Monday, June 22, 2009

Up early for a ride.

Somehow managed to wake up to hear the clock chiming five & suddenly remembered that I was to get up in five minutes for a big ride. Stumbled around the house - being the longest day, it was nice & light - getting ready & managed to force an extra piece of toast down & I was on the road before six. Met up at Chip's house & we loaded our bikes on to the borrowed old Volvo (it has racks). Annoyingly burnt my tongue on the liquorice tea, & we arrived at the trail head (down the I8 again, towards where I rode at Big Laguna last week) fifteen minutes early & waited for the others to arrive. In the end, there were seven of us - me the youngest (easily having less than half the years accumulated as the most senior), a couple of guys on singlespeeds - one a very nice custom titanium 29er.
Started off at 8.00 & it was a little chilly as we cruised along some singletrack not too far from the road. After a while we started to climb a little & I was impressed to see the singlespeeds leading the way - usually the case, I remember having to just go at hills & not being able to cruise. Found a big rock for first rest stop.
The whole area we were riding in was destroyed by wildfires in 2003, so there weren't a lot of sizeable trees around, but the scrub has had a few years to regenerate. It's a bit of a blur, but we did a lot of climbing (middle-ring the whole way for me, so not too difficult) on some nice singletrack - quite dusty, but otherwise fine. I think we started at about 3000 ft & eventually we crossed the Sunrise Highway (~5000 ft) & continued climbing on the singletrack. Stopped a couple of times for a rest & for the tourist to take photos:

By now we were looking out towards the edge of the desert (further north of the one we drove through to go camping last week).Some of us felt that we should leave the Perfect Cycling Trail & hike-a-bike up to the road. Unfortunately, this was twenty minutes of clambering, pushing, carrying through scrub getting very scratched legs. Probably the hardest part of the day for & somewhat draining. We rode up the Sunrise Highway for a few miles, down a bit & back on to singletrack. What followed was pure bliss - we must have had two or three miles of downhill & it started out nice & dusty (of course) & twisty & then proceeded to get rockier & rockier - it was great fun barrelling down there. The closest I came to riding off the side of the hill was looking up & seeing Billy two or three hundred yards down the trail & trying to work out if I could catch him. I put my head down after that & concentrated on staying on the trail a bit more - the rocks got bigger & combined in some nice chutes, where having suspension soak up the occasional poor line was comforting. Pleasingly, I managed to catch Billy right at the end of the downhill & we sat & waited under a tree for the others to turn up. Those few miles were fantastic & the riding (& perhaps, the) highlight of my trip so far.

Having regrouped & rested we begun the climb out of the valley on singletrack & eventually were riding up & down a meadow. The dust turned quite slippery here - I'm used to dry surfaces being grippy in NZ, but here I'd hit a switchback too fast (as it turned out) & my front wheel would just slide as if on slippery clay - I managed to turn front wheel inside out once or twice, but somehow stayed upright. One final rest stop before we hit the fire road down all the way to the car - it was quick. I'm still not a big fan of the High Rollers, there were quite a few instances during the day when I think the Nevegals would have helped me out a lot more. First puncture of the day for Cliff about ten minutes from the cars; once that was repaired we easily finished the six hour epic - 27 miles all up. That was about the limit of my endurance, up the last little rise (which was nothing compared to what we had already done) I found myself chopping back to easier gears & struggling up the hill. Got home & realised I was covered in dust - a great glove mark:& it was just as well I didn't get talked in to having a pedicure the day before - this is through MTB shoes & socks.Big nap & watched Master & Commander - as I had been on the HMS Surprise a couple of days before. Must pack & plan & organise a few things (rather, everything) for my road trip today.

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