Here’s a video of the mountain biking trails Airborn, Sick & Twisted, and Magic Carpet Ride in the upper UCSC area of the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. We begin with Airborn, a trail known for its steep, loose descent over redwood roots. This time of year it is especially dry, and today I noticed the braking bumps had grown at least a few inches since my last run down it. But it’s still good fun, of course!
Flowing down steep hillsides like this one requires a balance of keeping momentum while not sliding out of control. Though I try to mostly use my rear brake on trails like this, your front brake provides that stopping power that you need to slow down. It becomes a controlled slide, at times. Keeping your weight back, and your center of gravity balanced over the bike, helps keep you from falling forward over the bars as you hold on and just slide down that slope until it lets up. It’s fun to ride on this edge of composure and chaos.
I focus on keeping my four points of contact firmly intact: hands committed to the bars, feet solid on my pedals. Maintaining these points of contact, while balancing your center like a gyroscope, helps absorb some of the bouncing and bumping that is inevitable on steep trails with lots of features. Dynamic, split-second reflexes, are part of the fun of this dance. Mountain biking is a lot like dancing; your bike is your partner, and you must keep a firm, constant frame with each other in order to flow with grace across the dancefloor of the forest floor. You must stay completely aware; the word present is an understatement. It can become meditative, despite the speed and stimuli involved.
Sick & Twisted is a short trail that feeds into one of my longtime favorite trails, Magic Carpet Ride. I love this area with all my heart, so much I often say “Thank you” at least once during my ride. Thank you for my legs and body to ride out here; thank you for the awesome, natural beauty that bathes me in its gentle, scattered sunlight. Gratitude is inspired from doing what you love, where you want to be. For me, that’s flowing with grace on my bike among beautiful, natural places. Blessed with another day to do just that!
Here’s a video of today’s ride, my favorite regular route. I added some captions to highlight some unique areas of the trails I’m grateful to call home. It’s about 20 miles and takes about 2 hours, starting at Highway 9 and Pipeline Road through Henry Cowell State Park, and continuing up 17 Turns to Mailboxes for the first downhill. Then, it’s a fireroad climb back up the mountain via Long Meadow in Wilder Ranch to Twin Gates; on to Sweetness, the second downhill. The warm-up and cool-down through Henry Cowell are perfect for this ride, and I’m super appreciative I can ride these trails with just a short drive from my house in Ben Lomond!
The birds and wildlife are always a huge motivator to do anything outside around here; I’ve seen a mountain lion on Mailboxes trail before. Today I saw several baby lizards, only about an inch long, which was a reminder to watch out for hatching reptiles on these hot, late-Summer days. Having access to this stunning outdoor escape is one of the main reasons I moved to Santa Cruz in the first place, almost twenty years ago. These mountains feel like home, and though I’ve ridden these trails hundreds of times, they never get old – endless fun!
Summertime rides like these set the stage for content, happy evenings; under balmy conditions, a symphony of insects and a full moon fill the sky and the senses. I savor the Summer! I am beyond thankful for this time off, and for the freedom, flow, and grace it brings. Time is the biggest gift of all, and I don’t take it for granted. As a teacher, I know exactly when my time off is, and take advantage of it while I can. August 20 will be here before I know it.
Enjoy your Summer, too; go ride your bike! It doesn’t matter what you’re riding, it’s that you’re riding – and with a smile on your face.
Northstar, California 7/10 – 7/11/18
Ron and I had an awesome time mountain biking at Northstar for a couple of days, followed by Downieville the next; I filmed four of our rides from Northstar, shown below. The Sierra Nevadas are breathtaking this time of year, with pops of color jumping off the landscape from bursting wildflowers, and long days to fill with fun activities to your heart’s content. I’m going to let the pictures and videos do the talking here, but let’s just sum it up with one word: heaven!
I Only Ride Park!
Packer Saddle, top of the Downieville Downhill
Campsite at Lower Little Truckee Campground
Lower Little Truckee Campground
White Pelicans at Martis Creek Lake
White Pelicans at Martis Lake
Sardine Lake, near Packer Saddle
Sardine Lake With Sierra Buttes
Ron & I
Livewire Trail Video:
Gypsy Trail Video:
Dog Bone Trail:
Lower Sticks & Stones/Pho Dogg Trails:
Happy Summer! As always, it goes by too fast. Enjoy every last second!
Summer vacation has arrived!
As of last Thursday, I am free until August 20. That means more time for riding!I have a full slate of mountain bike races scheduled for Summer, and am super excited to be racing on my new Santa Cruz Hightower LT. Admittedly, I am still getting my suspension dialed; I have had many awesome rides, but some rough rides as well. One of the hiccups was my rear fork: it had the incorrect tune for my bike (DGDX). I thank my husband Ron for bringing it to my attention, and now I have the correct tune (Fox Float DPX2 Tune ID DDT8). I can’t wait until I feel that moment when everything is just right. She sure loves to go downhill, though! That’s one thing my bike seems to do quite naturally. Its geometry lends itself to flowing downhill.
Here’s a glimpse of today’s ride.
I went for a long training ride today to get ready for the Old Cabin Classic on May 19. It’s a cross-country ride throughout Wilder Ranch State Park in Santa Cruz. I used to ride here all the time when I lived in Santa Cruz, and still ride Mailboxes often. But it’d been a long time, if not a couple of years, since I rode the Old Cabin Classic route: Old Cabin Trail to Enchanted Loop, to Zane Gray. I started up 17 Turns, my usual climb near Felton, and finished with Deer Antler. This year’s course is yet to be released, and is said to be a surprise. I am excited to race on homedirt again!
My new Santa Cruz Hightower LT has been phenomenal, and I rode about twenty miles and 3,000′ of climbing on it today (my AllTrails app cut out a few miles in the middle). It was fun for the first couple of hours or so, but that last hour and a half dragged on. That’s the longest I’ve been on my bike in awhile, and I am definitely going to feel it tomorrow! But it’s good training, and I saw a ton of wildlife: snakes in the trail, Wild Turkeys, deer, lizards, and birds galore. Wilder Ranch is gorgeous, with its sweeping ocean views and rolling marine terraces. With all the Spring wildflowers, the hillsides are dotted with color. The beautiful scenery was a welcome distraction to my cramping legs by the end of the ride.
Enjoy these wonderful Spring days!