Friday, June 8, 2012

Off days are part of the game.

Every so often you have one of those days where nothing seems to go right.  For me Wednesday was one of those days.  It started off well enough.  Despite being at work until 5pm and doing my best to fill in for the branch manager, I managed to survive the work day.  The mere fact that I was able to get everything done and be out on time was actually quite amazing.  Usually I get stopped just before it's time to leave and end up having to change my after work plans entirely.  Today I was lucky, and the ride I had been looking forward to all week was looking like a definite possibility.  Little did I know, it was going to be a ride riddled with issues.

I arrived at Passion Trail Bikes, in Belmont, just after 6pm.  That gave me plenty of time to get ready and warm up a bit.  It was going to be my first time riding with the crew from Passion so I wanted to make sure I gave myself enough time to figure out which group to tag along with.  I ended up with a rather large group of 14 riders that was a mix of different skill and fitness levels.  Just my sort of group for an easy ride, as I never feel like I'm pushing to keep up, but I'm also not having to dial my speed back either.  On top of that, the fact that I was just along for the ride meant I didn't have to worry about looking out for people.

We rolled out from the shop around 6:30pm, and right away I knew it was going to be one of those rides.  From the first shift under load the bike seemed to be hating me.  I asked for smooth downshifts and got nothing but noise and ghost shifts.  Annoying considering that the bike had just been into the shop for a week to have a full tune up and new drive train installed.  I tried to keep my shifting to a minimum, but the ghost shifts made it difficult to build up a decent flow on the trails.  Sections that I normally wouldn't down shift for I found I was shifting just to avoid the chance of the bike doing it for me.  No amount of cable tweaking or derailleur adjusting seemed like it was doing anything to help either.  By the end of the ride I would finally figure out what was going on (at least I think I know), but by then my mood would already be soured by the rest of the nights events.

The shifting issues were bad enough, but then to drop a chain on a hard climb effort and have the derailleur completely lock up was a major pain.  I literally stopped dead in my tracks mid climb.  I ended up getting the bike to shift again but everything was still off.  Then while just riding along chatting with some of the guys on the ride I spazzed out and put my wheel right into a ditch, sending me straight to the ground.  I cut open my elbow and scrapped my shin pretty good, but mostly it was my pride that was bruised.  I did my best to pedal through the pain in my shin and lower leg, which within a few minutes of the crash had seemed to feel worse than it should.  Eventually I was able to get my momentum back and started feeling good on the bike again.  I led the charge up some of the hills and was feeling pretty good as we got near the down hill single track that makes riding at the Dog so much fun.  Then I went and messed it all up again.  Literally minutes after pointing out poison oak to some others on the ride, I brushed my forearm right against a huge branch of it.  What a putz!  I had already scraped up my arm running in to various other forms of flora along the ride so I knew my arm had exposed areas that would possibly lead to a nice reaction to the P.O.  I got over it though and kept riding.  As we neared the end of the ride we were heading towards my favorite trail, Rambler to Lower Creek.  It's a great stretch of single track that when clear can be ridden fast, with tons of lips to pump or hop, and plenty of tight corners to really test your skill and nerve.  I blasted through the first half only to come to a screeching halt against a tree when I missed the transition onto a skinny section of boards.  The tree knock my stem and bars out of alignment and launched my Garmin GPS right of it's bar mount.  I rode back to the lot with the bars out of sorts before realizing that I had to go back to hunt down the Garmin.  Finally finished with getting the bike sorted, and mounting my lights for the ride back to the shop, I was alone for my ride back.  It was a pretty depressing two mile ride, but I tried to make the best of it by putting the hammer down and trying to make up some time.  I never caught back up with the group, but they were all waiting for me when I finally arrived at the shop.  The ride had left me in a pretty sour mood, and I didn't really feel much like hanging out for a beer so I left.  Hopefully the next ride will lift my spirits and get me back in the mood.  After all I have Tahoe to look forward to.

Remember the next time you have an off day.  It happens.  All you can do is just move on to your next adventure and hope it turns out better.  After all mountain biking is too awesome to just get discouraged from one bad day in the saddle.  So get out and ride again.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Where the rubber meets the trail.

For the past few weeks I've been talking about needing new tires for my main ride, the Trek Fuel, but it's becoming a real pain in the rear to find straight answers on what's best for our trails.  Walk into ten different shops and you'll likely come out with ten different answers.  Of course what do you expect with such a subjective question like "what tires do you suggest?"  You're bound to get every possible tire around suggested to you, with that sort of question.  So what's the fix?  I'm not sure entirely, as I still haven't made a final decision.

The first thing I need to do, I suppose, is figure out what kind of rider I am.  Do I enjoy faster XC style riding with less technical terrain and some gut busting hills?  On occasion, yes.  Do I want to just haul butt down the hill and try my best to make it down in one piece?  That's another yes.  So looks like I need a tire that rolls fast on hard trails and grips everything from the loose stuff on hard packed trails to the loam in the deep forest.  Great!  So I just need a magic do everything tire.  Where am I supposed to find that?

I asked the guys at the last shop I went into and got three different answers on great "all around tires" but all three of the guys were riders that spent most of their time riding down hill technical terrain in the forest.  I ride more varied terrain than that so those tires may be overkill.  Looking around at the fast guys at the races is even more confusing.  It seems that racers tend to find a tire that works for them and then stick with it, no matter if there's something newer or better out there.  So if I'm a jack of all trades sort of rider, like most of us, I suspect, are what am I supposed to do?  Well thankfully there is a tire called just that.  Well it's actually called the Hans Dampf (supposedly German for Jack of all trades), from Schwalbe.  The only problem is that despite it being called a do everything tire, it's massive and very aggressive looking.  Hardly a fast looking tire, it looks more like the thing you're going to see on some 6 inch travel trail devouring beast not a 4.7 inch trail bike.  Then there's the price tag of $90.00 per tire.  That's a lot of dough to throw down on tires that may be too aggressive for what I do.  They may be great but at $180 for the set it's hard to justify a maybe.  There is the option of just sticking with what I know... the Kenda Nevegal.  The only problem with that is I feel as though I'm selling the bikes potential short.  Sure plenty of people will tell you it's not about the bike (or the tires) but I'll bet that all things equal, tires could easily make the difference between a great ride and one in which you're chewing dirt.

The next problem I face when it comes to this dilemma is that I'm a cheap skate. When it comes to spending money on things for me I make excuses for why I don't do it.  Sure I'll take my wife out, or buy her nice things.  But when it comes to spending money on me it's a whole different story.  I sit and research until I'm blue in the face then when I think I've got it all sorted out I stall and research some more.  It becomes this endless cycle, that lands me in exactly this position right here... Blogging about tires for my bicycle on the internet.  Sure I enjoy sharing my random thoughts with those of you that will listen, but is it really helping me make a decision?  Maybe what I need to do is just go for it.  Stop thinking about the possible outcomes and throw caution to the wind.  Throw down the cash and just ride.  Maybe I buy the best tires I've ever tried and maybe I don't.  Does it really matter?  In a couple months I'll have worn them out and need to start the whole process again.  The end result is still the same I'm still getting out and riding my bike.  Perhaps this concept could spread to other parts of my riding and life.  Instead of sitting and thinking about what to do or what to buy maybe I'm better off just rolling the dice from time to time.

What are you waiting for?  

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Monthly ROMP ride @ Henry Coe

So yesterday was our first official outing with the Responsible Organized Mountain Peddlers or R.O.M.P.  They've recently begun trying to revitalize their group by hosting reach-out sort of events called their "Monthly ROMP" in which they organize a meetup of various ride groups to come out and ride together.  Among the groups in attendance were the Mere Mortals, BTCEB and of course SJMTB.  More than thirty people showed up in all, from all over the bay area to ride the many different rides being led by ROMP's leadership.  There was even a ride for the little ones led by Linda George, of ROMP.

Despite what people tell you about Coe, I was surprised to find that there is in fact an easy ride to be had there.  Our ride wasn't necessarily "easy", as we rode with the intermediate/advanced group, but I certainly wouldn't have called it a hard ride by any means.  The climbs were totally manageable, taking their time to get you up to the ridge.  I'm sure the views along the way would have been nothing short of breath taking, however our ride was to be a foggy one so all we saw was clouds and fog.  Of course this meant that the temps never really climbed either, which I hear can be a real problem when it comes to riding out at Coe.  Once at the top the down hill sections were where skills and caution were really needed.  The trails were fast, steep and loose with very little variance.  There were some great sections to flow, as well as some cool little creek crossings that made for some challenge (wet feet would have sucked in that weather).  All in all I'd say the ride was much better than what I had been expecting and can honestly say I look forward to riding Coe again in the near future.

The post ride spread, I think is what really sets ROMP apart from the other groups.  They really go all out to make sure there are enough snacks and drinks for everyone.  And nothing tastes better than someone else's beer.  The conversations I shared post ride were really what made the ride for me.  I met so many interesting and nice people that had nothing but great words of encouragement and appreciation for what our little group could become.  I left truly feeling inspired!  Having felt my passion wane in the last couple weeks, it was the pick me up that I really needed to remind me of exactly what I know SJMTB can become.  With all of your help and support I know we will become a great resource for not only awesome epic riding adventures but also trail and bike advocacy.  I look forward to our future.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Scrambled Skeggs part deux

Yesterday San Jose MTB hosted yet another weekly Saturday ride.  This time we headed out to El Corte de Madera (a.k.a. Skeggs) for one on my long routes that feature many of the best parts of Skeggs in one ride, dubbed Scrambled Skeggs.  I've decided to keep Dean's original theme of a play on the Skeggs name that he started using a few years back.  It surely isn't a completely original idea, however I think SJMTB uses it more than any other organized group.  Hosting rides such as Green Skeggs and Ham, Fried Skeggs, Fried Skeggs over easy, etc...  Scrambled Skeggs is by far the longest and hardest rides we host of this series and as a result usually brings out some really dedicated and strong riders.

This ride stayed fairly small (I think the 20 mile prescribed distance scared people off) with only five riders coming out.  A plenty big enough group for Skeggs given it's size and scope.  Our ride started off to a great start with some always great single track along Sierra Morena and Blue Blossom trails.  The dry winter has made certain areas a little dusty while others have remained wet and tacky as is usually the case with the area.  Traction was great and the group was really making great time on the ride.  We had made it down Blue Blossom and back up to Crossover with little need for pause.  Then we began our trip to the creek by way of Giant Salamander, one of the best trails the bay area has to offer.  We took a couple photos at the creek but didn't stop long, I think everyone was motivated to keep moving since we still had over half the ride to go.  From the decent on GS we headed back up the hill along some of the most technical trails Skeggs has to offer. The Leaf trail section, offers plenty of tight passes (a royal pain with my Renthal's), rock gardens, as well as root steps.  It truly takes skill to be able to clean the entire thing, not to mention some rock solid nerve.  A few sections had the entire group walking, and by the end of the trail everyone was feeling a bit beaten.  Of course we were now near the top on the opposite side of the preserve.  Only one way to go from there we headed back down the hill to our second creek crossing.

Things were going great and everyone was having a blast catching air off the water bars.  The everything came to a screeching halt.  As with any ride there is always a chance that something bad is going to happen and this time it did.  Matt, one of SJMTB's most dedicated Orgs, hit a rut just right (or just wrong depending on your perspective) and it sent him flying.  I was just behind him and came flying around a downhill corner to find him face down in the dirt.  The cloud of dust still settling from his impact with terra firma.  While we tried to asses his injuries we had to clear the trail and get him somewhere a little safer.  He was conscious, thankfully, and aware of what had happened (although not quite sure how).  We let him catch his bearings first and offered him what first aid we could (that's another post altogether).  He was bleeding quite a bit from a cut on his lip and tongue, but didn't seem to have any serious injuries that required professionals to be called in.  He was definitely in pain, but insisted that he could make it out under his own power.  So after a visit from some fellow riders (Matt was definitely getting the female sympathy vote, which I think helped to lift his spirits a bit.) we started heading back up the trail.  Leave it to Matt to wreck at the very bottom of the trail with no way out but up.  We opted for the most direct route, but it also happened to be the steepest.  Matt soldiered through the entire way, and though he was injured and sore he still made it back to the cars before everyone else.

Back at the trail head we all seemed a little more relaxed and at ease.  No longer fighting our way out we were able to joke about the incident a little and get Matt some real first aid attention.  It may not have been the best outcome for a ride, but I think everyone still enjoyed themselves and had a great time.  It was definitely a teachable moment as I don't think I'll ever ride without my first aid kit again.  Nothing sucks more that having a buddy down and knowing that you can't help more because you didn't want to carry an extra pound of supplies.  I think my next post will have to address the issue of what to bring with you on rides.  Our site has a page dedicated to this, so maybe it's time we expanded on the idea and tried to spread the word a little.

Thanks for tuning in.  Until next time, ride safe!

Monday, May 14, 2012


Welcome to San Jose Mountain Biking!

San Jose Mountain Biking started out as a meetup group that aimed at providing its members and organizers with ride opportunities and companions at locations they enjoyed.  Ride the rides you want to ride was our founder's idea.  And since 2009 we have been doing just that.  With rides scheduled nearly everyday of the week, we have become the most active mountain biking group in the bay area.  We offer something for everyone, hosting rides for the total beginner all the way to the seasoned veteran.

Our leadership team is made up of people from all walks of life, from the engineer to the mechanic, brought together by our love of riding.  Many of us have been riding for years and some only a few, however we all try to provide our members with the best possible experience when it comes to our rides.  You won't find any crazy power trips on rides or ridiculous rules to follow.  Just show up with a helmet and bike and prepare to have fun with some of the best people I know.

Our rides will range from after-work workouts and social beginner paced rides to longer weekend excursions with hours of riding.  We'll host rides anywhere and everywhere we can, from the nearby hills of Arastradero and Fremont Older to Marin and Monterey counties and beyond.  Most of our rides are kept at a social and easy going pace, but there are times when the pace is pushed and the sweat will pour.  Thankfully we have a pretty rock solid rating system to let you know what to expect before you show up.

Basically all of our rides are ridden with a no one left behind mentality, similar in principle and practice to that used by R.O.M.P. (a long standing riding and mtb advocacy group in the bay area)  We will try to keep the group together when possible or regroup when necessary. After all, these are group rides and you should feel like you're riding with a group and not alone.

The formula for the rating system is:

Pace:  With A being the slowest, beginner friendly pace, and C being a workout pace where you'll be expected to be able to keep moving with few breaks. 

Technical Difficulty:  Between 1 (easy with no real challenges... think paved path) and 10 (lots of challenges including drops, rocks, roots, etc.)

Physical Difficulty:  Also between 1 (again think flat paths) and 10 (lots of climbs broken up by more climbs)

Mileage:  The total expected distance for the ride (usually a close estimate rather than actual figure)

Elevation Gain:  The total amount of climbing for the entire ride (this is a sum of all the climbing done during the entire ride so the number can seem really high even on easier rides)

If you'd like more information about our rating system you can check our rating guide page HERE.

Along with our ratings guide you'll find our current ride calendar, ride photos, discussion forum, as well as details on our groups sponsors.

Not a member of MEETUP.COM or SJMTB?  JOIN TODAY!

We'll see you out there!