Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Doubling Down on the Dirt(y): The Rocky Mountain / Fairdale Demo

If you forgot about the Rocky Mountain (and Fairdale Bike) Demo, hosted by Sunset Cycles, on Sunday at Bonelli Park, or if you chose to ignore various notifications about the event, well, you missed out. While well known and highly regarded, it is not often we are presented with the opportunity, around here anyway, to test out the Rocky Mountain line. Of course the MWBA Pancake Breakfast a way over in the mountains above Altadena, didn't leave a lot of time to check out their line. I did, however, get a good longish ride on one.

Anyway, rushing over to Bonelli with the Mrs., I was only somewhat surprised to discover we were not the only ones who had the idea to double up our day on the dirt - a brother and sister, who also had pancakes in the morning, showed up at the same time. Both David, of Sunset, and the RM Demo Tour mechanic (whose name I have now forgotten) got the four of us set up, and we hit the trails, and fire roads, together. I sat an Element, while the Mrs. was given a Thunderbolt.

Both bikes were equiped with comparable builds, though my Element, slightly more tuned as an XC rig, was not equiped with a dropper seat post like the Mrs' Thunderbolt was. That was alright - with my descending skills, or lack of, those type of things are usually lost on me anyway. Riding a hardtail as frequently as I do, I often tend to forget just how much extra control that rear suspension adds. Add to that the big 29s that the Element rolls out on, and I quickly found myself less concerned with following those smoother lines that I normally take. Instead, on this afternoon, "the rockier, the better" was the mantra just to see how the bike (and I) responded.

While it may have been a given that the bike would perform well on the descents, I was also more than satisfied with how it rode while climbing. One moment of concern came while climbing out of the saddle, as I seemed to detect some side-to-side shimmy; an examination didn't reveal anything and so I attributed the perceived problem to being overly familiar with the feel, and response, of a hardtail. This was born out over the hour or so of riding, as the shimmy became less noticeable over time.

The ability to open or close the Fox suspension to the rear triangle, with the press of a thumb, was an added bonus - it worked flawlessly, allowing me to open up for descending, then go into lock down for climbing. Beside that, the shifting was smooth and precise, as was the braking. The demo guy was a little incredulous when I told him how high I run my tire pressure, and so he compromised a little by bumping it all the way up to 30psi, well below what I normally ride (some roadie habits take a long, hard time to die), but I can't say as that I missed the extra psi.

As for the Thunderbolt, well, I wish the Mrs would write up her impressions, but she is rather print shy. I did notice she rode more confidently, quicker, and with a smile on her face, over sections of trail that normally terrify her.

Eventually, the four of us split into pairs - I knew the Mrs would be getting tired, a full day and not much riding following some surgery a couple months ago, wearing her down. So the youngsters took off in search of more challenge, while the oldsters took the easier lakeside route. Back at camp Fairdale had, mostly, packed up and was in hangout mode, while RM was getting ready to do the same. The Sunset guys notice there were a bunch of hungry people standing around so, while some tucked into delicious brownies, Sean jumped up to his pickup bed kitchen to grill up some cheddar cheese burgers and hot dogs. They were a perfect, and much appreciated, cap to the day. Thanks to Sunset Cycles for hosting, and to Rocky Mountain Bicycles and Fairdale Bikes for providing the rides.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Doubling Down on the Dirt(y): 2016 MWBA Pancake Breakfast

What gave it away? What was the first clue that something big was a happening at Gould Mesa Campground? Was it the perpetual stream of mountain bikers heading up the trail? Was it the scent of fresh roasted coffee, or hot grilled pancakes and sausage wafting down canyon? Maybe it was the ringing of bear bells filtered through the pine needles? If none of those, it could very easily have been the laughter that bounced from one side of the canyon to the other. The occasion was the Mount Wilson Bicycling Association's annual pancake breakfast and raffle - one of the big fundraising efforts for the organization that does so much work advocating for trail access, and maintaining the trails that we all love to spend our waking (and probably some of our dreaming) hours riding along.

the gathering

The Gabrielino Trail, which leads up the Arroyo Seco to Gould Mesa Camp, was the very first trail I rode when I finally succumbed to the lure of the knobby tires. Somehow I almost wiped out back then, and somehow I almost wiped out again this time. Thank goodness there was only one of those couple hundred riders behind me at the time, so it was only a minor embarrassment and had no bearing on the rest of the morning.

This years' breakfast was extra noteworthy because it also marked the reopening of the Ken Burton Trail, which was severely damaged during the Station Fire of 2009 and had been closed since that time. Through the dedicated, and extensive, efforts of the MWBA and CORBA the trail, named for forestry fire fighter Ken Burton, who was killed by a drunk driver on Angeles Crest Highway in 1985 has been restored. Very touching that Burton's family were on hand to mark the occasion - I dare say the words spoken by Burton's daughter reverberated among everyone gathered around, and a smile spread across each face as his brother cut through the rededication ribbon. Very cool as well, was the plaque presented to CORBA's Steve Messer for all the work he has put into spearheading the rebuilding efforts. If you are a member of the MWBA, or follow them on Facebook, you have no doubt see photos of Messer each and every week over the course of the rebuilding effort.

Know who else I am going to give a shout out to? PAA, the Pasadena Athletic Association, one of my old race teams, who donated, what was it one thousand dollars to the MWBA. Know who else I am going to give a shout out to? The Bunters, who I had never heard of. But that's irrelevant because they donated two thousand five hundred dollars. Heck yeah! And then there are all the shops and other companies who donated merchandise to the huge, and time-consuming, raffle; I don't remember all of them, but the list of contributors included Trek, the Montrose Bike Shop, and Pasadena Cyclery.

What a morning, huh? All that and it was still just the first half of my doubling down on the dirt. I'll finish up with the afternoon portion of the day later. For now if you want more photos than the few shown here, jump to the Flickr album where you will find another ninety-three or so photos. And by the way, there were many people with cameras, snapping photos all around, but some you don't want to miss are the eighty-five images taken by Erik Hillard and posted on the MWBA's Facebook page - they really capture the spirit of the morning.

some of the Burton Family

Steve Messer

making a morning out of it was not enough for some riders, and why not? it was a nice weekend to make a weekend of it


one of the major contributors to the raffle - Trek - throwing out some freebies

the coveted brown shirt of a multi-day trail work volunteer

Sunday, May 1, 2016

From the Archives: Long Beach Series Criterium, 1995

I can't be positive anymore, but this may have been the final race in the Long Beach series for the 1995 year, although the field in the background looks awfully green for summer. Anyway, yes that is your intrepid racer, me, in the prime spot at the center of the photo. Barely visible, and with his back to the photographer is, I believe, Super Dave Ward. The third Xtremist, I think but am far from positive, may be Chris Burgeson. If this was indeed the series finale, there were, at least, eight riders from Team Xtreme in the race attempting to ensure Mitch Boggs won the series overall, so I suppose everyone else (including Bill Torres, Nelson Ape, Marco Quintero, and George Lopez) were scattered around the bunch awaiting the start. As you know, from previous From the Archives features, Mitch did ride away with the Series championship. Success!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Five for Friday (and Psycho-lists Too)

I have always liked this view at the canyon's mouth with the grass in full bloom...

too dark, but classic vulture pose...

fire crews getting in a little pre-season training...

for months (years?) I have watched the construction at this little triangle of land between the 605 and the Santa Fe Dam, but it never seemed like it was becoming anything, and so I convinced myself that it was a construction training site. This week I started working on the construction documents (CD's) for a new Lynwood High School baseball field (located at Lynwood Middle School). So today, as I rode across the top of the Dam and looked down, what they are building here became as clear as day. Funny how it wasn't obvious before...

beauty and danger all in one.

All the things I spied this morning, however, paled in comparison to my sighting of the elusive Psycho-list Friday morning bunch. Mind you that is not because they are rare, or hard to find, even this far from their home territory. No, it is just they are so darned nimble - one moment you see them, the next moment they are gone from view. If you are not equally up to speed, well... you'll be left, like me, with a lack of evidence to document their passing.

Enjoy your weekend, whatever it involves (though I hope there is a bike in there sometime).

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

2016 NAHBS: The Brodie Whippet

Yup, I still have some of NAHBS stuff to show. Paul Brodie has been turning out bikes for more than twenty years, first tagging them with his own name (Brodie Bikes) and most recently, as Flashback Fabrications. Since 2010 Brodie has been teaching a frame-building class at the University of Frazier Valley, in British Columbia (the Whippet was being shown at the UFV booth). His piece-by-piece recreation of the 1888 Whippet is one of the most curious, if not interesting, hand-built bikes you could ever hope to see, and gives a whole new meaning to the term "full suspension."

Rather than regurgitate a bunch of information that someone has already had the pleasure of writing about this bike, I will simply direct you to a story at mtbr.com, and another at Flashback Fabrications from the 2012 NAHBS which contains many further links to information about the Whippet.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ibis Nights: To the Frank P. Brackett Observatory

The Cross Town Loop takes me right past a cluster of buildings known as the Frank Parkhurst Brackett Observatory. The observatory, which includes two larger domes, nicknamed Whitney and Brackett, and a third smaller dome called Robodome. Whitney Dome sits atop a stone building, and is the one seen in these photos. I can't seem to find a name for the tin-sided structure on rails, let alone whether it is capable of movement anymore. The observatory complex is managed (if that is indeed the right word) by the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Pomona College and dates back to 1908. While the observatory fills a clearly academic need, they are also periodically open for public events, as well as an annual open house. Click for more information.

And if you were wondering, yes Frank Parkhurst Brackett is the same person for whom nearby Brackett Field (adjacent to Bonelli Park) is named after. He was one of the earliest of Pomona Colleges' faculty.


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