The Header Image

I’ve been asked, “where did you take the pictures for your header image?”

Actually I haven’t been asked that question, but I would like to write about it just in case you were wondering where those three images came from.

These are not images I just looked for and grabbed from a Google search.  These are my pictures and I had to do some riding to get them.

The image on the right of the orange bike leaning against a rock was taken somewhere on Gordon Mill Trail between Spring Board Trail and Sierra Morena Trail at Skeggs Point.  This trail is one of the classic climb-out options at Skeggs, and I needed a break, so I stopped and took a picture of my bike.

The middle image is looking up a rather nasty section of Saratoga Gap Trail as it looked in 2016.  I’ve heard this has been cleaned up a bit.  Riding downhill over that put you into an immediate turn, on singletrack, with a nice drop over the side.  It was easy to take this picture because I walked this section.

Finally, the image on the left is another one from Skeggs Point.  The trail on the right is Giant Salamander Trail.  The trail on the left is Methuselah Trail.  Here begins 1.6 miles of pretty much uninterrupted climb to Manzanita Trail (2.3 miles overall to Sierra Morena Trail).

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Setting a Goal

When mountain biking back in my late 20s, I used to set goals.  Those goals usually involved riding a specific trail.  It didn’t have to be a difficult trail to ride (although sometimes it was), it just had to be a trail that would test my limits.

Later in life my goals changed a bit.  It was no longer about riding a specific trail.  It was usually about losing weight, getting in shape, or just being out there.  Those aren’t bad goals, but for me, they don’t necessarily motivate.  Personally, I think it’s better to set a goal that’s a little more visible to the naked eye — like riding a specific trail.  Besides, in working towards that goal, it knocks the others off the list.

Before the end of 2017, I would like to ride Charcoal Road (or Charcoal Grade).  There are a couple of reasons I have picked this ride: 1) it was something I did in the past and 2) there seems to be a lack of Charcoal Road biking videos on YouTube.  Yes, I’m going to wear my GoPro while doing it.

For those of you who don’t know, Charcoal Road is an infamous climb out of Stevens Canyon that brings up all the way up to Skyline Blvd.  When referring to Charcoal Road, I’m actually talking about two trails (or really three) in one, because they’re all linked together making one continuous climb.

The climb on Charcoal Road itself begins after a brief ride on Table Mountain Fire Road.  It’s 1.4 miles up to Saratoga Gap Trail.  You can expect 10-20% grades throughout this ride.  You’re also exposed to the sun throughout, so if it’s hot, it’s even worse.

Just to get to Charcoal Road itself, you have to ride up Table Mountain Trail and Table Mountain Fire Road.  When all is said and done, it turns into a just under 3 mile ride with around a 1,500 foot elevation gain.

Thing thing about this is that it’s almost nothing but climbing.  You do get a brief break just over a mile in for a bit, but it doesn’t last all that long and before you know it, you’re climbing again.  Oh, and it would be one thing if this was the only riding I would be doing — it’s not.

This will be just a portion of a larger ride.  Bay Area Rides (a fantastic website) has a write up on a version of this ride.  It’s version starts with the downhill at Grizzly Flat Trail, then uphill on Table Mountain/Charcoal Road, with a finish riding through Long Ridge Open Space.  It says 10.5 miles and 2,550 feet; Strava puts it at 9.2 miles and 2,153 feet.  Either way, it’s a ride!

My planned ride, or I should say our planned ride is a little more intense (no, I’m not riding this alone).  The ride will begin at Stevens Canyon Road and Redwood Gulch Road.  This is where you’d typically park if you’re going to ride Canyon Trail.  From there, it’s a 3.1 mile 563 foot elevation gain ride just to get to Table Mountain Trail.  Aside from the starting point, another variation on my ride will be the fact that it gets us on Peters Creek Trail as soon as possible.  I think by that time we’ve done enough climbing.  Besides, there’s still one climb to go just to get out of Long Ridge Open Space!  In the end, this ride is 15.1 miles with 2,640 feet of elevation gain.

I’m not exactly sure of the timeline.  I would like to do this before the end of the year.  I’m thinking this would be a good November ride — the weather will be cooler and Peters Creek Trail should still be open.  The last two years Peters Creek Trail has been shut down between December and March.

Two Weekends in a Row!

I seriously considered just not going Saturday morning.  The night before, I was up rather late, probably falling asleep sometime between 2 and 2:30 am.  That didn’t give me much time before my alarm was set to go off at 7 am.  But  I decided I had to go — I’ve been too lazy of late and I wanted to compare last weekend to this weekend.

With a few hours of sleep in the bank, I woke up, had an english muffin and some orange juice, packed my gear, and met up with my buddy before heading back to Long Ridge.

In case you didn’t know, the trails we’ve been riding of late are Long Ridge Trail and Peters Creek Trail.  We often simply refer to it as Peters Creek Trail, based on where we start the ride – at the Skyline Blvd Peters Creek Trail entrance (which is almost directly across from the Grizzly Flat Trail entrance).  It’s really a modified version of the Long Ridge Loop.  This ride cuts out the Hickory Oaks Trail portion of the loop and focuses on more of the riding in the woods/singletrack portions.

The temperature at the start of the ride was maybe 65 degrees.  We were hoping for the marine layer — I had heard the forecast in the middle of the week talking about how we’d get it this weekend, but unfortunately, it was a few miles to the northwest.

After the initial 200 foot descent from the trailhead at Skyline to Peters Creek Trail, we decided to head up the Ridge Trail to Portola Heights Road.  This simple ride gives you a little over 80 feet of climbing in a half mile.  I think it’s a good warm up for what’s to come — plus you get to ride back down.  Some people refer to this portion of the Ridge Trail as the Chestnut Trail.

After riding up and down the Ridge Trail (1.0 miles), it was another 0.6 miles to the Long Ridge Trail Connector.  Making a right here, it’s another 0.4 miles to the Long Ridge Trail itself, a total of 2.3 miles and about 250 feet of climbing so far.  Not bad.  The connector, however, covers 100 feet of that climb.  No, it’s not bad, it’s just annoying, and the trail itself sucks.  It always seems a bit on the soft side to me – very uneven and annoying.

From there it’s a 0.7 mile 220 foot climb on the Long Ridge Trail to the Wallace Stegner Bench.  This is the meat and potatoes of the ride — you get three switchbacks, one of which always gives me problems — and most of that climb takes place in the first half of the ride.  It was here that Saturday morning’s ride went south.

My buddy, who normally pulls ahead of me at this point in the ride, wasn’t.  It wasn’t long before he mentioned that he just wasn’t feeling good.  As for me, my legs felt fine, everything else felt bad.  It didn’t help that the bugs were out in force, just buzzing around our heads.

At the end of this section, we commented that we likely would skip the final segment of the ride (which involved the connector, then going right instead of left on Long Ridge Trail, and coming back down on the steep segment).

And that’s exactly what we did — instead of completing the loop, we climbed out.  It was just one of those rides.

Warm Sunday Ride

My last ride was in early May, so I was a little skeptical as to how riding yesterday would go when I agreed to a morning ride at yes, Peters Creek Trail (and a few others) at Long Ridge Open Space.

The weather over the weekend was a tad on the hot side, with temperatures the previous day pushing 90.  When I woke up at 7 I looked outside and while it looked like a beautiful morning, there were zero clouds and no marine layer hugging the Santa Cruz Mountains.  No worries – the temperature on Skyline should be about 10 degrees cooler.

When we started up Saratoga Avenue from CA-85, it was already a warm 68 degrees at 8:15 am.  I was hoping for maybe 58-60 degrees once we got to the top, unless it was like “that one day at Skeggs,” a reference to the previous year when the temperature in San Jose was much cooler than the temperature on top of the hill at Skeggs (I think it was 70 in San Jose that morning and once we reached Skeggs it had risen to 76, rising to 86 by the end of the morning ride).

Unfortunately for us, the temperature was 70 degrees at the top of the hill.  We took comfort in the fact knowing that we had an immediate 300 foot descent to the creek, where the temp would be nice and cool.  It was, but unfortunately that was the only place on the ride where we experienced it.

The ride itself was uneventful.  We did the complete 5-mile figure eight, climbing out just before 10 am.  We came across a few hikers and bikers, but not much traffic.  The trail conditions were okay, just very dusty.  While my riding time was a bit slower than usual, which was to be expected, we actually finished faster than normal, as we didn’t stop much.

I’m Back!

It’s been a long damn time since I’ve updated this blog.  While I have had a few rides during that time, I’ve done nothing on my bike since November.  Let’s talk about that break in biking…

Around the time of my last ride, a project at work really kicked into high gear, which meant weekends off suddenly became non-existant.  In December, when I found myself with a moment where I could ride, my body decided to reject me and come down with an awful cold.  And just when I thought I was getting better, I got sick again.

Moving on to January, the project picked up again, with a “go-live” deadline slated for the end of the month.  My weekends became filled once again, not that it mattered, because the weather was lousy for the most part.  Trails were closed and roads that lead to the open trails had issues (mudslides, trees down, large sections of road vanishing, etc.).

February was a lot like January — the project was still going on and the weather was still pretty rough.  March — same thing.

Finally, towards the end of April, I find that I can ride again and have a ride planned for tomorrow.  Don’t expect much out of me, but it’s a start and will be nice to be back!

Running Here, Biking There

For the second time in the month of August, I hit the trails last Saturday.  This time — a 6.4 mile ride with just under 900 feet of climbing at Long Ridge Open Space.  The Peters Creek Trail + Long Ridge Trail + Ridge Trail figure eight.

This ride was somewhat adventurous in that I had a tire issue.  Well, not a tire issue (although I did have to remove my tire), but a valve stem issue.  During the first half mile of the ride, I noticed my rear tire was a bit low.  So at the top of the Ridge Trail section, on Portola Heights Road, I attempted to fill it up.  Didn’t happen.  I then attempted to use a CO2 cannister.  Didn’t happen.  My friend’s pump wasn’t working, either.  That’s when we realized the valve stem was jacked.

This is why if you’re running on a tubeless rig, you should still make sure to bring a tube.  I did, so after 15 minutes or so of messing around, I was back in business.

The ride itself went quite well, with me navigating through all of the hairpins, except one, which I had to stop due to traffic on the trail, as well as the rather steep section of Long Ridge Trail.  I did all of this despite the fact that through the first half of the ride my seat was way too low.  I really need that dropper post!

Outside of biking, I have continued to run from time to time.  I’m trying to do every other day when I can.  I’ve managed a couple of decent runs — a 6 mile run a week ago and a relatively fast (for me) 3 mile run yesterday.  I’m going to try to run tomorrow and then will ride again Thursday after work.

Back on the Trail

One month without biking is entirely too long, so yesterday I was back at it.  Unfortunately I didn’t sleep very much the night before, due to being out and about and having a few beers.  Hey, that’s life — just because I’m going biking early the next day isn’t going to stop me from enjoying it.

And so we drove up to Skeggs Point at 8:15 am.  The temperature when we left was 62 degrees.  I didn’t spot any clouds on the hills in our area, so I assumed it would be clear skies at Skeggs as well, but despite that, it would probably be 5-10 degrees cooler.

When we reached Los Altos Hills on I-280, we ran into some fog.  So much for sunshine at Skeggs — which is a good thing.  You don’t want the sun when you’re making that climb back to the parking lot.

When we started going up CA-84 (Woodside Road), the sun was back.  Oh well.  At least the temperature would be in the mid to upper 50s.  Or so we thought.  When we reached Skyline Blvd, my truck said it was 75 degrees.  What?  It had to be wrong.

As you can see in the above picture, we did in fact have clear skies and yes, it really was 75 degrees!  This entire year it has never been this warm when we’ve started a ride at Skeggs.  And the temperature was only going to go up.

We would be riding the Blue Blossom Trail and then up Gordon Mill to finish.  Because of that, and because I don’t yet have a dropper post, I manually lowered my seat post (and jammed my left thumb doing so). (1)  Of course that also meant that for climbs I needed to raise my seat, which proved to be a complete pain in the ass.  Note to readers: feel free to buy me a dropper post.

At the beginning of the ride, I was just hoping for a clean ride — no mistakes and good lines.  Well, being tired didn’t really allow for that.   I was in poor position a few times, clipped my pedal on a stump, went sideways, and dealt with noisy brakes.  I guess I should be thankful that I made it through the downhill portion safely at least.

The uphill portion, a solid 1.6 miles and about 700 feet or so of climbing, was next.  Gordon Mill Trail isn’t steep or anything; you do get a few quick bursts where it does get a little steeper than normal, but overall, it’s basically the same grade for 1.6 miles.  The problem is this — it doesn’t stop.

On a good day, this is about 22-23 minutes of riding time for me.  I get tired, of course, but I get through it without too many issues.  That didn’t happen yesterday.  My riding time was easily 10+ minutes slower.  I hit the wall and there was nothing I could do.

So take note dear friends, make sure you are rested and have good energy before you go for a ride.  It makes a world of difference!  That said, it was good to get back on the bike.

Footnotes

  1. A dropper post is a seat post that can be raised/lowered with the push of a button.  It makes it much easier to shift your weight when it comes to things like descending, where you often need to shift weight further back — it gets the seat out of the way so you can move your body back much easier.

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