December 9, 2012

Picketpost: Gila Saddle OnB

A few ride reports began trickling in from Picketpost with the cooler temps. In short order a call-out was made & a group ride materialized for an out-n-back (OnB) ride to an incredible saddle viewpoint at the end of Martinez Canyon overlooking the final 6+ mile descent to the Gila River.

Sunday morning came and we ended up with a group some 14 riders strong at varying points, some headed off in the lead while others caught up to us later on. It was a nice mix, only a handful had ventured out as far as the planned route for the day.

The first mile or so was really chilly in the shadows of Picketpost Mtn & I didn't stop until I met a sun-soaked section of singletrack to warm up my now tingling fingers. Before long the temps became pleasant and we were hard pressed to spot a cloud in the sky.
Seron carving the initial grades of the ride.
Half the group getting warm in the morning sun.
Not even three miles in it began, pssssss. That hissing sound all mountain bikers abhor, flat tire. I almost checked my front tire the night before to ensure I had plenty of sealant, but not owning a compressor I didn't want to risk any issues with it. Ooops. Sure enough my front tire was slowly going flat & my sealant appeared to be too low to clog the hole. I decided to give my removable cores a test, filling the tire with one of my Stan's samples from a schwag bag, I was able to pump up my tire with my hand pump--SCORE!

While I was messing with my tire issue, RJ decided to backtrack a bit and shoot for a Strava KOM, he's such a segment whore!! :) We all parted the trail as he zoomed on by, we wouldn't see him for miles after that.
Strava! Photo by Seron.
 Our group started with a flurry of flats and a sidewall tear. I was really surprised by the amount of tire issues, sure this is AZ, but this trail isn't THAT terrible on tires.
Derek all smiles at the first overlook, Picketpost beginning to shrink from view.
Heading out on the next stretch of trail.
Soon we crossed FR4 & made our way up a side canyon to one of the longer climbs of the day. The 10 mile overlook awaited. A quick stop at the top was followed by a long descent to a wash where the AZT climbs again up to the Pearly Gates near mile 12.5. It was here that I ran into a mechanical issue with my rear brakes. My pads are beginning to show signs of wear and my spring worked it's way out and became a twisted mess. With the aid of a multi-tool I was able to bend the spring back in place, rear brakes intact, time to roll on into Martinez Canyon.
Fix the spring or no rear brakes!! Photo by Seron.
Near the start of Martinez Canyon.
I've had the good fortune to have ridden through this segment of the AZT numerous times, it never gets old. I especially like bringing other riders through for the first time, the pure raw splendor of the canyon is hard to contain. It's one of the few stretches of trail that truly makes you feel insignificant by its towering walls.
Seron successfully negotiates a tight switchback.
We were getting close to our lunch spot and had not seen RJ or Brent since their Strava breakaway, did that crazy guy make a run to the river?? Nope, worse. We met up with RJ on his return walking his bike. A rock took a most unfortunate course, kicked up into his derailleur, breaking it, which then sucked into his wheel breaking a couple of spokes and puncturing the rear tire!!! The bike was converted into an uncomfortably huge geared singlespeed and the speed demon RJ was reduced to more HAB than he had planned.
Even with a busted bike, we couldn't catch him on the way back! Photo by Seron.
We stopped for a lunch break, it's one of the better views you can have on a bike. Then made our way another 1/2 mile or so to our turnaround point. One of the best vantage points in all of AZ.
Arturo high above Martinez Canyon.
A look back from our lunch spot.
John starting the return.
The start of a 6+ mile descent to the Gila River, Mt. Lemmon on the horizon behind the century plant.
Seron giving the Octocog a grand finale!
Thankfully the return ride did not have more than one flat or any mechanicals! While this ride may not have a ton of miles, it is not easy. Plenty of climbing, especially right from the start. Ask anyone on this ride and I'm sure they'll agree: the effort is worth it!! I can't recommend this ride enough. If you can arrange a shuttle, the full ride down to Kelvin is also worth the effort.
The contouring trail really adds to the experience. Photo by Seron.

A bit tired after one of the uphill grunts on the way back. Photo by Seron.
Derek having a grand time on the AZT.
Picketpost + AZT = Awesomesauce.
Jason's body language sums up a tough day on the trail.
I was treated to a beautiful sunset cresting Gonzales Pass on my drive home.

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