February 7, 2015

SSAZ '15

The past 15 years or so there's been this thing called Singlespeed Arizona, SSAZ, held down in Tucson by a renowned SS'er: Dejay Birtch  I had heard about it, usually right after it happened!! I'm not a SS'er, but have ridden one a few times. It's fun, different and I eventually want one.

Fast forward to 2015. The event had something up its sleeve this year, it was being held in the Phoenix area!! An insider tip informed me the route would go through the infamous 7 Springs Recreation Area. Hmmm, bad thoughts arose. Then I found out the fellas hosting the shindig were tirelessly working on Trail #4 every week in preparation for the event. Would Trail #4 actually be enjoyable to the masses? Time would tell.

Jeff provided me with a SS to ride, I mailed in my funds and it was on! The festivities began Friday evening with the event swag bag pickup. Brews were flowing, band was cranking and friends gathering.
Loading people onto the party bus and stacking bikes high inside a U-Haul truck to be whisked away to the starting area.
We rolled down to the starting area at the Bronco trailhead. Bikes unloaded, front wheels re-united with their frames, cue sheets handed out and some basic rules shouted out via megaphone: Don't Be a Dick!!
Great turnout for SSAZ.
Rob's famous Transition Klunker ready for action.
A few of us listening intently. Photo by Jeff.
Dirty giving the final instructions.
We took off around 9a, speeding down the dirt road. It was a nice warmup for what was to come. As we made the final downhill sweeping righthand turn into the campground there was a water crossing, as in a creek flowing over the roadway! I was drifting to the outside, barely hanging on, when the guy behind me made a splashdown in the river!! Man down. He was fine, but just a tad soaked. I was really amazed it wasn't me.

Trail #4 starts out great as it cuts though a canopy of shade trees, tall grass and real dirt!! Hardly feels like Arizona.
Early action shot. Photo by Dirty.
I was somewhere mid-pack when the group hit Trail #4, although not a race, the pace was a bit higher than I normally ride, but I felt good and began to get my tech on. The early sections of trail are pretty good, a few dismounts here & there, but overall a really fun piece to cruise through.

Soon the trail winds its way around and begins to hug the canyon wall. I was hanging on Ray's wheel for a while, which I rarely, if ever, do.
Good lines through here and a bit of exposure to boot.
Here's a throwback pic (1995??) to a somewhat hidden swimhole off of Trail #4 near the pic above.
Ray at one of the many creek crossings. We missed the hidden beer!! Drat.
Fun, but unforgiving terrain.
We started up the one extended HAB on the route, reminding everyone how the entire trail had been until recently. This was where my delays began to occur. First, I dropped the chain!!! Not sure how that happened on a SS...in HAB mode, but I had to wiggle the chain free for a minute or two. I took a quick snack break at the top as a bunch of riders crested the HAB, glad for it to be over.
Time to pedal again!!
Not long after I resumed pedaling activities I noticed the front tire going soft. I stopped on two occasions to pump up the tire as more riders passed me by. By the time I was ready to stop for a third time, another fella was off to the side of the trail fixing his own tire issues. 'Want some company?' I asked. I figured it would be a good time to add a bottle of sealant to hopefully solve the issue.
Tire stop #1.
I saw more familiar faces as I buttoned up my tire. Soon the two of us were off and riding once more. A short while later we were all treated to a true mountain biker oasis....
The whiskey tree giveth. Hydration is key in the desert.
The trailside libations gave way to an extended downhill turned dirt road. The halfway SAG stop was fast approaching and I was ready for some grub! As I rounded out the last mile or so into Spur Cross I couldn't help but think back to my ride through here in November, wow, what a difference. On that day it took us 7+ hours to ride/hike 12 miles of 'trail'. 16 miles of SSAZ took a bit less than 3 hours!!
One of the many water crossings. Photo by Jeff.
The SAG station also served as the finish line, we were now doing a 20 mile loop to finish the route. Before tackling the rest of the route it was beer thirty and pizza!!
Flowing water was an added bonus.
The pizza & beer didn't stand a chance.
Dirty. One of the ringleaders for this shindig, can't say 'thank you' enough.
The Bauer's, two of the coolest people you'll ever meet.
Get your guns out!!
I was about to head out for the back half of the ride and saw the front tire was low again. My car was nearby, so I topped it off with my floor pump and swapped out some cold drinks. I made it down a nifty trail through a wash bypassing the road to the Cave Creek Town trail before the tire became soft once again. WTH? I was about to toss in a tube, but decided to give it one more go. That lasted about 2 miles and another water crossing. I reluctantly gave in and began the change over for a tube install.
Cave Creek Town trail, nice to stay off the road.
Ten minutes later, sealant all cleaned up, thorns pulled from the tire casing and some of the dried sealant removed I was able to throw in a tube. I finally got it all pumped up and the darn stem leaked!! Gah! Right on cue, Jeff came riding up the road, so I gave him shit for lending out a bike with tire issues!! At least he had another tube, one more change and I was ready to go. Let's ride already.

Jeff and I ended up riding the rest of the route together, along with Nancy - when she wasn't adding bonus climbing miles!! There were a couple of stout paved hill climbs before reaching a cool neighborhood singletrack connector to the Quartz trail. It was here that a few riders made a wrong turn, the route flagging was missing at the junction, but we had a cue sheet for reference. Up we went.
Looks inviting, huh? It's fools gold: wrong turn!!
Turn right!!! Turn right!!!
The climbing started out easy.
This was my first time on this section of the Go John trail, it was an interesting mix of buffed out singletrack and ├╝ber techy climbs/descents. In other words: FUN!! As we dropped down the final pitch of Go John, we spotted Nancy coming in from the other direction. Perfect timing!
Absolutely perfect riding weather.
The route zigzagged around then connected with a portion of the Maricopa trail before returning to the Spur Cross Recreation Area over the final miles.
The Maricopa trail essentially circles the entire Phoenix metro area linking all the Regional Parks.
Fast open desert into Spur Cross.
We bumped into a few more riders taking a break in the shade on the last climb. Soon the finish area was in sight, but would there be any beer left? The last few miles were mostly downhill and a blast.
I forgot how good the trails are up here.
Finish area down in the valley.
We rolled into the parking area, made a quick stop by the car and bombed our way down to what was left of the festivities.
The local resident was kind enough to let us intrude for a bit.
That's more like it.
73, not bad, considering all the tire delays. Photo by Arturo.
A few of us went for some BBQ in town before heading over for one last gathering at Flat Tire Bike shop. I really can't praise the effort put in by those folks, Dirty and his crew, Kaolin, Local Johnny's, and a few others I'm sure I'm forgetting. Thanks for putting on one helluva weekend. While I still enjoy my gears, a SS bike is in my future. They're a boatload of fun.
Another addition to the coffee table.

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