Monday, 2 March 2015

Santa Cruzin'

Fairfax, Marin – home of mountain biking - gives access to some awesome trails. Mt Tam, Pine Mountain, Solstice and of course, Tamarancho. However, riding here you can’t help but notice there’s a prevailing sense of subtle hostility towards mountain biking as a leisure pursuit. At best, I would say it is begrudgingly tolerated. Any attempt to make multi-use trails more fun for bikers is usually flattened by park rangers or, I suspect, hardcore hikers. Even ‘rancho (a place we each dutifully pay to use and is only suitable for mountain biking) has seen an influx or hikers and trail runners. The final bastion of shredding safe haven has gone as we’re forced again to smile politely as we slow down and pull to one side for cold faced people on foot, snarling at our attempts to simply have fun and enjoy the landscape. Fortunately there is refuge just a couple of hours south - Santa Cruz!. The primary purpose of SC trails seems to be for the delivery of speed and flow with constant opportunities to hit creative lines and rail bermed corners. Man-made features litter the trail and remain untouched – maintained even!  And the non-riders you do see seem to enjoy witnessing our grinning fool faces as we hurtle through the woodland kicking up dust. It’s just shy of one hundred miles away, but in terms of how mountain biking is accepted into the culture, it’s a different world.

I’ve only ridden Soquel Demonstration Forest a couple time before. Each time we’ve been, we’ve vowed to go back as soon as possible, and then it turns into another year or more gap before we actually head down south to ride there. However, even though it’s been a long time coming, we rode it in style this past Sunday. Ten of us managed to co-ordinate our schedules and gather on the periphery road with our steeds, ready for an epic day of shredding.

This post could easily tangent into another love letter to my new Trance. But I shall refrain. However I will say that, thus far, the Trance has exceeded my expectations. From the crazy rockiness of Oat Hill (last week) to the flowey singletrack and many (sizeable) drops and jumps at Demo, my new ride does it all in a silky smooth buttery way that just makes me so happy. I swear I’ve never ridden this fast before. The fact that I’m able to keep up with the likes of Chris and Aaron proves it. Not that that is, in itself,  important. But their speed and radness is a good yardstick to measure my own performance by and, since getting my carbon beauty, I’ve definitely noticed a change in my riding ability. More importantly, the Trance is just so fucking satisfying to ride. Whipping through the trees of Braille and barreling down the new (and epic) flow trail felt amazing. I could feel every nuance of the trail through the bike. Each pump, air and wheel drift giving a real sense of being connected to the dirt. I felt confident diving into corners and pushing harder than I would normally dare – safe in the knowledge that, should things start going tits up, the bike would give me adequate notice and swift correcting input would be rewarded with a continuation of flow (and grins!)

The new flow trail (almost fully opened) is an impressive sight to behold. Miles long, it resembles a slightly smaller bike park trail. We were blessed by the MTB gods who favoured us with a light sprinkling of rain the day before creating perfect trail conditions. Full of banked turns and whoops, the flow trail stretched invitingly before us like a beautiful, dark chocolate coloured magic carpet. The goPro footage seen in the link   >>>HERE<<<  really doesn’t do it any justice. If only my weary quads could’ve given more I might’ve had a better chance of keeping Aaron tighter in frame. As it was I was just about able to hang with the pack. But what a sight we must’ve been! A train of ten dudes on bikes snaking our way through the trees!

We’ll be going back. Sooner than our usual year-long gap I hope. It’s just too good to leave it an annual trip. Until then, I’m excited to take the Trance on familiar trails and see how it performs. Up next – Annadel!

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