Mountain Bike Coaching with A Single Track Mind (Video)

I recently worked with Dylan Renn, who started up his own Mountain Bike Coaching Business, A Single Track Mind, to put together a video about his work:

Lynn made a guest-star appearance, and picked up some great pointers along the way.

I was impressed with Dylan’s coaching style and really enjoyed putting this together. Go to www.asingletrackmind.com to find out more.

MTB in the PNW – An Oregon-Washington Road Trip

I’ve been a Sierra snob for a while now. And a California snob too. But Lynn has dutifully, gradually opened my eyes to the Pacific Northwest – a few quick family and friend trips to Seattle, Reardan and Bellingham, and an impromptu road trip to Bend in the middle of winter.

In July, we bit off a bigger chunk of the PNW, linking together Oakridge, Bellingham, Leavenworth, Reardan and Bend with a mountain bike theme over the course of a little more than a week. That’s a lot of miles, a lot of hours behind the wheel, but also a pretty incredible swath of country outside my usual roaming territory.

Seven-plus hours in my packed flying toaster (#toasterroadtrip) on the back roads of north-eastern California and Southern Oregon delivered us to Oakridge, a small, sleepy one-time logging town that’s been the topic of a lot of talk on the economic engine that is mountain bike tourism.

Sure enough, after setting up the tent and hammock in the lush green moss-veiled forest campground just up Salmon Creek from town, we found ourselves in the local brewpub (Brewers Union Local 180) among many other Northern Californians from the Bay Area, Nevada City and elsewhere.

 

Shuttle booked for the famed Alpine Trail, we hit the sleeping pad early in a mercifully quiet campground, and woke up early the next morning.

The Alpine Trail did not disappoint. The shuttle (Oregon Adventures) grunted and bounced us up a dirt road into the soil-soaking clouds – the driver stopping a couple times to explain trail crossings and intersections. Soft, black loamy dirt and a brisk first climb delivered us to a cool, foggy meadow with views to other wooded ridges decorated in wisps of mist.

Not a technical trail like, say, the Downieville Downhill, smooth, flowing singletrack with great berms and occasional steeps and tight switchbacks quickly had me counting this as one of my favorite rides. As we lost elevation, soil occasionally gave way to loose shale or dry dirt with a few sections of steep exposure off the side. And while the majority of the 14 miles were downhill, both Lynn and I were spent by the time we were done.

Another long drive through some Portland and Seattle area traffic landed us in Lynn’s college town of Bellingham, Washington. The last trip here in February sold Lynn on her Transition Smuggler, and she was eager to bring it back to its native habitat – Galbraith. This time our loop of SST was dryer and we were both a little quicker, but I did enjoy the tackier winter conditions of our first trip. Amazing trail building really keeps you on your toes – and while I love my Trance – I did kind of miss the Transition Patrol I demoed last time. Must resist.

The drive up Highway 2, over Stevens Pass, had this Sierra snob wide-eyed on our way to Leavenworth Washington, where we met up with Lynn’s parents and friends. One of her friends, Tommy, lead us on the Freund Trail. Starting off in quickly rising temperatures and a longer, steeper climb than we’d done in a while had me doubting, but once the trail turned downhill into an endless series of berms and whoops, I took it all back. Lynn said it was her favorite ride of the trip, and while it didn’t dethrone Alpine Trail for me, it was a blast.

On the Wenatchee River. #toasterroadtrip

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After a stop in Reardan, Washington near Spokane, where Lynn grew up, we pointed south, crossing into Oregon at The Dalles, and set up the tent in a familiar favorite – Smith Rock State Park, just north of Bend. While we brought a rope, harnesses, shoes and other climbing sundry, the crowds and heat dissuaded us from tackling Smith Rock’s amazing walls. Instead, we spent our days mostly in Bend, checking out breweries, hitting up some great restaurants, and sampling the Phil’s Trail Network.

Early morning at #smithrock #toasterroadtrip

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This area was decidedly XC compared to our previous destinations. Starting up the smooth and gradual Ben’s, we cut over on Voodoo into some chunky and awkward terrain before a seated pedal “downhill” on Phil’s. I’m betting this is a network that takes some time to suss out the best stashes and sequences.

A day after getting back to Truckee and I’m already poking around the internet, looking at videos of Ashland, Oregon and Issaquah, Washington, pondering the next trip. I think I might be willing to expand my territorial range in a northwesterly fashion.

The baby bear to the momma bear in my last post. #leavenworth #pnwonderland #toasterroadtrip #latergram

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Transition Patrol Demo Review + Galbraith Ride

Transition Bikes have been on Lynn’s and my radar for a while now, not only because they’re from her neck of the woods, but because we’ve seen a lot of solid reviews and get a vibe from the company that we both appreciate – fun first.

With a trip up to Bellingham, Washington planned, Lynn called ahead to see if we could demo some bikes – for her, to find out if the Transition Smuggler was what she wanted in a 29er trail bike (we rode the Trek Remedy and Trek Fuel a while back), and for me to ride whatever awesome bike I felt like, in this case the Transition Patrol.

We walked into their unassuming warehouse on a drizzly Friday afternoon, got our pedals on, suspension dialed in and seats adjusted, then handed them $20 each that goes entirely to local trails.

That was a $20 well spent, it turns out, as Galbraith, a dense and extensive network of Bellingham trails, was awesome.

We went full enduro with clear-lensed Smith Squad MTB goggles (more on those down the road) and pedaled up the trail. This was my first time on a really slack (65 degree head angle) enduro-y bike with a super short stem and 800 mm bar, and I was curious if the archetype lived up to the hype, or if they were wasted on all but the most extreme terrain.

While I can’t speak for the whole 6-inch travel slack, long and low genre, the Transition Patrol was definitely not hype.

Climbing was a pleasant surprise, which, for my 6’3″ self at least, was largely due to the steep seat tube angle, which kept me over the cranks, not hanging out over the rear hub. The suspension always moved slightly with each pedal stroke, no matter the position of the climb lever, but never excessively, or to the detriment of forward progress.

Even the long, slack front end didn’t wander as much I worried it would. Being generally out of shape and not having a lot of time on one-by drivetrains, I was wishing for an easier gear or two, but other than that, there isn’t much to say about the way up.

Then we got to a trail named Family Fun Center on our way to SST and Golden Spike, where the fun really began. My bike, a Giant Trance 27.5 isn’t some old-school XC geometry relic. In fact it’s pretty awesome. But the stupid stuff the Patrol let me get away with left me grinning ear to ear – whether it was dipping a bar into a bermed turn or letting it roll over a steep drop without really checking out what happened on the other side.

Quick in the corners yet stable enough to save my bacon in some rough spots, playful yet burly, it would be fair to say this short ride left me impressed. Next time I’d set up the suspension a touch softer (never bottomed out on either end), and had no idea how to make a 1-point turn around a couple of switch backs at the end of the ride, but I can see how this bike could be a quiver-of-one for many riders.

Tight chainstays are all the rage these days, and while I’m no manualing monster, it made small corrections and steering from the hips a little easier than on bikes like my Trance or the Remedy.

As for the trail itself – a couple slick, muddy spots were to be expected this time of year, but the mix of tech and flow were really something. I can see why backyard trails like these shaped Transition bikes the way they have.

I’m not in the market for a new bike, but I’ll be taking some lessons away from my time on the Transition, with plans for a shorter stem, wider bars and a couple suspension tweaks in the works. If I were in the market, my usually conservative tastes might be swayed by this big goofy-fun bike.

As for Lynn, who was testing for more serious purposes – well I’m sure she’ll write up here own review, but I think the Smuggler may have unseated the Remedy for her number one contender.

Photo credit: Lynn Baungartner

Marin Museum of Bicycling & Mountain Bike Hall of Fame

Over the holidays Lynn and I decided to make a side trip to the Marin Museum of Bicycling in Fairfax, about a 40 minute drive from Point Reyes.

I’ve written previously about how mountain biking came to be the first sport I really fell in love with, and I remember pouring over bike magazines and dreaming of some of the wild and wacky mountain bike designs that came out of the sports adolescence. Around the same time I found out about the museum, I was tasked with some research for the proposed Squaw Valley Olympic Heritage Museum.

I called down to the folks in Fairfax to find out what it was like getting started, raise funds, and decide on displays, events and other aspects of running a museum dedicated to outdoor sports. To say I was surprised when I was given a phone number for Joe Breeze, a founding father of mountain biking, would be an understatement. We played phone tag at first – he was doing trivial things like attending Interbike and giving one of his bikes to the Pope – but we eventually connected, and he was incredibly helpful, friendly and just plane fun to talk to.

Lynn suggested the trip over to Fairfax from Point Reyes where we were spending the holidays, and we took the pretty, redwood-lined drive down Sir Francis Drake Blvd, parked, took pictures with the monster Ibis Mojo, and went inside.

The museum has two basic displays Рone taking visitors through the early history of the bicycle, from wood-spoked velocipedes and tall penny-farthings  to the first bicycles resembling the modern, and a second working its way through the history of mountain bikes from the first fat tired franken-bike to about the late 90s or early 2000s. There were treasures like the first Kestrel carbon fiber mountain bike, a Trek Y-bike (my first full suspension), the beautiful Ibis BowTi, my late 90s dream bike the Mountain Cycles San Andreas, an early Mert Lawill suspension designed Gary Fisher and many more.

Both were fascinating, but we spent more time poring over the mountain bike display with its rich history of the Larkpur Canyon Gang, the Repack downhill, the first attempts at things like suspension, composite materials and better brakes were all fascinating and nostalgic for me.

The volunteer staff were friendly and excited to share information, trade stories and show mountain bike videos while we were there.

The museum is a must-see for any mountain biker. Lynn and I will definitely be back, next time with bikes in tow to ride the historic Repack or the newer Tamarancho trails.

Donner Ski Ranch Mountain Bike Park

Earlier this summer, I stumbled across a Facebook page titled “The Bike Park at DSR” and was excited to see Donner Ski Ranch appeared to be building a mountain bike park, and I started making some calls.

I eventually was put in touch with Jim “Hacksaw” Severt, the builder behind the new park, who invited Lynn and I out to shuttle the new trails as they prepared to open next summer. I wrote a story in the Sierra Sun detailing how the plan came to be and what it will look like when lifts spin next summer.

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We offloaded at the top where Severt and Clif McMilan, another trailbuilder, lead the group down the two trails. The first pitch was steep and I was nervous going first with my big camera on my back, but the trail was smooth and fun.

Clif on the trail.

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Our Own Worst Enemies

I chuckle every time I read mountain bikers grousing about the Sierra Club, backcountry skiers complaining about losing parking to Caltrans or climbers losing access to evil private land owners.

Not because these aren’t real problems – access for these sports is an ongoing struggle. But it isn’t environmentalists, the government, property owners or even equestrians that are our worst enemies. We are.

I’m talking about backcountry skiers cutting down trees. Or climbers littering in the Buttermilks, or also chopping down trees. Mountain bikers? We really can’t get out of our own way, skidding trails in every video, miles of poorly designed illegal trail or the perception issues surrounding the Redbull Rampage.

And yet so many take to the internet to complain about the forces that be ruining our sports. The real forces are those who show up, participate. Work with trail stewardship groups, land trusts or the Access Fund.

The picture TAMBA posted – click the image to see the Facebook post.

We need that kind of responsibility and leadership if we want progress with land owners and policy makers. Tantrums aren’t going to do it, and illegally cutting down trees will only set us back.

Recently the Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association wrote: “‘Quit sanitizing the trails’ is a common online cry, usually by people rarely seen at trail days. Here’s our latest section of trail built on the Stanford Rock reroute we’ve been working on this summer. Safe, sustainable, and challenging, but not sanitized.” on Facebook.

I think that post speaks volumes about the two types of people in these outdoor sports, and in life in general.

The organizations like TAMBA that can make a positive changes are out there. The fruitful partnerships with the U.S. Forest Service and other property managers are being made. We just need to chip in and participate. Unfortunately, some of us may need to get out of our own way first.

 

Review: Five Ten Kestrel Bike Shoe

After upgrading my 1998 Psycle Werks Wild Hare to a 2015 Giant Trance 27.5 in the last year, the next important upgrade was my Sidi Dominators of the same late 90s vintage.

When new, they were stiff, efficient, light and the Italian leather broke in to fit me like a glove. Fast forward to now, and the soles have gone soft, the leather is getting thrashed and the cinch straps are chewed up.

I also found the hard plastic lugs about as useful as ice skates on Sierra granite, so I wanted something with a sticky rubber sole. The pedals would remain the same – you’ll have to pry my Time ATACs from my cold, dead fingers.

The short list:IMG_1698

  • Pearl Izumi X-Project: Seemed nice, but the ratchet strap bottomed out before snugging on my B-width low volume foot.
  • Specialized Rime: A good fit with a descent looking sole. A strong contender.
  • Giro Terraduro: A great fit, but stories of soles peeling off had me gun shy.
  • Five Ten Kestrel: I didn’t get a chance to try these on, but like my Five Ten climbing and approach shoes, and had a REI dividend burning a hole in my virtual pocket.

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