Secret Squirrel Singletrack
By Jason Harrod
Have you even been treated to one of those special rides? You know, that one ride where you hesitate to take any one else on for fear of ruining the secret. The one where the trailhead might be just a touch obscured and you find yourself nervously checking over your shoulder before you punch through brush or branch and onto that sweet piece of awesomeness that you are sure only you, and the person who showed it to you, know about. I have. And I am not telling, telling where it is. But I will tell you about the ride.
This sweet section of West Marin singletrack is really not all that secret – it only feels that way. Why? Well, getting there is a good journey. And despite the fact that it really is not all that far ‘out there’, it is located in a, well, weird spot. But getting there is part of the fun. I love destination singletrack. It pleases me to rip dirt to rip dirt, if you catch my drift, and there is plenty of dirt on the way to this sweet piece of trail.
I was lucky enough to have a good friend and fairly frequent riding companion show me this trail. For him, there was no secrecy, no magic, just two dudes riding some wicked singletrack. I am not that gracious. Sure, I have shared it with the core group of cats I ride with, of course, but there is no way I will just show it to anyone. What I will do is describe the ride and let you try to figure it out.
I already told you it’s in West Marin. The route from my abode to the north takes me over hill and dale south by south west. I travel dirt through TL/Sleepy Hollow Divide, gravelly and steep little fire roads. Then into the sleepy town of Fairfax. From here I will get more vague, but suffice it to say the next piece of dirt has a sign that may be one of the coolest signs ever and reads “Bicycles Must Stay on Singletrack”. Cool, no? And from there we drop and then climb to another ridge where some seriously famous dudes ran some seriously famous rac. Then climb some more, just like in the picture above. And you are done. Time to start rock-hopping down the rock strewn fire road to the branch and make a right. The trail is there, on the left, off the main fire road and obscured by fern and bramble. It snakes around root and rock and quickly cuts back across the main road and back into the flora. This is where it gets real; real rocky, the stationary kind, and snakes and rolls and drops and flows for a good 2 miles. Two miles of some of the most challenging and thrilling singletrack I have ever ridden. Arms sore from pumping the bumps. Legs cut and scratched from the bush. Eyes watery with delight. Teeth full of bugs from smiling the entire way. Spider webs clinging to the body and kit because this is a road less traveled … and I would like to keep it that way.
Bags, Boxes and Bottles
Bj Jason Harrod
Wow. I just made through the madness that is my life surrounding the holidays and after. What is the ‘and after’, you ask? Birthday madness at my house; four of them in eight days. All done now, though, and it is high time to turn back to the bike. I am in dire need of shedding my winter coat so when spring arrives with its flourish, its flowers, its sunshiny days, I am ready to embrace the longer, warmer days and spend some quality time training in order to get fit enough to maybe, maybe, even race a crit or four this season. Maybe.
I am not a road guy by nature. In fact, I ride the road because of the simplicity of the bike, the fact that as soon as I roll off of my driveway the route begins and because it allows me to control the ride better. In a perfect world I would ride three days on, one day off, and two out of the six rides would be on the dirt. But I rarely get my way as there are the kids, their sports, school, wife, coaching, blah, blah, blah. Don’t get me wrong, I love it all and would not have it any other way … really. But, as I have mentioned a time or thrice, I am a list guy. Today I made my list, my list that outlines the way back to fitness. For me at least. Wanna hear it? Here it go.
First of all I try not to make my lists to specific, as my schedule can change from day to day, even hour to hour. For the ride portion of the list, I aim for a minimum of four days a week on the bike, a maximum of six, six being ideal. The rides themselves would ideally be one medium tempo, one long slow one, one short effort – likely on the dirt. Rinse and repeat. Then there is the diet. I am not a dieter but I do find that keeping it simple is the easiest thing for me. Basically, if it comes in a box, a bag, or a bottle I do my best to avoid it. That certainly does not mean I abstain, though I do try to keep those items as far from my mouth as possible. Water – drink lots of water or litz of izer as this one cat I know calls it. Sleep. I try to sleep as much as possible.
This is by no means a blueprint for fitness but knowing me, my habits, and my body I find that after two weeks of these types of behaviors I can see the difference in the mirror and feel the difference in the way my clothes hang. Well, I must be off to eat something that likely comes in its own wrapper, is a lean protein, or comes ready to eat from the mother earth. And let’s not forget to drink litz of izer.
Peeve of the Week
by Jason Harrod
Lately I have been logging some base miles. Long and slow is the goal. And since my goal is mileage we can honestly say I am spending a decent amount of time on the bike as well. I truly enjoy this time of year as it allows an ample window to gain fitness as well as being social on the bike. And being social on the bike is part of being a cyclist.
Take this past weekend. At the Marin Velo Club annual party, graciously hosted by one of our sponsors, Lagunitas Brewery, I met a fellow club member that up until that point I had only known as a data point on Strava. We conversed over a few tasty pints of beer and decided, seeing as how we both had Monday off from work, that we would take the holiday the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. afforded us to ride together. We were to ride Mount Vision in the Pt. Reyes National seashore; a ride I had never done but heard was fantastic.
First, the ride: sweet rolling paved terrain through the redwoods, skirting sunny and grassy dairy land, we cruised smiling in the sun past Tomales Bay – it was simply an awesome rip out to the climb. The traffic was light but unwieldy (the peeve to come), and oncewe hit the Mount Vision climb I don’t think we saw a car until we crested that wicked little kicker, dropped down some downright delectable dirt singletrack, skittered across some gravel fire roads and bombed down Limantour Beach road. It was a stellar day, though as sometimes happens with the good- there can come some bad. And this ride simply reinforced … well … I am not sure exactly what, other than the fact that drivers stopped at intersections will almost always look to the right before they look to the left. If memory serves correct it happened at least a half dozen times and the aforementioned ride.
This chaps my hide. No matter which direction one aims to turn the most imminent danger will always be coming from the left first. Think about it. No, really. Take a minute if you have not noticed this phenomenon and ponder the absolute lameness this represents. I see it at least once a day, likely a handful of times.
We see a lot of things when out riding the bike. That’s part of why we ride. Right? We take in the scenery, get a look at stuff the average person may miss especially when travelling by car. I guess you could say we pay attention to what goes on around us while others simply pay attention to … well … I truly have no idea. Most of us drive. A lot of drivers are riders, too. It would make sense that those who drive legally must pass written and practical exams, right? Then why is it when stopped at a stop sign or yielding at a T-style intersection with the intention of making a left or right hand turn the driver always, and I mean always, looks to the right first. The right? Why on this green earth would a person look to the right before the left? This makes no sense to me. Death could occur by not looking to the left. The left posses the most imminent danger to the driver. Kills me; could kill them … or me … or you … by not looking left. I just don’t get it.
Now, I have mulled over a ton of different theories in my mind as to why this happens. They all suck. The only one that seems to hold any water at all is the right handed vs. left handed theory. You see, I am left handed. I have used myself as guinea pig for this experiment and I always look to the left first. The only problems with my data are my sample set is sort of small and I could be a touch biased.
Idiosyncrasies of a Cyclist
By Jason Harrod
I have a hard time believing that the root word of idiosyncrasy is not idiot. Really, it seems to me that there is a lot of mumbo jumbo involved with the routines in general, not to mention those of a cyclist. My routines are ingrained in me and happen without my even noticing them. But to others my ritual when kitting up must look like some kind of demented rain dance, as was pointed out by nine year old. First, let’s take a look at the definition of the word:
IDIOSYNCRASY – noun – \i-dē-ə-‘siŋ-krə-sē\
1 a : a peculiarity of constitution or temperament : an individualizing characteristic or quality
b : individual hypersensitiveness (as to a drug or food)
2: characteristic peculiarity (as of temperament); broadly : eccentricity
Now that we have that straightened out, I am going to make a list of just a mess of my peculiar, eccentric idiosyncrasies. Want to hear em? Here they go:
I could go on forever but I don’t want you to think I am a weirdo – even if I am a weirdo. How about you? Any good, quirky, or just downright disgusting idiosyncrasies you would like to share? Comment away. You have my totally divided attention.
Yellow Lenses and Booties
By Jason Harrod
Winter is here and with it inclement weather. Darkness bookends the workday and finding the time to log those long, arduous base miles has become more difficult with each passing day. The elements, mostly water, have come to NorCal with much aplomb. And the chill, though compared to some it remains warm here in my ‘hood, has made the addition of layers and booties and thermal gloves a must. Sometimes, even yellow lenses are necessary, creating the image of imaginary sunshine, the sunshine for which I long.
Sometimes a Little Rest for the Wicked …
By Jason Harrod
The holidays have come and gone in a turkey, cookie and libation infused fog. I like the holidays, like to see my children’s smiling faces as they tear open their gifts. I like to visit with my family that I probably see too little of, but I honestly have to admit that I like the holidays a little more once they have passed.
I have been sick for last nine days. I have tried to ride through the sickness, as is my usual modus operandi, but it has failed me this go round. Every time I have set off on what I hoped would be a “blow out” ride the skies have yawned and let drop the most egregious of downpours I have witnessed in a long time. I have stayed true and ridden through these deluges only to experience the grandest chain suck on the planet, not to mention lungs filled with phlegm and head that feels as if a good blood-letting might indeed be just the thing I need. So what did I do? I rested. There is even something written about resting in the Bible, no? If it’s good for the pious, it must be good for me.
I spent the days feeding my malaise and piling on the pounds. I read many great tomes and viewed many a horrible film. What has happened to Hollywood these days? Have they so much money they can produce immense amounts of garbage with nary a care? I have since decided to boycott the TV (unless it is football or bike racing) and the movie in favor of the book until … well … I change my mind; my intentions are good, I assure you. But the best part about the sickness, the fatness, the laziness is the rest. I feel rested for the first time in months. And with the rest comes a renewed inspiration for the bicycle. I am once again looking forward to really riding the bicycle.
I am certain that I have mentioned that I am a list guy. This year, though, I am making a resolution to make no resolutions and just be the best I can at whatever endeavor I attempt. There really is nothing else, right? Or is there? With that last little bit of pop non-philosophy, I think I know the best place to ponder the important, the lame, the nonsensical, the beautiful and that is on a bicycle. I am going for a ride. Happy New Year, All. See you in 2013.
Winter is here:
Gift Guide #13
By Jason Harrod
Winter is here, along with the holidays, and there are some cool and relatively inexpensive items out there for that finicky cyclist on your shopping list. I commute by bike whenever possible and, personally, there are a couple of things I cannot do without. Now, when I say commute by bike what I mean is ride and not necessarily in my cycling clothes. And despite the fact that I sweat like a rain forest deluge and end up soaking wet no matter what, I do try not to ruin my street clothes. Sometimes the weather is foul. Sometimes I am unable or just plain too stubborn to bring a change of clothes. Sometimes, there is no place to change. Catching my drift? For this I use a simple strap on … rear fender. Shame on you. Personally, I use the Planet Bike Clip-Ons ATB. They are simple to use, snap on and off and cost less than a twenty spot. You can find them here: http://ecom1.planetbike.com/7002.html If you have a cyclist on your list and are looking for something simple, useful, and a staple in, well, my cycling quiver this could be the ticket for you. Happy holidays and ride on.
I really do not want a tie for Christmas. Seriously. That would have to be some kind of cruel joke. Sure, I do wear ties for my paying job. And I like them. But I really am not in need of a new crop every year. Sure, I spill on one or two and ruin them … about once a decade. So, when my wife or children ask me what I want for the holidays I make sure I have some simple to find, useful, and cost effective items that I toss their way. I race ‘cross. It is a winter sport. And, you know what? I hate cold feet. Socks. Wool socks. Nothing like them in the dead of winter. Sure, everyone has their preference. I have mine. I like thin socks; thin socks that are warm. I like DeFeet products and the Woolie Boolie V-2 all mountain is my go to choice for all but the most extreme conditions. You can check them out here: http://www.defeet.com/60309/i1365526/733932/Wool-Socks/Woolie-Boolie-V–2-All-Mountain.html And at sub $17 they are not expensive and something the wintertime cyclist should approve of, use, and be thankful for. That’s what the holidays are about, right?
Better Than Any Drug
By Jason Harrod
Saturday morning. Dark AM. French press coffee. Slippers. I check the clock; 6:45 AM. Time to kit up. Pablo will be here shortly for our 7:00 AM depart. Two minutes late, he is always two minutes late. The garage is cold, shiver cold. The thermometer says 38 degrees. Layer, baby, layer. The Fisher SuperFly 100 is ready. I am ready.
The sky shifts from black to bruise blue. The sun is coming but neither its light nor its warmth has arrived yet. That’s okay. The first climb is only a short half mile away – that usually does the trick. Pablo arrives and without a word we are on our way, on our way to the Mother of mountain biking – Mount Tamalpais.
Pablo and I have known each other for thirty years. Yes, we are that old. We have ridden together for thirty years but over the years the opportunity to ride together has dwindled with our growing responsibilities as adults and that is OK; it simply allows us to relish our rides together all that much more.
Our smiles grow wide as we ride over hill and dale to the entrance of the playground that is Mount Tam. Up we go. We spin at a good clip and chat and catch up and warm up on the nine mile ascent to East Peak. The sun is arching higher in the sky and the air seems to warm the higher we ride. The visible washes from the recent rains have cleared out a decent line in certain portions of the trail, though that by no means makes the rocky trail any easier – just different. Outside of one stop to remove my vest, my outer layer, before we know it we are at the top – of the dirt – and then we begin the road ascent to the peak. Then the road bends lower here and takes us down. We plunge toward the true descent – Rock Springs Fire Road. We know the tack will be there, Hero Dirt will soon be had. At the crest that marks the beginning of the dirty drop we water up. Pablo takes the lead. He is a man on a mission and it takes all I have to keep his wheel. We eat water-bars like candy bars, rail turns like slot cars, hop ditches and rain washes like we are cutting in line. At the branch to Rocky Ridge, the next leg of our stellar outing, we hang a left turn and it’s like we were on the moon. In a mere thirty feet we have traveled from Redwood and Manzanita groves to miniature frothy green forests and trails inlaid with shiny, rainbow serpentine rock. We roll across the moonscape then continue to drop at a rapid speed to the dam. Damn! Here the sun is high and the already stellar day looks even more promising. And believe me when I tell you there is not a lot of talking as we make our way down the next two legs of dirt floating and flying and back to civilization, traffic, families and hanging up the sleds.
Back at my house, our meeting ground, three hours later, muddy and wearing ear to ear grins Pablo looks at me, shakes his head and says, “Dude, that shit is better than any drug.” I nod and try to think of something to say but there is nothing that hasn’t already been said. I think to myself, ‘Indeed, my friend. I couldn’t agree more, brother, I couldn’t agree more’.
Y’all can check out on Strava – Hayride .
Twitter @420wear if you are feeling the need…..
By Jason HarrodThere is only one cycling legal singletrack trail on all of Mount Tamalpais. It’s called Tenderfoot. It is this awesome little conduit from mid-mountain down to the town of Mill Valley; roots, rocks, redwoods. It’s a fantastic trail but this column is not about sweet singletrack. It’s about my busted old feet.
I have no idea how my foot injury originated. I can place the approximate time it occurred, though; September 2011 at the first race of the Sacramento Cyclocross Series. I had a good race, was suffering a ton and with one half lap to go and I washed out my front wheel on a dry, grassy turn. I dabbed my right foot and caught myself and finished but with a new and severe pain on the outside of my right foot just behind the little toe. It was already swollen by the time I got back to the truck. I could tell. I could feel it pressing against the outside of my shoe. I removed the shoe and there it was like some kind of extra appendage, meaty and red hanging off the side of my foot. My 12 year old son, who races with me, looked at the throbbing growth and winced and mentioned something about a tumor.
I tried to race two more races and finished mid pack in one and bailed on the other. The pain was too fierce. Now, I am not one who sits around sedentary well, so I cut out the material on my cycling shoes around the offending areas and kept on spinning through the pain. There was a six month period where walking was impossibly painful. I had to wear slippers to work and there was no way I could run, let alone jump over manmade barriers.
Here I am a year and five doctors later and still no resolution. There is good news, though. The pain has shifted from my right foot to my left foot; same stupid spot, too. It occasionally rears its ugly head on my left heel and the ball of my left foot as well, but my right foot, where the problem originated, is completely fine now. So friggin’ weird. I have seen my general practitioner, a sports med guy, a podiatrist, the foot and ankle specialist for the San Francisco ballet and now I am seeing a rheumatologist. The first three doctors were 100% sure I had a Tailor’s Bunion. My foot and ankle ballet type guy dispelled that myth when he flicked the injury with his finger and said, “dude, if that was a bunion you would have punched me in the face. You need an MRI”. Awesome. Soft tissue damage. Just what my 42 year old chassis was in dire need of. The MRI came back all clear and foot and ankle ballet guy ran about 87,351 different blood tests on me. Those came back all clear as well. Off to the rheumy.
Now this lady rocks. She poked. She prodded. She asked a million questions and even took notes. She sucked at her bottom lip in deep thought and consulted tomes, licking her finger and flipping pages like the Tasmanian Devil. She checked my breathing, my kidneys, my ears, nose and throat. She tapped on my chest and pressed on my belly. She had me lie on a table and gave my broken old body a thrice over. She quizzed me on my bowel movements and the color of my urine. Nothing. She, after much thought and exploration of my, well, self, decided that I have arthritis. Not sure what’s causing it or why, but arthritis nonetheless. Sweet. She prescribed a NSAID for me and that seems to be taking the pain away, the swelling, well, that is still there. She also wanted me to start this arthritis drug with wicked side effects: orange skin, rash, diarrhea, dry mouth, liver failure, kidney failure, loss of back hair. Sh.., this drug requires monthly blood work to make sure my liver and kidneys are functioning properly. I thought about that and took a pass, will save that for another day.
So now it appears that this is something I must manage and live with, a possible side effect of aging or simply the years of abuse I have handed my body. Or is it? I met this cat out riding the road bike the other day and described to him my malaise. His reply, “Man, the same thing happened to me. I bought these insole shoe shimmy things from Specialized and the pain vanished, was gone”. (And no Specialized are not paying me for this, though I kind of wish they were). I have ordered some and will let you know how it goes. I guess it can’t hurt. Hah!
At least now I can ride on the dirt again. There was a time where the pain was too much for me to weight my pedals properly when descending, making mountain biking impossible. And I can assure you that following my line on the road was not a good idea. Those days are behind me now and I can ride the mountain bike, the ‘cross bike, even stand up and climb out of the saddle. My lines still suck but I am in control of the pain … for now … and I am planning on hitting my first race on the weekend of October 20-21. I may even race both days if my family schedule will allow. And believe me you will hear about it.
Now if there is a moral to this story, as there should be with all stories, it would have to be ‘take care of your feet because you’ve only got one pair and they get you to where you are going and without them you are stuck, and never, I mean never, ever, follow my line’. Yeah, those, and there should be way more legal singletrack on Mount Tamalpais.