Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Recap

Seems most of my posts are about great epic rides I've done so I thought being Dec 31st, it was time to look back on 2011.  As usual for this time of year, I'm sure we're going to see posts where people list their miles ridden which is great...however, these threads really don't prompt any meaningful comments other than, "wow, that's a lot" or "gee, I need to ride more...".   I mean sure, I rode a TON of miles this year, more than any year in the past.  But the miles are but one byproduct of riding; almost a surrogate variable for the other things gained as a result of sitting atop our bikes.  So, I'd like to mention the other things gained this year as a result of that time investment.
1. New friends:  I've met some really great people this year through riding that are not only fantastic riders and athletes, but really good, honest people.  The kind that would give you the shirt off their back (or a tube out of their pack).  I am truly thankful that our common interests have resulted in friendships that will last a long time.  I look forward to sharing more miles with them.
2. Sense of Accomplishment:  We all have our ways of getting that sense of accomplishment be it through our careers, family, etc.  I certainly benefit in those two areas however, riding has given me something with seemingly no ceiling for improvement.  When I think back a few years ago when I started back into riding, my goals at that point seemed unattainable... I marveled at people that could ride single speeds up mountains.   Little by little, I was able to accomplish those goals.  This year, I rode more 40+ mile rides than ever before and now feel cheated if a ride is < 20 miles.  I did my first bikepacking trip during which I covered almost 110 miles in 2 days.  My goal in 2012 is to do the AZT300 and do it in a respectable time.
3. Better family life: This may seem somewhat counter-intuitive, but having time to explore your interests truly makes us better the rest of the time. 
4. Skills:  One of the things I recognized as a weakness in my riding, was my bike handling skills.  Although I still have a ways to go, I am descending faster with more confidence than before. 
5. Endurance:  I have to say, that I'm probably in the best endurance shape in my life...too bad it took me 46 years to get there!  There is something very satisfying about suffering up a climb and feeling your legs recover very quickly.  For me, this is probably only the second time in the past 3 years, where I've been at a point where it feels like the "pieces come together".  I can ride hard, hour after hour, and my legs continue to respond.  Truly a great feeling....

Finally, for those that read my ramblings, I appreciate it and look forward to sharing more of my adventures in 2012.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

BCT C2C2C - First Bikepacking Trip

For months, I'd been acquiring gear, pouring over gear lists and weights, and trying to decide where to do my first real 2 day outing.

I'd thought about heading into Reach 11 and sleeping the night to test out that part of the gear but I figured I may as well go big...well, maybe not huge, but big enough.  My main goals were to
1) test out the gear and decide what works and what doesn't and
2) Get 2 good solid back to back days of miles in.  BCT was the obvious choice for this since it's fairly easy to access if you had to have someone come get you at 2AM when you're shivering.  Plus, the proximity to water made it easy to stash some water to preclude having to filter/purify.

Day 1: I parked my car at a friends house in Anthem who was nice enough to offer up some driveway space.  They also were going to ride south with me on day 2.  They(Jeff and Tim) rode with me up to Emery Hendersen via some bits of Maricopa trail, dirt roads, and the BCT.  At Hendersen, my friend Darren met me to ride north up to Bumble Bee where he had a car parked.  We set off from Hendersen at about 9AM and proceeded up the BCT.  I immediately noticed the additional weight I was carrying slowed my ascent of the hills.  I had thought about gearing down prior to the trip but decided to stick with the 32x20.
photo courtesy of Steve Wolf (

Just north of Table Mesa, my chain derailed sending me into a thorny bush and a rock pile.  Luckily the extent of my injuries were just a bruised elbow.  Near Rock Springs, we continued up the trail (I'd never traveled north on this section, only south).  I knew the ascent up the stagecoach section would be tough...sure enough, it sucked pretty bad.  I managed to ride about 1/2 of it but figured it was time to save some matches for later as well as day 2.  At Bumble Bee, Darren had a huge jug of water where I filled up.  Said my thanks and goodbye to Darren, then I continued north with my destination Hidden Treasure Mine, 11 more miles.  I arrived there in good time still with daylight and decided to find a camp spot. I'd thought about continuing up to Mayer and camping just south of there, but the colder temps and wind were a concern and in hindsight, was probably a good move.   There, I built a fire, relaxed and settled in for a quiet evening.

Day 2:  I woke up several times through the night but managed to get back to sleep without too much problem.  Finally, I got up at about 7:30 figuring that Jeff and Tim were going to be meeting me around 8:30.  Cooked some oatmeal, drank some coffee, and loaded up.  I headed up the trail a ways figuring I'd run into them.  Sure enough, just before Antelope Canyon, I spotted them ahead. We started heading back south, stopping at Bumble Bee where we had water stashed.  Tanked up again, we pressed on.  I could tell my legs had been pretty beat up the day before and was hoping they'd eventually come alive.  I knew there were really 3 big climbs left and just started thinking about what it'd feel like to be done with the last one.  Climbing the trail up from the river at Rock Springs was brutal.  A normally enjoyable climb, after 80+ miles in my legs and all the gear, it was all I could do to keep the pedals spinning.  I just kept setting short term hill.  Finally crossing Table Mesa Rd, I knew we had the next challenge.  Luckily my legs came back alive and I stood on the pedals.  The prior fatigue I'd felt had subsided and it seemed I could stay in a good groove.
Finally at the top, I knew we had several miles of rolling trail before the next small climb.  At the next climb, my legs felt even better and I was able to ride without worry of deep fatigue.  Rolling back into Hendersen, we knew the home stretch was left...5 miles of so-so trail but this time, it was the final 5 miles of an epic adventure.
2 more things...
First, I want to thank Darren, Jeff, and Tim.  Darren, not only a superb mtn biker and athlete, but a great guy.  I sincerely appreciate his encouragement and kindness.  Having a jug of cold water at BB was great and much appreciated.  And his future in-laws make awesome beef jerky.  It's a welcome change from a steady diet of Cliff bars.  Jeff and I have talked about a big N-to-S ride for a number of months.  Thanks to him for keeping it in his sights and involving me.  Biggest ride to date for him today and not only did he do really well, but kept a positive attitude all day.  And thanks for a spot to park my truck and shuttling water up to BB.  Great to have his Father-in-law Tim along too...great rider
Second, this was intentionally a ride to learn from...A few things I learned...
1. Not gearing down with 15 extra pounds is tough...really tough.  But hopefully, it'll make me stronger.
2. Trim every bit of weight out of your kit as you extra 2 lbs has slow, wearing impact on you.
3. Your legs will feel like crap, but keep the food and water going in, and they'll come around...caffeine laced gels are awesome late in the day when you need an extra push to get over the next hill.
4.  Keep the goals small when your mind is in a bad hill, etc.
5.  My gear list was pretty close to being right-on.  I'll make a few tweaks, and some deletions for the AZT300 in the interest of weight, but pretty darn close.
6.  Manage the water...I under-hydrated on day one and drank a bunch the first evening.  Luckily I knew there was going to be water at BB and worst case, I could have filtered&Purified at HTM.

Ride stats

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Kelvinator

Monday¸despite the daunting clouds and threat of rain, 4 of us headed out to ride some of the new AZT south of Picket Post.  However, we decided to approach it from the Kelvin side since the plan was to do an out and back north of the gila exploring some of the new trail, then do a loop around Ripsey…well…the second part didn’t happen but none-the-less, it was still an epic day albeit covering only 42 miles of trail.
Jeff had found on the AZ trail site ( that just a few days prior, the last bit of trail was finished.  So, it seemed appropriate that we had to ride this last section and see the ceremonial spike they had placed by the trail.  Heading across the bridge and left on the dirt road, the mudfest started.  The first section of trail north of the river actually follows a road recently constructed by the mine as an access road.  It climbs almost right away and we could see that eventually, all that elevation would be given up.  However, we were stopped short by a foreman that claimed the trail wasn’t open and it would be dangerous given the heavy machinery operating to build the trail.  What?  That seemed odd…wasn’t it finished?  We speculated that the mine had paid to build that last section since it gave them access to some areas (there was a drill rig up the hill from the road…certainly not part of any trail building activity). 

OK, change of plans…we headed back the way we came and decided to follow Freeskiers GPS track from earlier this year and rode the railroad tracks to bypass  the “unopened” section.  We rattled along the tracks making “choo choo” sounds the best we could.    
Finally just before the bridge back over the Gila, we found the little connector segment that put us on the trail.  From there, the trail meanders just north of the Gila, crossing a number of drainages.  It varies from superbly constructed trail cut into the side of steep, boulder fields to low lying, silty sections that skirt the riparian areas.   There are certainly a few short sections that need some feet and tires to compact, but all in all, it’s a great 15 mile or so stretch until you turn north up Alamo Canyon.

Darren...happy to be out of cold, snowy Canada!

Me concentrating and climbing

 And that’s where the climbing begins…up a steep jeep road for about 0.25 miles, then turning to singletrack that continues to climb the east side of Alamo Canyon.
Heading up the jeep road...
The soft tread made the progress slow but we continued to press on, continually amazed at the views ahead.  After several miles, the trail crosses back through the wash and continues to climb the west side of the canyon.  The trail here was a bit easier to climb due to a rockier surface, but also a more gradual grade. 

Looking back south
 Looking back south again...
Stopping to regroup with a fair bit of climbing ahead, Nancy’s voice of reason convinced us to turn around.  It was just past noon and although we hadn’t reached the point where we saw earlier this year from the Picket Post side, it seemed the sensible thing to do a 180.  Minutes later on the descent, Jeff found the sharpest rock on the planet  and decided to ride over it putting a “mother of all sidewall gashes” into it.  Sh*t.   Ok...I'm not the most experienced rider, but the engineer in me says that's a bit of a problem.
We’re easily 20 miles from cars, sweaty from climbing, and getting colder by the minute.  Park boot to the rescue… Damn, I would NEVER have figured a Park boot could mend that…I mean, it barely covered the extent of the slice.  Amazingly, he got the thing inflated with no major tube bulge and we continued on.  (Note to self: buy a few park boots and some needle and thread)!

Arriving back at the car with tired legs and muddy bikes, we loaded up and headed home.  Thanks to Jeff, Nancy and Darren for a great day.  A truly epic adventure.
And thanks to Jeff for capturing the photos...

Ride stats...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Two T-Squared

After the AES McDowell60 (which was really 44.5 miles) last weekend, I was needing something shorter but still a good solid effort. I had a crazy idea of doing several of the time trials in the valley all in one day. The original plan was as follows: 1. WaltAZ TT in the McDowells 2. Trail 100 TT in PMP 3. Shaw Butte TT 4. Desert Classic TT Then the plan sort of fell apart...had late start and a conference call at 2:30 that I could not miss. So I dropped off #4 headed out... 1. WaltAZ TT - this is a great little 13 mile TT in the foothills of the McDowells that has a bit of everything. My SS is geared at 32x20 which was probably too spinny but this morning was super windy and I'm kinda glad I had that gear. Completed it in 1:11:21 (1st place...for now) but I felt really slow going up Taliesin with a monster headwind...I kept looking at the clock thinking that I was headed for a 1:40 finish. Flying down the last 0.25 mile which is not steep but zig zags down a cholla field that would be more than happy to leave you with some thorny twinkies covering your body if you crashed. 2. Trail 100 TT : fail...after pounding out #1 above, I didn't have another 1 hour at my anaerobic threshold in my legs. 3. Shaw Butte TT: this is a short one and one that I've been meaning to go ride...1.4 miles, 800 ft climb. Started at the electrical boxes at the gate and jumped on it...after the first big left turn, the trail gets super steep and I managed to keep the 32x20 turning...finally the next steep section did me in...hopped off and ran up that section. Back on near when it flattened a bit, I mashed the pedals more, my heart nearly jumping out of my chest...finally hitting the towers. Finished in 13:49...ufff...that frickin' hurt.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bikepacking....almost ready!

I've been slowly assembling gear over the last few months to begin a sort of new chapter in my riding that involves so called bikepacking. It's been something I've pondered for quite a while and after spending significant hours surfing and other ultra-light backpacking sites, I put a gear list together and decided with the help of my Mom, we'd sew up some bags. The first two were a frame bag and gas tank that took us the better part of the day to create. Made primarily from x-pac material with some 1/8 inch foam sandwiched in between along the tubes, they turned out pretty well.
Following that, I made another long trip out to the east valley where Mom lives, and we made a seat post bag; for the front side of the seat post. Very similar in design to the gas tank, I've loaded it up will all the usual repair stuff that I'd carry on my back (spare tube, leatherman squirt, first aid kit, multitool, zip ties, etc). Loaded it's 1lb, 8oz...nice to get that off my back. I've been carrying that for even day rides which has held up very well and been a rock solid design. Finally, I received most of my sleep kit (bag, pad, ground sheet) and decided it was time to load up the bike and go out for a test ride. The seat tube bag was loaded as described before, the gas tank bag loaded with snacks and spare charger, and the frame bag loaded with 32oz of water, steripen, pump, and filter funnel. I strapped the sleeping stuff to the bars with a couple of straps and pulled it towards the stem with another velcro strap.
All the bags full of stuff were an extra 11 lbs. Headed out to BCT to do LPL from Rock Springs and I immediately noticed that extra weight as we climbed up after the first river crossing. The bike handled actually very well and everything stayed put. After arriving back home, I did a little post-mortem as I unpacked things looking for signs of wear, etc and found that the cheap Wally World dry sack on the bars had developed several wear marks from the velcro straps, wires and cables. I figured I'd better proceed with making the handlebar harness which I'd designed about 3 weeks ago to better protect those items since I'd hate to start wearing holes in my brand new down bag, pad, and whatever else I put in there. Having the day off and needing a day off the bike, I headed out to Mom's again to make the handlebar harness... Here are the final pics of what we made.
Major "Thanks" goes out to my Mom who's sewing skills and patience are 2nd to none. Not only did I save money, but I gained extra time with Mom and did all those chores around her house she needed for all! Looking forward to a real test of all the gear on my first overnight....

Saturday, November 12, 2011

BCT on 11-11-11

With all the upcoming endurance races, I've been trying to up the ride mileage each week. On Friday, 11-11-11, I decided to take the day off and do just that...go out and put in a good long ride at my favorite trail, Black Canyon. My plan was to start at Emery Hendersen Trailhead off New River Rd, ride north, exit the trail at the Rock Springs Trailhead, ride through Black Canyon City (to get water), then up Maggie Mine Rd to the top of the climb at Arastre Creek, then come all the way back south on the trail. It was a perfect day for weather, overcast but topping out around 70F. All in all, the ride went quite well...although the final climb just south of Table Mesa Rd was a real sufferfest. That climb starts essentially at a small creek crossing north of Table Mesa Rd and gradually increases in grade until you top out roughly 4 miles later...not a huge climb by any means, but loose and rocky in many spots. I always feel that some suffering helps you get stronger both mentally and physically. Looking back and thinking about my "low" points, I really didn't eat or drink enough. When I did take a big swig of my homemade energy gel, my legs and mind woke up and I became more focused. (thanks to the instant coffee in the gel!) In any case, below are the ride stats...BCT can be a bit deceiving since there's really no long, truly brutal climbs. But since the trail winds in and out of several creeks and rivers, the climbing adds up...just ask my legs today.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Slow is good for the soul...and marriage!

Riding MTB's is something I do for exercise and the challenge. Second in the list of "why I ride MTBs" is the outdoors, scenery and such. Most of the time, my type A personality and lust for pain and suffering means my head is down and my thoughts are focused on finishing a long ride in a respectable time. Today was wife who loves the outdoors but doesn't share a love for a good sufferfest wanted to come out and do a nice fall ride to see the colors. So, I took her up on the AZT NE of the would not disappoint....

Monday, October 17, 2011

I rode a long way today...

Finally, I mustered up the huevos to do the ride I'd planned for most of the summer. Start at the bottom of Schultz Creek... ride north, up the AZT, east on FR418, up to the inner basin trail. Planned to ride to 10kft, but the IB trail was a beatdown; figured I need to save a few "matches" to burn for the way back. So I stopped about a 1/2 mile up the IB trail and turned around. Kinda figured it was the last >70F day this fall with no chance of rain that I could pull off a long, all day ride close to 70 miles. The day was as good as it gets... perfect... Riding on a carpet of yellow at times... Locket Meadow...
On the way back to the AZT...
The final ride stats....I'm tired...

Friday, October 7, 2011


I think one thing I like about long, endurance type rides is that is doesn't feel like an all out hammerfest. I mean, at least at my current fitness level I certainly can't go "balls-to-the-wall" for a 6-11 hour ride. However, scale back the distance to something accomplished in <3hrs, and certainly, the possibility exists for more of a real hammerfest. I rode a few weeks ago with a few guys who also ride SS (Race them too) and it taught me a good lesson about pace. We had set out to do about a 32 mile ride at BCT starting at Emery Hendersen and heading north around the Little Pan Loop. They were running 32x18's and were able to put the hurt on me. I had to ride above my normal pace which definitely exposed weaknesses in my bike handling and paid the price by doing an OTB roughly 1/3rd in to the ride. No major carnage, but definitely a warning. By the end, all 3 of us were pretty toasted as it was also getting pretty warm. It was a great lesson for me and an eye opener as far as training goes....sometimes you really have to ride with other guys faster than you to push both your fitness and your skills. Flash forward to today, I decided to do a solo ITT out at BCT where I rode the quintessential BCT lolipop ride; Start at Rock Springs and go south around the Little Pan Loop and back. I've done it many times before but today felt the right day to go as fast as I could muster; with a sub 3 hour goal. The weather was perfect...about 65F when I started. I reached the top of the loop in 57 minutes so I knew I was on pace. At the bottom of the loop which is pretty much the 1/2 way point, I was at 1:21...excellent...still looking good. Reaching the top of the loop, which is 2/3's of the mileage, I was at 1:47....sweet...keep the hammer down. Crossed back over the main road at 1:59 and only 8 miles to go... I figured it was gonna be close. Kept my head down climbing back up to the skyline section then bombed down to the river (as fast as fear would let me!). Crossed the river at 2:35...picked up my bike and ran across the sand and riprap, hopped on and then hammered up the last section. Rain started to fall right then but there was nothing at this point to stop me...rolling over the last gate, I glanced down and knew the goal was in the bag... rolling into the lot, hit stop...2:46...whew, that hurt.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lynskey - Back in Action

Lynskey turned around my frame repair in a few days so with shipping on each end, I was basically out the bike for about 3 weeks. Got it back a week ago, reassembled it and took it out on a shakedown ride...sure enough, like an idiot, I used a broken BB cup spacer that midway through the ride, started to work it's way back out. Of course, had it come out, the cup would have been completely loose and a bb cup tool is not something I bring! Back home, I replaced it and today set out for a long ride on the AZT. Conditions were immaculate...damp soil, cool (46 degrees at the start). The unfinished section of AZT is pretty much done now although the trail crews look like they still have a bit of rock to move in some areas. The climb is a good one, from where it crosses SB road, it climbs from 7600ft up to 9000ft, all singletrack. Had an annoying creak anytime I really put power to the pedals which I later solved with a grease on the headset conical surfaces...amazing all the things that can make noises on a bike and I feel like I've developed the ability to diagnose things on the bike. Nothing destroys a good "zen" climbing experience than a creaking or clicking bike. I probably stopped 6 times to try and adjust things to make it stop. Oh well...another lesson learned...Anyway, still a great ride and good beatdown.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Well, I suppose that everyone who rides bikes for enough years is going to experience a cracked frame. I cracked a steel road bike frame years ago. However, my latest bike purchase, a Lynskey Ridgeline 29SL, was the last frame I figured I'd crack. I've had it since April 2010 and although I have around 3k miles on it, I didn't expect to find it cracked. I was cleaning it up yesterday after a ride and if I weren't so anal about keeping the bike clean, I probably wouldn't have seen it. Right behind the BB, but forward of the brace between the chainstays was a small crack. Kind of an odd place for a crack but judging by the location and appearance, I'd tend to believe there was some sort of weld occlusion that created a stress concentration. I've dropped Lynskey an email with pics so we'll see what they say. By the way, I think they make a great product and don't think anything less of them based on this. I'm hoping they can turn the repair around quickly and in the mean time, I'll spend some miles on the road bike.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Weeks Rides

Spent the week in MP doing some work, some house projects, and of course some riding. After my usual 36 mile road bike ride in PHX Friday morning, I decided Saturday AM’s ride would stay close to MP and I’d explore a bit more of Mormon Mountain. Took the northern route from MP over to Mormon Mountain and headed up the climb on FR648. Expecting to simply turn around, I stumbled upon the trailhead to Mormon Mountain trail…what? Single track heading off the east side? What an idiot I felt like not knowing this was here. ( It was a great trail, a bit rocky in places but going downhill was great. I figured it would intersect the AZT (which it did) which I could take to FR240 and back to MP. 34 miles, 3100vf.

Monday, I decided I’d venture up to Flag and do something a bit different than my usual. Parked at Buffalo Park and took lower Oldham over to Elden Lookout Rd, climbed that thing(ugh) to Sunset, down Upper BBank, to Little Gnarly, then down Schultz Creek and back to Buff Park. Felt like a pretty stout ride even though it was only 20 miles, and 3000 vft. I’ve found although the ride down Sunset is fun, I almost prefer coming down Upper BBank….the fast rooty turns, mild exposure, make it a hoot.
Cool fungus...

Tuesday, I decided I needed to build a bike stand for the cabin workshop...Since I have one in PHX that works well, I basically repeated the design, with a few mods. Although I don't usually do any major maintenance at the cabin, it's nice to clean up the bike between rides and do any necessary adjustments.
The base on this one is great...VERY stable.

Wednesday, I took it easy and did my usual short climb up to Crystal Pt here in MP. It’s the closest singletrack in MP and with the new trail that climbs up from south side, it’s a good 18 minute or so steady climb. Although you can descend off the north side, it’s fairly rocky and more techy (still fun). However, the south side descent is like a pump track…fast, well spaced ups and downs, and lots of fun. Definitely not a trail I’d drive from far away to ride, but a nice option that can be connected with other double track and forest roads around MP.

Thursday, I headed back up to Flag with the intent to ride the newish section of trail called “West Secret”. After crossing over the road from “east” to “west” there is an intersection which I mistakenly took the left fork then missing a right turn I ended up on the old Super Moto Trail. Ughh…Although I like a bit of a chunky challenge, there are some drops on that trail that I just can’t man-up and try. Out there by myself, no armor, I figured it was walk time. Finally, emerging from the chunk-fest, I hit the AZT and did an out and back to the end of the trail. It’s getting really close to being done…as I later found out on Sunday. All-in-all, a good ride, 30 miles, 2800 vft.

I took a few days of rest since my quads were feeling pretty beat up from the rides and the projects around the house I was doing. Building 40 feet of rock wall caused me to do 100’s of free squats that took it’s toll on my back and legs. Finally, with two days of rest I opted for a long ride; not brutally long but the goal was over 40 miles. Did the usual “Flag Epic” where I started at the bottom of Schultz Creek and made my way up to FR418. Took FR418 a few miles east where it starts to drop in elevation. I really wanted to ride up to Lockett Meadow, but decided I could get a bit stranded up there, tired and no really good bail-out options. That would have pushed the ride into the 60mile range so I decided to turn around. Back south on the AZT, I HAB’d/rode the unfinished section of trail. Can’t wait till it’s finished. It’ll be a great climb on the SS. The day’s tally: 45 miles, 4400 vft.
Weird fungus...
View looking south at the peaks from FR418...
This section of AZT is just amazing...I can't get enough of it!

So, for the week, 137 miles, 14,300 vft, 14:40 of saddle time…not too bad.

Monday, July 25, 2011

ANOTHER Epic Flag ride

This blog is probably getting to be a bit boring to read...yes, another epic Flag ride... PaulD reached out to me earlier in the week looking for a long ride up by Flagstaff. In his training for Leadville, he training plan called for a 8ish hour ride and I figured I had just the ticket. Up Shultz, west on AZT, up SB road, AZT north at Aspen corner, north and around Walker Lake, then back south. We took the new section of AZT till it ended then HAB'd up to the road where we climbed back up to Snow Bowl. Jumping on the Aspen nature loop trail and dodging the throngs of hikers, we hit the AZT again went south till it ended, HAB'd to the road then down the road to the AZT, east on AZT to Schultz, then bombed like madmen down Schultz...or at least in our minds we were bombing down it. The trails, albeit kinda dry and dusty, were almost deserted the further north we were. Tons of great wildflowers, ferns and single track. Always a good sign when my brake levers have remnants of ferns stuck in them.
Super day on the bike...Something about a long ride, far away from the car just has such appeal to me. Yesterdays ride fit the bill well.... 58.7 miles, 6261vft of climbing.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Something about going deep into a hole in the ground intrigues me… as it apparently does about a hundred other people that ventured to the lava tube north of Flagstaff on Saturday. We had attempted to do this a few weeks ago when we had some family visiting but lacked in a big way on adequate light sources. This time, I brought out the “big guns”... magicshines from my night riding gear. I mounted each on a helmet that my daughter and I each wore. My wife wasn’t sure she could handle the claustrophobic nature of the cave, so she came along with one of our brighter flashlights with the intent of turning around after a few hundred yards.
Showing up at the tube entrance at about 2pm on Saturday, we had plenty of company. The entrance looked like ant pile with people swarming around the entrance. Most of these people had no intent on venturing inside but merely look down into the darkness. We stood amongst them, put our helmets on, hooked up the lights and down in the hole we went.
At first, it was like rush hour on the freeway. People everywhere. Lucky for us, with our hands free, we were able to scramble past people quite easily. Within a few hundred yards, the tube levels out and we were past most of the poorly equipped people.
The tube itself is pretty amazing…many places you are walking along a solidified river of lava. The ceiling of the tube is almost a perfect semicircle in many places; seemingly man-made. At one place roughly ½ of the total 1 mile length, the ceiling height is significantly reduced such that it requires some crouched walking. The temperature in the tube is fairly brisk as well…about 40 degrees.
The helmet-mounted magicshines were perfect for the job. We ran them on Low and still had tons of light. Several people commented on how bright they were and how jealous they were! Having a helmet on was also a good thing since there were a few places where a bump to the head was likely with the low ceilings.
All three of us ended up going to the end of the cave. With the almost “daylight” conditions, my wife’s claustrophobia didn’t bother her. So, in the end, we considered the adventure a success and decided we’d do it all over again some other day.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Backyard Ride

I feel very fortunate to be able to spend many weekends in Munds Park, AZ. It's cool, quiet, and relaxing. For mountain biking, the really good trails are still a 50 mile RT drive which I did almost every ride last summer. This year, I decided I'd be more conscious of the miles and subsequent cost of driving my truck 50 miles each time I wanted to ride. Although riding forest roads aren't the funnest, they are still good miles and offer some good climbs.
The AZ Trail runs N-S about 14 miles east of Munds Park. I put together a GPX file by pasting together a variety of tracks as well as drawing my own. That was enough for me to see a few of the easy to miss turns.
From Munds Park, it's about 19 miles to the AZT (CW loop). A hard right (easy to miss) turn and you're on some really great AZT singletrack. It follows the eastern contours of Mormon Mountain, eventually crossing FR240, and continuing south. Nice singletrack, a few chunky climbs to test your skill, but all-in-all, a nice cruise. Finally, jumping on FR219b heading NW back to MP completed the 43 mile ride...75% forest road, 25% single track.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day of the (Dead) Dirt

Today(Saturday) was the first rain of the summer in Munds Park and probably the same for north of Flag...and man does the forest need it. Set out yesterday for not quite an epic, but a good 3 hour-ish ride to explore the AZT section as it crosses Snow Bowl road and heads north. Last week coming south the trail stopped and was largely unfinished. From the south, off of Snow Bowl road, it meanders up the slope before heading slightly west towards Big Leroux Spring.
In usual fashion, the crews have done a great job constructing the trail through the boulder fields and left many in place to keep it interesting. It looks like there's less than a half mile left to finish to connect the two sections. When it's finished sometime this summer and some rain packs in down a bit, it'll be another classic section of AZT.

A few more pics from the ride...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Epic Flag Ride – Redoooo

A couple SS friends of mine decided to come up to and stay with my wife and I in Munds Park. We planned to do a very similar ride to what I did 2 weeks ago…the Epic Flag ride. Started at the bottom of Schultz around 7AM…a nice leisurely spin up Schultz Creek then onto the AZT heading west. It’s generally downhill to where the trail crosses Snowbowl Rd and tons of fun. We decided we’d climb the road up to Aspen corner…good decision as we’d later find out…Up the AZT going north…the ferns had grown a bunch from 2 weeks ago…handlebar height in some sections…took the AZT out past the White Horse Hills and Walker Lake almost to Kelly Tank. The wind was blowing pretty good from the south so we decided to turn around and begin the grind against the wind and back up from about 7700ft to 9000ft. At only an average of 3% grade over 8 miles, it’s not a brutal climb but one that seems just steady enough to keep your heart rate up. The scenery sure helps too…We encountered a family with some small kiddos on SS’s… What a great way to start them out. Responsible parents don’t let their kids have gears.
Back up to the connector trail junction to Aspen corner, we decided to see how far the AZT had been finished…We took it about another 1.5 miles…a very new section of trail that begins to decend some very powdery soil…super cool trail. Then the trail pretty much ends and we followed flags for a while, bushwacking our way through until my friends had a brilliant idea to check the GPS and see where the paved road was wrt our position…Thank God they did…we were only about 400yds away yet it may have been 2 miles of bush-wacking had we followed the flags.
Back on the road, down to where the AZT crosses snow bowl rd… From there, it’s a gradual ascent back to Schultz pass…not that we had to go that far east, but we wanted to enjoy the Schultz Creek decent. However, the price for that decent was an uncomfortably warm 45 minutes of riding…probably the warmest I’ve ever been riding in Flagstaff. The southern flanks of the peaks have some sparsely treed areas that offer little shade.
All in all, it was another great ride…51.3 miles, 5844 ft of ascent (per Garmin connect), 6:36 of ride time.

I don’t think I’ll ever get ALL the dust off my bike.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

SS Climbing Nirvana

First, let me lay a bit of groundwork…I got into mountain biking back in the late 80’s as a senior in college. Bought a Cannondale mtb which was great although the wheelbase was long and it felt like driving a yacht..a very stiff yacht. Then in the mid 90’s, I found a Specialized Stumpjumper Comp used from a kid at ASU that did nothing with it except ride it to school…major deal. Wow, what a difference; short wheelbase, steeper head tube angle...twitchy in comparison. However, after some getting used to it, it was great…did some races and had some fun. Then….took a long hiatus from riding. Fast forward to 2008, I was on a business trip back in Ohio, when a friend at the client I was visiting invited me to come riding. I figured why not? Then I caught the bug again…a couple months later and I was the proud owner of a 2008 Specialized Stumpjumper Elite…man, that bike was sweet. Living fairly near the McDowell Mountains, I frequented those trails. I routinely suffered up Windgate and Bell. My goal was to do the Quad Bypass in 2010…done.
Then, like all of us bike owners, we get the itch…simply because we spend our spare hours surfing the bike porn as my wife calls it. I kept thinking that the whole SS thing might be for me. However, I was worried that I wouldn’t ride my favorite trails in McDowells…Could I still do Windgate? Would I be stuck with SSing the flatter stuff only? Would I still ride the SJ?
I probably spent 8 months trying to decide what bike to build…steel? Low dollar or high dollar frame? Then in a moment of weakness, I decided to buy the Lynskey Ridgeline…I figured worst case, I’d put gears on it and at least I’d join the 29er world.
Spent most of the summer weekends of 2010 riding it up in Flagstaff. Geared it at 32x21 so the steeper stuff wasn’t too bad. Then it happened…the epiphany…the moment when I decided it was right…. I was riding up Mt. Elden Rd…simply standing on each turn of the pedal…no excessive pulling on the upstroke…a nice steady HR of about 150bpm… it just seemed so right to climb like that...The perfect combination of grade, gear, and guts (by guts I mean fitness) that seems to make everything else go away, even if just for that climb. People say when you ride an SS, you’re always in the wrong gear… In this case, nirvana happens, it is the right gear.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Epic Ride in Flagstaff

It was a nice cool morning last Saturday so I figured it was time to do a ride that I'd been wanting to do for some time...start at the bottom of Schultz Creek and ride up and around to the west making a loop around the White Horse Hills and returning. Headed up Shultz making a left near the pass to find the new AZT that then traverses to the west. Nice flowy stuff there, some ups, some downs and generally parallel to pipeline. After it abruptly ended, I bushwacked for a few hundred yards to find Snow Bowl Rd. Headed up the road to Aspen Corner where I stopped, ate a snack then pressed on north, up the AZT. Past the Bizmark lake turnoff, and the trail starts to almost magical decent....gradual switchbacks through thick aspen and fir forests till I hit FR418 and hung a right...bit of a climb then left on the moto trail around White Horse Hills. Minutes after being on the moto track, I busted a nipple on the rear wheel...damn. Luckily the wheel was still pretty true. Onward I went, encountering some chunky ups and downs...the ups were a HAB...prolly rideable with gears. Through the saddle where some bizarre volcanic rock formation sits, then down and back to the AZT. Feeling a bit tired, I considered taking forest roads back but decided I HAD to ride the AZT back up through the aspens...super glad I did. The switchbacks seemed almost downhill as I stayed in the saddle turning a comfortable cadence with the 32x20. I would attribute this to the high I was on constantly thinking about how life could be so much worse... Back to Aspen corner I was feeling pretty torched and my lungs giving me issues (and the broken nipple), I decided I'd take the road back... Great day on the bike in Northern AZ...
Dales map of the area
My Garmin Connect data