I imagined KT's band of merry men chatting and pedaling up the sandy, loose trail while singing ballads of old and hoisting water bottles in toast to their merry-ness. Pffhaa! Merry making is over rated. Real men are not afraid to walk their bikes.

We popped out in the open after finding ourselves at a fireroad which led to a familiar OHV area. From here, the pack split. I took another guy that had had as much fun as he cared to and we headed out to the pavement for a few miles of pedaling back to the trucks. The rest of the miscreants continued on the dirt with an estimated 1500' climb to close the loop from where we started. I really wanted to go with them, but I was feeling the onset of cramps and that would be better handled on the road then up that mountain somewhere.

It was a good choice as I rolled into the parking lot right at 4 hrs, got off the bike, and cramped up completely if I tried to bend my legs, take shoes off, etc. Good timing. I had a bottle of Fluid recovery drink on ice in the cooler and it tasted wonderful as did the bag of cheesy/ranch Ruffles. Ambrosia.

It was 86* at the parking lot and 96* a bit lower in the valley. Is this May or July?

6000' climbing
26 miles
4 hours, 3:51 riding time

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