Monday, 5 December 2011

Soquel Demonstration Forest

We're well into December  now and the final ride of the year (in Cali' at least) came and went this weekend. Almost hard to believe another year of Northern California riding has come to a close. And what a great year it's been. I've had a few injuries, surgeries and a long stint on the east coast. Time away from the bike that simply fueled the fires of my passion for the dirt and made the riding all the more sweeter. We also got to experience Whistler for the first - and definitely not the last - time. And whilst the racing was sparse, what I managed to partake in was awesome. This year's Downieville was so epic I still get chills thinking about it.

This Sunday we took to trails new, and I took the Nomad back to it's spiritual home - Santa Cruz. The fellas at Big Swinging Cycles closed shop for the day and lead a caravan of bike laden vehicles down the coast to check out 'demo (Soquel demonstration forest.) I've heard of this popular place before and have always been curious about it. But I've neglected to check it out as it seems Santa Cruz is best ridden with people who already know where the gems are. So this was a great chance to ride some gnarly trails and get the maximum fun out the day with people who know the place well.

20 odd riders strong, we climbed road, then single track to the trailheads. We started on the Pig and Bacon trails. Steep, twisty and covered in leaves and debris from the recent storms. These trails were a challenge. Fun, but hard to really let go and shred as the front wheel kept washing out as it fought for grip on the trail shrapnel. After another climb, we hit more solid dirt - Ridge. Steep but tacky with some fantastic single track and rutted, rocky sections to test the mettle. I've been getting my mojo back recently after the ankle injury and this was a good reaffirmation that I can tackle the gnarlier stuff and enjoy it. Awesome!

After we climbed the fireroad once again to the trail heads, we hit our final descent - Braille. Known for it's steep, fast, burmed and super flowey singletrack, Braille is also littered with free ride features that invite the brave to sample. I chose to be cautious on the bigger drops and jumps. Not knowing exactly what the landing is like, or how far away it is, always freaks me somewhat. So I took it easy and vowed to come back and session the trail some more. But the large drops and rooty sections were a fantastic test of the Nomad's 6 inches and my own willingness to grin, hold on, and try to ease off the brakes.

Santa Cruz is known to have burlier, gnarlier and beefier trails by Marin standards. 'Demo is a prime example. I can't wait to go back and ride some more of it's delights. I bought a trail guide book on the way home. Turns out we barely scratched the surface.... Looks like I'll be taking the Nomad back there a few more times when I return from my England xmas trip :o)

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