Thursday, March 10, 2011

Me and the beast

I know I vowed to buckle down and begin work on writing projects, but I'm in a new place and the urge to explore is just too enticing. I feel I should be able to allot ... let's say three hours ... each day for bikesplorations and/or trail running. That should maybe scratch the itch enough that I can concentrate on my work. And after all, I'm still training for the White Mountains 100, right? Tapering doesn't have to begin until, well ... next week.

Speaking of training, it is now looking like I'll be riding Beat's Fatback in the White Mountains. Since I haven't really ridden the Fatback before, I decided I should take it out for a few good rides beforehand to make sure I'm comfortable with the bike. Beat has adopted my penchant for giving bicycles uninspired pet names, and we've take to calling the Fatback "Fatty." Fatty is a beautiful aluminum fat bike with a carbon fork and 70mm Speedway rims. It weighs substantially less than Pugsley, at least seven pounds less; it also handles better and has vastly newer parts than Pugsley. Only catch is I have to make sure it "fits" me.

I picked a route that looked good on the map. Turns out around here, if something looks good on a map — even if it involves a mixture of singletrack, pavement and fire roads — it's probably an established route. This one is called the "Stevens Creek Loop." From my house, it's about 24 miles and 2,900 feet of climbing. It was the perfect snow-bike training route for California — a long, gradual climb on mixed terrain, including plenty of mud of splashy creek crossings.

A light, misty rain fell for most of my ride up the canyon. Beneath the satin cloud cover, as I passed silver droplets hanging from branches and tree trunks wrapped in green strands of moss, I was hit with another pang of Juneau nostalgia. It's actually been a while since I visited one of these: "Places That Make Me Miss Southeast Alaska." I guess I am back on the Pacific Coast now, even if it is a couple thousand miles too far south.

The final fire road climb to Monte Bello Ridge was a grind, on soft mud at a 10-percent grade. You feel every millimeter of a climb like that on a fat bike, especially when you are maybe not in top biking shape, but I dug in and spun away at it. As I rose, the clouds closed in.

I'm pretty stoked about the Fatback. As I crested Black Mountain, I mulled how I was going to possibly fit all my gear on the bike ... sleeping system on the rear rack, water and food in a backpack, spare clothing hanging off handlebars. Maybe I should just go with my original plan to only carry a down coat, a few spare layers, fire-starting supplies and an emergency bivy. I'm genuinely torn with the decision of gear for this winter race — whether to go light and fast, or safe and secure. I know the terrain and feel fairly certain that, barring major injury, I should have no issues traveling the entire way without the need to bivy, even if it's quite cold. However, my brushes with "too cold and not enough clothing to combat it" during the Susitna 100 have scared the insecurities back into me.

But for now, I'm a chick on a fat bike in coastal California. One construction flagger on the Stevens Creek Road called the Fatback "creepy," and another transient near the freeway yelled "nice motorcycle!" But I was lucky today to otherwise have that entire lush, misty trail to myself, whooping and singing along with my iPod as I wended around tight corners through the woods. I have to admit, it's kind of awesome to be able to get out for rides mid-day during the week. I'm starting to feel like I "own" that Monte Bello trail system, and I'm almost afraid to return on a sunny weekend day.


  1. "Creepy".... That's a good one.

  2. Very Cool Bike! Sounds like a nice ride. Looks like Beat has got you wearing the company colors as well :)

  3. Ahhh...the Stevens Creek ride is awesome! That was one of the first MTB rides I did when I started going up to Sunnyvale for work years ago. Howevever I was riding it on a 22lb bike, not a 'creepy motorcycle'! My FAV trail up in your area is currently the Purisima Creek Redwoods (it would mean a drive to get there for you)...park in the village of Woodside on the side of the road just past the grocery store, and ride to and up the Kings Mt. Rd. to Skyline Rd (a 4 mile paved swoopy climb thru the redwoods). At the top you turn right onto Skyline and after about 1/4 mle on your left you will see the first trail going 1800' descent. There are a few other trails going up and down, take them all. Your smile will have to be surgically removed when you are done, and after your FINAL climb back up the 1800' to Skyline Rd, you get the super-fast knobby-singing downhill down Kings mt. Rd to your car. Give it a shot won't regret it. And WELCOME to CA!

  4. Oh good lord, the Steven's Creek Loop! Damn you Jill! You're killing me with nostalgia!!!!

    You can certainly do Purisima (one of my favorites also) from your place without car if so long as you are up for an nice epic ride. You will have to ride on Skyline Rd for a bit since not all the open spaces along the way are bike friendly, but you could sample Monte Bello, Skyline Ridge, Russian Ridge and Corte Madera along the way! Of course, if you're really "going big" you have to head out the back side of Purisma and ride the road to Half Moon Bay to have lunch at the beach before heading back!

    Sorry Jill, I'm really not gonna be much help in keeping you from spending all day on your bike...nothing like living vicariously!

  5. Jill--

    Wow. You're in California now. Welcome. Your postings have been a joy to read. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Jill, are those the headphones that come with the ipod, or did you get the in ear ones (that close out more "outside" sound)

  7. BLM trail crews are hard at work busting through the snowdrifts that accumulated after the last few winter storms we had up in the White Mountains. The snow pack will be different for this year's race and, depending on what the weather does between now and then, there may be a lot more runoff and open water on the ice lakes section.

    Fatty will be a great choice for a ride- as to gear... that's always a crapshoot. Best of luck to you, Jill, as you get ready to head back to the Frozen North.

  8. Thanks Ti. Looking forward to seeing you out there again! As for all the new snow I've been hearing about ... That's one thing I enjoy most about winter racing — conditions are never the same, even for different people within the same race. Beat and I will both be mentally prepared for heinous overflow and potential long slogs through wind-drifted snow. I think we'll both be excited if conditions are more challenging than they were last year. As for gear, I'll probably end up erring on the side of overloaded for safety. I usually do. On one hand, it sucks to haul a bunch of unneeded gear over the mountains. But often that extra gear can mean the difference between going back out there in the storm and holing up in a checkpoint wracked with uncertainty. I like security.

  9. skeggs point! it's very close to purisima. there are trail maps at the skyline gate. I like to get started on star hill road...then you can get the majority of your climbing done first and descend to the car (well, that's what I tell reality, there is a lot of climbing throughout).

  10. Eudemus--

    Took your advice and headed out to Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space . . . for a run! What a splendid place to find quiet. Thanks.


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