Monday, 29 November 2010

Turkey Jerkey

As a signed-up vegetarian I can't quite appreciate the whole thanksgiving turkey eating fest these 'mericans enjoy each year. UNLESS it involves a collective jaunt up a mountain - on bikes! So this year me, Spangles, Rosson, Aaron and Lee met up with a few hundred other like-minded folks on a cold and frosty Thursday am in Fairfax. The plan was to ride up and around Mt Tam taking in sections of the Pine Mountain loop and finishing with a spirited descent down the infamous Repack trail. Thus committing to history the 35th Annual Appetite Seminar, or Turkey Ride as some call it.

Wrapped in thermals and full of coffee, we left the Java hut around 8:00am. The whole thing is definitely not a race. More a regular ride with buddies, where you stop every now and again to chat, eat Cliff bars and take in the view/cough up a lung. Except there's about 3 or 4 hundred other people all doing the same thing, on the same trail. Excellent! Starting up the Bollinas Fairfax road we eventually hit the Pine Mountain loop trailhead. The climb was cold and hard. Lee and Aaron set a good pace from the off. Me and Spangles, being slightly older, creaked up the hill until we hit sunlight and the blood started to thaw. From there, I can't recall exactly what trails we did. Some I remember from riding Pine Mountain before. Others were new. But along the way we saw riders and rigs of all shapes and sizes. Retro bikes, clearly more used to commuting, sharing dirt with state of the art carbon beasts. Everyone joined in the common pleasure of hitting the trails with great company in the crisp NorCal air.

After 20 miles (or thereabouts) of peanut buttery mud and rocky climbs, we hit the legendary Repack trail for a fun, roller coaster descent back to Fairfax. I won't go into the history of the trail here. Click on the name for a link to googlepediard and learn all about it. Anyway. With hydraulic brakes and dual suspension - not to mention helmets being de rigueur - Repack is basically a steep fireroad by modern trail standards. But its a lot of fun. Twisty turns, tight corners and big ruts mean you really do have to keep your wits about you. Especially when sharing it with a few dozen other locals. By the time we hit the bottom of Repak our disks were smoking and our faces grinning. Those old hippies from back in the day earning a little more respect from those of us with fancier toys to play with.

The long weekend was rounded off by a ride up and down Mt Tam with Aaron and Scott. Luckily we rode mainly fireroad trails. My brain, pickled in alchopops from the night before, couldn't do technical without inevitable spillage. But we rode some stunning trails that I haven't done before. Fast, sweeping, lots of jumps. And the inevitable stunning views that never fail to impress whenever you take the mellow climb up Tam. The weekend's riding was a great way to end November and definitely the start of a new annual tradition on my biking calendar!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Annadel 11/10

Sunday the 14th November and we were blessed with a gloriously sunny day. The rains, which had blighted riding over the past few weeks, had left the trails tacky and dust free. Perfect riding conditions. So me, Spangles and Chris loaded up Jason's Scooby with bike goodies and headed north to Annadel. We met Rich and Jamie there and hit the dirt for a day's shredding.

We did our usual route of climbing Canyon and Marsh. We then decided to take Lawndale, climbing out along Schultz back to South Burma. For some reason we managed to get a little lost and missed South Burma. But we ended up riding some of Ridge trail instead which was fine. Its been a while since we'd ridden Ridge and I'd forgotten how much fun it is. Heading back down Canyon, after a solid four hours (and 26 miles+) in the saddle, we left totally satisfied and completely knackered. Perfect. A real back to basics ride. No training for a specific event. No worrying about technique or critique. Just me, good friends and a gorgeous, sunny Norcal day on the trails. That's not to say it was a relaxed ride. Spangles, like a mountain goat, kept a blistering pace on the climbs. And both he and Chris rip the descents. And you know what? I kept up - for the most part anyways. Focusing more on the fun and the moment and the joy's of riding meant I actually rode better than I have in a while. My cornering and descending was more fluid and I hammered the rocky stuff. It felt great. Just what I've been needing! Oh, and on one of the many climbs, we made a pact to do the Leadville 100 in 2012.......... Watch this space!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Bike Skills 2.0 - Celia Graterol Clinic

In continuation of my back to basics bike skills discipline, I started to look around at clinics. Google pointed me to Celia Graterol's website (link HERE) After reading one glowing testimonial after another I decided to sign up. I wanted to join those beaming people who's MTB lives had been improved at the hands of this Marin legend. So, after an introductory chat over the phone we arranged to meet at China Camp for some drills and practice. This was to be a precursor to a more downhill intensive session at Pacifica.

We started the session by climbing up to the Nike missile pad to session the drops there. Celia went over the physics of downhill riding and how these can be used to keep the bike in control on steep sections. Keeping control means there's no panic so you can ride with confidence. I've sessioned these drops before, but have always rolled to the edge, put faith in the bike and the big, flat open area at the base of each drop and held on. Good for the grin factor but not proper downhill technique. So we focused on keeping the bike under control ; getting the weight over the back wheel and feathering the brakes to control speed. In particular using the front brake's power to modulate speed whilst anchoring the rear with body position to prevent spillage over the bars. Sounds simple, but on a steep descent its a tough discipline. But keep your faith in the physics of it and you should be ok. So that's what we worked on. Progressively hitting each drop and applying the same, controlled, technique. It did feel good to ride the drops feeling like I was actually riding them, not just rolling down them and using the flat bottom to save me. We then went over some drills - manuals, drops, bunny hops etc. All good stuff and the type of skills I don't practice enough. So it was good to work on the fundamentals for a bit.

The rest of the session was spent exploring China Camp's dark side. The regular trails are often described as been quite tame compared to others in the area. However, hit the backside of China Camp and the terrain is an entirely different beast. With names like "Hitler", you get an idea of what to expect. I've ridden some of them before, with mixed success. Having Celia coach me through was fantastic and allowed me to clean sections I would have previously walked. Where necessary we'd stop and session a section until I either got it, or got a better understanding of what I need to practice.

We finished the ride by hitting the 7/11 trail. Those that know it will know why it is named so. The entrance to the trail is awesome. Celia told me to pick up speed and just follow her. Riding down Heart Attack Hill (or the Dyno as others call it) Celia veered to the right, up a near vertical bank! A grin hit my face as I followed, up and over, to the trail head. The 7/11 trail is truly awesome. A hidden gem. Twisty turny single track and steep sections with drops and roots. I put everything into practice as I followed Celia down the trail and started to feel the flow in my riding which has been lacking over the past few weeks.

Having recently done the Bikeskills downhill clinic at Northstar, I knew the leaps and bounds possible from spending time with the pro's. But having focused, one on one attention makes a big difference. Celia quickly assessed my ability and we rode appropriate trails. Taking me to the edge of my comfort zone to make progress, but never out of my league. So the whole experience was extremely satisfying and rewarding. I learned a lot. I'm already looking forward to the Pacifica session. In fact I bought a new full face helmet and body armor in anticipation!