Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Getting Things Done

A last minute ride today, I decided to push to the top of the Oak Ridge Trail once again. My motivation (besides the obvious fun ride down, and ok, the exercise)? To get those damn switchbacks done, and get them done cleanly.
With less snow to trudge through this time around, I made good time to the top. Getting used to hiking with my bike also sped up the journey. I met a hiker on the trail, and she thought I was crazy for 'riding' my bike up this trial. I assured her that there would be more time spent on foot than in the saddle. This is, after all, a steep bugger of a trail.
With every ride, I always try to go longer or push it harder than I did the last time on the trail. Or I try to learn or do something new or better each time. I've come to think of the Oak Ridge Trial as my training trail, so I definitely need to keep track of my progress. Today I went about a half mile longer, waiting to crest the top of Surveryor's, but sadly, never made it to the trail junction, although I must have been really close. Next time.
I also starting keeping score of the switchbacks. The first 6 went well, but the first really steep, loose, rocky one got me. 
I hate having to get off my bike on the trail, especially when coming down the hill. Which is why switchbacks can be frustrating. When it's exposed or in tight trees, even worse because it becomes a mind game. I gave it my all today though, and in the end, rode more of the tight turns than I did on my last jaunt on Oak Ridge. I was happy for that, and very happy that I didn't make only 7 of them. Next time I'll ride even more.

Date:  march 4, 2008
Riders: Val, Tucker, Lassie, and Stinky
Trail: Oak Ridge
Area: Surveyor's
Miles: 4
Highlights: Kickin some switchback ass.

What I Wouldn't Do for Some DH

There are a few things I wouldn't do for some downhill, but mostly, I would do just about anything.
Like push my bike more than a half mile through 2 feet of snow, then slog through the streams of mud running down the trail, switchback after switchback, up 1,500 feet of vertical gain, through rocky and dry west facing slopes, exposed and full of ticks. Only to find myself back in the trees, knee deep in snow, wondering if I should keep going all the way to Surveyor's Ridge. Just to see what the ridgetop trail would be like. 
Legs tired, sweat pouring off my head--once again, I was way overdressed--I ran through the snowdrift at the top of the clearing, plowing my bike through, knowing that with each pass, the snow would melt just a little faster where my tire had been. I noticed that someone, maybe a snowshoer from weeks past, had built a small snow man at the crest of the hill, complete with twig arms and even a little moss for hair. He had the misfortune of sunny days and mild weather slowly taking their toll on his decomposing body.  Soon, I feared, he would be nothing more than a tired heap of twigs and debris.
But despite the twinge of sadness I felt for Frosty, I looked forward to the day that Oak Ridge would be clear again, especially the days of perfect trail conditions, before the weather gets really hot and dry, turning the trail into a Dust Bowl.
Was it worth the push up the hill, through the mud and snow? Heck yes it was. 27 switchbacks of unadulterated bliss.

Date: February 29, 2008. Leap Year: extra day, extra DH.
Riders: Val, Tucker, Lassie, and Stinky.
Trail: Oak Ridge
Area: Surveyor's Ridge
Miles: 3.5
Highlights: Hike-a-bike, sun. Switchback Practice.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Yesterday was just one of those days: perfect. Blue skies, gorgeous trail conditions, and all day to do whatever we wanted. Bliss, I tell ya. Bliss.

You would have thought it was a summer day: I was sweating in my long sleeves and closed-back knee pads, way overdressed. The sun shone as high over head as it had in months. We dropped in to Coyote Cliffs, across open, fields turning from winter brown to spring green, remniscent of what I would imagine Scotland might look like. Lassie felt right at home, I am sure, only minus the sheep. At the top of the open expanse, deer galloped away, spooked by our tires and voices. They were so graceful, running--prancing almost--and I felt for a second slightly ashamed to be plodding so clumsily across the same slopes on my man-made wheels with big, knobby tires.

But when the trail began to get rocky, twisty, turny, it would be grace that would make the bike behave. Balance that would get it around the corner, and speed that would glide the tires up and over the rocks. Flying through all of the obstacles, around corners, squeezing through tight trees in places, and flowing with the motion of the tires, I felt time slow down--for a second--while I reveled in the the sheer joy of feeling and responding to the bike beneath my body.

Ahh, Spring. And the beginning of ride season: epic rides, hike-a-bikes, and going fast, really fast. Working on skills and always learning something new on every ride. Camping and Canada, and long, long days. I could barely contain myself.

At the bottom of Coyote Cliffs, we heaved ourselves back up the front side of the Syncline, past the waterfall on Little Maui, and over to Little Moab. Riding through patches of purple wild crocus, a grin engulfed my face, and I wanted to jump off my bike and roll around on the ground, absorbing all of their spring wonderfulness. It was perfect, really. Just perfect.

Bart and I decided to ride Little Moab, while Ryan and Pierce, plus three dogs, rode over to Loose Lucy. Same grin on my face as we flew down the trail, with grace and control, savoring the flow.

I welcome you Spring, with open arms and a big grin.

Date: 2/23/08
Riders: Ryan, Bart, Pierce, Val, Tucker, Lassie, and Stinky
Trails: Coyote Cliffs, Little Maui, Loose Lucy, Little Moab
Area: Syncline, SW Washington
Highlights: Sun and flowers. Feeling the burn in lungs and legs.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Getting Back on the Horse

Depending on the year, January in the Gorge can be wintry and dreary, or if we are extremely lucky, we might be blessed with a January Thaw.

This year we've had both. Last week brought rain, snow, and then 4 glorious days of SUN. I took this opportunity to roll my bike out of the garage, dust it off, and get my arse back on that horse.

Which is never very easy after a two month hiatus. Forgotten muscles, that you thought cross-country skiing would nicely maintain, resurface and scream at you by the fifth minute of pedalling; forgotten technique and skill stowed away in the depths of your brain, forcing you to rely on muscle memory to do the job. And the heaving and huffing up the hill, gasping for air, the lungs too a giant biking muscle you thought was being properly worked cross-country skiing. Ah, but no: nothing works those biking muscles the way riding a bike does. Period. The first ride after a little vay-kay is, in a word, PAINFUL.

But so worthwhile. With temperatures in the 30's, and bluebird, sunny skies, and only a handful of people, the south-facing Syncline was at its best.

Two weekdays in a row, I pedalled up the double-track (ah, the joys of being self-employed, hee!) and descended what I like to call, our Area Classic (ok, that's a climbing term but it is appropriate for trails), Little Moab. Trail Conditions were perfect, just tacky enough to keep your tires where they should be, but not slimy enough to cause slide-outs. The long rocky sections (think Moab here, but miniature, and not sandstone... hence the name. A nice, but failed attempt at honoring the Utah mecca) were gorgeously dry and friendly, and totally droppable.

Yes, Yes. It made me yearn for summer, this little teaser of a week. Now we are chilled to the bone with highs in the upper teens. Sigh. Maybe next week?

Riders: Val, Tucker, and Lassie
Area: The Syncline, Bingen, Washington
Trails: Double-Track, Little Moab, Little Maui
Miles: A few. Who knows? I've never thought to keep track on that trail.
Highlights: Feeling the difference in biking fitness on ride #2. Grinning from ear-to-ear, putting the suspension to work on Little Moab's finest little drops.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Come On, Cumberland!

Landing in Victoria late on Saturday evening, we dropped Gabe off to hang out with his Dad, and Ryan and I went to find a campground where we proceeded to pass out until late Sunday morning. In search of a place to both kiteboard and mountain bike, we headed Northwest of Victoria and drove some gravel roads looking for a good campsite. Spotting about 100 tents in a field, we pulled over at the sight of a whole lot of bikes! We had stumbled upon a huge bike race that had just started a few days before on Vancouver Island's southern shore. Of course, we had to investigate! Turns out this race is a really long trek on mountain bikes that starts near Victoria and ends in Vancouver. Thinking this might be a good omen, we liked the idea of staying in this area to look for some trails.

But after driving for a few hours, we decided we didn't like the prospects nor the vibe, and on a whim drove to Cumberland, 3 plus hours north. The first thing we noticed in town was Dodge City Cycles, with trail maps taped on the window, and the Ridin' Fool Hostel in the back. Perfect! Now this was the vibe we were looking for.

We found a place to camp really close to town on Comox Lake. We had it pretty much to ourselves after the weekend, and used it as a base to shred all of the classics in the area.

Turns out Cumberland is a mecca of twisty, rooty, technical climbs and descents with a few stunts and lots of drops. The top of the ridge overlooking Cumberland, a 500 meter road climb, had some hammering double black downhill trails diving off the east side down to the lake. They were super gnarly--I am pretty sure I only rode about 50% of the trails!

Ryan had the first big BC crash on 'Pity the Fool', rolling off of a heinous drop and pasting a fire-scarred tree, which left him with a sore shoulder, some cuts and scrapes, and a whole lot of black soot on his body to show for it.

After 3 days in Cumberland, we got to know all of the trails of course, the bike shop owner, and spent some time in the great little town. We also spent 4th of July here, all pretty much in agreement that shredding Cumberland trails was a far better option than watching fireworks and eating BBQ chicken back in the States. Instead we helped celebrate Canada Day, Aye. (I have a personal agenda to make this a yearly tradition).

Due in Whistler on Thursday to meet Bart, we had to tear ourselves away from this uncrowded little labyrinth of quality trails. Cumberland will definitely be a destination in the future!

Dates: 7/2-4/07

Area: Cumberland, BC

Trails: Mama Bear's Trail of Tears, Bronco's Perserverance, Buggered Pig, Skinny's Galore, Spanker, Short and Curly, Matt's Trail, Black Hole, Space Nugget, Big Log, Shaker, Swamp Trail, Grub, Stub, and Pity the Fool.

Miles: Many

Highlights: Too many to list.

Photos, top to bottom: Kites in Victoria; Tents Galore; BC Bike Race Finish Line, motorized sweepers done for the day; Follow the red arrow OR DIE!; Cumberland Gnar; Ryan Post-Mega-Crash; Classic BC Forest Floor + Trail; View from top of DH trails, Cumberland; "hmmmmm.....where to go next?" Gabe ponders the idea of Whistler; Ferry sunset, Whistler-Bound!

Crabs, the New Id, and Mac Dre in the Olympics

A groggy, foggy start after a long night of new bike building and car-packing and hours in a jammed car led us the Olympic National Forest on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. I was battling a major case of poison oak and Gabe's button-pushing shit-talk; the prednisone I was taking did little to ease the agony of either ailment. Our morning started at Bart's house in PDX. It was the beginning of a 10 day road trip to Canada, starting on Vancouver Island and finishing up in Whistler (of course).
We saddled up in classic Olympic weather--low fog and light drizzly mist--and headed up the Lower Dungeness trail. After a 2 plus year hiatus from shredding, I was still feeling the pain of getting back those cycling legs, and also getting used to my new bike. I had just retired my Santa Cruz Heckler, first generation, and upgraded to an Ellsworth ID. The first thing I noticed was the higher bottom bracket--I wasn't whacking my pedals every other stroke.
The trail had mandatory hike-a-bike sections, with long and steep pitches as it climbed up the drainage. After a few switchbacks, we finally came out onto a road. Since we had a ferry to catch in Port Angeles, we decided to turn back. The descent was not technical, but fast and swoopy and really fun.

Upon return to the car, we rode down to the river and dunked our heads in the ice cold water before heading to the ferry.
It was definitely a proper segue into our BC Shredding holiday--more stories from that are yet to come. Stay tuned!

Date: 6/30/07
Riders: Ryan, Val, Gabe

Area: Olympic National Forest, Quilcene Ranger District near Sequim, WA

Trail: Lower Dungeness Trail


Highlights: New Ellsworth shreds! First ride with Gabe. Dunking our heads in the creek afterward, before driving to the BC Ferry in Port Angeles. Musical inspiration from Mac Dre, noneother.

Photos, top to bottom: Navigating; Gabe + Classic Cascades Creek; View from Lower Dungeness; Ferry Time

Hungry for Some Downhill?

Yesterday we rode Starvation Ridge. Looking up from the trailhead parking lot, it hardly seems plausible that a trail could snake down the rocky, steep, sheer walled gorge--but somehow, it does.

Piling the bikes high on Ryan's bike rack, we drove to the top. After rebuilding Justin's bike at the trailhead, we hopped on the trail and crested the ridge, through some techinical sections on an ATV path.

Our trail took off near the top of the ridge. After some nice fast singletrack through the trees, we had to ride through some super gnarly scree. I opted to walk, totally watering it down, as it was steep through solid boulders. The trail pretty much dove off from there, with very steep, rocky sections that were semi-ridable, and a few unridable ones that had us all hike-a-biking (had to keep it real).
It was, at the very least, a butt waaaaayyy back behind the seat kind of a trail. But it also required a slow, technical finesse that I haven't totally mastered yet. More than once, I was mid-stream down some long hill before I realized I was going way too fast!
Many sections were very exposed, making the thought of crashing enough to make you walk unless you were feeling ultra-confidant. The trail drops down fast, following skinny ridge tops, into tight, tight, tight hairpin turns.

Aside from the top-notch trail--which, simply put, utterly spanked me--the views from the ridge and upper rim of the steeply-walled Columbia River Gorge were amazing.

Date: Sunday, October 14, 2007
Riders: Ryan, Val, Bart, Justin, Brian, Tucker, Lassie, Luna
Area: Oregon Cascades
Trail: Starvation
Miles: 5
Highlights: Rock gardens, Ryan crashing; argumentative anti-Biking hiker who said the trail wasn't meant for bikes.