Thursday, April 17, 2014

Coyote Coulee

"What the hell. You know the routine. Just get off you pansy asses and get down here." - Joel

There you have it. The next time our own reality TV show colleague, is up in Alaska hunting Griz with a spear that he gnawed out of a Sitka spruce, he's going to grab the sat-phone, swat down your namby pamby excuses and harangue your lazy asses reminding you how pathetic your so called life must be if you can't even exert yourself enough to get a little outdoor adventure once a week on Wednesday nights.  Honestly I don't know if he is a reality TV show.  I think he might have had a cameo once. Regardless if any one could manage to be entertaining on TV it would be him. Leaving the question of why anyone would want to live with cameras following their every move for another day and another post.

Considering the relatively chilly overcast weather, typical weather for this ride, turn out was again stellar at 10+. Finally a real Bitterroot ride: cold creek crossings, a little snow slogging, cold feet and wet socks. (We were about week too early with a fair amount of snow on the upper reaches.)  Somehow last year it seems like we avoided almost all of these inconveniences that we celebrate as badges of macho posturing to demonstrate how tough and superior we are. 

Compensating for our ordinary lives as dads and husbands working ordinary jobs and trying to believe that had we been born in a different era we would have been dog warriors defending our land or possibly Custer heading west to subdue the savages. Instead we carry saws and clear downed trees.  Coyote Coulee did not disappoint.  

Jeff, our current reincarnated Chief Joesph lead us unerringly to the mythic third loop after several misadventures in previous seasons.  At his time I have to acknowledge Doctor J who after  intermittent appearances in previous seasons has made every ride  this year and has assumed his position at point. He may not know where is going yet, but he is determined to get there first.  Also making every ride after lackluster prior seasons are my favorite photo models, Kevin and Aaron. Also  perfect for the season so far is Cory. Finally getting their asses in gear were Travis and Donny.   As I alluded to,  Joel dropped in between his other adventures for a ride, and I always hate it when he does.  When he is around I can't blame my slow climbing and wussy descents on being washed up and over the hill.  Instead, I have to accept that I'm simply a slow wuss.

"You should talk about the apres' cocktail hour.  I need to drink before I eat after a ride. Once I eat I bloat up like a manatee and need a nap." - Joel

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sawdust Gulch

Have you heard of something called flow?  Read Bike, and all I hear is how a trail should have flow.  Check the IMBA website trail building guide; all about adding flow to a trail. Trails that aren't too steep going up or down, predictable. Trails that you could take your 29er hard tail single-speed on and still enjoy it. A trail you can have fun on whether you are young or old, fit or flab, noob or knob head.

One Sawdust Gulch virgin felt we should have a ride summary when we announce the weekly ride so that cherries would have some idea what to expect. First, if we did that how would we ever get anyone to deflower.  Second, he's been riding with us on and off for a few years now, so he should already know what to expect.  Sometime during the climb you will either ,if you are lucky, want to puke or more likely just  want to lay down and pray that this is the end.  If there is downfall to climb over, we will go off route to find some adventure, and there is a good chance that there will be blood, since this is no country for old men.

Planning next week's ride.

What was he imagining? That hidden somewhere up Sleeping Child there was a machine built trail with a pleasant middle chain ring climb followed by a fun fast downhill filled with grade reversals, sight lines and bermed turns.

So do you become an old man when you give up the Wednesday night rides, or do you stop riding when you become too old.  The list of former riders who seem to aged out of the group seems to grow longer with every season, and now that I'm one of the veterans, I occasional ponder when I'll follow Jay and Shrek, Joe and Warwick, and others who predate me into obsolescence or is that convalescence. Usually is seems to be somewhere between 50 and 60, even if a few have chosen early retirements, and there is a good chance Joel  will break the 6o barrier a few years hence.

Doing what everyone wanted to do at the top of the climb

For some of the under 40 riders out there, they can still skip a few rides or even seasons, and still be able to jump back on the train.  For some of us, at least for me, is the realization that if I don't get on at the station, I'll never be able to catch the caboose once it gets rolling.

So for those who haven't ridden Sawdust, it is our early season test piece to see how your lungs and legs survived the winter.  Roughly a 15% grade for 1.5 miles you get to redline from the start, and while your vision blurs add in the fists of death studding the road. In years past it was always an accomplishment to just get up it with dabbing or walking.  Now everyone, even those feigning a lack of fitness, ride the climb clean.  In the good old days after almost killing ourselves we would contour over to the Forbidden Ridge, but not this year.  No this years guide added not one be two more climbs.

The first another steep road to the saddle overlooking Skalkaho. The second a mad trail free scramble with mountain bikes crisscrossing each other to the top of ridge line knob, like a bunch of ants getting out of the anthill at the first sign of spring, while the whole time I was hoping someone would get off and walk, so I could do the same thing with a modicum of dignity.  Of course everyone rode the ascent clean. Just when I'm starting to look forward to my future Thailand vacation to get a few joints replaced, and having the chance to sit at home and anxiously ponder my retirement account, everyone else decided to keep pedaling all winter on trainers with heart rate monitors or on fat bikes in the snow.
Aaron ready for some unknown to him at the time unplanned dismounts.

Kevin claimed he was demonstrating his anguish.  Looks like he was practicing some blanket hornpipe.

Once at the top, Chad informed us that we had several options for going back down. We could do Forbidden rRidge. We could do the ridge barely legal ridge from last year, or we could look for a trail on some other ridge that he had never been on, then take it down to a old road bed that he had never been on, then loop around to another knob he had never been on and then finally ride that back down to Sleeping Child. So once again the herd put our lives in his greasy hands and bounced and flounced our way into the  unknown.

Final resting spot after his wife caught him taking a flyer with his Turner

Did I mention that the climb was steep? My mistake, the descent was steep. And the sidehill?  I'm not even going there.  Was there a trail? No.  Was there an old road bed? Yes. Did we use it? No. While everyone survived the climb, the bush whacking over and around the sage and down the untouched ridge claimed a few dismounts, but luckily no blood.

Flow is all in your head

How about the grilling.  Oh yeah there was none this week, actually I grilled some wonderful venison sirloin when I got home, since no one brought a portable grill this week.  Speaking of grilling, good news marinating your animal products in beer decreases the number of carcinogens created by turning animal flesh into charcoal.

For a ride that is too steep, with no flow, and in fact no trail at all for the descent, everyone was exceptionally perky on the final cool down to the cars. Maybe there is more to a good time than flow.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Soft Rock 2014

After writing ride reports for awhile now, I have sadly come to realize that I'm running out of witty things to say. So with the new ride season upon us I'm going to introduce some guest bloggers to share the load. This weeks guest blogger will be someone, or rather something that has joined me for nearly every Wednesday ride over the three previous seasons. So here to bring you a fresh POV is my Vitamin P Ibis Mojo HD.

Not to sound ungrateful or anything, but it's about fucking time. If it wasn't for me, I don't how many times that dolt Monkey Doo would have ended up a Raggedy Andy missing his button eyes and hanging by his blue bow tie off some lodgepole limb.

When I first arrived here 3 years ago there we doubts whether my carbon fiber was up to the rocks and roots of the Bitterroot. Well despite the utter incompetence of Monkey Doo dropping me onto countless sharp bits of granite in Blodgett, Camas, and now Soft Rock, I'm still here, having survived longer than some of those supposedly sturdier aluminum frames.

It feels good to be out of the garage and back on the soft loam, no hard packed fire roads, no dust insinuating its way into my linkages, and no mud clinging to my luscious nearly neon greenish yellowish hide.   Finally, you know who, has given up his winter infatuation with that Mukluk monstrosity, and his early season love affair with that that cachectic roadie.  Just a passing thought, since I'm the one doing to ass poking, why I do always have to be the bottom?

After a prolonged visit to the spa at Red Barn, I feel rejuvenated with fresh bearings, new rear derailleur, chain ring chain, a new blue saddle to replace that duct taped embarrassment, maybe some blue flat pedal bling, and an uber cushy Cane Creek DB Air. I guess those Bitterroot trails had put some wear and tear on me.

Thinking back over the last few years, the changes I have gone through have been pretty staggering. I started out as a svelte 5" travel cross country racing machine, and over the years I have bulked up into a 7" all mountain slayer.  As much as I have enjoyed the makeover, I just wish I had a rider who could push me to my limits.

I was so jealous some of the bikes I hadn't seen much of the last few seasons like Giant and Delirium, who actually got a a chance to get decent air off the jumps and rock drops off the ridge at Soft Rock. Instead I had the indignity of micro-air and the abuse of premature  flat landings. 

There are time I think the Caballero Sin Cojones believes that if he just tricks me out just a little bit more, maybe with flat pedals or a chain guide, he can be the next Aaron Gwin or Stevie Smith. I hate to break it to him that with his diminished reflexes and reading glasses, even the sweetest bike made is not going to turn him into a downhill jedi.

Finally, those organics got over their fear of cold and dark, and nearly a month later than last year we got riding. It was probably the first time Soft Rock had ever seen a herd of 12 to 13 mountain bikes. The herd included Giant who has been missing for at least two seasons, both of the Knolly brothers, the ever elusive Ellsworth, the usual Turner and Ventana clans, and that sweet Raleigh number whose hard tail makes my dropper post hydraulics boil, if you know what I mean.  One El Ciclon is still missing, and I'm only mentioning it, because I want his rider to invite us down to New Zealand for some riding.

One thing I have noticed recently and it really dries my chain are those annoying blobs of blubber that have popped up all over the place.   Everything is great with day after day of rolling in the dirt, hopping logs, and airing over obstacles, then suddenly you are locked up in the garage hosting generation after generation of spider webs.

 The lucky ones demeaned to getting strapped to a Burley so you can tow those shrieking shit making machines to the Farmers Market. Fuck, I hate those little fuckers, and it doesn't get better.  Even now Monkey Doo ignores me every other Wednesday so he can make the even bigger parasites they turn into dinner or help them with homework.

So how was the ride?  Few things are better than rubbing against sagebrush while carving turns on soft loam single track, with outcrops of grippy granite to play on and pine needle and cone covered hillsides to grind up.  At one point a herd of elk outnumbered us and forced us to retrace our treads and find a new hill to climb.  Not a huge day, but our riders with their flabby early season legs and winter insulation managed to power out 9+ miles.

The current rumor is an out and back on Brennan's Gulch.  If I'm lucky, maybe I can swap riders so that I can get a chance to stretch my suspension and not just roll the kelly humps.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Man From Blodgett Canyon

It has recently come to my attention that this blog has become incredibly popular with the Hamilton Middle School set. Yes, least one teenager has read or considered reading about the amazing mountain biking exploits occurring in the Bitterroot Valley.  I was under the impression that kids of this age were unable to read more than 140 characters at a time without getting bored, so reading a post of more than 140 words is no doubt incredible.

So this new reader is the son of one of our ( I was going to say rat pack, but somehow I can't see any of us hanging around with the Sinatra and Dean Martin, or even with the newer Clooney reincarnation.  Well maybe Hanrahan could, but isn't he dead or something?) posse.  Somehow this grommet had developed the impression, after some off hand comment at the Red Barn,  that he was of my flesh and blood.  Now I know his dad and I can't fathom how this young teen could have developed this misunderstanding. Only in my fantasies, and fantasize I do, could I match his father's combination of brilliance, his poetry on the bike, and his ability to induce cardiac arrhythmia's in the opposite sex. No doubt he could hang in Vegas with the rat packs, new or old. Although Brad Pitt would likely leave Angelina at home lest she accidentally grab the wrong room key.

So the presence of this new potential readership has left me with a bit a dilemma since on occasion I have followed that enticing loamy single track across the railroad tracks and forded the gutter into territory that could possibly be considered, if you are an uptight piece of number two but apparently not if you manage the firewall at RML, lewd and crude.   So henceforth do I bleach the tighties and ascend to a more cerebral realm, or do I embrace the tastes of my new readers?

Was there really any question?  After all grown men are still just 13 year olds who have just figured out how to better disguise our tastes.

Fat bikes, tis the season for the fatties.  Chad convinced Ventana to make one, El Gordo. Classiest one I have seen yet.

If $1200 for a fat frame of mangoed aluminum is too much for the pocketbook. How does $199 sound. That's all it costs for the Mongoose Beast at Walmart.

I've been thinking a little bit more about the setup on the bike. My initial impression was single speed, coasters brakes, lame.  After more reflection, including several hours mediating with the mantra, "ohmmm, clown shoes, ohmmm, bear grease," I was enlightened and I understood this inspired creation. Assuming you can get it's max weight of 250 lbs rolling, a single speed is fine.  I don't think I ever left granny  alone the entire ride, and really how much stopping power do you need when you are barely moving.

No Gordos or Beasts showed up last night for some Blodgett fun. The valley's only snow biker, our favorite Shreky, took a break from rutting up the Como Lakes trails to do a morning recon and laid in a track for us.  As the valley's sole representative he has a hard job. In the old days he used to pre-pack the trails with snowshoes. Now he just takes abuse from skate skiers. No doubt someone is calling him right to now to complain why he rode up and down the first mile of Blodgett Canyon seven times and knocking all those trees down.

Considering that most people don't have fat bikes, that it was short notice on the wrong day, along with it being in the dark and in the snow we had excellent turnout of seven hardy souls, with one at least fat bike virgin and one Missoula visitor. The weather wasn't quite as nipplish (A new meteorology term I just picked up while watching the annual showing of "The Man From Snowy River," and a word that  became the impetus for organizing this night ride, just so that I would have an excuse to use this particular Benderism in a blog post)  as I was expecting.

Since we are tangentially on the topics of middle school and nipplish weather, I thought I would share my first memory appreciating the function of the arrector pili muscles. While most of my memories of that distant time in middle school are about as hazy as the air during a safety break, this one stands out like the gleaming LED of a Lupine Piko headlamp, so there is a good chance that this hippocampal reenactment is at least loosely based on reality.

 It was  an early spring Saturday night and I was sporting a wicked goggle tan, a side effect of having not discovered the utility of sunscreen during ski season, and I was hanging around the Skate City parking lot with some of my other nerdy friends waiting for one of our mom's station  wagons to arrive, the melody of Downtown still ringing in our ears, when somehow we found ourselves face to face with a similar aged collection of teens.  Except these people had longer hair, and the shadows cast on the building from the street lamp had some intriguing curves.  Attempts at conversation by me consisted of incoherent babbling while I tried to figure why the chilly night air make her nipples perky yet made my scrotum shrivel up.  As far as I can tell this was my first encounter with nipples since I was a babe, and maybe even not even then since I think I was bottle fed.

So last night weather was rather balmy and we thought we might need a pre ride refreshment to let the snow firm up, but in the shadow of the canyon the snow remained frozen. Riding up the trial I was consistently reminded of my general ineptitude at snow biking. With each incline I ran out of breath and started staring at my front tire inevitably resulting a game of pinball as I ricocheted back and forth off the wall of the track until I would lurch to a halt as the tire dug into a soft patch of snow.
No one else seemed to be similarly afflicted, apparently they can keep their eyes focused down the trail.

Traffic, bike and otherwise, has been light up Blodgett so far this winter and rather quickly we left the packed snow behind and started into the untouched snow.  Pushing a 4" or more tread through soft snow is not necessarily a pleasant experience. The first four people push their bikes packing down the snow. By about the sixth person in line the experience becomes something resembling riding. So we managed to drag the bikes up about a mile and a half, additionally slowed by a few trees that decided. to get recumbent this winter.

I have heard several variations of "Blodgett is a pain without snow. Why in the hell would you ride up there in the winter?"  Well the answer is: you know all those rocks that get in the way.  In the winter they all go away, and all that is left is a smooth trail. Assuming that is that some one has been there before you.  Luckily for everyone,  there is now a trail packed down, and if everyone pitches in we can ride by ride pack it down to the bridge.  Now if only I had one of the aluminum chain saw panniers like Corey, so that I could take care of those lodgepole obstacles.  Heaving the fatties over trees is a wee bit more of a challenge than usual, well maybe not if you happen to own a carbon Beargrease.

One of the nice things is that no matter how challenging making trail was on the ascent,   there is always that skinny rock and root free packed highway heading back down.  Once we had the trail established, and the hard work done, everyone opted for a short second hot lap up around the twin trailheads, with Rob and Jeff going for a third.

Watching Rob and Jeff ride their mountain steeds down the steep hillside to the parking lot after everyone had given up and grabbed beers that, even they weren't driving a herd of wild Pugsleys, they were truly the Men With the Snowy Bikes.

And to any candy assed, smart mouthed, young whipper snapper that made it this far, I think I just farted, heh, heh.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Coyote Coulee night ride

I'm still not sure when it happened, but sometime in the last 3 months I lost any level of fitness I had, and now I move about as fast a koala bear.  While sloths have a reputation for their sloth, koalas make them look like veritable type A workaholics.  Koalas sleep 20 hours a day and the rest of the day they spend stoned on eucalyptus leaves.  Somehow since September between the packing and moving, and moving and unpacking, basically life getting in the way of any weekend jaunts I was reduced to climbing hills about as well as a VW bug with bad spark plugs and blown head gasket. Even the middling climbs of Coyote Coulee had me gasping for air, for chrissake this was
Coyote Coulee, one of our easy rides, and I cold barely spin the pedals faster than a Bose–Einstein condensate locked in a laser trap.

Enough of the whine, whine, whine we already know you were weak, I know you are all thinking. What we want to know is; how was the ride?

Well, the sun sets a wee bit earlier this time of year, so it was dark before we ever started.  A couple of inches of snow covered the trail, hiding smaller rocks and greasing the water bars. The water crossings were frozen solid, keeping our feet dry.  Even in my weakened state I was amazed how just a little snow makes climbs more challenging and descents interesting at any speed.

 I was reminded that as much as I like lights mounters on the handlebar, a helmet mounted light would be preferable on the turns. As it happens there are some sweet 1200 lumen lights for sale at the barn, just in case anyone is looking to get me a Christmas present. Even with lights the ride still had that ride by braille feel and guess where the rocks and roots were hidden in the gloom or buried under  the thin layer of snow.

I guess most everyone else must have had holidays parties to attend, since I simply can't believe that everyone else wussed out preferring the hamster cages at the Canyons to the some crisp December fresh air. It's not like it was cold out, just barely below freezing.

Many thanks to Jeff and Cory for not abandoning me deep in the woods.  It was always heartening to see the occasional reflections of light bouncing off reflective pants and coats in the distance, instead of glowing eyeballs.

 I'm not sure how many more winter ride we plan, but the week before full moon's seems to have the best chance at light, even if the forest blocks most of the moonlight.  If we are lucky future rides will be fat bike territory.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

End of the Season

I've been bad, really bad. Not bad in the comical way a bunch of roadies and triathletes try to stay upright while riding the gravel at the Como Tri, and not even close to the badness of Walter White. I guess I'm not really, not bad, more like lame. I admit I've been lazy and slacking. We had our grand finale ride for the season and I didn't report a thing.  I hope the seven other riders aren't miffed that I didn't acknowledge their dedication with making it to the finale.  We even had one lonely soul who finally worked up the courage to ride with us.

It is probably a good thing the season is coming to an end. Not only was it a challenge to finish an hour ride before being buried in darkness, I just haven't been that funny or insightful this year and I'm worried I'm about to jump the shark.  My blogs kind of remind me of the albums you get of your favorite band about three recordings into their career when they inevitably hit their nadir.

Not that the riding has been bad.  That was once again excellent. August was almost smoke free. The LTBike Fest was awesome and once again a bunch of trees met chainsaws.  Shrek broke another bone. Somehow I never made it to Blue Joint, or Bear Creek Overlook or amazingly Shannon's Ridge. Although the last one could still be on the list for a late season sojourn.

Oh well, there is snow out there now.   So charge up your lights and be on the lookout for the occasional winter night ride notice.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Buttercup redux

The black honda Fir rolled to a stop at the dusty pullout off Little Sleeping Child Road. "Warwick's here now. That make five of us. Is that enough to get the job done?"
"Yeah, with Rob and Cory with we have a solid crew."
"Warwick, you're late."
"Sorry, I wasn't planning on coming. Then the smoke cleared enough for me to see across the valley and I changed my mind at the last minute."
"Same with me"
"I ran into Dean at work and he said that because of the smoke, he was going to play volleyball with his girlfriend."I told him he was undergoing pussification. He didn't seem to like that."
"I guess no one else is coming I guess we better get going. Everyone knows their role.  Without Dean, Jeff can take point. I'll take clean up."
"I heard Jeff is getting a new bike."
"Which Jeff?  Knolly Jeff or Jeff Jeff."
"Jeff Jeff"
" Hey Jeff, What are you getting?"
"An Endorphin"
"Crap, that means you and Knolly Jeff will both be Knolly Jeff. How will we tell you apart when we're talking about you?"
"What color?"
"Raw with orange accents. I couldn't go with yellow since it would look like your bike, and if I went with blue it would be confused with Eric's"
"Hey Warwick, I think this road climb is where we first came up with the concept of Warwicks. 'Just a couple miles of road until we hit dirt'."
"Joel told me he was planning on riding today.  He's actually in town for three weeks between Alaska and middle fork trips."
"Well Nancy is our of town, so he probably felt he should stay home and do the chores."
"Totally sissified.  No worries we'll make sure we do Sleeping Child next week. We know how much he loves that."
"Where's Chad?"
"He said he's still feeling lazy since the Fitz-barn."
"At the fork should we ride the road or the single track?"
"Well we rode the road last time.  There was too much snow on the ridge for the trail."
"Might as well ride the trail, We need to make the ride a little different."
"Do we have enough time?"
"Sure it's only an hour down once we get to the top. We should have light until quarter till 9. Anyway I  figured Buttercup late August, I brought my lights."
"You remember that one time we brought those Missoula yahoos along and they were way over their head, and Tim ended up dragging them out in the dark around midnight.  Well I ran into one of them at the Barn the other day, and the story doesn't end there. If you remember one of them was night blind, so he couldn't drive. Well the other one had some restriction on his license that kept him from driving at night, but he was anyways.  So of course they got pulled over and thrown in jail until they could get bailed out."
"Caballero, why all the dialog."
"Well Elmore Leonard died Tuesday, and he believed that dialog should drive the story, and that fancy word play just gets in the way of the story. He also said don't write about the weather and when writing dialog, only use 'said'. No hoarse whispers, shouts, or exclamations.No barely intelligible murmurs, or sultry coos."
"So should we really make Sleeping Child the ride next week."
"I would, but I guess we should be generous and plan on Bear Creek Overlook."