February 25, 2014

50 Year Trail: BBB

I've been ogling the weekly photos from Tucson for years. Last year I mentioned to Chad & Scott that I was bound to make it down for a Tuesday Techy Taco (TTT) ride. I finally had my shit together, rounded up a carpooling bud, Jason, and with his friend Alex following along, made the 1 1/2 hour drive to Catalina.

Two other fellas, Tim & Sean, would also be joining in the fun. The premise behind these rides is simple, ride the 50 Year Trail and keep your eyes open for fun alt-lines to explore next to the trail. Then play on each feature until everyone is ready to move on to the next one.

I like technical challenges, but lately the TTT rides have morphed into BBB rides. Big Bike Burrito rides!! I like burritos, let's go anyway!! I had a feeling I'd be in way over my head, but I also knew there would be something there for me to play on.
Tim's smooth fluid riding was fun to watch.
Alex preparing to drop off.
Chad's facial expressions paint the scene.
Take #2 for Alex.
Found an extremely well fed Gila Monster bumbling through the desert.
Big ups on this move.
Some of these features may not look like much, but upon further investigation there's usually a snag to overcome for a clean run-out.
Jason arcing a loop-de-loop drop-in.
Scott making this one look easy.
Alex follows suit.
Sean was confident, fearless and smooth executing sick moves like this off camber step-down while dodging ocotillo branches!!
Sean nailing a step-up, then rolling down this slab to a gap jump.
Alex enjoying a bit of sun.
Slot canyon of sorts, makes for a good gap jump.
Jason looking good on take-off....
Ooofff!!! Just a bit short on the landing, pssss goes the rear tire!!
Scott planning his attack...
See the line, BE the line.
Scott & Jason playing follow the leader.
There I go, rolling a huge one, wink, wink. Photo by Scott.
One of my favorite shots of the day. Cool crested saguaro in the background too.
Scott on the full sequence.
Beautiful scene all around.
Scott on the approach...
...riding the fine knife edge...
...exiting clean on a not-so standard finish.
Close-up of the exit line.
Endless opportunities out here!
I fell backwards on my first approach, not enough momentum, but cleaned it the second go-round. Photo by Scott.
We picked up another rider!! Rob was out playing around on his coaster brake Klunker.
Rob is core.
Always smiling, having a grand 'ol time. Why wouldn't he, he's out riding bikes!!
Alex making a run at it.
Chad pulling the ripcord.
Scott coming in hot...
...arcing the turn over the tricky spot...
...clean exit.
Chad diving over the edge of Lunch Rock.
We're about to get a show!!
Scott rolling this natural quarter pipe.
Rob checking for clearance.
Kudos Jason, pulling the trigger after a few approaches up top.
Rob getting waaaayy back!!
Lunch Rock.
One last fiery display puts the exclamation point on a great ride.
Thanks again to Chad & Scott for showing a few Phoenicians the goods in your backyard. The trails around Catalina & the Tortolitas are closer than I think. I'll be back for sure, hopefully on a more regular basis.

Of course the day wasn't complete until we all chowed down on some fine burritos from Nico's, so good.

February 22, 2014

AZT: Picketpost to Kelvin, Dirty Dozen

The day had been set for a while on the local forum, but there really wasn't a buzz happening. I stoked the FB fires and by the time ride day came along 12 folks would show up in Kelvin, the finish line for the day. Seven people were from out of state, 6 fellas from Boston on a weeklong mountain biking vacation decided to join in the fun and bring two minivans to help with the carpooling, plus another guy from Cali who visits often and was looking for a shuttled ride option.

There was a bit of confusion for the Boston group getting to the Kelvin trailhead, so we ended up starting closer to 9a. I figured we'd be fine for a daylight finish, 36 miles and 9 hours to get there.
Loading up at Picketpost trailhead.
This day would prove to be a valuable lesson in backcountry preparedness. The Cali guy, took off early as he insisted he keep moving due to his slowness.

I was breaking in a new drivetrain (still had my old cassette however) thanks to two overly generous friends, I can't thank Chuck & Phil enough.  A couple miles into the day my low gears were skipping badly. I pulled over to make a minor adjustment only to find that I had left my entire bag of tools in my car!! Nice move. Here I am, no wrenches, no multitool, no patch kit, no CO2, no chain breaker, etc. Thank goodness this was a large group ride, otherwise I would have been turning around 2 miles from starting out. Again, a big thank you to my friends, both old & new on this day.
Biker train.
Most of the group arrived at the 5 1/2 mile overlook waiting for the others. Word came back that two guys were fixing flats. The first guy showed up a few minutes later, then Arturo rode up in a heap of frustration over the apparent lack of knowledge on how to do a basic trailside tire fix. Seems like the Cali guy burped his tire off the bead, sealant was dry (claimed the bike shop topped it off a couple days prior), no CO2 only a hand pump. This was a bit surprising / disturbing that someone who figures to be riding at or near the back of the pack not fully know how to repair a flat tire.

I suppose I was in a similar position without my bag of tools, but I was also planning on sticking with the group which was fully stocked to handle trailside repair.
5 1/2 mile overlook.
Trail slicing through the hills
Bike woes mostly behind us, the group continued south. It was cool to listen to the Boston guys gush about the trail. We know it's good, but it's also refreshing to hear outsiders feel the same way. I feel very privileged to have the Arizona Trail only 45 minutes from my front door. I kept warning the first-timers that the views keep getting better the farther south we go.
One of the Boston guys diggin' in.
One of the last views of Picketpost Mtn for the day.
 The group started to thin out as we entered Martinez Canyon. I was riding along one of the elevated sections when my front tire started to hiss and wouldn't seal. At least I still had my pump & a fresh bottle of sealant!! Valve core remover??? Nope, with my tools. I hung around a few minutes until Phil showed up with the tool I needed.

By now most of the group had moved on, Cali guy (Steve), the Boston man with the plan (Brian) and Tony were getting set to move on as Phil, Arturo and I brought up the rear. Barely a half mile down the canyon my front tire was getting soft once again. A quick pump up and I was on my way again, but now solo. Not 200 yards later I was pumping up again, WTF!?!? It was barely a pinhole with fresh sealant, I knew it would eventually seal, but let's go already!!
Beginning of the saddle at the south end of Martinez Canyon.
The trail snakes its way down towards the Gila.
Looking back into Martinez Canyon.
I got going once again and was kind of hoping the group had held up at the saddle viewpoint. No one was there when I rolled up so I waited for Phil & Arturo to arrive, plus I was ready for a snack!
Arturo arriving at the saddle.
One of the many postcard shots along the way.
Not quite halfway through the ride and this was the last pic I took??
We started down towards the Gila and roughly 4 miles later caught up to the rest of the group patiently waiting. We were now only 2 miles from the Gila River and thankfully I brought my water filter as a few of the others were getting a little low on water. The group made the short detour to the river bank as we topped off.

In spite of all the trailside maintenance we were only slightly behind schedule for a sunset finish. At least the next 10 miles or so are relatively quick(er) miles. From here the group split up for the duration of the ride. Steve was out in front somewhere, Sabine and I rode with the Boston 6 and Phil, Arturo & Tony played trail sweeper.

I was out in front of the group for a mile or so with only 7 miles to go when my rear brake spring snapped. I know that all-to-familiar sound. No biggie, I've been carrying a spare set of pads for just such an occasion. Any guess as to their location? Of course...tool bag. Not to mention I have two more new sets sitting at home in my garage!! Well, this just was the perfect ending for my hurried preparation, at least there was only one decent downhill remaining. Rear pads removed we pressed on to beat the sunset.
About 2-3 miles to go. Taken in early Feb. during the Gila100.
I started up the final climb, catching up to Steve in the process, then began a very cautious descent to the vehicles. I came around one corner a bit too fast, front tire chattering on the crushed granite, and I knew the bike was going down. I jumped off, ninja kicking my GPS unit off the handlebars in the process!! Gah! Only a broken zip-tie, whew.

I rolled into the parking lot 9 hours after starting. The sun was still up as everyone but the last three finished up. We watched those three lights dance their way down the mountain a little bit later. Yet another fun-filled day full of drama! I really need to be more focused before departing on a ride like this. My toolbag gaffe could've really put me in a tough spot. What if I did that before the Gila100?? I need to pay extra attention to all aspects during pre-ride preparations, taking the approach of being solo.

One side note, if you're in the Boston area, check out JRA Cycles, good guys that like to ride bikes.