February 1, 2013

McDowell Redemption??

How does the old saying go, 'When the cat's away, the mice will play?' K had an impromptu surprise retirement party to attend in FL for her sister and would be away for a few days. I took Friday off of work & after dropping her off at the airport, bike already loaded of course, I was on my way over to the McDowell Mtns.for a little redemption for my DNF during the AES McD60 back in December.

A few weeks ago I also skipped the annual Quad Bypass ride that Walt puts on due to weather. So I had concocted a route through the McD's to satisfy a dual redemption. Start with the AES route, then after clearing Tom's Thumb throw in a loop around Windgate/Bell/Gateway passes before rejoining the AES route to the finish. Hence the McDowell Madness Loop. Grand indeed. Could I pull it off? In short, no.

To give you an idea, last year I averaged 250 mountain bike miles per month, fast forward to January 2013 and I had 80. Not enough for me to complete this route especially with a 9am start. With that said, I still did a really nice big loop. I tried to just keep a good pace going, limiting my stops to short breaks and not a bunch of photos.

One of my other concerns for the day, was my bike. The day before I had started up National trail at South Mountain and snapped a rear spoke on the Crossmax's. Then I started having real shifting issues with my rear derailleur only to find out my fine adjust was max'd out. I replaced the spoke & adjusted my derailleur at home that night. Hoping all would hold up.

The ride started well, steady pace, under fantastic weather. I made my way from Thompson Peak Pkwy / Bell Rd over to the Sunrise trail, one of the passes on the route. I stopped a few times gong up, but otherwise felt good. Plenty of hikers out enjoying the nice morning, but no bikers.
At the summit split on Sunrise Peak.
The descent down the backside of Sunrise is a blast and I'm getting fairly confident in cleaning the upper switchbacks. I opted for the ride through Hidden Hills, I figure one slow mountain biking going uphill wouldn't stir the pot too much!! The jeep road connector from Sunrise over to Sonoran Trail is a real grind, up, up, up you go.

I was determined to have a good ride on Sonoran Trail, my nemesis of late. I cleaned all the downhill switchbacks easily and made the first set of uphill ones, then did the usual HAB up the second set before the fun downhill over to Dixie Mine Trail. LOOK AT THAT, no crashes on Sonoran Trail - a first!!!

Cholla forest on Sonoran Trail.
Next up was the climb up Prospector,just steep enough to put you at the breaking point, but rideable on most days. I walked a couple of short sections, but otherwise had a good go of it to the junction with Bell pass.
Top of Prospector with Sunrise Peak.
Next was the ├╝ber fun downhill of Bell / Windmill / Coachwhip / Dixie Mine / Pemberton before finally hooking up with the back end of the Long Loop. So far no ghost shifting on the rear derailleur, so I could take advantage of the fast track on still damp 'hero dirt'! Soon I was rolling into the competitive loop staging area at the Regional Park where our December ride came to an end. I sat down for some lunch by the pump track and realized I still had yet to see another mountain biker!! I was now 33 miles in and only hikers and a couple of horseback riders.
Remnants of a mud puddle on Dixie Mine.
Pump track, but I was too tired to mess around on it.
I sat at the picnic table staring at the pump track, legs getting wobbly from the earlier climbing. I began thinking that this really isn't a bad place to get a ride back to the car! I wasn't about to call it off, as I had no one to call anyway. I made my way over to the Scenic Trail via a connector I had not been on. The climb up Scenic is nice, gradual up to a wide ridgeline then down a swooping roller-coaster of a trail towards Pemberton.

One of the toughest parts of the day came on the easy Granite trail. It is gradually uphill, but just seems to go on forever. My legs were getting heavy and the sun was now getting low.
End of Granite trail, back on Pemberton for the third time.
I finally met the junction with Rock Knob Trail and exited the park towards the new Tom's Thumb Trailhead. I had already made up my mind that I wasn't going up & over as it would most certainly be all HAB going up. I also wasn't keen on the idea of riding the 20+ switchbacks down with only my helmet light. I asked a few hikers for the quickest way back to Thompson Peak Pkwy and finished up my ride with 14 miles of road back to the car. It was 7:15p when I rode up to the car, not 30 seconds later K called, she had arrived safely in FL. Two journeys completed, I was off to home to pack up for another big ride the following day. I hope I didn't overdo it today, but I'd say it was a successful redemption ride even if the Madness route has to wait.
Last light waning over Tom's Thumb.


  1. Damn that's a big ride to do right before the APC! Who's more angry at you for all this riding? Your legs or the wife?! ;)

  2. Oh, that's easy...the legs!!! The wife was in Florida!