15 Miles of Devil mud

For the last month or so in between long rides on the weekend, I’ve been getting out on my cross bike to do short rides on local single-track. It’s been quite a lot of fun to do them because while I am in an urban environment, I kinda feel like I’m “away from it all”. Made me think that I could/should share a write-up or two so here’s one from a few weeks back…

The plan was to meet Reza Fasarti, who recently had back surgery and we’d go to Mt Diablo. He’d hike, I’d bike and then we’d meet back up to eat. Sounds EZ enough. Earlier in the year I saw some crazy beautiful pix from Manny Acosta on a mixed terrain ride he did on Mt Diablo on his Riv. Large clearance bike on Mt D’s fireroads and I was jonesin to try em out. I don’t yet own a Riv that can do this type of riding (notice, I said, yet), so the bike of choice was my BMC cross bike. I love this machine and have had a lot of fun on it doing singletrack dirt near Rivet WHQ.

Met Reza and he thought we should go to an area called Castle Rock. It’s a lower trail that meets up to the South Gate Road, where a couple of possible loops are available from there. He mentioned some stream crossings, but that was it. It would be sort of flat and then a steeper pitch for a few miles would get me to the road. Fine by me. Started off EZ enough, and I was off and swinging through the canyon. The BMC was feeling good and I was havin fun. Stopped to take a pic or two of the environs.

Starting gate at Castle Rock on the lower slopes of Mt. D

The stream crossings were manageable at first and I’d splash through them, trying to not get my feet wet. The trail soon became soggier and I came upon a couple of horseback riders who cautioned me that the trail was pretty goopy up ahead. OK. It’s a cross bike and even though the trail is short, the challenge is in dealing with the obstacles as they show themself. Goopy is good. Off I go.

The stream crossings are many and as my bike gets wetter the mud begins to build up on my brakes. cool! I’m living the mixed terrain dream! Marin Mtns 200k here I come! Carlos – you will be proud of me! It’s a pretty day, I’m warm, my bike is looking like it’s done some work and I am kickin it!

Goopfest = slogfest

I’m now up the trail about 4-5 miles and have done tons of stream crossings. Not all of them have been done in the saddle – the trail has steep enter and exit ramps to the stream x’ings, so I jump off, push or carry it across and remount on the other side. I hit a particularly goopy patch of muck and my bike stops. I can feel the tires (Kenda small block 8’s – which are great tires BTW), slip and of course, before I know it, I am toppling over – mud in cleat doesn’t let me get my foot out of the pedal. I’m over and have fallen into brambles. Stickers are all over my ass. I jump up and laugh as I take them out – more concerned about my Rapha bib-knicks then anything else. No harm, no foul. I press on. Still feelin good, I make it up to the sun and to the south road. I clean the muck out of my brakes for the descent after hanging out a bit and enjoying the scenery. It is lovely there.

Lovely day in mid-January

I check out a few of the other trails, but they require more time and I don’t want to keep Reza waiting. It’s turnaround time. Of course, the descent is faster than the ascent and I am back into the goopy patches which seem muckier than before. My feet will barely clip into my cleats and so I clean fewer of the stream crossings. I manage a particularly mucky patch and my brakes are again completely filled. I figure I’ll blow through the next stream crossing and it will help to clear them, and then I’ll stop and clear them for the final leg back to the car.

I pick up a bit of speed to enter the stream and immediately hit a fairly large rock that is underwater that stops my bike cold, twists my front handlebars sideways and throws me down hard. I am in the stream still completely connected to my bike. Pain is shooting through my shoulder, and my hip and left wrist are killing me. I get up and out of the stream and my teeth are chattering. Shit! I am now completely wet, i am in the shade, the sun is setting and I still need to get out of here.

Screw the Marin Mtns 200k. Carlos be damned! My bike says, “Swiss Precision Machine” on it, and I don’t think this is what they meant. Swiss Precision my ass. I get back on bike. My left side is really smarting, but there is no weakness in limbs and so I pedal cautiously. More stream crossings (turns out – there were 28), and while my body is sore, all parts are moving, so I continue on. I am getting close to the end – just a small rocky hill to get over so I stand on my pedals to get a leg-up and once again, my bike comes to a dead stop and I am on the ground.

WTF? I scramble back up and take a look. Chain suck. My relatively new D-Ace derailleur is stuck in the bladed spokes of my rear wheel. Sheared off and upwards into chaos. I am done. It takes a few minutes to yank the RD off the wheel and disengage the chain, so I can get the rear wheel to spin. Defeated, I coast my way back to the car. Reza is there and watches while I dig muck off my bike with a twig so I can put it into my car. It takes about a half hour. I strip in the parking lot and put on my dry clothes, crank up the heat and we depart for a bottle of wine.

Time for a new RD. Took a bit to unhitch the lower pulley from the spoke blade.

All this in a mere 15 mile bike ride, not 10 miles from suburbia, which actually I think is pretty cool. The body count includes a contusion on my hip, and my left wrist was sprained – swollen – black n blue. My neck and shoulder are sore, but all of this will pass. Now, I’ll go and clean my bike. That should take the remainder of the day, I need to find another RD to replace the one I destroyed. And of course, I want to go back to Mt. Diablo, when it’s drier and a bit warmer… This time around the devil got me.

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