Monday, 30 July 2012


After last week's disastrous race at the HMC I was faced with a stark truth : running and riding don't mix. At least not for this mid thirties desk jockey. So.... I decided to can the marathon and focus on the riding. With less than a week to go before Downieville I didn't want to overcook my quads and go into a difficult race pre-exhausted.

With the running race out of the way, I was free to join Dave and Chris for another cheeky Northstar day out! Perfect training for the Dville descents, plus some more warming up ahead of next month's Whistler trip. Awesome!

We spent much of the day hitting our favourite trails ; Livewire and Gypsy. Plus we added in some Big Trees to mix things up a bit. My rental bike had some major brake issues and needed bleeding after the first run. A quick trip back to the shop and it felt much better. But not quite as dialed as I'd like. That's the problem with rentals, they're always a bit knackered. Everytime I go to N* the arguments for investing in a downhill rig become stronger.... Maybe next year.

We had a great day. In fact we rode for a solid 5 hours or so. Dave and Chris were touching clouds and hitting some big features. I followed, for the most part. But I still felt my sense of self preservation keeping me nice and cosy in the comfort zone. Maybe I had the upcoming bike events in the back of my mind. I deliberately eased back to save injury spoiling the goodies to come. Or, more likely, I'm just going at my usual slowly slowly pace of learning. Either way, I need to be hitting those jumps with more confidence if I'm going to get any faster. But I do love hitting the rocky rough stuff. Especially on those big burly bikes. Next weekend I'll be doing much the same but on my trusty Nomad. Downieville here we come!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Grin and Grind It

A couple of years ago I first rode the Howell Mountain Challenge. Fresh from a decent run at Downieville I felt strong and managed a decentesque time of 2:15. This year, the HMC fell a couple of weeks before Downieville. The perfect warm up for one of the race highlights of the year. With a couple more years riding experience under my belt I expected to do better than I did in '010. However, as I readied the Nomad and kitted myself up I felt distracted by the morning sun which was burning strong already. Me, Chris and Spangles had done a China' loop the day before and, although fairly leisurely and early, it had managed to trigger the all too familiar heatstroke headache and nausea. So as I hung around with my fellow Cat 2 riders waiting for the start I felt somewhat queasy in the rising heat. Not good.

As we set off from the start everyone fired ahead. Lost in the spirit of racing and keen to get into a good position. I took a steady launch from the start line (knowing I ride better with a warm up) and eventually caught the throng at the first hike-a-bike section. Heading out of the college grounds we hit a long stretch of fireroad. The perfect way to thin out the masses. After that, some twisty turny trails through the trees. This section was a lot of fun. Constant ups and downs and some tight corners meant gear choice was key to keeping a good click. And it was shaded. I started to feel in the zone as my nausea was lost to the thrill of riding dirt! The wooded section opened up to a fireroad connector to some awesome open singletrack. A little like China Camp's front side flow section, the trails had nice flowey corners and long, fast straights. Plus a few rooty drops and rocks peppered the trail to add interest.

After the turns... came the earns. A short steep climb followed by a long sustained ascent. I managed to stick the Nomad in the granny and grind it out. Slightly cooked, I started to feel under the weather again. The grin inducing flow had masked my below par condition. But now I could feel something wasn't right. As I hit the three roller coaster rocky sections near the end of the first lap, things started to go downhill - in every sense of the word.

The end of the first lap, at the aid station, and I downed as many cups of lovely cool water as I could before I started to drown. And then I emptied them down my back and neck - trying to cool down and reinvigorate my weary state. I almost considered bailing. Almost. I didn't feel great and knew it was going to get worse. But, I cracked on and decided to forget about getting a decent time and just enjoy the trails. However, I steadily felt worse..... My systems didn't seem too bad. No cramping, cardio felt ok. But I was losing the will to ride. Every steep climb defeated me. My mind swam with thoughts other than trying to crush the dirt. My heart wasn't in it and my head was too hot and sore to fight it.

As I reached the last big climb before the end of my second (and last) lap, I played good samaritan to a Cat 1 rider with a puncture and no means to fix it. As he busied himself with my spare tube and pump I was glad of the chance to sit down and gather my frazzled self before the final push. I actually managed the last climb (no great achievement given that in 2010 it barely registered in this blog as a steep climb) but today it felt like a Herculean task. The last mile or so to the end line was almost insane. I could barely manage Sunday stroll pace let alone race pace. Still, I had a lot of fun on the descents during lap 2. The corners were perfect for practicing the BetterRide skills. Open and smooth but a little loose, they dared you to leave off the brakes and use good technique to rail them. Great fun.

I came in around 2:45. Even minus the puncture stop I finished a solid 20 minutes slower than last time. Bah.... Oh well. Maybe it was the heatstroke. Or maybe training for bike races AND the SF Marathon is proving too much for my mid-thirties carcass. Either way, I'll be back to ride the Howell Mountain Challenge next year. Sometimes I compete in races and realise I'd never ride those trails were it not for the atmos and fun of racing. By themselves the trails aren't all that. But I'd happily take the trip to Napa to ride the trails at Angwin on any given Sunday. There's just so much good stuff there to shred. Next year I'll just have to make sure I get a decent rest and a good night's sleep beforehand  :o\

Saturday, 14 July 2012

There Can Be Only One....

Here's Rosson. Stoic. Resolute. Yet somehow elegant as he stands beside his agile slayer. Us mere mortals, those who ride suspension back AND front are instantly crushed by the two stroke prowess of this legend as he powers his nimble steed through the gnar. Leaving us to stare bewildered and in awe at his dust.

What I mean is, Rosson came with us to China Camp and feckin' smoked it on his sodding cyclocross bike. We got there nice and early. Dewey moist and ride perfect cool. I even got some PRs on my favourite descents. But there's nothing more likely to prick the ego than seeing a fella on a curly barred bike with skinny tires fly past you with a grin and a wave....... Good times ;o)

Sunday, 8 July 2012


I'm feeling a bit battle battered after yesterday's Northstar trip. But it's a shame to let a whole day pass without spinning some pedals. So I cruised around the city on the Jackal ; dropping stairs, hopping curbs and lovingly posing the bike against the city's urban art landscape. Joy ;o)

Seeing Stars

There's me and Chris there ; posing with our Giant Glory rental steeds. This weekend we took another trip to Northstar to hit up some DH gnarly goodness. It was Chris's first time at a bike park and a good chance for us both to get prepped for Whistler. Like last time, I shied away from all out aggressive riding. I like my progression on the steep stuff to be steady, controlled and measured. Plus I'm paranoid about injury ruining next month's races. But we had a great time taking on the usual flowey treats that Livewire has to offer. Plus we rode a few of the techy trails like Gypsy and Flameout. Rocks and boulders provide one hell of a workout on a DH rig. We were both blowing hard after a few runs. But I do love riding the rougher, wilder stuff. Feels more like "real" mountain biking as opposed to the groomed fun of Livewire. That's not to say Livewire can't bite though, as I found to my cost.

I started to feel better about the jumps and kept pushing to clear instead of case as many as I could. Just as my confidence peaked, I found myself airborne and on target to land in a tree. Bad line choice and target fixation conspired to wipe the grin off my face in an instant. I managed to abort on landing, missing the tree, but both feet came off the pedals as I hit the NEXT jump. No chance to hit the brakes before I became airborne again. Bracing and wincing I came down both nuggets first onto the back tire, buzzing my nethers and causing the steed to wash out, sending me face first into the dust....  Luckily a torn jersey and bruised pee pipes were all I limped away with. A fair warning that as much fun as this DH lark is, you have to keep on it mentally. These big boy trails don't suffer fools gladly. Still, a great day on the slopes was had and our excitement for the Whistler trip was stoked even more. Good stuff ;o)

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

'Murica Day

Because these Americans like to celebrate their big day properly (by taking a day off work) I had a bonus day of riding this week. I decided to put it to good use and drag my arse up and down Mount Tam to try and build some climbing bombs ahead of next month's Downieville and Annadel races. I tend to avoid Mt Tam in the summer. With all the lush singletrack available elsewhere it seems a waste to hit fire roads. But, shamefully, I'm not that familiar with the trail geography on Tam and it IS the perfect place to train for long climbs. So I mapped out a route that had plenty of verticals, and headed out into a baking hot 4th of July to educate and flagellate myself.

Thankfully, the sun's heat was offset with a lovely cooling breeze. Just as well as my ride ended up being over 5 hours long. Not exactly race pace, but I had to keep map checking to make sure I was en route. Also, it seemed a shame to hit East Peak and not have a sit down with a Twix and a can of fizzy sugar. I'd earned it.

My route ended up being a big figure of eight. Starting at Deer Park, I worked my way up to 5 Corners, then down Shaver Grade to Eldridge. From there, I took the fun, whoop riddled fire road to Railroad Grade..... A steady grind took me past the West Point in, up to East Peak and then back down Eldridge to Bon Tempe lake. I felt pretty good, even though I was rocking flats and by now had 4k of climbing under my wheels. So I continued my plan of hitting Rocky Ridge, then onto Shaver... Then back down to Deer Park. Rocky Ridge is a fun descent, but you earn it with a steep, nasty climb. I started to feel the first twinges of cramp, but a couple of well timed rest stops got me up and over the summit.

A nice, long, dusty ride. Just what I needed and a great way to spend a bonus day off. And it's all money in the bank that will hopefully make D'ville even more enjoyable than it usually is.