Feeding the Beasts

Feeding the Beasts

The 13th Weekly Ride episode tells the story of the last ride on my green bike and it made me think how far my bikes have come. It inspired me to write about the different bikes i have had over the years and the progression of each one…

In 2004, I moved to Mammoth to put my full energy into skiing. I thought this the best thing because, at the time, skiing was the only action sport i thought i could perform completely solo. There was always road biking, but that was just a default when i needed exercise. It was never something i enjoyed as much as getting out in nature.

In moving to the mountains, I relished in surviving through the elements. I celebrated things like shoveling snow, de-icing my truck, building fires and cold walks with my dog. These types of things sure made the coffee and scotch taste better! What i did not anticipate is what happened in the summer…the mountain bike culture. People in the mountains ride mountain bikes when there is no snow to ski.

Who am i? Rigid bike with full face helmet? Bike #1

This is where mountain biking began for me. Now, its important to remember that i do not consider myself a mountain biker. I am a trail runner and this bike is how i get out on the trail, BUT if i am going to do it, might as well REALLY do it. Hence, the full face, pads and downhill riding. So, I’m a trail runner and equally a downhill rider, disciplines sitting on opposite ends of the spectrum. On one side is the glutton for punishment. How much can i make myself hurt? At the other end is the adrenaline junkie who feels a huge sense of accomplishment when he scares the shit out of himself and survives.

The desire for my first bike was born purely out a desire to walk my dog on the trail and get my surfboard across the sand…and that’s entirely what is was meant for. It had crazy granny gears and could climb anything. It was fully rigid and I quickly realized that it was not meant for riding the bike park at Mammoth, my back getting jarred with every rock drop. In all fairness, at that time, i was in my twenties and the adrenaline junkie side overrode the desire to work my heart and lungs.

Enter my second bike.

Launching to new heights. Bike #2

Now, a volunteer ski instructor and ski shop employee doesn’t really make the type of cash to afford a $5500 bike, but with the help of the Challenged Athletes Foundation and some good friends, i was able to get my first bike. I quickly sold that one and, with the cash, convinced a friend to sell me his full suspension downhill bike. Those bikes are rare so he was reluctant to sell, but i strategically pointed out to him that he could still use the bike, not have to transport it (because i lived in mammoth where he rode couple times per year) and also have the cash in his pocket. Salesman skills! He relinquished and i drove home to Mammoth, from his house in San Luis Obispo, with the bike hanging off the jenky hitch rack i bought for it.

This bike took me to new heights. Literally, i launched that thing. I rode the bike park every day i could. I surprised everyone and myself what i could take that thing through. Till this day, i will never ride as extreme or as hard as i did in those days, with that bike. She was broken a lot though and i spent months riding my rode bike while she sat in machine shops. My friends also had to push me a lot. She had no drivetrain, gravity driven only, and the desire to simply trail run came creeping back.

Glutton for Punishment on Bike #3 in Moab

After I moved back to San Diego, I was researching off-road wheelchairs and came across something that looked simlar to my first bike, with a drivetrain, but also with full suspension. You mean i could have both? I could satisfy the trail runner and the downhill rider? One bike for all? Within a couple weeks I sold my downhill bike and wrote a check, emptying my bank account. This third bike was twice the price and i lived incredibly simply in order to afford it.

Bike #3 was yellow before it was white. Adrenaline junkie smashing Kamikaze here.

The eight week wait killed me, but when she finally arrived I quickly put her together and the adventures began. I cranked through ligament straining climbs. Then, turn around and jump off rocks, all in same day, on the same bike. I spent sleepless nights, geeking out on trails on Google Maps and getting friends to take me on cool rides. I went to places like Moab, Colorado and Boulder City and rode all over the Mammoth area. I got so much attention with this bike that the manufacturer asked me to help sell them.

Then, the next generation came out and i had to have it. Green bike enters scene. It was stronger, lighter, slightly smaller, had more clearance…AND…the big difference…had a power assist. Complete and absolute game changer. Rides with my previous bike were five to six miles and, in all honesty, i still had to get a lot of help. If i was on climb, whoever was riding with me might as well have been on foot. I was left in the dust. Now that was all different.

Fundraiser at Revolution Bike Shop. Thanks guys!

I can’t go on without giving thanks to Revolution Bike Shop, 2XU, my loving community of friends and everyone (even strangers) who donated to the Gofundme page for this bike. After selling the previous bike, i fell ill with an unexplained bone infection and had to have my lower spine replaced, the infection had eaten it away. When i was finally admitted, i was down to 119lbs and drove myself to the emergency room one night with a fever of 107. It was bad and i am lucky to be alive, but the hospital bills were payed with all the money i had, including what i had set aside for my next bike, so thank you everyone!

With Bike #4, my rides went from five or six miles to twelve, fifteen and further. My longest ride right now is 24.8 miles! Thanks to Spinergy, the bike could accommodate fat AND downhill wheels. Talk about one bike for all! Now i could “trail run”, ride the bike park AND ride out on the snow with the fat wheels. With the power assist, i was no longer left in the dust and felt more like a part of the pack rather than a burden on the pace.

Just part of the pack! Bike #4 in DH mode

I could navigate more terrain with the power to crawl up rock gardens and the ability to still propel myself while having both hands on the handlebar (off the hand crank). More of the world became open to me. The learning curve has been to still get “the pump” and find a way to satisfy the glutton for punishment by getting my heart rate as high. There is a fine balance of how much to let the motor help and i have discovered that cranking harder in a lower gear enables me to do more of the work. I am getting significantly into the red zone for duration on all my rides now and it feels good!

In order to have the ability to switch between fat and downhill wheel sets, the bike needs an external drive train, which means I can possibly get stuck. Without the luxury of being able to step off the bike and walk it over obstacles, if i find myself in too big of a gear, then i am stuck. In working as a dealer, i learned that there is a solution to this problem: The Rohloff Speed Hub. The Rohloff is a German internally geared hub (14 gears!), which goes into whatever gear you switch it into without moving. Did you hear that? WITHOUT MOVING! That is huge for an adaptive rider. This means that if i get stuck in too big of a gear, all i need to do is drop the gears all the way down and i am free to crawl.

Newest bike enters the scene.

Bike #5. Meet L.L. Cool Grey

I have lost the ability to switch wheel sets, but have gained an entirely new freedom with the Rohloff. I have learned so much over the years of riding these bikes that i have made many other upgrades to the parts as well. In my opinion, this is the best of these bikes in all existence and it is so exciting to be on the front lines of discovery. The evolution, itself, has been a fun ride!

It is also exciting to be using this bike for others. My days of self promotion and striving to be a professional athlete are over. Its not about me anymore. Its about making the bikes better. Its about helping people get these bikes AND teaching them how to take care of it, all while providing the information they need to ride safely.

Enter The UNPavement (www.theunpavement.com). It is my goal to set a platform in place that stays in motion long after I’m gone.

I’m excited for the next generation of these bikes and for a world that possesses trail information for them. In the meantime, i’m gonna keep feeding the beasts…both of them. Thanks for joining me on this ride. Its been fun!

Coast to Crest Trail

Coast to Crest Trail

 The Coast to Crest Trail

The Coast to Crest Trail

I have become obsessed with the Coast to Crest Trail in North County San Diego. It follows the San Dieguito River Park and spans over 70 miles from the beach in Delmar through Fairbanks Ranch to Lake Hodges and then east to Julian. When I first heard about it, I geeked out on Google satellite to all hours of the night, drove around like a trail creeper scoping trailheads and exploring trails section by section. I quickly realized, however, that the Coast to Crest only exists in segments and is not a trail that connects through at all. It would be amazing, but what I have discovered is that it would actually take an act of God to get it done. The City has plans, and it will be cool when those are complete in the far off future, but the plans call for a dirt path along a busy road in order to bypass a section of existing trail that passes though private land in Fairbanks Ranch. I went out there, on my own, and found all this out the hard way.

Section 1: Delmar

Super nice and maintained

Technically the trail starts off Jimmy Durante Road by the Delmar Fair Grounds. The trailhead is clearly marked with ample parking and the trail is very well maintained, but there is one big problem. No bikes allowed. What!!! Now my bike is considered by the FDA as an off-road wheelchair, specifically “an off-road three-wheeled carriage for person’s with disabilities.” That cracks me up. When i think of a carriage, i think of a fancy horse drawn wagon used by British aristocracy in the Colonial Era. The literal definition “a means of conveyance” actually works though. I guess my bike conveys me.

The next problem I discovered was a huge wash out making it impossible for me to get through and ending my ride for that day. I haven’t been out there since, but hoping its been repaired because some day, I plan on riding the whole thing and having apple pie in Julian at the finish. This will take having multiple batteries, a bike trailer, solar panels, a generator and most likely an overnight. Exciting!

The wash out

When the trail gets to the polo fields, technically it ends. There is trail there, but it is officially not a trail according to the San Dieguito River Park officials. Not sure what the plan is here. I’m assuming things will continue the way they are and what is an unmaintained infrequently ridden trail will stay as is.

Section 2: Fairbanks Ranch

This is the section of the Coast to Crest that exists already but is illegal because of private easements. I went out there and riding meant being a little sneaky. At the end of the golf course there is a chain across the trail and you are supposed to divert to San Dieguito Rd where the City plans on building a path. That totally sucks though. I had been scrupulously studying the trail from a satellite in space that took pictures of it (a.k.a. Google Maps) and the investigator in me just could not obey…so I ducked the line.

No one has been here for a long time

On the other side is nothing more than an old unmaintained fire road running along the creek between housing developments. Its ugly and it seemed like I was the only person to be there in months. No tracks. Overgrown. Nothing. An occasional dog barked at me from the neighborhood. I feared some old white rich conservative would yell at me from their manicured yard, but then i thought, “These people don’t go outside.” The only person who would see me would be a grounds keeper from a sit-on-top mower and why the heck would they care!

The area is ugly and it is sad to me that it is sitting there, protected by people who don’t want to share it. Just a little bit of work and what is an eyesore, if any eyes ever get to see it, could become something beautiful for a community to enjoy. Its existing trail! The City is planning on building NEW trail in order to bypass what is there already! Doesn’t make sense to me.

Existing trail that we can’t use

The trail then dead ends at a florescent green pond under a bridge at the edge someone’s private ranch. It looked like the trail maybe continued on the other side of the water, but i didn’t dare go through it. I imagined overgrown crawdads nipping my toes, contracting some weird infection or growing a third nipple. I turned around and rode home crestfallen. I kept running into dead ends.

Recently, I rode as far as I could from the other direction, east to west, again through private property, and actually got to the edge of that same private ranch on the other side. Two large weimaraners frolicked gangly with awkward paws in the rolling green grass. A pony sat dejectedly and lonely with what looked like a bag over its head, against a bright white fence. I was the stranger, an intruder. I tired to figure out where I was by looking on my phone, but couldn’t quite figure it out and I was scared someone would call the cops on me. The sun was also getting low and I had a ways to go to get back. It wasn’t til i got home and studied the map that i realized i was just on the other side of that ranch. It, realistically, would not take much physically to connect the trail, but to get those people to agree to it, that would take the act of God.

Section 3: Lusardi Creek & Lake Hodges

On the other side is Lusardi Creek Preserve. Lusardi is a fun area to ride, even if you are not connecting through to the “Coast to Crest”. There is a popular 9.3 mile loop that I like to do. The area connects, via easily accessible trail, to Los Peńasquitos to the south, Black Mountain to the east and Lake Hodges to the North. I did a big loop from PQ to Lusardi and back through Gonzalez Canyon once. Pretty cool to link up the different areas.

Watch my latest episode of Weekly Ride about Lusardi Creek

Connecting to Hodges from Lusardi means continuing from coast to crest. I’m assuming this section of trail had a big influence on inspiring the concept of the Coast to Crest Trail. Its well maintained, picturesque, unique and an absolute pleasure to ride. it takes you over cool bridges and has an intricate switch back section.

Riding along Lake Hodges is sweet too and then you cross under the 15 Freeway…

Section 4: Raptor Ridge

Raptor Ridge - One of my favorite trails i have ever ridden in San Diego

After crossing under the interstate, the trail is pretty boring and flat until it gets to Raptor Ridge, which is best ridden east to west, downhill. It is crazy fun and one of my favorite rides in all of San Diego County. The problem for me is a large rock cropping at the bottom, west side, that is a deal breaker for me. I got myself over this once, but it was not pretty and took about an hour. I thought about sending it off the rock on the right (see pic) and i probably could have pulled it off, but a newly found sense of self-preservation has come out of nowhere lately and my usual reckless abandon has fallen prey to it.

Rocks at the bottom of Raptor Ridge

On the other side of Raptor Ridge is some more unmaintained, overgrown fire road that leads back to the 78 near the Wild Animal Park and that is as much of the Coast to Crest as I have ridden. There is more to it, but it does not connect. From what i gather, some of it is not do-able for me until you get closer to Julian, where its mostly fire roads. In Julian, the apple pie flows like wine.

Some day soon, I will ride the rest. I think my days of exploring solo are over though. That whole wanting to live thing! I might even do an overnight with my Burley Nomad trailer and bike pack gear too! Eventually, the Coast to Crest Trail will connect all the way through and it will be fun working with the San Dieguito River Park to make sure it is all adaptive bike accessible. It probably will not incorporate what an act of God could make happen, but we can do our best to push for it be hopeful.

First episode EVER about Lake Hodges

Smell the Flowers

Smell the Flowers

Mammoth has become a home away from home for us. Winter is coming, but we are all about the summer there. The bike park, lakes, trails, friends…there is a lot to do. A huge thanks to the Sierra Nevada Lodge for putting us up over the years. Christina has gotten so good with taking photos that I have decided to give you a little photo essay about our trip there last July. Enjoy!

 All loaded up with boards and bikes

All loaded up with boards and bikes

 Hangin with Foxy is the best!

Hangin with Foxy is the best!

 Mandatory photo op at the mammoth statue

Mandatory photo op at the mammoth statue

 The back side of the mountain was covered with these crazy fragrant wild flowers. Had to stop and smell.

The back side of the mountain was covered with these crazy fragrant wild flowers. Had to stop and smell.

 Trail selfie

Trail selfie

 We love hanging at June Lake

We love hanging at June Lake

 Surfboard doubles as a kayak. Don’t pay attention to how I’m holding the camera with the yellow bobber handle

Surfboard doubles as a kayak. Don’t pay attention to how I’m holding the camera with the yellow bobber handle

 A visit to June Lake means a stop at the brewery…one of my fav places.

A visit to June Lake means a stop at the brewery…one of my fav places.

 Rockin the June Lake Brewery jersey

Rockin the June Lake Brewery jersey

 Spent some time at Red’s Lake where I spread Freedom’s ashes. Hey Buddy! Be sure to watch the Weekly Ride video (below) about the trip.

Spent some time at Red’s Lake where I spread Freedom’s ashes. Hey Buddy! Be sure to watch the Weekly Ride video (below) about the trip.