Desert Riding Season- a Flyby

I fell in love with riding the Anza Borrego Desert last year. 
Yesterday, I had an opportunity to gain some new perspective on it from the air.

 

Dave extended an opportunity to me to help scrub his dirty bird and take her up for at least a run around the pattern. We loaded up the car with soap, buckets, rags, and all the other accouterments required for the job. Some time later (she was a dirty bird indeed) we found ourselves looking for cooler climes in the sky above. We’d talked about the dirt airstrip at Octotillo Wells… and I told Dave it had been on my Bucket List for about a year, ever since I saw it while scouting the Stagecoach 400 route.

We departed to the south and headed out over Anza Valley. I’d never been over this area before and found myself rubbernecking as fast as I cold absorb it. Flying over Coyote Canyon, I was able to identify familiar areas we’ve explored by bike, and had lights going off in my head.
There’s where that canyon goes!” and “NOW I understand why that trail doesn’t go any further!” came to mind. I also gained a renewed appreciation for the rapid change of climate we have here near Idyllwild, where we can ride from pines and cedars all the way down the sandy desert (some 7,000 ft below) in a matter of a half day.

We flew over Borrego Springs, a near-mandatory restocking point on the SC400 route, and headed out into the open desert. The dirt strip at Ocotillo Wells came into view. I was surprised to see it extended further than it’d appeared to be from the vantage point of a bike. We flew in close to make sure the area was clear of any errant ATVs or debris on the field. Dave commented it was in better shape than he’d ever seen.

We noted the Outside Air Temp and landed uneventfully. I noticed the Iron Door was just up the road… I came to love this place last year as a rider’s first (or last) chance for beer before (or after) riding the 30 miles of Fish Creek Wash.

We deplaned, crossed the street for what I figured would be the obligatory Coke at the store, but only found locked doors. Upon returning, we were visited by a large-and-in-charge RAF Merlin. They flew by closely, circled around behind a hill, and ultimately came back to land in the same field we were departing.

 

I thought that was a pretty cool and rare experience. 🙂

Heading home, I saw a wash that needs to be ridden, probably on a Fat Bike. What’s up there? A Palm Oasis, a promontory with a likely great view, and the promise of new discoveries just over the horizon. I think we’ve got a great Fall and Winter season ahead. We’ll just have to ride and find out.
Any takers?

 

 

 

 

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Darn Tough Socks- a Testimonial

We’ve recently picked up this line of (excellent) socks in the shop. But not before we them through the ringer.

Back in March, Bryan the sales rep stopped by the shop preaching about “these great socks” that he thought our customers would love. Yeah sure, I told him, I’m sure you’ve got some good socks but we’re already covered on that front with other brands.
He told me his socks were better than what we’d had, and he could guarantee it. Darn Tough socks are guaranteed… for life. 

He went on to tell me they’d guarantee the socks against blown out holes in the toes, or the heel for a lifetime. It piqued my interest for sure, and I took him up on an offer to try a sample pair.
Some time passed. A bunch of it. I liked the socks, so much so that I’d begun rotating them though my wash cycle as fast as possible, just so I’d be able to wear them again sooner. I saved them for the Saturday shop rides, and any other big rides I was going out on… scouting runs, bike pack trips, even a few days on the Stagecoach 400. They’d more than proven themselves in terms of comfort, moisture wicking, and durability.

So we decided to bring them in to the shop. For you, our beloved customers. They’re priced on par or maybe just a teeny bit more than the leading high end sock brands. If you’re like me, you may likely switch your entire wardrobe over to Darn Tough socks. Should the need arise, you can bring them here to the shop for warranty replacement. For socks! (I still can’t quite get my head around it)

Here’s to fall, and comfy feet. See you in the shop.

Backcountry Family Experiment: Kokopelli’s Trail

We are heading out on an entirely new family adventure.

This afternoon, the Collier family will depart on Kokopelli’s Trail, a 140 mile trail linking mountain bike towns Fruita, CO to Moab, UT. What’s that you say? Crazy? It might be. But then again, maybe it’s not crazy. It might be a ton of fun.

The jist of it is this: Mary & I (Brendan) will be relaying the ride, taking turns riding and leapfrogging the other rider with our son. We will car camp along the route. We might even ride some of the trail with the kiddo in tow, where the terrain will allow it. We will do our best to keep a businesslike pace on the trail, but be sure to put that on balance with family time in camp.
It’s a grand experiment for us, integrating our family roles with the bike-based adventure lifestyle we’ve enjoyed for so long. We will be taking notes of what works and what doesn’t, and sharing them for other parents to consider.
We have set up a Spot Satellite Tracker Shared Page where you can follow along.

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We will update the blog as we are able to.
We’re leaving Moab now to the Loma start. See you on the other side of the rabbit hole.

-Brendan, Mary, and Alexander.

How Beth Got Her Mojo

Beth & her Mojo: long legged, confident, and attractive.
That’s what she was looking for in a new bike. Enter the Ibis Mojo.

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She was ready to step up from her 4″ travel bike to something that could simultaneously increase her comfort on the trail and boost her confidence in the steeps. She’s a designer by trade, so the aesthetics of the bike were also quite important. When she inquired about the Ibis Mojo SL we had to admit it would be a great match. At 120mm suspension travel with a carbon fiber frame & DW Link suspension, it fit the bill. We wanted a great offering like the Mojo, So we became a dealer.

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We bundled a custom build kit for her and made the magic happen. Starting with Ibis’s own Fox Talas 120/150mm fork, we added a dashing mix of Shimano XT and XTR components. Then we topped it off with a pair of hand built Chris King/ NoTubes Crest wheels, a Thomson cockpit, and Avid BB7 brakes for easy management.

Since we built it up, Beth has ridden all over Palm Desert, Idyllwild, and Tahoe. The word?
Sounds like we made a love connection.

-B

Alpine to Anza…Part 2. The Ferrari Show.

photo credit: Rob Roberts

A Ferrari show. As we were trucking through San Diego, along the Bay, Rob Roberts and I were having one of our usual epic discussions of food and coffee. Mostly coffee. There aren’t many things that would cause us to stop pedaling but coffee would be one of them. If you’ve ever been to San Diego Bay, you know what to expect. Cyclists, walkers, families pushing baby strollers, tourists, lazy Sunday afternoon tourists. As we’re navigating the urban sea of people, what do we stumble upon in the grassy park on the waters edge? A car show featuring dozens of Ferraris of all vintages. We’re talking millions of dollars worth of Italian mechanics wet dreams. And what goes best with Italian cars? Certainly not filthy mountains bikes, but in fact espresso. Yes espresso. Somebody hauled a fully legit espresso maker out onto the grass. So there we were, day 2 into a multi-day ride, jersey pockets stuffed to the brim with burritos that I’m pretty sure we bought out in the desert, and we find our very own baristas. As we were passing the on-going’s, I grabbed two handfuls of brakes and came to a halting stop.

“Are you serving Espresso?!?!”

“But of course! You like some?”

Some things I don’t have to be asked twice about.

This was one of them.

There we were, Rob still clipped into his pedals, me on my green Siren, fully loaded with bike-packing gear, helmets, desert dirt still on our faces, sipping freshly pulled espresso shots in front of a background of million dollar Ferraris.

By now, we’re well caffeinated and on our way north out of San Diego. First we climb into Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve for a quick water re-supply and then turn east back into dirt country. As we’re pedaling and checking maps, we realize it’s getting late, dark is only a couple hours away and we’re probably going to have to bivy someplace before the next planned resupply. A quick check of the Googler and we find a Mickey D’s just off route. Dinner, and breakfast to go it is! Nobody really likes pedaling off route for anything. But the prospect of gnawing off one of Rob’s legs the next morning for breakfast, doesn’t really sit well with either of us.

Off we go. Up a hill, down a hill, over another hill, through the parking lot and into our last re-supply for a while. I love the look on the cashiers face when we’re ordering while out on a bike-pack. 1 chicken sandwich, 1 large fry, 2 chicken nuggets, 2 apple pies and a large chocolate milkshake. I’ll be back in a minute for my to go order.  It’s pedal, pedal, pedal, consume, pedal, pedal, pedal, sleep. Repeat as necessary.

Out of the parking lot with full stomachs and fresh smiles we roll. Never underestimate the morale boost of fast food.

We hit some pretty awesome singletrack in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, right off the roadway.  We cruised through the backwoods of suburban San Diego County for about an hour of fast easy riding. Good times. Just as sundown was upon us we rolled right into what might be some of the funnest trails anywhere. The Tunnel Trails. So perfectly named. You drop into some more killer singletrack that immediately gets into a full canopy of low lying trees. No more sky. Our sky was now low clearance branches to avoid while trying to navigate the intricately twisting trails. This is Hobbit land. And of course, in perfect fashion, the sun had set and we were running full lights. We exit The Tunnels, cross a few roads and it’s back to dirt. This cycle gets repeated another half a dozen times before midnight, when we finally decide we’ve had it for the day. Rob finds us a good stealth bivy site along the trail behind some bushes, but right at the base of a chain link fence. Perfect, that last Mickey D’s apple pie is going to be delicious!

Up right before sunrise, we pack and realize the chain link fence we slept under was the backside of one of the most lavish golf courses either of us had ever seen….

So off we go down the trail. Next up, Lake Hodges. What a beautiful sight. Our approach from the trail brought us up on the other side of the Dam. The dry side of the Dam.

Call me morbid, but I always envision what happens if when dams let go. That’s a lot of water. Next time I’m pedaling through the desert, rationing my water bottles, that’s going to be my new happy place. And on we pedal. More mountains, more valleys, more trails, more dirt roads.

We climbed Lost Valley Road, crossed the Chihuahua Valley into the sunset, and made our descent into Anza where we popped smoke and waited for our extraction from this adventure. As we sat there knocking back a couple of long ago purchased bottles of chocolate milk I could only think of one thing: There are just so many cool trails in this part of the world. Most of them you would never even know existed. More importantly, you would never realize that it’s possible to actually tie them all together.

Of Races and Rattlesnakes….

Life is what happens while you’re making other plans. That’s a truism I’ve believed at times in my life, but after the past 4 days, I’m not really sure what those other plans might have been. What I assumed would be the center point of the weekend was a 12hour race in the desert. 12hr of Temecula to be precise. It’s a fantastic endurance series race here in Southern California that happens three times a year. I’ve raced it before, but this would be my first time racing it under the banner and watchful care of Siren Bikes.

Personally, I may be a bit of an endurance junkie. I love the long miles and the long hours in the saddle. Siren being run by Brendan and Mary Collier, it’s a perfect match. Those two define endurance racing. The short of it was that we came, we represented hard and went home with some medals. In between all of that, Brendan grilled up some kickass carne asada and I seem to recall both of the Brian’s that were in attendance had the foresight to keep enough beer cold and flowing. Races are in fact, cool. If you’re racing on a team, and you’ve got good teammates (as was the case with our Siren 4 person team) you’ll get to put in fast hours and have time to hang out in the pits and soak in the race scene vibe. Hundreds of like-minded people on bicycles. Awesomeness. If you’re a solo rider, like myself, you live for seeing the photographs from after the race. It’s sort of hard to experience anything beyond the suffering and mental anguish of riding your bike in hot, dusty circles for HOURS. The first hour is avoiding the adrenaline surge either by getting out ahead of the pack or hanging back, letting them all burn out fast and then picking them off one by one. By hour two or three, you’ve settled into a groove that will most likely determine your placing at the end of the race. Assuming that you can hang on. Hours four and five you’re able to pick up the pace a little bit, but still in a groove. You know your lines, you know where you like to throw in, where you get to have some speed fun. You also know where to throttle so that you don’t blow up early on the climbs. Because by hour 12, those climbs won’t have gotten any smaller. By hour six to seven, you start wondering why in the world you’re spending your entire Saturday going in circles in a hot, dusty, desert environment? Did I mention hot and dusty? At some point in the heat, food starts to become completely unappealing, which as you can probably figure out, when racing…is bad. I’m pretty sure that I struggled to stay fueled all day on very little besides oranges, bananas and avocados. Yup, whole avocados. And that’s about it. As your brain boils on each and every climb, you keep reminding yourself how thankful you are for avocados and their fatty deliciousness. Hours eight and nine roll around bringing some much appreciated relief from the heat. There is even a sense of relief that it’s almost over, maybe now is a good time to start turning the gas back on. Remember, it’s a bike race? Somewhere between hours ten and twelve that back pain rears it’s head again reminding you that you aren’t quite home free.

Cheers

Photo Credit: Krista Adamek

But who cares? You’ve been pedaling solidly and turning laps since breakfast. What’s a little body pain at this point? You’re handling the bike and probably kicking a lot of ass. Hour twelve is the best. You know it’s the end, somewhere you found a reserve to sprint to the finish. And if you’re lucky enough to have a pit like the one I was racing with….There is someone there to hand you a beer.

Sunday was slow recovery and a drive back home to Idyllwild. I’m pretty sure I spent the day eating ice cream. Monday was also slatted to be a day of recovery, so I took a short spin into town to see Brendan and spin my legs out. While I was hanging in the bike shop, I met a couple of riders who had come up from San Diego. Rebecca Tomaszewski and her friend Bill Fehr. Bill, as it turns out, is from North Carolina. And Rebecca has spent time in the beautiful mountains of NC as well…Oh I’m liking this already…there was going to be much talk about Chicken Biscuits and Fried Okra….As I was in “recovery mode”, but not liking to miss out on a ride with new friends, I grabbed a couple of water bottles and took them out to the Hub Trails. In a word, the Hub Trails are AWESOME. Miles and miles and miles of flowy singletrack, which goes in and out of a light canopy. We hadn’t been on the trail for a single one of those miles yet, when we came flying around the corner into what would be my closest encounter ever with a rattlesnake, and this is where real life started happening. As I was rounding the corner, I saw what must have been at least 5 feet long and 6 inches around crossing the trail less than three feet in front of me. The snake must have noticed me just as I noticed him. It stopped it’s forward progression, pulled back, turned it’s head toward me and let loose the loudest rattle I have ever heard. In that micro-second, I put everything I had into both brakes, thinking I would just lay the bike down so that the bike was between me and the snake and I would make a hasty retreat in the direction I just came. As all good plans go, that wasn’t exactly how it went down. I had two handfuls of brake which somehow sent me into a full on endo TOWARDS the snake. I was closing the gap between me and the snake at what seemed like a much faster rate than if I was still pedaling the bike. The bike was going vertical, with the front wheel down and the rear wheel going skyward, and as it was heading skyward, the rear wheel passed it’s apex and as it was becoming horizontal again, I realized the gap between me and the snake was halved again. So now the bike is tumbling over itself, handlebars spun around backwards, rear wheel getting closer to the snake sooner than the front wheel, and I am somehow still holding onto the bike. In the next micro second, I got my right foot unclipped, over the top tube and started running BACKWARDS towards Rebecca and Bill. The bike was still hurling forwards towards the snake and I was somehow propelling myself in the other direction, all the while, neither of my feet had actually touched the ground yet.

Boy, that snake was pissed. I could almost feel the rattle inside my head. And it was getting louder.
The bike was now on the ground, completely twisted into a position that was unridable, and I was well on my way away from it. Rebecca and Bill were grinning that goofy grin you get the first time you ride new single track. And unbeknownst to them just 10 minutes earlier, they were going to be treated to a floor show by the crazy local.

Photo Credit: Bill Fehr

“Man that was an awesome nose wheelie you just pulled! You ride BMX?” – Bill

“………………”, That was the most I could get out of my mouth.

Dan’s Flat Bar Fargo

This unique Fargo build is for Dan, who will be going LONG with his new ride.

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Dirt road riding and bikepacking is our forte, we helped Dan put some thought into his custom build kit. First off, the Salsa Fargo frame is a proven chassis for this application, carrying its weight long and low, with plenty of provisions for frame bags, racks, and water bottle mounts to keep weight off the back.

From the start, Dan wanted his bike to be based on a flat bar riding position. We settled on the versatile Jones Loop bar, which offers several hand positions for anything from off road use to pavement cruising. The drivetrain is mostly Shimano XT, pared with a set of Paul’s Thumbies shifters, which work great on these bars. They also have the added benefit of a “friction” mode, so the shifters will keep working even if the derailleur is damaged and won’t index.
Stopping duties went to a set of Avid BB7 mechanicals for ease of maintenance, boosted with Odyssey linear cable housing for extra power and modulation.

 

The wheelset is especially nice. We built it up with Shimano XT hubs and NoTubes Flow rims, 36 spokes laced up with DT Competition spokes for durability and stiffness even when loaded heavy. He’s running a set of WTB Nano Raptor tires, known for low rolling resistance and durability.

We finished the build off with a set of bags from Revelate Designs and a frame pack he already had. Regarding Dan’s first ride on it, he said:
“Yesterday was her maiden voyage. I rode mostly dirt and paved roads throughout the national park. 20 miles or so and it was heaven. So smooth and easy to ride. Better than I imagined. One friend offered to buy her on the spot after taking his turn. She really is amazing and THANK YOU.”

 

Coyote Canyon / Bailey’s Cabin Overnighter

We left the Friday punch clock and literally rode off into the sunset. 

Carter, Dave, Joshua, and I left The Hub around 5pm Friday, just as the evening alpenglow was starting to wash over the mountain. We were “out there” in no time.

The evening’s destination was Bailey’s Cabin, a rock house built some 70 years go by cattlemen. It’s in Coyote Canyon, part of the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. The prospect of a roof over our heads was especially alluring on a cold night.

To get there, we charted a route using a minimal amount of asphalt. We climbed a portion of Thomas Mountain and descended into Anza valley. We passed a property we’ve come to refer to as “the chainsaw house.”

Just before we entered the canyon, a friendly motorcyclist rode up alongside us… chatty, he told us about his own mountain bike adventures. He explained to us where he lives, and offered us water and assistance anytime we should want it in the future. (all this while shouting over the sound of his engine, in the dark, riding alongside us)

We dropped into the canyon, lights on, with a sliver of the moon above. Glancing over the edge, all we could see was darkness. A lot of it. We pedaled on down canyon at a good pace, dodging the occasional mouse.

When we arrived at the cabin we got settled, foraged some wood, and enjoyed a small fire. (aka “Caveman TV”) The stars above put on quite a show.

We’d packed food with us from Idyllwild. For future reference, the Grill & Chill sandwiches pack well, as do burritos. 😉

Three of us decided to sleep outside, but Carter opted to keep the resident cabin rat company. Sleep came quickly, and deep.

Day 2

We woke up with the sun around 6am, enjoyed a light breakfast and lamented the fact we had no coffee.

 

We bid our cabin farewell and started our day of riding. The midsection of the canyon is explicitly closed to motorized traffic, so the riding became more technical in sandy wash and rock gardens. The Middle Willows are a bit of an unexpected paradise in this slice of desert; spring fed year round, and canopied in green.

We emerged back on to roads south of the Middle Willows in Jeep territory. The lower section of the canyon wasn’t too sandy, we made great time.

Coming into Borrego Springs, Joshua’s bike suffered a mishap that would keep him one place for quite some time. (broken frame! true story) Thankfully, he had plans for a pick up to catch a flight that evening anyhow. 😉

We feasted on Mexican food and stocked up on high calorie offerings from the store before hitting pavement up Montezuma’s Grade. Not familiar with this climb? It’s as grand and imposing as the name would imply.
The climb really took its toll, we wrapped up our day at the top of the climb in Ranchita and called Mary for a pick up. Though we’d originally planned to ride all the way back to Idyllwild, we were all happy to shoot the breeze with Ranchita locals and explore their community park before getting picked up. We lounged in the grass and even got some new route beta from a local retired firefighter. The next trip won’t be too far off, I’m sure.

By the end of our adventure, we were only gone from home about 24 hours. But it was so good it felt like many more.

Rainy Day on South Ridge

We got out yesterday for a most unexpectedly fun ride.

A fluke snowstorm last week has kept us off the trails a while. So, when yesterday’s shop ride (every Saturday at 8am) got rained out, cabin fever really started to set in. We saw a break in the weather and decided to GO FOR IT. We packed up some rain gear and figured the ride would be a “character builder.”


Dawne took out her new Siren John Henry for a break-in ride

We had some snow left from last week’s storm, mostly in north-facing areas that hadn’t melted yet. The traction was great. The temperature was perfect for climbing.

 

 

 

We passed by an overlook with a view below to town. The sky cleared up nicely as we climbed.


Handsome devil


Fashion statement or footwear faux pas?

On top, we visited the Stone Temple. We were really fortunate to be there during a short window of clear sky, with clouds moving dramatically below.


Silver Fox or Proud Rooster?

 

 

We enjoyed a snack, took in the view (and a little bourbon) up top just before the fog rolled in. Warmed up, we pointed the bikes down hill and had a blast. 

Marlin descends from the Stone Temple as fog rolls in.

We hit some snow patches and slip-slided our way down. It was like being a kid again. Back in town, we rode some little-used back ways, crossed the creek and cruised through town. We were greeted back at the shop with a hot fire. Great Saturday!



 

 

 

 

 

Marin Bikes, California

We’ve become an authorized dealer for Marin Bikes. We’re stoked! 

Marin bikes was founded here in California in the shadow of Mt Tamalpais, where the company is still based today. We’re proud to carry a brand that also flies the California Republic flag. We’re filling out our entry level mountain bike needs with Marin, stocking bikes that can get you rolling on trail without breaking the bank, as well as kids bikes, fitness bikes, and urban use bikes. They offer something for everyone, and a lot of value.

We got set up to work with Marin shortly after this year’s Interbike trade show. Once we’d placed our opening order we made some room in the shop for the new bikes (“nesting” for baby bikes) and eagerly awaited their arrival.


A truck belly full of bikes for us to build up


Zander watches over our order

Nick, Mary (plus Zander) and I spent a long evening assembling most of the bikes that first night. We ordered in some pizza and shared a growler from the Kern River Brewing Company (thanks Craig!) I was impressed with how nicely they went together, and some of the smart component selections on the various models. More on that later.


Bikes, pizza, beer, friends & family. The good life. 


Nick makes some final adjustments to the Palisades Trail 29

We are well stocked to outfit a beginning mountain biker with the Pioneer Trail Disc and Wildcat Women’s Fit, both lightweight, durable bike- trail ready. For the trail enthusiast we’re offering the Palisades Trail 29, with larger 29″ wheels, a 3×10 drivetrain, and hydraulic disc brakes. Also, we have some fantastic offerings for the urban rider, with the Hamilton 29er 2-Speed and the Inverness fixie. Bikes start in the $500 range.

Stop by The Hub Cyclery for a test ride and we’ll help you find the right bike to suit your needs.