Monday, June 14, 2010

Placerita Canyon Take 2

So Placerita Canyon ended up being a more difficult ride than I realized. I took the GPS yesterday and discovered that it's 1800ft of climbing in 3.6 miles of steep, loose, exposed fire road in searing heat. That may explain why Carie almost died when we rode it the first time.

In any case, it's still a fun ride. The downhill is still oh-so-sweet. This being my second time out there, I did two laps. I may try to keep this tradition alive while building up to the Tahoe Sierra 100; each time I go out to Placerita, I do another lap. It was...hard. And hot. Hard and hot. I'm not in the condition I was late last summer.

View from the climb; Palmdale valley isn't so terrible from far away.

Brief rest at the top. Let my sweaty, tired, slack-jawed visage haunt you forever.

The new bike is magical. I love this thing. At some point I may try that trail that goes out just behind my bike over that ridge; only once I get bored of the descent I'm riding now, though. And that'll be a while.

The entrance to the singletrack. Finally some shade, just too late when I don't need it.

Once of the less well bermed turns. Seriously. I would swear that there are dirt bikes poaching these trails, the berms are so nice. I didn't see or hear any, so I'm not concerned; I just enjoyed railing turns.

I see a lot of this type of view in the summer. Yay exposed fire road!

Good singletrack cannot be valued too highly.

Thank goodness I live in a place with topography.

Am I the snake charmer or what? Not a rattler, looks like a gopher snake.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Descanso Gardens Take Two and a Half

Some fun from a weeknight mountain bike ride:

Never seen that warning before...but they do mean business. I'll get some pictures of the trail next time I'm out.

Well yeah, that's sort of the point.


Cute little (3.5') guy just meandering across the trail. I started to switch my camera over to video and get a rock to throw at him to make him rattle, but he slithered over into the bushes and disappeared before I was ready. Probably for the best.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bikes. And, uh, Bikes.

It is cycling season. Ski season officially ended when I put the thick summer coat of unscraped wax on the planks, put the cheat sheets on the skins, and stowed them all in the reasonably temperate closet. It is cycling season.

Alas, I'm fat and out of shape. Well, just out of shape. But I'm getting back into shape! With the new house, a whole new area to ride in has opened up to me, at least on road (so has mountain, but I'll get into that later). I discovered that it's only 2 miles from my house to the LA River Bikeway, which takes me directly to Griffith Park. In Griffith Park, I can ride big hills, medium hills, or little hills to my heart's content, all without dealing with cars. It's funny how fun road biking can actually be when you have the pavement to yourself. It's reasonably scenic there, too, as I get to ride by the observatory, the LA Zoo, the Hollywood sign, and just around a bunch of isolated nice hills. It's an incredible park. The only problem is that the equestrians have managed to get mountain bikes banned on all the dirt trails.

On its northerly "shores", the LA river has rebelled against its concrete enclosure and it's actually kinda nice. I see at least one heron every single time I ride by here.

On that note, however, there are plenty of other places I've found to ride that are close. Wilson Canyon with Carie was nice, but it turns out that Placerita Canyon on the north side of the ridge is way better. Sure, it's an exposed steep fire road climb in searing heat (that's just riding in SoCal, you get used to it, and if you're insane like me you learn to love it), but the descent is marvelous. It's not really technical at all, it's just fast, flowing, nicely maintained singletrack. Great berms for railing the turns. Amazing ride, only a half hour drive from home. In all it's a 12 mile loop, so I will probably be doing some 5-7 lap days out there in preparation for the Tahoe Sierra 100. I'm hoping to break 11 hours this year, we'll see.

Even closer is Descanso Gardens, a city park that features a lot more singletrack than it should (and mountain bikes are allowed!). While the loops are pretty short (~3-4 miles, 600ft vert), there are some great technical descents to be had there. There are some hilarious warnings in front of some of these trails; I'll get pictures of them next time I'm out. Even had a kit fox run across the trail in front of me at one point.

On the subject of mountain biking, I am loving the new bike. I am loving it even more since I converted my tires to tubeless. My riding buddy recommended this method to me and I followed it, though I was able to use a floor pump just fine despite their warning. 29er wheels are easier to do this with because you just use 26" tubes, which are plentiful and I already had laying around. All in all it only cost $15 for the sealant. With this, I dropped my tire pressure from 28/30 F/R to 24/26 F/R, and the difference is amazing. I'm riding a fairly low profile, low rolling resistance tire ideal for hardpack, but the things they grip stupefy me. While climbing up 20% inclines through moon dust, I just look down and am in disbelief at the terrain because they grip like they're on pavement. The traction on the way down is allowing my to ride descents without a second thought that not long ago would have made me walk. Cornering is amazing. Part of this is because they're 29er tires and the big footprint helps, but it was a noticeable difference after converting to tubeless. I'm not going back. Plus, with the super low pressure in the front, the ride is very smooth. Not just smooth for a rigid fork, but actually smooth by regular standards. As in 100mm travel fork on a 26" bike smooth. 29er plus tubeless = awesome.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, I've been exploring new trails so I've been paying more attention to where I've been going than trying to get the camera out. I'll get some more as I continue to ride through the summer. In good news, I won't have to spend August in Ohio after all, so my training for the fall mountain biking season will actually happen after all! As it turns out, there is a substantial amount of mountain biking in Ohio, though, which will come in handy next May-July, which I will be spending there.