"The very first thing I did to my wife's new Raleigh Competition in 1976 was to remove the Huret Jubilee and replace it with front and rear SunTour Cyclone derailleurs from Bikecology in Santa Monica!
Chuck Schmidt L.A."
I'll try to make this brief, since stories about bicycle trips are not really the point of this list.
I'm tottering around this morning, after doing the most difficult ride I've ever done in my life. I would strongly urge anyone here who can make it, to do this ride next year. It's the Mt. Baldy Brevet, among the toughest 125 miles devised by the mind of human. Read about it at http://www.planetultra.com If you think you're a tough guy or gal, you should do this one. <smile>
Something like 8000 feet of climbing, 12 hours in the saddle, with three checkpoints. You have to make the checkpoints within time-limits to be an official finisher. So you can't dawdle at the checkpoints, or anywhere else for that matter..which puts a nice little edge on the whole thing.
Weather for the ride was perfect, sunny, clear, and mild--this ride has had some serious weather challenges in the past, and probably will again (one year, snow in the mountain leg was so severe everyone had to go back to the Rose Bowl and do laps to make their miles); but this time, perfect!
Classic content: as far as I could tell, I was the only person out of the 40 or so who did the ride with completely vintage equipment: 1978 Bill Davidson touring frame, with Sugino mighty triple, suntour pedals, 27" wheels with Campagnolo record hf/4cross; Weinmann concaves. Brooks B-17. Nitto 42cm Dream bar and Nitto stem. And Suntour bar-cons with 1st gen Suntour Cyclone wide-ratio rear, and normal front, derailleurs. Oh, and my trusty 25-year-old Atom freewheel 14-28, which *still* works fine, with no slipping, and it has a LOT of miles on it. Two oversized water bottles (still not enough), and a big Jandd rear bag. Wool jerseys. All three of them (hey, it was COLD in the morning). And the layers were very welcome on the long, fast descent from Baldy Village.
I won't give a blow-by-blow. We started at 6:20 (normally the mass start is 6am, but we had a parking snafu and had to scatter to find other parking, so we started late. The organizer is a stickler for starting on-time, so if you do this ride in future, don't be late! One guy drove down from Seattle to do it!).
I finished at 6:12pm, with a small group of other people. We managed to finish while it was still light, and well inside the limit of 7:50pm.
The ride starts from scenic Pacoima (don't ask...let's just say, Pacoima is not a place with much of a political constituency, as a result, the town is possessor of some of the worst roads in the San Fernando Valley. ), from Hanson Dam. We ride 5 miles through Pacoima, then immediately start climbing up La Tuna Canyon. Here it is, not five miles into the ride and we're climbing. And not just any climb either, but a long pull up the canyon, a solid 5-mile climb! The pack dropped me back in Pacoima, when my front light popped off after a particularly bad bump, and I turned around to get it.
I was gratified to see Scott Smith at the top of La Tuna canyon--he was volunteering as help at the Asuza checkpoint this time (he rode the ride last year)...he snapped a picture, and I saw him again 40 miles later at the first checkpoint. It was great to sit and kibbitz with him in Asuza, both going out and coming back. Thanks Scott!
Matt Gorski did this ride too...on his C-40 (jeez, Matt...) and he was in one of the lead groups. I never saw him again after the start. He's in some serious training. Matt doesn't just have some nice bikes..he can *ride!* He must have finished at least an hour before I did, probably more.
The ride runs along the base of the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. The climb proper begins in Glendora, up Glendora Mountain road, and east toward Mt. Baldy (Baldy is about 10,000 feet, the summit covered with snow...very impressive, surrounded by other peaks and lower foothills, and the whole area is wilderness.) The second checkpoint was at Baldy Village, 22 miles from the base of Glendora Mountain Road. At the base of Mt. Baldy. How shall I say? Guys, gals, this is the *climb from hell.* If you think you're a climber, you have to try this someday. 5000 feet in 22 miles.
Oh, one especially nice touch, since a big fire in this area a year ago, Glendora Mountain Road and Glendora ridge road are *closed to cars!!!!!!*... The *entire climb* with no cars, just us cyclists, and a few walkers. Heavenly. And the roads are in excellent condition along the entire length.
The ridge road is spectacular, following the spine of the foothills; one section is built right on top of the ridge, with steep, thousands-of-feet drops on either side, so it feels like you're flying, riding it. The problem is, you climb Glendora ridge road (which is a difficult climb all by itself), get to what feels like "the top" and then you start riding an endless (and I mean *endless*) series of huge climbing switchbacks, following the shape of the foothills (4000' tall foothills, that is). I'd round one ridge, only to see another, a mile off, still climbing. Seeing those switchbacks unfolding one after another (I'm guessing there were at least 12 of them, but I didn't count) was harder than actually riding them. It was deeply humbling. The road like some beast, laughing.
Lovely wilderness all around, so quiet the loudest thing when I would stop and rest was my pulse. I'd forgotten about that kind of quiet. It was even quieter than it should have been. The lack of vegetation after the fire chased away the birds, and few trees to rustle in the breeze.
Just incredible, with miles and miles of mountains in every direction. Everything so BIG, and puny me on my puny bike. And Baldy always there, looking down, a looming presence.
I'd dawdled a bit on the way out, so I had to push to make the mountain checkpoint in Baldy village. It was a kind of torture, but, I made it with 5 minutes to spare..my trusty cyclone shifting flawlessly. I shifted a LOT on this ride, to keep up a good fast spin, and a consistent pace...otherwise I would not have finished. I could have used one lower gear than I had, but I managed.
The first bite of that Subway sandwich at the checkpoint in Baldy Village was the most delicious thing I've eaten in at least 10 years... ;> Sandwiches provided by the organizers...they have this gig down.
The setting sun through the hills on the wild descent at La Tuna canyon near the finish was beyond gorgeous, I'll never forget that. The mist rising from the hillsides, the speed of the downhill, the orange light... Then hammering back through Pacoima (or what passes for hammering for me), to get to the finish before dark...one nice touch. 1/4 mile before the finish, there was *another climb* Short. But suitably annoying to have me saying things I won't repeat here.
I can't say enough good about the organizers and volunteers. Everyone was very encouraging and there was more than enough food, drink, and electrolyte replacements at each check-point. Oh, the the route sheet was fantastic! Best I've ever seen. It's a fairly complex route, but I had only a couple of mildly confused moments...but I had to keep an eye on that sheet, because it would have been easy to get lost. Part of the fun and challenge of the event.
One other more subtle moment I will never forget: the ride passes right through the Rose Bowl...I rode most of the leg from Asuza to the finish alone, and there was something deeply moving about riding down into the Rose Bowl area in late afternoon, the sun just starting to sink behind the ridge on the west side of the Bowl...the light a deep gold, the air gentle with a slight nip of evening coming on, kids playing on the fields surrounding the bowl..I rode around Rose Bowl park...carefully following my route sheet, came to the end of the road, where there was this *nasty* little monster of an incline. Short, but very steep, like some kind of bad joke. I knew it had to be there, but we had not gone this way outbound...I traversed it, ok? I was tired.
Again, if you want to challenge yourself in a way you might never have challenged yourself before, and if you want to experience some wonderful and highly varied scenery, you must try this ride...it was maybe the best ride I've ever done. It's so good, it'd be worth flying in for it...anyone here in Southern California who wants a very special cycling experience, should do this one next year.
Well, it wasn't as brief as I intended, I hope it was ok for the list..
Charles "I'm going back to bed now" Andrews SoCal.