Mar 19

Redlands Strada Rossa Ride 2017

After much anticipation, the Redlands Strada Rossa ride finally came around on March 18, 2017.  Aside from having one of the coolest names ever for a ride, it features a variety of both on and off road riding which is a format that I have always wanted to ride at an organized event. The name, Strada Rossa, means red road in Italian. I presume the red is a reference to the Redlands venue. I had never ridden in that area before and I was excited about riding some new trails. And to cut to the chase, the ride was everything I hoped it would be. And I had some pretty high hopes for this ride.

 

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
08:14:54 05:54:55 56.11 9.48 33.33 4,747.38
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

The event was an hour or two hour drive from home, starting at 8am on Saturday. So I splurged and got a cheap motel room near the event so I would not have to get up at 5am and rush out the door. Cheap motels can be adventures in themselves. The one I stayed at featured the often hyped “continental breakfast”. Although to their credit, they did offer something I had never seen before:

Seriously, all you had to do was press a button and a pancake like thing would pop out of one end of this machine a minute or so later. You did not have to add batter or anything.

I can’t say I will miss it if I never see one again. I ate the thing that came out. The parts of it that I could get unstuck from my paper plate, anyway.

The organizers of the event published their routes as GPX files, kudos to them for that, and more on that later. Using Google Earth Pro (not plain old Google Earth, mind you) and some editing software I whipped up a flyover animation of the ride. I shared it on the event Facebook page and it was well received. I think the only people that watched it to the end were me and riders wanting to visualize the route.

The ride itself was aimed at more advanced riders and that was a good thing. Let’s just say it is not a “fun for the whole family” kind of event. The off road riding was technical. There was plenty of climbing, a few hike a bikes, steam crossings, a nice assortment single track and fire/gravel roads, and lots of short sandy sections to be negotiated. I would not describe the course overall as sandy, but if you could not handle a few pedal strokes of loose sand you would have gotten off of your bike a lot.

Hardly any of the road ride sections had a bike lane, and a few sections really didn’t have much room for bikes at all. But they were in quiet neighborhoods or on lightly traveled country roads. Overall the route had the feel of being made for riders with a sense of toughness and adventure which I enjoyed thoroughly.

It was also operated on a shoestring budget compared to some of the big rides I have done. The organizers did an impressive job and made the most of their resources, providing us riders with great rest stops, nice sag support, and an after event meal and beer. The only criticism I have, and I make this with some trepidation because I don’t want to take anything away from such a great event, was the accuracy of the GPX files. The course was well marked with arrows and stickers on the ground in addition to GPX files. It was clear they made the GPX files by having someone ride the course. But the course got updated after that and the GPX files were not updated, so the GPX file and the ground markings sometimes did not agree with each other. I made a few wrong turns but figured them all out within a few hundred feet. The situation could be fixed by editing the GPX files. The organizers shared the files on ridewithgps.com (call it rwgps), which is my favorite site for this kind of thing. rwgps has a great editor and route mapper built in. You can edit or construct GPX files without having to ride the whole course over again. They shared the files directly on rwgps rather than mailing out copies of the files (which is the right way to do it) so they could have updated the files up to the very end. They were so close to being perfect about it, and in the end it was a small thing and did not matter that much.

The starting line

As for my ride, I chose the 60 mile option. They offered 30, 60 and 90 mile rides. 30 miles was not that much more than I usually do, but 60 miles looked like it might take me more time than the event was scheduled for. So I decided to go for 60 and cut the course a little if needed. It was a ride not a race, after all.

Sag Stop 1

The weather report was for highs in the 80s. Not super hot, but I knew I would have to pay extra attention to hydration and sunblock. I started at the back of the 60 mile group and sure enough they slowly pulled away. By the time I got to the first steep climbing I had the feeling of being out there all alone, but knowing all the while I was part of an event. It was a great way to experience a new area. On my first big descent I did a run away endo, meaning I was able to jump off the bike and run away from it. But my stem did not fare so well: it got rotated slightly. I decided to wait until the first sag stop to fix it. The stop had a mechanic there who did a fine job. The sag stop featured smoothies, too, which were great on a hot day.

The first of many gorgeous vistas

If you have ever tried to capture a picture of a great view, you know how futile it is. But I tried anyway. The ride opened up to awesome green vistas of canyons and valleys, the nearby mountains still had snow on them, and the trails seemed to go on forever.

Somewhere before Sag Stop 2 a friendly rider pulled up next to me and asked me what distance I was riding. The 3 rides overlapped a lot and I was in a section where riders might be doing any distance. When I told him I was doing the 60 mile, he told me very nicely that I was on the verge of the “cut off” time, meaning that if I kept up my pace I might return as the event was shutting down or miss the festivities. More importantly they wanted to account for all the riders and their safety. Rather than waiting forever for stragglers or injured riders to make it back, they proactively swept the course for these problems.

I had anticipated this and had a few course cuts in mind. The end result was I cut off 7 miles out of 63 and 600 feet of climbing out of 5300. It was a perfect size and challenge for me, I don’t feel bad about cutting out a couple of sections. Next year I think I will do the 60 mile option again but start with the 90 mile group. And be faster.

The big unrideable crossing. The organizers said it could be walked across though, otherwise I may not have even tried that.

A view of Greenspot Road bridge and Sag Stop 4 from high above.

Greenspot Bridge is a lovely throwback to a simpler time.

Greenspot Bridge used to be on Greenspot Road. Pretty shocking, I know. It was replaced by a much wider, modern bridge just a few hundred yards away. I bet the old bridge is too old to safely handle car traffic now and it is closed to cars. But it is fine for bikes. The remainder of the ride was a mild descent across a flood plain and back to the industrial park where it all started. The start/finish line was a little place called Ritual Brewing, a gracious host that set up the back parking lot for finish line festivities. Included in th cost of registration was a t shirt, an excellent craft beer and a generous meal. And a great ride.

I introduced myself and joined a group of riders I did not know while I ate. The guy sitting on my left started talking like an industry insider so I asked him a little about himself. It turns out he was Dave Turner, founder and namesake of Turner Bikes, whom I have been a fan of forever. Dave’s name and reputation preceded him, but he is not the kind of person that gets his picture out there much. He was super authentic and interesting and if I had not interrogated him a bit I would have never known who he was. Just one of the surprising things that can happen to you at an event like this.

Dave Turner of Turner Bikes

And finally the Relive.cc version of my ride. They have added some nice new features lately. But since I have my own version of a flyover at the top of the blog I saved this for the end. The next event I have planned for is the MS Bay to Bay ride this fall. At this point I am thinking that the Big Bear Century might fit in nicely, I did it once before and really liked it. I will see how I feel as that date approaches. And of course, the Strada Rossa again next year.

Feb 24

Vultures, An Opsrey And A Cutthroat Overnighter

All of this much needed rain we have been getting in California continues to reek its own special havoc with outdoor activities. Cyclists here are not used to dealing with rain, so when I ride in a light rain there are very few cyclists to be seen, even during peak riding times. I don’t think it is a coincidence that it is the Wicked Witch of the West that dissolves and dies when she gets hit by water in the land of Oz. Had she been the Wicked Witch of the Southwest the analogy would be even better. But my trusty new-ish Salsa Cutthroat and I have been braving the rain and mud (where it won’t damage trails) whenever possible.

“Old Man’s” beach is never empty like this. Never. Except when the dirt access road is closed. The only cyclists that pass this way are roadies, and they never come down here even when the road is NOT a giant mud bog. A drop bar mountain bike on the other hand got through the slop just fine.

These fenders are too small, but they work. The off road options at San Onofre are mostly gravel road beds and were in fine shape even after some rain.

The rain was forecast to let up for much of President’s Day weekend, and I decided to take advantage of the day off by doing an overnighter camp trip from Sunday to Monday, staying at the very urban San Elijo State Beach campground, which offers a “hike or bike” campsite. It is only ten bucks a night, no reservations needed and they never turn anyone away.

Here are my usual graphics of the ride. One of each type for each of the two days of the ride:

 

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
04:17:22 03:57:20 44.19 11.17 30.42 1,486.22
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.
Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
04:58:19 03:51:43 43.74 11.33 31.99 1,332.02
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

After leaving the neighborhood by way of an optional new climb, I arrived at San Onofre State Beach, greeted by this welcoming committee:

These critters are bigger and uglier than they look in the picture.

The flying one says to the one on the ground: “The bikers are coming, Bill! Leave the road kill behind!”

But Bill turns out to be pretty resourceful. So THIS is why we don’t see much road kill around here. And yes, of course, YUK!

The route leaves San Onofre and heads to Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, which I love riding across. Part of the route is a dedicated bike trail, some of which is the old highway surface that predates the nearby I-5 freeway. It also provides the Marines access to a helipad that is used for training exercises. By this point in the ride you are long past any services or civilization. There is an unobstructed view from the inland hills to the ocean. The coastal sage ecosystem had turned green and was flowering after all the rain. So it was a sharp contrast to the scenery when I came acrosss this parked next to the bike trail:

A sick bird.

It had quite a crew tending to it.

Apparently one of the “helicopters” had not fared so well. For those of you not familiar with this aircraft, it is a unique beast called the “Osprey” tilt rotor. They can take off, land and hover like a helicopter. While they are in the air they can rotate the rotors convert from a helicopter into a prop plane and back. They operate in the area but they are a rare sighting, so getting to see one up close like this was a real treat. It was covered with Marine mechanics, clearly working feverishly to get the big bird back in the air.

The ride from there continued along coast highway toward San Diego. I was worried I had left too late and would arrive at the campsite after dark, which I have done way too many times. But I arrived with daylight to spare, albeit not much.

I made it in time for a sunset.

My trusty steed.

I set up camp and made a concoction of Idahoan potatoes, leftover chicken from home and dried veggies which I had rehydrating all day while I was riding. I like to practice being self contained for more remote rides in the future. I do my best to pretend that I am roughing it. But if anything were to go wrong in a place like this I would simply ride my bike to one of the dozens of excellent restaurants, bike shops, or convenience and sporting goods stores that line coast highway. I did give in and buy some wine. Which, by the way, was too much for me to finish in one evening.

It may not be saying much, but it did taste better than it looks.

Breakfast came out looking a little nicer I think.

I love camp cooking. And eating. It is a big part of the fun of bike touring for me.

This was an out and back ride, not a loop. So it was back along the coast, stopping for supplies.

You know you got the right bike when you get excited whenever you look at it. The Cutthroat was made for this kind of ride and looks right at home.

Backtracking meant I got to see if the Osprey was still there. They were still working on it. Maybe they where having a hard time getting parts.

It was more disassembled than yesterday.

For the final leg of he journey, after several weeks of rain and clouds, the sun made a glorious appearance along the coast.

The train does come right down on the sand along here.

This is a popular surf beach. Competitive events are held in this area every year.

Did I mention the sun came out?

This overnighter started by riding out of my garage, and ended with me riding back up to it. It was a great success. I finally made a checklist for my rides, and this time I did not forget anything. It was amazing. And my new bike impressed. It not only bore the burden of all of the gear, but it remained a lively, solid platform while doing it. All of my other bikes, including my “light tourer”, exhibit a little flex while loaded if you stand up and pedal hard up a hill. Not the Cutthroat. Much to my delight, I stood on the pedals and the front stayed planted and the bike turned my pedal power into forward momentum instead of using my energy to wag the back half of the bike in a different direction from the front. And this is a carbon frame and fork, so it has a smooth lively ride and is reasonably lightweight. And most important it is red.

I am running out of local campgrounds to venture to. My next overnighter may be a little farther afield, or it may be a rerun. Time will tell.

 

Jan 29

After The Rain Comes Sun

The last few weeks have brought a series of badly timed rainstorms to southern California. Don’t get me wrong: we need the rain. We need it epic bad. But the pesky storms have been blowing through on the weekends. And while rides were possible, they had to timed just right to avoid the rain, or you had to be out in the rain. I did my fair share of rainy rides, mostly on the road. Off road riding options get very limited during the rain. Most wilderness areas around here close during and after the rain for a few days, and for good reason.

For those of you not familiar with our soil here, it is mainly some combination of three things: clay, sand, rocks, and clay. And a little extra clay thrown in for good measure. Forget loam, it ain’t happening. The Loam Ranger is a frustrated rider in these parts. If you have never had the experience of riding in wet clay, count yourself lucky. The clay we have is like cement that sets the moment it hits your tires. With each rotation of your tire the clay ads another generous layer on top of the last layer, which has not gone anywhere, thank you very much. Obviously this can only go on for a couple of tire rotations, then the stuff packs out to your stays and refuses to come off. And you stop. Not just because your tires weigh 50 pounds, which they do. You stop because your spokes all snap, your rim tacos, and your nipples explode. On your wheels, too. And if you look behind you at your tracks, you will see a trail that is damaged because you just sucked a giant deep track of clay out of it and messed it up bad, possibly for the rest of the season. To add insult to injury, clay is largely waterproof. Water does not seep through it into the ground. It stays on the surface. If a grade does not allow the it to drain off, the water just stays there and laughs at you until evaporation finally gets rid of it. So it takes a couple of days after the rain stops until trails can be ridden without damage again.

And that is where this ride comes in. The rains had finally subsided for long enough for the clay to dry out, wilderness areas reopened, the sun came out, the winds mostly died, and it was back to California weather as usual. Except for all this weird wet stuff everywhere:

My ride had me crossing streams like this all day. They are not as scary as they might seem to the uninitiated, I got better at reading them as the day went on. Speaking of the route here it is:

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
04:44:58 03:16:49 25.41 7.74 29.75 2,824.80
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

I signed up for a web site called “relive.cc”. They make these cool animations of your rides. Check it out, I am pretty stoked about getting these. I don’t know if they will stay up forever or if they will have to include advertising in the future, and all the usual concerns you have over cool new free web sites:

The ride started right off with a taste of what I was to see all day: ruts. Big ones, little ones, ruts with water, ruts with rocks, unpredictable ruts that zig zagged everywhere. Still better than the best day at work, but…ruts.

The rain brought green to southern California almost instantly. And lots of it. The drought has been going on so long I had forgotten what was supposed to be green and how wonderful the landscape looked with it. I had begun to accept that year round brown and gray was the norm. Heck, there is even water in the reservoir.

I stood on this ridge for a long time watching a huge vulture glide all over the place without flapping its wings once. It started below me, which is always amazing to me: watching a bird fly from above the bird. Sorry, no vulture pic. It was enormous, black, oddly graceful and butt ugly. There, you don’t need a pic of the bird now.

After watching the vulture from above, it was time to drop into this, which was even more fun than it looks.

For every fun drop in, there is an equal and opposite climb (shuttling excepted). Actually, no scratch that. Newton’s laws do not apply here. You descend fast and climb slow, so the climb is not equal and opposite. It just ain’t fair.

The climb up Borrego Canyon Trail and Mustard Road (below) was changed dramatically by the rain. It parallels a riparian stream most of the way. Obviously, the stream had water flowing down it on this ride. It had changed course, overflowed, and carried away topsoil all over the place. In a few places the stream ran down the middle of the trail. In other places it deposited deep sand across the trail. In still others it created ruts that were up to 5 feet deep. I don’t think they call them ruts anymore when they get that big, do they?

The climb up Mustard Road ends with an unrelenting 9-15% grade from hell shown in this pic below. It may not look that steep in the pic, but it is, take my word for it.

I headed back to the start, passing again through O’Neill Regional Park, and I came upon a photo shoot. So what did I do? I did a photo shoot of the photo shoot, of course. You see some of the most unexpected things in the wilderness sometimes:

The erosion from the rain did a lot of strange things, but none of them topped this. This rock flow used to be a smooth fast fire road. Clearly the rain had flowed straight down the road and washed away the top soil, leaving just the rock foundation. It was like having x ray vision. But bumpier. This must be how they make dirt roads so they have decent drainage in spite of our clay soil. It works great until it rains too much. I expect it will be repaired soon.

I treated myself to some Mexican food at Casa Ranchero in Ladera Ranch. I have heard it is important to get protein right after a big ride. What better way to get protein than at a Mexican restaurant, right? I highly recommend this place. I had the best beef taco in a combination I have ever had. And I have had a few. And the service was great. The free wi fi did not work though. But when you have a beef taco that good, who cares?

Dec 04

A Wide Range 2×11 Drivetrain

I recently modified a mountain bike that came with a 2×11 drivetrain. It was nice, but I wanted a wider gear range. The end result was a 10/42T 11 speed cassette paired with a 40/24T 2x crankset. I can hear the cries already: “A 24×42 granny gear? That’s madness!” “You will never get shifting to work with that!” “What do you need gearing like that for?” Well it is not as crazy as it may sound.

front

The crankset was originally 36/24T. Now is it is 40/24T.

All I want to deal with in this blog is gear ratios. I am going to look at two things: the ratio of the front to rear gear teeth. i.e. for every rotation of the crank, how many times does the rear wheel rotate? By looking at those numbers we can compare 1x, 2x and 3x drivetrains on level ground. I also want to take one other thing into account, and that is the difference in diameter of the wheels. 29er wheels increase gearing vs 26″ wheels. How much? This is where gear inches come into play. Gear inches are how far the bike moves forward with a single revolution of the crank. Sound familiar? So we can use these two numbers together. More on this later.

Let’s start with a baseline: the classic drivetrain that was the standard of mountain biking for years until 2x, 1x and 29er’s entered the scene. And that is the following: a 3×9 drivetrain with a 11/34T cassette and a 22/32/44T crankset on a 26″ wheels. Here are high and low gear ratios:

High gear: 44/11 or 4.0
Low gear: 22/34 or .647

You can also calculate a range by dividing the high by the low numbers

Range = 4.0/.647 = 6.18

i.e, the high gear is 6.18x higher than the low gear. What good are these numbers? By themselves not much, we still have more number crunching to do. But with just this we can look at that range and compare it to a 1x drivetrain. Sram’s newest 1×12 drivetrain has a range of 500% since the cassette is 10/50T. The baseline 3×9 has a range of 618%. To put it another way, in order to get the same range in a 1x drivetrain, you would need a 10/62T cassette.

rear

The rear was originally 11/32T. Now it is 10/42T.

As for the 2×11 combo that I put together:

High gear: 40/10 = 4.0
Low Gear: 24/42 = .571
Range: 4.0/.571 = 7.0

I don’t think a 10/70T or a 9/63T cassette is coming out anytime soon, so if you want a range like this you need to go 2x, at least for now.

Let’s have another look at wheels. Gear inches are a function of the circumference of the tire, which in turn depends on the diameter. Circumference is pi times diameter, if you remember your geometry. But since we are going to divide the numbers, we can use just the diameter. The new ISO diameters are the best numbers to use. For 29ers, the diameter is 622mm, for 26″ it is 559mm. So 29ers increase gear inches compared to 26″:

622/559 = 1.11

rim

29er rims are 622mm at the bead. Not to be confused with the ERD of 605mm.

In other words, if the gearing is the same on a 29er and a 26″ bike, the wheel diameter would give the 29er 11% higher gearing. If we want to compare the 3×9 above to the 2×11, we should increase the gearing on the 2×11 by 11% giving us:

High gear: 40/10 = 4.0 x 1.11 = 4.44
Low Gear: 24/42 = .571 x 1.11 = .634

The range is unaffected. So while it may not seem like it, a 24/42 granny on a 29er is actually only slightly lower than 22/34 gear than on a 26″ bike (.634 vs .647). This 2×11 29er drivetrain provides a wider range of gears than our 3×9 26″ benchmark, and mostly on the higher ratios.

Of course the advantages or 1x are numerous. A drivetrain like this wide range 2X11 is not needed for most bikes. In this case it is for an adventure bike that is meant for off road use with a touring load. At the same time the bike is well suited for the road where it is a shame to be without the taller gears. You could use similar gearing on a road touring bike but with larger chainrings (say compact 34/50) and get gearing comparable to traditional 3×9 road touring triple group but with the simplicity of 2x shifting.

This is not the end of the comparison by any means. Some 3×9 groups have wider ranges with a 46T big ring or a 36T big cog. I think we will see wider gear ranges and more gears going forward for 1x drivetrains. i.e. the trend of 10/42T 11 speed to 10/50T 12 speed will continue. Shimano has patents on a 14 speed drivetrain. And what about 27.5? Now you know how to compare all of these drivetrain options.

Nov 29

Daejeon’s Expo Park / Smart City Region Ride

During a recent stay in Korea, I took the opportunity to ride one of my hotel’s loaner bikes around the neighborhood. Cycling affords an intimacy with your surroundings as well as the ability to cover ground like no other option. The neighborhood I was staying in was near the site of the 1993 World Expo, and had a lot to see.

bridge1

Expo Bridge and Hanbit Tower in the distance.

Expo Bridge is an amazing bit of civil engineering. I had driven past it several times before my ride. Much to my pleasure, the bridge is for bikes and pedestrians only. It is quite photogenic, and I obliged.

bridge2

There are too many good angles of this bridge for me to cover in one blog.

swans

I am sure these swans have a significance that eluded me, but that did not keep me from snapping a pic.

smartcity

The area near Expo Park were I stayed was the “Smart City” district. It was influenced by the expo area with its futuristic architecture.

gym

Expensive workout equipment unprotected in a public place, under a freeway overpass.

grafitti

Korean graffiti, in English oddly enough.

farm

Amidst the urban and industrial setting was this farm, which looked too small to be commercial.

housing

Korean housing. This is an impressive array of identical apartment towers. It is the kind of housing most people live in in Korea’s big cities.

reflection

A confluence of rivers and concrete.

golfer

Golf is big in Korea, I guess.

I learned afterward that most of the site of the expo is being demolished. The process was underway while I was there. Hanbit Tower, Expo Bridge and parts of the rail system will remain, however. 23 years is a good run, I guess, and it is like Korean culture to move forward. They do stay in touch with their past and seem to keep a good balance between progress and history. I hope that Expo Bridge and Hanbit Tower, impractical though they may be, remain a symbol of forward thinking in Korea.

Sep 24

Interbike 2016 Report

I decided to make a short visit to Interbike this year. They have customer appreciation day now, and I am appreciated I guess. This is not meant to be some exhaustive industry report of Interbike, you can get that from various magazines and such. This was just me having fun. I made the decision to go at the last minute and I am cheap, so I stayed at Primm Valley because it is the best way to get low room rates on short notice. It is on the way from Southern California and only about 30 minutes from the strip.

buffalo_bills

Buffalo Bill’s needs a little sprucing up

Primm ain’t what is used to be, let’s just say it needs a little maintenance. It does not seem as popular as it once was. As Vegas becomes more and more outrageous I am guessing that fewer visitors want to stay this far from the action. I did not ride the coaster or monorail but…

bonnie_and_clyde

Kind of weird to find something like this in Primm Valley now

I spent some time looking at the Bonnie and Clyde display, which is at Whiskey Pete’s. I DID mention that this was not a professional Interbike report, didn’t I?

interbike_sign

The big entrance

But I made it to the show.

cutthroat

My current n+1. Which may end up being an n-1 after I own it. But I doubt it.

The Salsa Cutthroat is my current object of desire. I don’t get every bike that I lust after unfortunately. If I get one, it will be blogged on here, worry not.

Inter E Bike

Overall impressions of Interbike? The eBike section of Interbike was huge and the show floor was segregated so the eBike stuff was all together. Sorry, no eBike pics. Someone seems to think eBikes are going to be big. I have dabbled with them and we will see. The technology will continue to improve because they will benefit from advances made by electric cars. I have not seen many eBikes in use on the streets or trail. They can be pretty stealthy but I can usually spot them. The premise of eBikes as basic transportation is a good one. They could help people in the USA cope with zoning policies, urban sprawl or rural areas that separate homes from jobs from retail by such great distances.

forgotten

I will take one of each

spear

I never thought of taking a spear and flippers with me on my bikepacking trip. Blackburn is just one step ahead of me. Or not.

italia_girl

I have no idea what they were selling at this booth. I ask permission before taking model pics, BTW, a policy that is always well received.

mtb_hall_of_fame

Mountain Bike Hall of Fame Inductees Chris Chance, Gary Sjoquist, Joe Breeze and Charlie Kelley

You never know who you will meet at Interbike. I ran into these guys while I was visiting the Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame booth. I was just having casual conversation with them then I started reading their badges and got a nice surpirse. They were all friendly and approachable. It was great fun. Chris Chance showed up with a beautiful 90’s vintage bike equipped with authentic and marvelously restored components. Charlie has published a book, “Fat Tire Flyer”.

I enjoy checking out Interbike. It is fun meeting the people and seeing the stuff, and it makes me want to ride that much more when I get back.

Sep 17

Chino Hills Overnighter / Bikepacking / Sub-48 Trip Part 2

This is a continuation of my previous blog entry about this ride, located here, as you might guess by the title. If you are scrolling down the blog you probably want to skip down and read in order. This picks up in the middle of day 1 of a two day ride. This was my route, or at least, without giving away too much of a spoiler, what I planned for my route to be:

capture

Clickable if you want more detail or to download a GPX file.

The climb up Black Star Canyon Road would be the big challenge in the whole route. I had considered skirting around it and going into Santiago Regional Park, but decided to take on the big climb instead. I wanted to go to Sierra Peak and down Coal Canyon Road, which is a section I had not ridden before.

012blackstar03

The long and winding dirt road

Black Star Canyon Road is popular among mountain bike racers as a training route. You can identify them by their sponsor jerseys, super thin and fit physiques and high end, light weight bikes. I am not in that category of rider, just to set the record straight. I did not want to overdo it and get too exhausted or overheat on the climb. There seemed to be some disagreement about what the temps were that day. My Strava download and my Garmin computer differed by quite a bit. I would place the temps in the lower 90 degree F range. I drank generously from my 3 liter Camelbak and took breaks in the few shady breezy spots.

013blackstar04

Looking down on the previous picture from higher on the road

014blackstar05

A view from a ridge

015blackstar06

Making Main Divide

The last section of Black Star Canyon Road before it ends at Main Divide gets much steeper than the rest of the road, the opposite of how I would design it, but I am not in charge of these things. The views from there were worth it.

Next came Sierra Peak, which I had never been to before. The elevation profile for the section of the ride from Main Divide to Sierra Peak showed some climbing but a lot of ups and downs rather than a steady climb. GPX tracks do not count that kind of climbing very accurately and sure enough the ride to Sierra Peak added up to more total climbing than my GPX route said it would. So I ended up doing a little bike pushing. Not so much as to make a significant delay in my schedule, and the descent afterwards was very much worth it.

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A view of the 91 / 241 freeway interchange.

The route down from Sierra Peak to the 91 freeway wilderness undercrossing and the Santa Ana River Trail (SART) was a fast fire road. Those seeking technical riding will be disappointed, but there is very little singletrack that leads down from Main Divide. Partway down the descent a sign welcomed me to Chino Hills State Park. It is a section of the park that is disjoint from the rest of the park. It is part of a wildlife corridor through the area.

At the bottom I took a left onto SART, doubling back to take the safe way across the river. There were at least two alternate routes. One was to cross at the nearby golf course, all on pavement. The golf course does not permit this. But a lot of bikers do it anyway. So much so that Strava’s Global Heat Map reveals that to be the most popular way to cross the river. Another is to take a right turn off of SART onto an unmarked dirt path. That leads across another disjoint piece of Chino Hills State Park. That option is a bit of a mystery, I think you have to ford the river, climb up to the tracks and cross the tracks with no crossing. There are at least four tracks in deep gravel beds there. I opted instead for the sure thing, which was to take SART back to Gypsum Canyon Road. That would provide paved, sure, legal crossings of the river and the tracks at the expense of a few extra miles of riding along easy level paved roads.

That had dumped me alongside the railway, which was a bit sketchy. The gravel was deep and it was not clear whether you are allowed to be there or not. My 29 plus tires made easy work of the loose gravel. There were lots of bike tracks, but no established tail. I veered onto a dirt road that skirted the golf course along a meadow and continued into Chino Hills State Park. Again.

Lower Aliso Canyon Trail is interesting. The canyon can get windy in the evening and I faced a moderate headwind and uphill grade. The road surface had the characteristic look of a dirt road that had been polished by windblown dirt. I got close to a few large dust devils but I never rode through one.

I arrived at the campground with plenty of daylight left, which was unusual for me in my last few overnighters. The campground only had 2 other groups there. One set up camp and left. The other did not set up camp at all and left first thing the next morning. The ranger stopped at the other sites, I presume looking for registration. I had registered but the ranger never approached me. The campground has hike/bike sites, but none are designated as such. I think the policy is that if you bike in the site is free. The campground is relatively new and not used much so it looks pretty informal for now anyway. A group of mountain bikers drove through just looking and we talked about about my bikepacking set up.

The campground was nice. It had flush toilets, sinks and free showers. Being Chino Hill State Park there was not a lot of tree cover, but if you pick the right site you can have a little shade.

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Not the most glamorous pic of a campsite, but it was home, and the only pic I took, so there you go.

Gear Info Section This was my first bikecamp using Provent CPAP devices. They are small valves that you tape over your nostrils to regulate your breathing. They don’t work as well as a full CPAP machine, but a CPAP machine plus battery and hoses is a huge thing to bikepack with, I have done it several times. The Provents are a game changer for me, I can travel in a whole new way now, like everyone else does, basically. I will do a review of them in the future.

I got a headlamp for this ride. I recommend them. I will be leaving my flashlight and mini lantern home next time. The headlamp and cell phone light are enough to cover all of my lighting needs, including a little night riding. I also left behind some cooking items and did not miss them even though I made my own dinner and breakfast. I washed my bike clothes and hung them to dry rather than bringing a second outfit. They did not dry all the way, but they were acceptable.

My Garmin had run out of battery power part way down Coal Canyon Road. I had my solar panel with me, ready to test it out in a real world scenario like this. But sadly I had forgotten the mini USB my Garmin requires. Fortunately my phone can navigate as well, and I had remembered the cable for it. So I pressed it into duty as my backup GPS system.

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4 Corners at Chino Hills State Park, a busy place on a Saturday morning

Day 2 started with a series of short steep climbs called 3 or 4 bitches, I lost count. I lived in Yorba Linda 20+ years ago as the park was just opening so I am familiar with the general layout, but it has been a long time since I have ridden there. My route was simple. I finished that short but nasty series of climbs, then flew downhill out of the park along Telegraph Canyon, which was great fun.

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At the bottom of Telegraph Canyon, the entrance to Chino Hills State Park, holding up great

Winding my way out of the the park via through the Redwood grove was very scenic if not the fastest route. I stopped at an AM/PM convenience store as my first encounter with any retail supply point since the previous morning. Remember, this was the endless suburban sprawl I was riding through. To be miles away from any kind of store for that long was an accomplishment.

This is where my day 2 delays began. I got distracted by trying to buy a USB mini cable to charge my Garmin. They are just not available at convenience stores any more. The world has moved on to micro USB. Mini USB’s have to be ordered online or at Radio Shack or something. I stopped at a few places to buy one, but no luck.

I spent time exploring El Cajon Trail, a paved dedicated bike trail in the area. This was new since I lived there and I wanted to have a look. It was a wide, well marked, fun trail. Then it was back on the road. Small problem: the rode I needed to take was under construction. And it was not the kind of construction I could just skirt around on my bike. The road was being replaced with a bridge, and the bridge was not complete. I took the marked detour around it.

At that point it was late morning and I was hungry. My meal plan for day 2 was to do what I did for day 1: live on Power Bars, gelatin blocks and gels and spend much of my eating time in the saddle. On my detour I passed this lovely establishment and I could not take it anymore. I had to stop and get some actual food. Well, actual fast food.

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I gave in to temptation at got the fish taco combo

At this point I knew my delays were adding up, but I decided not to worry and just take the day as it came. It turned out to be a good attitude to have. I got back on the bike and made my way to the dirt trail option of SART, that I will refer to as dirty SART. But there was no way to get from the road to the trail at the point I had planned on, it was completely fenced off. I went back to the last cross street to see if there was a way in there, but the fencing had no gaps in it. I detoured again all the way back to Imperial Highway where I knew there was access.

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No the most flattering picture of dirty SART

Dirty SART, unlike its paved brother on the other side of the river, does not have many entrances or exits. Once you are out there you are there for a long time. I had never taken dirty SART a long distance, I looked forward to seeing what it was like. Like paved SART, there are dedicated underpasses so you don’t have to stop at cross roads. But dirty SART underpasses are in the middle of the river. You also get to see more and different views of the man made wetlands maintained in the river bed in many places. Dirty SART and paved SART come together in a few places as a single paved trail.

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My first encounter with the many homeless camps along the trail

My last delay happened as I rode through Anaheim. I was amazed and saddened by a huge increase in the number of homeless people living along the trail. The population had increased from a handful to thousands. I stopped to take a lot of pictures. I thought it was worth it to trade a little riding time for a little photojournalism. I have a separate blog entry dedicated to what I saw as I passed through that area.

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ARTIC station, Anaheim

After passing through Anaheim I evaluated my schedule. I may have been able to complete my route that day, but due to the many delays I would be finishing after dark and I would be super tired due the extra riding and stopping and starting. It takes its toll. I consulted the train schedule and sure enough there was a train on a good schedule from the Anaheim station back to Irvine where I was parked. As luck would have it the train was delayed about an hour, but I hung around and caught the train.

Was I disappointed? Not really. Part of being adventurous and exploring is being willing to deal with unexpected change. Some changes are out of your control and some changes you make yourself. I felt compelled to take a closer look at the homeless situation which cost me time and I had to adapt.

In the end I did not ride the route I posted at the top of this blog. But I updated that route based on my experience with this ride and I look forward to doing it again in the future.

Sep 10

Chino Hills Overnighter / Bikepacking / Sub-48 Trip Part 1

The time had come for another overnighter bikepacking camp trip. I added a day to my Labor Day weekend and made it a Friday/Saturday schedule. There aren’t a lot of options for overnighters in Southern California due to the paucity of campgrounds in this urban sprawl. The local Cleveland National Forest does not allow wild camping, i.e. you cannot just pitch your tent anywhere. Driving out of civilization is a long drive and then you mostly end up in the desert, not the best option in late August / early September for camping and epic riding. One of the campgrounds available is in Chino Hills State Park, so I chose that as my overnight location.

capture

Clickable if you want more detail or to download a GPX file.

A summary of my route, day 1: From the Irvine Transit Center, pavement to Seranno Creek Trail. Whiting Ranch Regional Park. Santiago Canyon Road. Black Star Canyon Road to Main Divide. Leonard Road past Sierra Peak to Coal Canyon Road. Under to the 91 freeway wilderness undercrossing. Santa Ana River Trail to Gypsum Canyon. West along the tracks to Lower Aliso Canyon Trail in Chino Hills State Park to the campground. I was pretty happy with that route, it has a minimum of pavement and visits several parks in one trip. If Limestone were open you could ride that instead of some of Santiago Road.

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My steed was good to go. I was happy with how small I managed to make my load.

I parked at the Irvine Transit Center. Transit stations are one of the places where overnight parking is legal and most of them are free. By making a train station your starting point other people can take the train to meet you for the ride. On this trip I was on my own, however.

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“Miles to go before I sleep”

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I cannot ride past the Mother Ship without snapping a pic.

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The entrance to Seranno Creek Trail.

Serrano Creek Trail is surprisingly fun given how suburban it is. The trail follows a creek bed through a developed area. The creek bed has been kept mostly natural. i.e. it has not been paved or lined with rocks much at all. It winds behind neighborhoods and industrial parks with dedicated picnic tables, bridges, tunnels, wooden fences, street crossings, etc. along the way. I remember when the trail was established and how difficult it was to create it. I don’t know if there are plans to extend it, but I hope they do as well as create more trails like it.

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Goodbye civilization.

I was only a few miles in when I stopped at this Circle K. I did not need anything but I knew this would be the last nearby retail for about 24 hours. So but I stopped to buy some token item, fine tune my load and experience air conditioning. It was already getting pretty hot that day.

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Whiting Ranch, lovely as ever.

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The same road leading off the other direction, looking remarkably similar.

Whiting Ranch is very familiar to me, but not in the direction I was taking it. I knew that I would be going the opposite direction of most mountain bikers, and some of that along single track, so I was careful and willing to pull over, which I only had to do once or twice. The park was not very busy on a Friday morning.

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4 Corners, a much busier place during the weekend

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Looking back on my climb. I had come up the lower trail.

Whiting was a taste of the climbing to come for the day. The weight of my bikepacking load made its presence felt more than I had hoped it would. Rather than power through the major climb of Whiting Road, I got off and pushed a few short sections. I did it to pace myself. I had sized up the total elevation gain I had to make that day. That, combined with my load and the heat, was going to make day one pretty tough. The next day would be more miles but less climbing. I wanted to do the ride without pushing myself to the limit the whole way.

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Updated entrance to Black Star Canyon.

I rode the short section of Santiago Canyon Road to Black Star Canyon Road. The gate at Black Star had been updated since I visited last, which was a long time ago, so this may not be anything new. The lower paved section of the road is now part of the Orange County Parks system. This helps extend and protect a wildlife corridor on public lands.

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Welcome committee

As if to prove the wildlife corridor is working, I was greeted in the first few hundred yards after entering the park by this lone deer.

My ride report will continue in the next installment of my blog!

Sep 04

Increase In Homeless Population Along The Santa Ana River Trail in Orange County

On my last overnight tour around Southern California I took the Santa Ana River Trail dirt option. The dirt trail runs along the opposite side of the river as the paved tail for most of the route.

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Some parts of it are more scenic than others. This would be one of the others.

I will post a write up of the full trip next, but I first wanted to focus on the homeless population along the trail. I have ridden the trail since the 1980s. Homeless people have always been present along the trail but in small numbers and hidden away. You had to be looking to see their shelters and I never saw a single homeless person out while riding the trail. I would consider them briefly as I rode by and I hoped and prayed that they would get help, though I knew it was more complicated than that.

This day as I was riding along I encountered a much larger group than I had seen before. I presumed it was because I was on the dirt side of the trail and I had a better angle on some of their hiding places.

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The people living in the river bed alarmed me. They were pretty vulnerable down there. When it rains this winter they will have to move. They could lose what little they have and could be in danger. Their presence there was illegal and it would be well known to local authorities, charities and emergency agencies. I did think it odd that people were out and around rather than staying out of sight. What I didn’t realize is that I had encountered the tip of the iceberg.

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The number of homeless communities I saw grew as I rode, even on the paved side of the trail, their numbers adding up to the thousands along a stretch of a few miles.

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The bike trail was crowded to the edges in many places with people, tents, their belongings and volunteer workers.

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I was flooded with mixed emotions. What had happened to cause such a dramatic increase in the number of homeless people? This was not the usual reclusive homeless population. They were out and about, taking out their garbage and I presume using the many parks and facilities along the trail for their daily needs. Some were being very active, even playing team games in the sand. Given what I was used to along the trail, it was a surreal experience.

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Their presence there made riding the bike trail at a fast pace dangerous. Not because I was afraid of being attacked. Although there was a lot of angry chatter and shouting emanating from many of the tents. Locals were using the trail without looking for cyclists, standing across the trail, and storing their belongings on the trail itself. It had the look of establishing territory and discouraging other trail users from being there. And it was working. It was the Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend. Usually the trail would be crowded with groups of cyclists. But today there were eerily few riders on the trail. And many of them were homeless people wandering down the trail slowly, on the wrong side, etc.

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I hope that this is not a long term trend for the river trail. Many communities have worked hard to improve the trail for cyclists and equestrians, adding rest rooms, lighting, landscaping, benches,etc. The trail serves as a transportation corridor. The new transit center in Anaheim, ARTIC, is located adjacent to the bike trial, in an obvious effort to support cyclists for commuting and travel. I later read about the situation to learn what was happening. A quick web search helped me understand the causes. My heart goes out to these people, I hope they can get out of this situation quickly.023homeless12 023homeless13

Part of my mixed emotions about this are as a cyclist, however. Why is a cycling trail one of the places that the homeless end up going at a time like this? There are other areas: shopping areas, school campuses, wilderness areas, golf courses (like the one along the trail), government facilities (which are being used, too), etc. Their presence is illegal in all of these places, so that is not a reason for using the bike trail. I feel that cyclists are once again being treated as second class citizens and their concerns are less than other groups.

023homeless14Yes, I know it sounds selfish and I do have a hard time balancing my mixed feelings about the situation. If this is a relatively short term phenomenon, and the homeless population dwindles or is relocated quickly, then it will be one of those one time things. But from the looks of it, with volunteers bringing in supplies and residents coming out in the open to form communities and take over the area, it looks just as likely that the Santa Ana River Trail as a cycling destination will be diminished for a long time, perhaps permanently.

Aug 14

Panoramas With a Chance of Heat Exhaustion

I have been off the bike a while due to an infection (I prefer to skip the details about that, thank you), a twisted ankle, work schedule, wah, wah, wah, I know. So when I was finally able to get back on the bike I did what I usually do. I go too big rather than take it easy. I got so excited I didn’t sleep well, I didn’t check the weather forecast or other small details I normally do. It all just adds to the adventure I guess. By the end of the day, the route I rode was not what I had planned. BTW, I don’t know what is up with the Elapsed Time number, Strava is messed up.

 

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
15:19:59 04:20:42 29.65 6.82 28.86 2,913.39
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

The day did not start off well. My fat bike/29 plus had one of its bottom bracket bearings seize up. This is not as terrible as it sounds. I ride my fat bike on ocean beaches. I have managed to beat back the effects of corrosion with all kinds of tricks, but my drive side BB bearings still live short lives. So I have a few cheap BBs around (expensive ones die just as fast, sadly), and I have gotten good at replacing them. 15 minute delay and I was out the door. The morning was sunny and cool and did not give any hint of the wave of heat that was to come.

I returned to a canyon that has no name I can find on a map, so I will call it Oso Creek Canyon, it is a network of trails that is more popular among equestrians than mountain bikers, but I find it perfect for my rigid 29 plus. The riding is not technical and the horses have turned some sections into deep, loose soil, but my plus tires negotiate it with no problem. This time I climbed out of the canyon on a trail I have never tried before. It rose above the beautiful campus of Saddleback Church which is nested at the northern end of the riding area.

panarama01

I love the contrast of the freeway and singletrack

Zig zagging my way up the canyon was not as difficult as I thought. Unfortunately the only descent I could find was along paved roads. Not the best reward for my singletrack climbing efforts, but I hope to fine tune the route now that I have ridden it.

I am very familiar with Aliso Woods and put in a big loop of the park. Someone has made a Strava segment of the route all the way from the parking lot to Top Of The World, the highest point in the park. It is a Cat 3 climb, which was surprising: that is bigger than I would have categorized it. The air quality was exceptional, affording awesome views in every direction.

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A great view all the way to Saddleback Peak

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Riding off the back of the park affords some nice ocean views

I personally do not have a problem with the discomfort of riding in the heat. But it would seem there can be a big discrepancy between your perception of something and your body’s reaction to it. While I personally felt invigorated by all the sunshine and warmth, my body was shutting down, and it took a while before I realized what was happening and tied the two together and ultimately did something about it. Weird, huh?

As I was making my way up this Cat 3 climb, I was doing what I have been doing more of lately, and that is watching my heart rate. I have been trying to ride more of the time in an aerobic zone so I burn more fat and my body will start to produce more power in that range. That means dropping my pace to a boring level. It has been paying off, BTW. But in the heat that was just not happening. No matter how slow I went, my heart rate would not drop and I could not recover. I can just picture all of the people with medical backgrounds nodding their heads right now. I was making sure I was drinking a lot so as not to dehydrate, but that alone will not stop the heat exhaustion. I was getting slightly dizzy so I got extra cautious on technical sections, even walking a few of the tough sections. I found a picnic table in the shade and managed a power nap and food, even though I did not want to eat. I woke up to a reduced heart rate, but it raced up again as soon as I started riding again. Fortunately I found some entertaining scenery along the way.

porsches

I was thinking of parking my bike at the end of the line before taking the picture

My brain became so disconnected that I crossed an intersection against a red light directly in front of a car stopped at the intersection. I looked at the light in the wrong direction, made eye contact with the driver and proceeded straight in front of them. I am guessing I looked like hell because the driver cut me a lot of slack and even gave me a very polite warning with a couple of taps on the horn. It was not until I was across the intersection that I realized what had happened. It was quite the wake up call. I proceeded with even greater caution at that point, but my climbing was not done.

gate

My kind of gate. Open.

My plan was to continue my climb around the Oso Creek Canyon along Bluff Trail (that is what Google calls it anyway). I know my brain was still on the fritz because I was still waiting for a second wind and recovery. In retrospect that was just not going to happen. The temps were not going down and neither was my heart rate. I finally got to a point along the ridge where a sustained cool breeze helped me recover a bit. A bit farther along I got a good view of the burn area from a recent fire in the canyon.

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Ironic that I was enjoying the view of a recent burn while fighting off heat exhaustion

The cool breeze must have worked because I finally realized that I needed to bail and end the ride ASAP. The bouts of tunnel vision also clued me in. The bluff trail was proving to be a major effort so I turned back. Even the fastest way out included a small climb in the direct sun that I managed to push up. From there on it was mostly downhill and fast pavement. By the time I returned to my car I was feeling a little better. I forced more fluids and managed to eat something, went home and slept and fought off minor stomach irritation. I was probably closer to a serious bout of heat exhaustion than I realized. All in all it ended fine and was a learning experience. You cannot rely on your own judgement in a situation like this because you are impaired.

I can’t wait to do it again.

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