Monday, March 04, 2013
Monday, November 12, 2012
How did this happen? How did a bike which delivers one gear, exponentially more pain on climbs, and zero rear suspension become my first choice for fun?
There are a number of reasons, some of which are easier to understand for those who already attend the Church of One True Cog:
SIMPLICITY: The shifting system of modern bikes is precise. It is also heavy, complex, expensive and prone to misfire and even self destruction in mud and weather. I choose to ride this bike frequently in the colder months partly because of its simplicity. After a ride, just hose it off, wipe it down and hang it up.
CHALLENGE: This is the part that non-singlespeeders find most confusing. They shake their heads as they see us standing up, grunting away at climbs on which they can gear down and ascend with relative ease. But here is the thing: I don't want "relative ease". Twenty years into this mountain bike thing, I look for different experiences, including hard ones that test my stamina and determination. I already know that my uber plush bike can zip down rock gardens with ease. Question is: how can I perform without all this technology?
WEIGHT: This point is easiest to understand: the bike is six pounds lighter than my full suspension pig.
TRAINING: When I compare my times on my usual local loops, the singlespeed almost always bring me in faster. Why? Because you have to go faster/work harder on climbs, there is no choice. See aforementioned Challenge section.
My singlespeed does not work well for all rides, I would never take it to Grouse Ridge, nor would I choose it for rides with exceptionally steep, prolonged climbs. But this bike has found a place on my local trails. And in my heart.
See article from last year.
Posted by John at 7:58 AM
Monday, October 08, 2012
The Condon course has a reputation of being very challenging and technical as far as x courses go. The dry weather and late start time for my category left the trail very beat and loose. Sections were like the moon surface, allowing those skinny cross tires to kick up dust and blanket the faces and lungs of racers.
After the start, I quickly settled into a too-fast pace that I could only maintain for two laps. It took some time to acquaint myself with the intensity and speed of everything. I fouled up my first obstacle crossing (too many distracting cowbells) and was too conservative attacking some of the tight turns. But it is OK: I get to be a rookie!
I placed rather poorly (18/24 in B45+), but that I am OK with this. I'd like to blame my time on crashes/handling/mishaps, but honestly, my fitness is not yet up to the standards of my crazy fast SERT/SHOAIR teammates. I am amazed at how you racers can redline it lap after lap!
I have a long term plan to become fast enough to be competitive and it was good to check in and see where I currently stand. I hope to race additional venues in the Sacramento Cross series soon.
THANK YOU: My daughters (who screamed encouragement on every lap), Duane Strawser (who put in many hours making this terrific event happen), volunteers and everyone who cheered me on.
Posted by John at 9:47 AM
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Because of original restrictions on design, the bridges are tough to navigate for cyclists and trail users with strollers. Under Eric's direction, the volunteers worked to widen the entrances of the first bridge. Soon, they will continue to do the same for the remaining two wooden bridges on this popular trail.
Eric Newman is an excellent contractor, in addition to coaching the NU team and being an all around great guy. A big shout out to him and Terry Hundermer of BONC who coordinated to make this happen.
Posted by John at 11:26 AM
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
The NUT is arguably one of the best trails in the Western United States. It snakes along the North Umpqua River in dense forests of Douglas fir in central Oregon for over 60 miles. It is a mountain biker's dream: challenging climbs, technical sections alternating with fast flowing ones, incredible scenery and switchbacks that are ridable. All with great camping and swimming nearby.
Here is the thing: the NUT is great for ALL kinds of non-motorized users. Hikers, equestrians and cyclists alike can enjoy its entire length without having sections segregated by either trail design or closure. No one is excluded by the demands or preferences of another group.
Rather than mountain bike specific trails, it often makes more sense to advocate for trails that are mtb friendly. This means trails which include features enjoyable to mountain bikers, but not at the expense of other trail users. These features include berms which are not crazy off-camber, navigable switchbacks, grades which exceed 10% for only short periods, turns with open sight lines where possible and choke points that calm speed before a blind corner.
I've seen many trails which follow these conventions that are MUCH more fun to ride than certain mtb-specific trails, which are often over-built with mechanized equipment that make them ride like pavement. Having said this, I have ridden and enjoyed well built mtb-specific trails. The Fruita and Grand Junction area offers such trails, including Holy Cross and Freeride. Note that these particular trails rely more on existing terrain and onsite building materials to make them special, not an earth-leveling dozer.
Don't get me wrong: a properly built mtb-specific trail can offer a fun experience. I just don't think it should be the default ask of mountain bikers. Put the shoe on the other foot: what if you were a cyclist interested in an exciting new trail but local equestrians demanded it be designed with only horses in mind (wider trails, extended steep grades, perhaps gravel surfaces, etc.) it might come off as a bit selfish.
It takes a large volume of support from a community to build legal trails, often more than the local bike contingent can deliver. Many people need to unite to make it happen and only a few people are needed to derail it. Rather than pitching for a trail geared for only one user group, it is a more attractive offer to build a trail that works well for everyone, including cyclists. With this approach, we can get more trails on the ground and more options for cyclists to ride in the local trail inventory. Which is the best possible outcome of advocacy.
Posted by John at 11:19 AM
Monday, July 23, 2012
Recently, I had the privilege of hiking the Orene Wetherall Trail. Thanks to the Bear Yuba Land Trust, this trail is now a complete loop which begins off the Cascade Canal on Banner Mountain. The trail meanders down into the beautiful Woodpecker Preserve, which is protected open space managed by the Land Trust.
As someone who has volunteered to build and maintain many local trails, I am struck with the challenge successfully met by constructing this trail. Like many areas of Banner Mountain, the terrain is highly irregular and quite steep. As with the Hirschman’s Trail, historical mining activity can make planning trails on local lands quite complex. The resulting Wetherall trail route is thus very twisty and narrow as it winds its way through the preserve. The Land Trust trails program did a great job creating a trail that is fun to hike and bike while not too steep for either activities. Plus, trail users get to experience first hand the varied wildlife and plants featured in the preserve.
The Cascade Canal is a very popular destinations for trail users who seek out its beautiful vistas, forest shade and pretty canal water. The Land Trust has expanded this wonderful destination for the community by providing connectivity to the Wetheall loop, which unlike the canal trail offers a bit of climbing and descending. The Land Trust plans even more trails in this general area, so stay tuned for details!
Posted by John at 12:00 PM
Monday, July 16, 2012
My love affair with Grouse began on my mountain bike seventeen years ago as I tackled its relentless rocky trails. But like all exceptional networks, it is often best enjoyed on foot where you can take in its beauty at a slower pace. With this in mind, I set off yesterday with my border collie on a trek between Grouse Ridge itself and the Black Buttes.
The hike itself is a 7.5 mile journey out and back. I decided to scale the broken rock of the stunning buttes above Glacier Lake to take in the exceptional views atop this 8K foot set of peaks. It is a short, somewhat strenuous ascent, but well worth the investment once you absorb the 360 degree views from the Tahoe Basin to the Sacramento Valley and beyond.
I noticed that the Forest Service and Eagle Scouts teamed up to place desperately needed signage at trail junctions in the area. BONC and IMBA plan a weekend of riding and trail maintenance starting on September 14th. All this is wonderful, as Grouse never quite gets the volunteer attention it deserves. All things considered, I think it is the far and away the best trail network in our area.
Posted by John at 10:07 AM