Sunday, October 31, 2010

Where's Brian

For those of you wondering, "where in the world is Brian now?"  I just finished another stint at the United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, Oregon.  UBI is the only nationally accredited bike mechanics school in the U.S.  I have 2 other certifications from UBI.  During this trip, I completed the Advanced Bike Mechanics Course.  Now I can add a DT Swiss Master Wheel Builder and a Suspension Technician certification to the wall.

Classes are kept small with lots of hands on and instructor/student interaction.  There is a lot of information and it can be stressful and rigorous at times.  But don't let me mislead you one bit.  I loved every minute!

Here are a couple pics of the world I've been living in.
instructor bench and my view from the "classroom"

my workbench
  The wheels on the side of the bench were from my test, built to within 1/10 millimeter of variance.  That's not much more than a hair.  On to more riding...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

McKenzie River Trail (Bend, OR)

A blog about biking in and around Sandpoint, Idaho you say?  Still in Bend, Oregon.  On to the granddaddy and the highlight of my trip...the McKenzie River Trail.  McKenzie has been referred to as the best mountain biking trail in Oregon (and I just read it was voted best in the West).  Now these are pretty strong statements and I'm not going to get into debating whether it is or isn't.  But I think it is safe to say that McKenzie is great ride and hugely popular.  It is located in the Willamette National Forest, in between Bend and Eugene.  The 24.5 mile ride features only 900 feet of climbing and is a shuttle ride.  Listed as aerobically moderate and technically advanced (4+ for a good majority and 3 for the remainder).  Although this ride features 1,600' net elevation drop, it is an ass kicker!

I was intending to take Friday off as a rest day before tackling McKenzie Saturday.  I had my shuttle set up with Cog Wild, but weather stepped in.  The weather had been great all week, but a storm was predicted for the weekend.  Banking on the local weather man (never a good idea), I took the odds of 30% of rain on Friday over the 70% on Saturday.  I skipped rest day and headed out.  When I got the trailhead it was raining and had been for several hours.  However, it was time for work.  I suited up and started down the trail.  Less then a mile in, I was soaked but determined to complete the ride.  You see, this trail has been on my bucket list for a long time and nothing was gonna get in my way.

  
The first 3 miles are great singletrack that leads you along the banks of Clear Lake.  Clear Lake is, well very clear.  It is phenomenal.  A person could take pics at every vantage around the lake and they'd all be perfect.  The clearness and blue/green colors made it look tropical.  I saw a guy fishing out in a boat and imagined that he could actually see the fish swimming around.

Clear Lake


Trail directions indicated there was a trail along both sides of the lake.  The East side trail being full of lava rock and not recommended for biking and the West side being the recommended route.  I took the West side, but do to some lack of signage on the South end of the lake I ended up riding back up the East side.  I got half way up the other side before I realized this.  Too late, I decided to got for extra credit and ride around the whole lake.  As stated, the East side was not very rideable.  Several lava rock fields to cross.  Steep mounds with little run up, at least now I know. 

some sections around Clear Lake had "paved paths" through the lava

pavement didn't last long
My ride was not starting off too good.  I was wet and had done triple the anticipated miles by the time I got to the South end of Clear lake.  No worries though, I was feeling good and marched on. 

After Clear Lake the trail gets much more difficult (4+ time).  Rock and roots galour.  I passed a couple more waterfalls.  Waterfalls are great and all, but they were all starting to look the same.

Koosah Falls
Lava rock has a very interesting quality, even though it was very wet it was not slick.  It had lots of traction and my tires clung.  Not the roots though, same as anywhere else they were slick as hell.  Weird dicotamy. 


One other amazing natural feature along the trail was the "Blue Pool."  For 2 miles leading up to the pool, the creek beds were dry.  The river just disappears and goes underground.  It travels underground and then reappears at the Blue Pool.


For a few miles leading up to and then after the Blue Pool, lava rock was the only tread and the only thing you rode. The trail went through, over and around mounds and mounds of lava.  I would say this section around the Blue Pool was fun, but I'd be lying. The lava rock is very sharp and abrasive, so falling was not an option. I was byself and had to make it to the end of the trail for my shuttle. It was a great challenge.

At the 10 mile mark of the trail (I had 17 miles, damn detours), the lava rock began to subside.  I sat and had lunch to regroup.  I had been riding for 3 1/2 hours, and I was less than half way through the trail.  I told my "shuttle bunnies" that I would be done and at the end in 4 hours total.  The detours certainly didn't help, but I obviously miscalculated my ride time.  At this pace I would be lucky to be done by dark.  I needed to pick up the pace.

Now let me make a little side note here. I've been giving Oregon a lot of love lately. No doubt there are great riding opportunities and some amazing trails. BUT their signage sucks! McKenzie is not the first time I've run into issues with signage. Many trails lack signage all together. Others, the map names do not match the names on trail signs. And yet others, are just missing arrows or indicators at key points in the trail...like at freaking trail intersections around lakes. Anyway, enough said.

Lucky for me, the trail took a major turn after the Blue Pool and all the lava rock.  Sweet single track was all that was between me and the finish line.  I put her in the middle ring and was flying.  The trail snakes like a serpent as you parallel the McKenzie River.  There were several short climbs that took you up to some exposed ledges, and then you were rolling back down to the flats of the river again.  It was up and down and back and forth for pretty much the final 16.5 miles.  I was in the zone and had no idea how much time had passed between me stopping for lunch and the end of the trail.  I didn't stop for pics, my only focus was the trail ahead.
looking over the edge of the trail at one of the exposures

bridge builders were super busy on this trail, at least a dozen like this
 I ended the day with 32.5 miles and a finish time of 5 1/2 hours.  And my shuttle waited, thanks Jane and Shadow.  The weather and my detours made the ride less than ideal, but I still had a blast!  I would have gotten up and done it again the next morning if I could.  Mckenzie River offers some unique riding and is very diverse.  Later that night, I checked it off my list and started planning for the next big one...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

North Fork-Flagline Loop (Bend, OR)

A blog about biking in and around Sandpoint, Idaho you say?  Still in Bend, Oregon.  The last post was on the Deschutes River Trail, the Disneyland of Bend.  I've moved on to the real trails with the North Fork-Flagline Loop (let's call it NFFL for this post).  The NFFL lies West of Bend in the Deschutes National Forest.  More specifically this particular trail circumnavigates much of the Bend Watershed, we'll get to that in a bit.  The NFFL was a 20.5 mile loop with 2,800 ft of elevation gain.  It is listed as aerobically strenuous and technically rated at intermediate/advanced.  Both accurate statements.  Brace yourselves...this was an awesome ride.

The NFFL starts with a steady climb were you cover most of the 2,800 ft in the first half of the ride.  On the way up you pass 7 waterfalls as you parallel the North Fork of Tumalo Creek.  The climb features lots of roots.  The tread in general is hard pack and was a nice change from all the sand at Deschutes River.  Obviously built with mountain biking in mind, the switchbacks are very wide and sweeping.  It hardly feels like you are riding a switchback most of the time as the sweep is so gradual, it just feels like part of the climb.  The climb was a good grind and offered some good technical challenges, but it was all doable and a great climb.
1 of the 7 falls

if you only new how tricky this shot was...

imagine miles and miles of trail JUST like this

Once on top of the ridge, the great views continued.  The trail meandered through several high alpine meadows and around rocky peaks.  Although less climbing on the ridge, the trail still had many up and downs to keep you sweating.  Weather was much, much cooler up at 7k feet as evident by the frost on the creek crossing...keep the feet dry!
view from the ridge

yes, the mountain is actually red
 
The NFFL can be broken into 3 different rides: the climb, the ridge and the sweeeet descent. The downhill was a real burner. It seemed to go forever. The grade, like the climb, was kept very gradual. It appears the builders intended to use all the real estate they could and extend the fun as long as possible. The trail featured lots of rock and demanded your attention. It also had several places were more advanced lines were possible: gaps, skinnies, jumps, drops, etc. I kept the tires near the ground but loved every minute.


warming hut used by xc skiers
 

no shortage of fire wood
As mentioned at the beginning of the post, this trail rounded the Bend Watershed.  In case you glazed over that last statement, let me say it again.  The trail rounded the Bend Watershed.  There were trails that went through the actual watershed also.  Signs were very clear about were you were and some trails were designated as hiking only.  But, bike trails went all around the watershed and some shared the same drainages.  What?  Surely they thought about the possibility of bikers peeing on the sides of the trail.  Surely they thought about the possibility of chain lube flying off chains on those descents.  And surely they thought of the possibility of bikers sweating out all that beer from the night before on the trail (OK maybe not the last one).  Of course I am not familiar with the engineering surrounding the Bend Watershed.  I'm merely a casual observer.  However, it appears that Bend has found some progressive ways for trail enthusiasts to use areas in and around the their watershed.
signs like these are at trailhead that go into the watershed areas

Great ride, not an epic for me.  The NFFL is a trail a little of the beaten path, and maybe one most visitors would overlook.  Just keep in mind that Bend has many, many great trails, other than the Disneyland rides.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Deschutes River/Sunriver/Blackrock Trails (Bend, OR)

A blog about biking in and around Sandpoint, Idaho you say? That’s the cue that I will be posting about biking somewhere outside my normal area. I’ve moved South from Hood River to Bend, Oregon, and today’s ride was primarily the Deschutes River Trail with a couple smaller additions (Sunriver Trail and Blackrock Trail). 22.5 Miles in all and I’m sure I’m not gonna surprise anyone here by saying this was an awesome ride!! Anyone that follows mountain biking has either done this ride or has read about it. You may be thinking…all the posts have said the “the ride was awesome.” True statement, all the rides of late have been really, really good.

However, I have been in Oregon for 5 days now and when I come to Oregon to ride it seems like heaven to me. Life just doesn’t seem to get any better. Let me describe a typical day here. I wake up and go scout out a new coffee place. There are lots of choices and many good ones. Then it’s off to some riding and Oregon has ALL kinds of good riding. Whether it be road, urban or single-track, Oregon seems to have it all. After spinning, it’s off to sample one of the many micro brews. There are breweries everywhere! Beer seems to flow like water around here. This is all good news for me because without coffee and beer, my personality would hardly be discernable. But I digress.

Back to the topic at hand. The Deschutes River Trail was a great ride. I’ve been sitting here trying to think of how to put the experience to words, but I don’t think words can do it justice. Pictures might get us closer, but as I review my shots they even seem to come up short. Although Deschutes River wouldn’t be considered a destination ride, it is a can’t miss if you are in Bend. This ride had it all minus big climbs and screaming descents. It’s not very technical or aerobically challenging, but it is just 12 miles of plain fun. Don't get me wrong, it's not a trail to bring your grandma on as there are a few surprises.  Do you like variety in your rides?
amazing views and endless photo ops? check

little rock and roots? and check

singletrack that weaves through canopies of oldgrowth? and check
trail that meanders through boulders and rock cut-outs? and check

little exposure to keep the hear rate up? and check

falls and rapids? i could go on
The Sunriver Trail and the Blackrock Trail were nice additions to the day. The Sunriver Trail takes off were the Deschutes Trail ends and goes another 3 miles to the town of…you guessed it, Sunriver. It is a flat, windy, fast, and slightly technical out and back. Once back to the trailhead, I choose to ride out the Blackrock Trail, another 4.5 miles, to the Lava Land Visitor’s Center. It was more of the same to end the trail trifecta. Buff singletrack with the addition of some lava rock to make this trail a little different and interesting.
interesting trail feature on the Blackrock Trail


sign refers to rapids not trail

It was a good day of riding. Not an epic ride, but one that will stick in my mind for a long time. Time to gear up for the big dogs now…


Friday, October 15, 2010

Epic defined

The term "epic" seems to spawn much debate.  It seems like a simple enough word.  Bikers us it all the time to describe a big ride they did.  I myself use it often to describe a ride.  But I'm often met with a puzzled look.  People want to know what "epic" means.  What are the parameters used to define an "epic" ride.  How far/long do I have to ride?  How much suffering qualifies an epic?  And then these question often lead to bigger biking questions.  Does riding an epic trail make you an epic rider?  Does riding a Epic (Specialized) bike make you an epic rider?  Or does riding an Epic bike on an epic trail make you superhuman?  Let me state right off, that I will not attempt to answer all these questions, but I will try and shed some light on what an epic ride is to me.  I use this term on my blog, and so I should be able to give it definition (and hopefully squash some of the debate that it sparks...but probably not).

First, some definitions.  Webster's epic: "(1) of, relating to, or having the characteristics of an epic."  Umm, really?  No help.  How about "(2)  extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope, heroic."  Now we are getting somewhere and I like heroic!

One more definition.  Let's turn to IMBA.  They surely should be able to clear this up.  IMBA loves this word as they have compiled a whole list of "IMBA Epics" that span the whole U.S.  It is basically a bucket list of sorts.  What parameters do they use?  "The IMBA Epics are selected by IMBA staff, including our Regional Directors. The directors consulted closely with club leaders to find out which trails in their territories are having the biggest influence on riders, as well as land managers and decision makers. These rides are the models that shape our conception of what is possible for trail recreation on public lands."  What the #@&*?!  Terms like "influence, models and conception" have NEVER come to mind when I think of an epic bike ride.  However,  I think there is something here unstated that can help.  IMBA has gathered a list of trails that are elite and deemed as necessary for any calling themselves a mountain biker.  These notches on the water bottle give the rider credibility.

OK, so we have a couple concepts to build on here to define epic rides: 1) rides are beyond ordinary, 2) size and scope are beyond the usual and 3) rides leave an impression on the rider and carry allure of something new or a must-do.

Now I have thought long and hard about this and I have several factors that go into determining if the ride is epic.  The list is long, but not exhaustive.  You do not need to meet ALL the factors, but you are required to meet half (6) of these to call a ride EPIC:
  1. Getting lost
  2. Drawing blood
  3. Have at least 1 mechanical issue
  4. Running out of food
  5. Running out of water
  6. Taking longer than planned...by at least an 1.5 hours
  7. Asking "whose idea was this" or stating "I will never do this again" then a week later saying "that was a great idea" or "I would do that ride again"
  8. Riding out in the dark (unplanned)
  9. Hiking your bike...sometimes way more than planned
  10. Have to be with at least 1 other rider
  11. Pain and suffering
  12. Ride at least twice the normal distance/time you normally would
In the end, an epic ride is just about going out and suffering and having fun with your buddies.  Don't worry about definitions, but if you MUST define every ride than you can refer to my list.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Canfield Mountain - Tail of 2 Trails

Had some errands to run in CDA and decided to throw my bike in for a loop around Canfield Mountain.  For those unfamiliar, Canfield Mountain is an ORV park located due South from Hayden Lake proper.  And for those acronym deprived, ORV (Off Road Vehicle) is an area open to motorcycles, 4-Wheelers, etc.  For a detailed map and more trail details click here.

Now, I can hear some groaning already...ohh no, motorcycles!  I have ridden Canfield several times and although it is heavily used by motorized vehicles, I have had very limited encounters.  Those I have had, have all been positive.  I do usually go during the week and seem to have the place to myself.  Trails are marked as single-track or double-track and specify the type of traffic allowed.  Tread can be steep, loose, rutted, rooty (if that's a word) and overall challenging.  But there are over 30 miles of very diverse trails with lots of good trails for mountain biking.  Because of the dramatic differences between trails it is a good idea to consult the map before planning your trip.  Bottom line, it is another great riding opportunity close by with unique riding/challenges.

For my ride I started on the Fernan Lake Road trail head parking lot.  I started with a short 2 mile ride that followed the creek.  It was a nice trail that snaked through the tall grass and went through several, mild rocky sections.  Lots of mountain bike tracks.  This is an unmapped, out and back trail. 
sweet!!
From there I went up Trail #10 which had some very nice single track with big rounded switchbacks to start off.  However, it progressed into some very steep and loose climbs that were very challenging to clear.  A couple sections also had areas were the motorcycle had made grooves in the trail so deep that they were unrideable because you would hit your pedals.  I would not recommend going up this trail, down would be fine though.
motos rotor till the ground exposing rocks
 Once on top of the ridge I took the Jump Trail down which was super fun!  Fast track with some banked turns.  The Cave Trail is another option from here and is also a very enjoyable downhill.

Good afternoon of riding.  A little of everything and didn't see a soul.  Did I mention it was muddy...

Friday, October 8, 2010

New bike sign?

Funny.  Maybe a new sign for the Long Bridge?

If you haven't already done so, check out Sarethedamnroad.com for some funny and informative cycling gear.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Breaking Sandpoint Sports news!

In case you have not heard, I am selling my ownership in Sandpoint Sports. This means I will no longer be at the shop. I wish Svein and Sandpoint Sports all the best in the future.

As for me, I have Tri-Flow running through my veins. I love bikes, so they will always be a part of my life.

Thanks for all of your kind words and support. See you on the trails.

Brian

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chelan bike trip

I know this blog states it is about biking in and around Sandpoint.  I just got back from a biking trip (fits criteria) to Chelan (does not fit criteria).  Ultimately, I'm the final judge of content and your a captive audience, so here we go...

Me and 10 other bikers went to Chelan this last Friday for the weekend.  I was invited on this trip which was made up mostly of roadies who wanted to go over and do the Chelan Century Challenge (more info here).  Me being the dirt head I am, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to check off a mountain bike ride that has been on my bucket list for a while.  And yes, I do mingle with roadies and I do own a road bike as well...actually a really nice one.

We all settled into camp, along the Columbia River, Friday afternoon and rose early Saturday to tackle our own biking adventures.  The roadies planned to do 2 of the 3 CCC loops Saturday and the last, and most strenuous on Sunday.  I left camp before the roadies were even suited up on my way to the Devil's Backbone Trail and the anticipation was almost more than I could bear.

The Devil's Backbone (Trail #1448) is a high elevation, ridge-top ride that connects the Entiat and Chelan Ranger Districts.  It is rocky, rugged and well, as the tourist pamphlet states, "This ride is not for the faint of heart."  The view of the ridge resembles a dinosaur's back...slim, jagged and full contours.  It is very open, both because not much grows that high but also because of a fire that ripped through that area some 15 years earlier.  This ridge top ride is 11 miles from end to end with several options along the way.  I choose to ride from the Handy Spring end out to the Pot Peak Trail and back down to 25 Mile Creek Campground.

about to start solo, too much for Shadow
Jane and Shadow shuttled me 2/3 of the way to the trail head.  The road was narrow, rocky and had lots of exposure.  All features that Jane was less than thrilled to drive back down.  So, I jumped out and rode the rest of the way.  The trail head sits at 6,500 ft, that's like starting on a ride at the top of Schweitzer.  And it starts right off climbing to close to 7k.  Most of the trail stays within a 6,500-7,200 ft altitude.  The first few miles of the trail were great and offered amazing views.  I could definitely feel the thin air, at least that's what I'm gonna blame.  There were also fires off in the distance with smoke filling the valleys.
I met up with 4 guys from Seattle doing the same route.  We decided to ride together.  They were all sporting pads and riding downhill bikes.  Although I felt my Stumpjumper would be more than capable, I felt a little under prepared.  Three of them had done the trail several times before and one made a comment that "my Stumpjumper should be a fun bike for the day."  Although I was feeling a sarcastic tone, it was nice to have company.

Approximately 4 miles in, things started to get real interesting.  The trail wound out onto a side cut in the mountain.  The tread of the trail was no more than 18" with a shear rock wall on the up hill side and a drop off on the other, where I won't even venture to guess its depth.  Let's just say that there was NO margin for error and wrecking was NOT an option.  My downhill riding partners bombed down the trail with little regard.  I kept it slow, stayed focused on the tread and yes, I did walk a bit too.  The trail popped back onto the ridge and then out the other side for some more exposed and heart pumping goat like trail.  When we got to the other side I was tense and exhausted.  It felt like the last mile was more like ten!

looking back this pic doesn't really do it justice
After all the exposure and rock came more rock as we scaled a shale slope up to the next peak.  It was mid day now and the sun was relentless, as shade was no where to be found.


Back on the ridge was more good riding.  At 7 miles we hit the intersection for Pot Peak.  My riding buddies were way to excited.  As they sat on logs and drank 24 ouncers from their pack and packed their pipe (to their credit it is called Pot Peak) in preparation for the descent, I couldn't help but think of getting off the ridge.  So, I thanked them for the ride and headed downhill, solo once again.

Pot Peak is an amazing 10 mile descent!  There are a couple of small climbs, but for the most part it is a 4,300 foot descent with banked turns and serpent like twisting single-track.  Better yet, the trail descended back into the trees and I started to feel more at home.  At least if I wrecked there would be something to catch me.  As I weaved back and forth the ridge became a distant memory.  Often technical and rocky, the trail was all ridable.  Many of the switchbacks and wash-out prone areas featured cinder blocks to armour in the trail.  They were a joy to ride on as they provided a steady surface to turn on and braking was responsive since there was no skidding.
how'd they get those way up there?
When I got to the end of the Pot Peak Trail I had a permanent grin.  I didn't want it to end.  I could ride that trail forever!  But Jane was waiting.  I jumped on the road and head to the park.  In the end: 28 miles, 2,500 of climbing, 5,500 of descending.  This was an "epic" ride and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a big adventure.

Saturday night we gathered around the fire, drank some brews and exchanged stories of our day.  The roadies also had a good ride and felt a satisfied depletion.  The bed was a welcome relief that night and I arose to sourdough pancakes and bacon compliments of Brad and Carol.  It was good fuel.  I packed up and went to ride Echo Ridge, the local ski resort.  This recap will be short.  It was lame.  Most of the so called "trails" were really old roads.  There are lots of them, but they lacked interest and challenge...especially after the previous days adventure.  Not a destination ride, but a good filler.

lots of biking signs, very progressive community
We all ended early afternoon, grabbed some authentic Mexican burritos and hit the road back to Sandpoint.  I had a great weekend and can't wait to go back, there is ONE more in the area that is on the bucket list!