La vie de vélo

Adventures in cycling and life

The inaugural backcountry cyclocross ride

I’ve been thinking about it for a while but I finally made the leap and bought a cyclocross bike a couple weeks ago. I had to get cables, bar tape, a front derailleur top-pull pulley, and a new cassette for it so the inaugural ride was delayed a bit.

I got a killer ebay deal on a used Bianchi Cross Concept 2004.


Just like my Mamasita, its got a scandium frame with carbon stays. I like the combo of stiffness and compliance. Its outfitted with full Dura Ace and so far I’ve been super happy with it.

I got a cross bike for two reasons. First, I want to race cross later this year, ’nuff said. Secondly, I wanted a bike for epic long rides that was equally at home on pavement as it was on dirt roads and light trails.

Today’s ride was the test of reason #2. It passed with flying colors.

I rode out to Montecito (1 hour on pavement), climbed Romero (45 min on technical fireroad), traversed camino cielo (30 min pavement), descended Angostura and rode out at red rocks (1 hour on fireroad) and rode out Paradise road, up Stagecoach and down San Marcos (1.25 hours on pavement). 63 miles, 7000+ vertical ft of climbing in 4.5 hours with a good mixture of dirt and pavement.


Routes like this would simply not be possible on a road bike and would be tedious on a mountain bike. The cross bike just opens up SO many options around here: Refugio, West Camino Cielo, Murrietta, Romero, all these dirt roads that link up great sections of road riding are now available.

The best part is looking like a roadie with the skinsuit and drop bars, hammering past some roadies on a climb covered in mud. Or likewise flying past a mountain biker wondering how the hell a road bike just made it up the trail.

I think I’m gonna really enjoy this …..


February 9, 2009 Posted by | Cyclocross, ride_report | 2 Comments

Blast from the past

Our american airlines flight back to San Diego was mysteriously canceled this morning.. good thing i checked my email before we left at 3:00! So we leave on sunday instead. Great. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me.

I’ve been doing some cross-training to keep my fitness including some XC sking, a few 3 to 4 mile runs, my homebrew pilates workout and some snow shoveling. Enough already. I was pissed at life and it was time to pedal again.

I took advantage of the extra day to do a road ride around my ole stomping grounds north of New Milford CT. The weather was a balmy 38 degrees with lots of moisture and a 100% chance of crappy grey overcast fog. But it was beautiful nonetheless.


I biked out to Kent via Sherman, Webatuk, NY and Bulls Bridge. Then back through south kent and gaylordsville.

slush ride map

About 38 miles and 2.5 hours of good steady low-rpm rolling hills and big gear tempo riding.

The best part was my gear .. I brought no cycling gear with me so I had to scrounge what I could from my dad. A 10-speed Trek road bike with friction shifting, some old running clothes and neon-orange hunting vest rounded out my stylish ensemble for the day. Classic.

Just goes to show you can have a fantastic ride without having the latest and greatest gear.

December 27, 2008 Posted by | ride_report | Leave a comment

Epic exhaustion

I’m not training for any 24 hour solo races (yet) so god knows what possessed me to undertake the ride I just completed. I decided to get over my distaste for riding knobbies on pavement and take my mountain bike for a spin.

The plan was to go out to montecito, climb Romero, descend into the santa ynez valley backcountry, then climb back out and spin back home. Well all was fine until I decided to take the Blue Canyon trail to Forbush to Gibraltar on my way to climb Angostura. “Singletrack will be fun” I thought. “My guide book says its rideable” I thought. What I didn’t think was that my guide book was probably written 15 years ago and every attempt I’ve made to go off the beaten path in the santa ynez backcountry involves battling overgrow, washed out trails that are nearly impossible to follow.

Well these were no different than previous attempts. My legs are so battered with cuts and scrapes that, at some point, it just ceased to even phase me. I would just plow right into the chaparral, shoulder first like I was checking it against the boards. The pisser was that the trails were really cool and would have been a blast had they been properly maintained. Makes you wonder where all our Forest Adventure Pass Fees are going … oh wait, that was for more RV hookups so that fat-ass tourists can watch sitcoms on their satellite TVs in the wilderness.

After 2 1/2 hours of getting lost, hike-a-biking through steep ass canyons, riding the occasional fun section of singletrack, and generally getting attacked by every plant and insect that I came across, I reached the relative comfort of the gibraltar trail.

From there it was just another 1 1/2 hours before I crested Angostura Pass. Why is it that every time I climb Angostura, I am dead tired, out of water, at my wits end and ready to collapse? Luckily, Mint Springs came to rescue once again .. a small little spring whose presence is revealed by a tiny patch of mint growing on the trailside. Without that water, I would really be hurting.

Anyhow, I called Jos as soon as I got in cell range to let her know that my 4 hour ride was now a 7 hour ride and that, no, I was not bleeding to death in some ditch in the wilderness. And she offered to come pick me up downtown, cutting off the last 7 miles of pavement. My pain was speaking far louder than my pride at this point so I agreed.

My pride was also wounded by the fact that, sitting with my MTB on East Camino Cielo with a half dozen of the the finest technical descents in southern california, I chose to descend the paved Gibraltar road. People like me make me sick. Oh well. I was beat and got a morbidly fascinating first hand look at the devestation of the recent Tea Fire.

Anyhow, too tired to keep typing. 53 miles. 7 hours (including almost 3 hours in zone 4!) and 8200 ft of elevation gain. Good lord. Time to eat.

December 7, 2008 Posted by | ride_report | 1 Comment

“Urban Assault” Sunday and 29er evangelism

This weekend saw the continuation of the chicken ranch sunday am ride. This time it was the supposedly infamous urban assualt ride.

We met in the San Roque area (i biked there in the early morning fog.. nice) and went up through Rocky Nook, up/down the powerline climb, up Jesusita and down to Steven’s park then out foothill to descend down tuckers grove. A lot of pavement but also a good deal of nice technical riding. 3 1/2 hours of solid riding with a fun crowd.

Did I mention how much I dig the 29er on technical stuff? At first I promised myself I wouldn’t evangelize the 29 inch wheels no matter how awesome they were .. but now I can’t deny other people this knowledge. Unequivocally, without a shred of doubt, if your riding involves any terrain that is remotely rough or technical, 29 inch wheels will make you a better rider. Period. The Jesusita climb, with numerous rock gardens were a piece of cake; they typically toss your front wheel off course and rob your momentum. I didn’t clean the whole thing but I made it up with about 5 or 6 dabs.

The descents, stream crossings, drop offs, etc. were insanely smooth. It was uncanny how much easier the technical sections feel. I found myself focusing on the “bigger picture” – picking good lines up ahead, keeping maximum speed, flowing with my bike, body and trail as one – rather than focusing on each rock that could bump me off course. 29 inch wheels are that good. It will drastically change your riding for the better. You don’t even need suspension (except maybe for comfort reasons).

October 27, 2008 Posted by | 29er, ride_report | Leave a comment

Epic sunday ride around Gibraltar

Epic ride around Gibraltar reservoir today. 43 miles. 5 hours. ~3000ft vertical. A good steady day in the saddle with some failed explorations and hiking excursions thrown in.

Took off early this morning (but not without stopping at Goleta Coffee first of course) and made it out to the Los Padres Natl Forest. After begrudgingly paying the $5 day use fee (WTF these are our National Forests and we have to PAY to use them? Grrrrr….), I parked at Falling Rock campground and started off down Paradise Road.

The fire road to Gibraltar starts at the Red Rocks parking lot. Its a good warmup, after about an hour of up-and-down I was at the Gibraltar mines (an abandoned old silver mine at the eastern end of the reservoir). I’d never ventured much further past this point so I gave it a shot today. The trail was getting narrow and overgrown but was, for the most part, rideable. There were a few used-to-be-a-trail-but-is-now-a-rockslide sections that I had to hike. The trail could use some work but was certainly in better shape than the Matais trail.

After hitting the intersection for the Forbush trail, I decided to explore the “hidden” trail that lead north across the river and to Mono camp. Or so the guidebooks would have you believe. I couldn’t find such a trail but did find my way to the dry river bed which was partially rideable, partially hikeable and fully a pain in the ass. But I was stubborn and would not backtrack.

Instead of shooting NW to Mono, I went upstream to P-Bar Flats which required about 45 minutes of river bed navigation and following phantom trails. Eventually I found the main forest service road after following the river bed plus portions of what they called the Blue Canyon “trail” . Took the main road (Camuesa) to the east for a while and went up to Pendola, checked out some campsites and turned around before I got all the way to Juncal.

Turning 180 degrees, I took Camuesa back up to Mono camp. From there I made several vain attempts at heading south and seeing if I could find the elusive connector to the Gibraltar trail. No such luck. I thought my GPS might reveal how close I was but, alas, I just managed to find the same dry river bed as before but a mile or more away. God knows if this trail from gibraltar to Mono even exists!

Giving up on that, the best way home was up Cameusa road. Right after the turn off to explore Mono basin and Little Caliente, there was a gate in the road which meant no vehicles and less dust. I climbed that for a while, passing the cutoff to Indian trail (another one I gotta do some day) and over to the Middle Camuesa campground.

By this point, I’d passed another gate so we were now in OHV territory. I met 2 great guys sitting around after a dirt bike ride, shooting their guns and drinking beer. Turns out one of the guys was a mountain biker as well and we traded some knowledge of the trail system. “Keep the sunny side up and the rubber side down”, he told me. Classic.

Camuesa road climbs to 1400 feet up to Buckhorn road. If you go right you commit to another 1000+ feet of climbing up to Little Pine. At this point I was almost 4.5 hours into the ride… so I turned left 😉 Descended down the fireroad a bit then took the Camuesa Connector trail to the left. What a fine piece of single track!! Not too technical but has some tricky spots. Very flowing. Lots of steep little ups and fantastic twisting descents. (I did not miss my rear suspension one bit, btw). From there, spun back to the car, drank my recovery shake and drove home.

Now I’m sitting like a lump on the sofa wishing I had a six pack of beer and trying to keep my quads from cramping.

Check out the map. Epic ride.. there will be more to come using this loop as a “base”.. I just wish I could find a decent way to link up the Gibraltar trail with Camuesa road without the crazy river hiking.

October 13, 2008 Posted by | map, ride_report | 1 Comment