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.

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