Thursday, September 27, 2007

Seabright Beer in Dirt Rag

I got the latest issue (#131) of Dirt Rag in the mail today. I was really happy to see that they covered the Blur IPA and the Oatmeal Stout in the "Beer Me" column.

Maurice is an IPA fan and he waxes poetically about the Blur: "Blur starts with a burst of malty sweetness, followed by a dry, hoppy twang, and finishes with an aftertaste that lingers as long as you carry on. Nothing like a nice burp ten minutes later to see how the hops are sticking with you. It's a party in your mouth!".

He describes the Oatmeal Stout as: "Toasty, with much of the caramel-y quality of the Blur; I think they are doing something special with the malt in the process. Another word that came to mind was clean."

I guess the Kenny wasn't his bag: "All I remember was, whoa, that's a lotta hops. Anyway, I hear it's a local favorite". It is indeed my favorite.

It's really interesting to see him write about beers that I'm very familiar with. They also give a plug for MBOSC. Thanks Dirt Rag!

When in Santa Cruz come down and experience these great beers yourself. There is nothing better than a killer ride in the redwood forests of Wilder/Gray Whale and upper campus. Finish the ride with a spin back back into town on the bike path. Down Shafer and through Natural Bridges to ride along the ocean's edge along Westclif Drive. Take in the ocean views and watch the surfers, the sea birds and maybe an otter or two. Ride across the Beach Boardwalk to check out the babes in bikinis playing beach volley ball. Over the railway trestle, down a couple blocks to the patio of Seabright Brewery where you can hang out and get a pint of Kenny brewed on premises and a salmon fish and chips. Ah California! Life is good.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Elevated Trails for Kids

I spent some time on Sunday helping out the Monterey Off Road Cycling Association (MORCA) folks. I saw a bunch of pictures of the skills course that they built for their spring kids day and I was really impressed with the quality of the stunts. It would great to provide a similar experience for our local kids so I decided to drive down the coast to help with the construction and learn how to build these platforms.

Ken is a master builder of elevated trails. He built a little elevated riding area in his backyard which formed the basic design of the MORCA platforms. He gathered scrap wood in the area- which included palettes - and we tore them apart to salvage the good pieces. He used new 2x4s for the framing and cut lengths of 12" and 16" for ladders and spaced them apart. It helps that he has a pneumatic stapler and nail gun to put them together quite quickly.

These kids are going to have a blast riding this stuff. MORCA's "Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day" Monterey will be at Toro Park this year. Check out this page for details:

The Santa Cruz skills course will not be as ambitious as MORCA's. The focus of our skills course is to prepare the kids to ride the single track trails of DeLaveaga. We just want them to practice their braking, challenge their ability to ride over rough terrain including bumps, rocks and roots and to navigate through narrow single track. We also want to include aspects of trail etiquette so that the kids know to "go slow, say hello" when encountering other trail users.

Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day will be on Saturday October 6th. The events in the Monterey Bay area will be held:
Come out and bring a kid. Better yet, come out and volunteer and show a kid how fun and cool mountain biking can be!

David Vincent, California State Parks

David Vincent has been the District Superintendent of Santa Cruz area State Parks for the entire time that I have been living in Santa Cruz and involved in bike advocacy. Dave is retiring at the end of this month and it represents the end of his 32 year career at State Parks. I remember meeting David Vincent at a Coast Dairies public meeting back in 2003 and he seemed like a great listener. More recently, I have been meeting with him and talking to him on the phone about mountain bike access issues and he is always fair and reasonable in his dealings with user groups.

The old timers in MBOSC gave me a couple of nice anecdotes about Dave Vincent:
Dave was introduced to MBOSC on the first week of the job. Grey Whale was about to be opened and there was a problem with the fire road known as "Woodcutters". It needed repair otherwise it would not be approved as an "open trail" by the California Coastal Commission. Dave authorized Bob Culberson and MBOSC crew that Saturday to go in and fix all of the problems on Woodcutters before the approval the following week by the Coastal Commission. Thanks to Dave we got it opened!

Dave has always been a proponent of one trail-multi use. This concept has driven his support of continuing mulit-use trails in Wilder. He used to say: "There just is not enough land to support two trail systems". He has always appreciated the support that the mountain biking community has done over the years to develop and maintain the local trails.
This State Parks district has the most public land out of any land management agency in Santa Cruz county. There are a lot of people in Santa Cruz who are passionate about the environment. Dave had a pretty tough job as the District Superintendent and he was always in the cross hairs of mountain bikers, environmentalists and dog walkers. Everyone wanted something from State Parks and Dave was the one they went to. Dave had a tough job balancing the needs for recreational access and resource protection. He has to weigh all of these competing influences and do it with budgets which have been sliced to pieces in the past decade.

MBOSC would like to thank Dave for his many years of service to Santa Cruz County and managing our amazing public parks. We wish Dave Vincent the best of luck in his future endeavors. Thanks Dave for all your great work!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Take a Kid to DeLaveaga Oct 6th

My family and I went to Delaveaga Park today to do a test run for the young kids ride as part of Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day. We wanted to put kids under 7, trail-a-bikes, trailers and child seat riders on an out-and-back along the fireroad. We were concerned that it may be too much climbing for kids on training wheels and recent 2 wheeler riders.

Jade, our five year old, just learned to ride on 2 wheels earlier this summer so she's a great test pilot. We helped her with some of the climbing but the ride back was a fairly gentle grade and she could ride it herself. In fact she had a blast riding back down! I shot some video of her ride and it turned out so well that I decided to cut it into a promotional video.

Jade is no ordinary 5 year old. She kicks ass! She got riding tips from Chris Duncan and her parents - who are excellent mountain bikers - have been riding with her and taking her to bike events all her life. I'm really proud of the fact that she picked up mountain biking so quickly. She understands how to pedal, shift gears, pick lines and how to go over rough terrain. She has been mountain biking since she was a year old so she has probably absorbed a lot over the years. Yes, I'm a proud parent.

Jade really enjoyed the ride so we decided that this would be the right ride for the young kids. The route will be along the fireroad from the Lone Tree picnic area to the dirt jump quarry and back. The bigger kids will do the lower loop single track trails. Perhaps in the afternoon, we'll take the more advanced kids and mountain biking parents to "Top of the World". DeLaveaga is a small park but there are a lot of fun trails in there. All of the trails are redwood forested technical single track. All of them are open to bikes.

Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day is Saturday Oct 6 this year. TAKMTBD is a national event and there will be events all over the world. MBOSC will be hosting Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day at Delaveaga Park, Santa Cruz. There are numerous ride options at DeLaveaga and we'll have a skills course. We will have snacks and drinks and a free raffle for the kids. Santa Cruz Bikes have been very generous and donated some soft goods for the kids (Thanks Mike and Juli!).

Monday, September 17, 2007

Bear Mountain Cycling Adventure at Roaring Camp

The Bear Mountain Cycling Adventure program is a new program which will be offered by Roaring Camp in 2008. It's a shining example of a great eco-tourism experience which combines learning about the local history of Roaring Camp and the biological species which inhabit the old growth forest. On top of that it's an enjoyable ride thought the woods.

My wife, child and I were on the inaugural intermediate program run to give feedback on the experience. I have been interested in this program since it combines a docent led outdoor educational experience with mountain biking - a challenging physical activity.

Paul Nakamoto - the Director of Business Development at Roaring Camp and a mountain biker - helped to develop the program. Our guide and docent was a Cabrillo College student Eric Lynberg. I was really impressed with Eric's knowledge of the forest. He grew up in the San Lorenzo Valley and learned about the forest and plants from his parents - who were passionate about nature and the outdoors. This job represents an amazing opportunity for him to combine his passion and knowledge of the forest with his love of mountain biking.

The adventure starts with a fire road climb to the top of Bear Mountain with stops along the way so that Eric could discuss some interesting historical and biological points of interest. This breaks up the climb so that you can savor and learn about the forest - and take a breather if you aren't physically up for the climb.

The Roaring Camp property was spared the logging that took place in the Felton/Henry Cowell properties. Many of the old growth redwoods and douglas fir are still standing. Eric identified and pointed out interesting examples of redwood (with spurs which are characteristic of old growth), manzinita, madrone, ponderosa pine, coffee berry, douglas fir, tanoak and bay trees. He knows how the indigenous Ohlone Indians used the local plants for food, customs and medicine. He also discussed the local history of Roaring Camp railroad and Felton.

At the top, we would rendezvous with the tour train at Bear Mountain to hear the conductor discuss the cathedral grove fairy ring. After the train left, we headed for a thrilling and swoopy downhill single track run back to the Roaring Camp grounds. My daughter was laughing and enjoying the ride down from the back of a trail-a-bike. Weeeee!!

It was a great adventure and it was the first time that my wife and daughter had ridden in this part of the forest. Eric was impressed that I managed to clear all the logs and A-frames pulling a trail-a-bike. I've had a lot of practice.

The Roaring Camp folks really figured out how to do eco-tourism safely. Eric has first aid training and carried a kit and a radio. He was in steady communication with operations and understood the train schedule so that the ride doesn't interfere with the running of the trains. He carried a GPS device that contained a map with way points that showed his exact location. The way points were co-ordinated with emergency services so that response time would be very quick if an accident were to occur.

I have been looking for a program like this to promote as a great activity for middle and high schools. Not only could it satisfy criteria for outdoor education (they are working on expanding the program to satisfy educational curriculum) and it could instill a love of nature in students (Eric's enthusiasm is infectious) but it could also help to mitigate the effects of a sedentary lifestyle by providing a physically challenging mountain bike ride.

Roaring Camp offers several outdoor adventure programs including the Bear Mountain Cycling Adventure. Pricing is reasonable at $25 (if you have your own bike) for a great interpretive ride through the amazing biodiversity of the old growth forest. The downhill run is pretty cool as well. A great value for sure.

Consider checking out the Roaring Camp Outdoor Adventure program if you come to the Santa Cruz area and are looking for an interpretive experience combined with a guided ride though awesome forested single track. You'll love it!

Nat and Rachael Lopes of Hilride

Nat and Rachael Lopes were part of the IMBA Trail Care Crew for 3 years and in that time had traveled across 46 states and 9 Canadian provinces. Soon after "retiring" from the TCC, they came home to California to form Hilride Progression Development Group. Hilride is dedicated to realizing the potential of the global mountain biking movement by helping with community planning and assisting with the creation of the facilities and trails to realize the full economic potential of mountain biking. Hilride has also assisted in running events like the IMBA California Ales and Trails in Marin County earlier this summer. Currently, Hilride is helping to develop mountain bike tourism in Croatia.

MBOSC hired Hilride to attend a meeting with our District State Parks office and help us do a trail assessment in Castle Rock. This assessment helped the District determine the multi-use suitability of the Castle Rock portion of the Bay Area Ridge trail. They also attended the MBOSC meeting that evening and entertained us with movies and stories of mountain biking in far away places.

I really admired their professionalism and experience. On the trail in Castle Rock they would immediately recognize issues and prescribe solutions. They educated the State Parks staff about trail issues which related to mountain biking which included safety, mitigating trail use conflict, maintenance, environmental sustainability and providing a great user experience. Nat and Rachael work really well as a team. Their experience and backgrounds perfectly complement each other. They produced a high quality trail assessment very soon after the walk.

I really enjoyed working with Hilride and I would highly recommend their services. If your community needs experienced mountain bike advocate/trail/tourism consultants then consider hiring them. MBOSC would gladly hire them again and we hope to work with them again in the near future.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day will be Oct 6th @ DeLaveaga

Come join Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz for a fun day at DeLaveaga park on Saturday Oct 6th. Take this opportunity to introduce a kid to the great sport of mountain biking and the forested trails in DeLaveaga park. Participants will also learn about bike safety, trail etiquette and bike handling skills.

There will be snacks and drinks after the ride and many items given away after the ride. There will also be a skills course where kids can work on their balance and bike handling skills. So come out and make a day of it!

See this page for more details.

This will be the third year that MBOSC has hosted this event. These events are a great way to get kids excited about mountain biking. The first time we did this event it exceeded my expectations. The kids really loved it. You can read about the 2005 event and the 2006 event.

The previous Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day events were held at Wilder Ranch. We wanted to move the venue to DeLaveaga park in central Santa Cruz because it's a family friendly venue and we wanted the kids to experience the joy of riding in redwood forested single track. Wilder Ranch is a great place to ride but it is too far for little legs to pedal to get to the forests.

I'm looking for volunteers to help out. Please contact me if you're interested.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Laird Knight of Granny Gear Productions

One of the best things about being involved in bike advocacy has been the great people that I have met. I'll be writing a bit more about the people I have met over the past couple of years as a result of my advocacy efforts.

Laird Knight is the pioneer of the 24 hour racing format and the man behind the Granny Gear Productions. He is a gentleman and has been honored by his peers by being inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.

I met Laird in Washington, DC during the Bike Summit earlier this year. I was really interested in his talk about the economic impact of his 24 hour event on a local community and how these races provide memorable lifetime experiences for the participants. During an evening walk to a DC restaurant for Tapas and beer, I talked to him about bringing a 24 hour race to Santa Cruz and discussed the possibility of using the Coast Dairies property as a future venue. Laird was interested in this proposition and we have kept up correspondence.

He flew out in August and stayed with us for a few days for a BLM meeting and a peek at the Coast Dairies property. He was a great asset in the BLM meeting since he has a long term relationship with the BLM near Moab. He is a articulate advocate of mountain biking on public lands and he made a great impression with the Field Manager.

He has the curious mind of an engineer/scientist despite the fact that he has no formal education as an engineer. He is interested in science and keeps tabs on technology and knows how to leverage technology to improve the race experience. Laird is the inventor of the 24 hour race format - which has been copied by many race promoters. However, he doesn't seem resentful about the fact that others have stolen his ideas. He seems amused and flattered. Having more promoters do the 24 hour race format increases the market (and racers) for 24 hour racing and that can only benefit all the promoters. The competition doesn't stop him from innovating. He continues to dream up new ways to improve the experience of Granny Gear races.

Laird is an amazing guy to know. I am really happy to have him as an ally partner and friend in advocacy.

Public Service Announcement

Saw this on a ride the other day...

Shame on you, hippie for f**cking up UCSC's sign!

Anyway, as a mountain biker, I'm not ashamed. I practice sustainable recreation and I know that the forest is a resilient ecosystem. Besides, the upper campus is hardly a wilderness area. The winter runoff from the roads and the parking lots are funneled into the creeks and cause more erosion in a good storm than thousands of bikes over several decades.

Debating about the impact on the forest becomes moot when UCSC implements their Long-Range Development Plan. The supreme irony is that the forest surrounding this gate will be completely developed with student housing and academic buildings by 2020 according to the UCSC plan (see Figure 20 p. 66). Most of this forest (and the trails) will be gone. Pipedream, Ridge Trail, Rock and Roll, Garden of Weeden, Geoff's trail, Swamp trail, Mr. Twisty, RV Park will be a memory.

Heed the words of Jim Morrison: "I wanna have my kicks before the whole sh**house goes up in flames". Get it while you can but be nice out there. Ride slow, say hello and smile like you love the forest. Because you do. You're a mountain biker.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mountain Bike Friendly Restaurants and Hotels

What attributes does a hotel and a restaurant have before you would consider it to be a mountain biker friendly establishment? The following is a partial list of properties that I look for when looking for hotels/motels and restaurants when I do a mountain bike road trip.


Secure places to lock/store bikes

A lot of mountain bike tourists will travel with their bikes - which may be worth up to $5K. Leaving these bikes locked outside or on a car is not an option. Some of the better hotels I have stayed in will have a secure bike storage locker in the hotel near the entrance with the concierge escorting the cyclist to the locker. For motels, I have always brought my bike into the room. This tends to be tricky when you have 4 riders in a room. It's not unusual for mountain bike tourist to bring more than one bike. I'll usually take 2 bikes on a solo road trip but 1 bike if I fly. On one road trip to Vancouver/Whistler a few years ago, 2 of my friends packed a mini-van with 5 bikes - 2 bikes each and a spare.

Convenient place to wash/work on bikes

More often than not, we may work on our bikes before or after a ride. This could be as simple as lubricating a chain or more complex maintenance which involves tools and a bike stand. When we do a road trip we prefer to stay in motels rather than hotels. We usually prefer a ground floor unit. The room is close to the car (where we store tools and bike stand) and it's easier to put the bike in the room.

Close proximity to trails and nice restaurants

I'm a cyclist so when I get to a destination I don't really want to drive everywhere. Riding to the trail head is ideal. Walking/riding to restaurants is also favorable. Added bonus is to be close to local bike shops for trail knowledge and local maps and wares.


Camping is always a favorite activity of mountain bikers. Bikers travel with a lot of gear so car camping is preferable. I really don't know of any great places for car camping which is close to riding areas in Santa Cruz. I know that there are campsites at Henry Cowell but I haven't seen them nor have I heard of any mountain bikers who use them.


Secure place to lock the bike

Finding a safe place to lock the bike outside of the restaurant is essential. Santa Cruz is notorious for the bike theft. I hear about a sweet ride being pinched from downtown Santa Cruz on weekly basis. Sometimes they will cut the cable lock while the bike is still on the car. I like 99 Bottles and Seabright Brewery since they have bike racks in front of the patios. It's not unusual to see pricey rigs in these racks.

Good beer and hearty food

Mountain bikers are (mostly) athletic and they do pay attention to the type of fuel they put in their bodies. Beer and hearty road house food - burgers, pasta and Mexican food - are great to refuel after a long ride. There seems to be a cultural aspect of good beer and mountain biking. Brew pubs are a huge hit with mountain bikers.

Social atmosphere

Many of the big group rides I have attended during the week usually end at some pub/restaurant where there is a recounting of the ride around beer and finger foods. A pub type atmosphere is good here since people will be moving around.

Willingness to put up with dirty, stinky and potentially bloody people

Very often, mountain bikers will ride to a restaurant after the ride since they are pretty hungry. They may be covered in grime and trail dirt but at least they don't smoke (unless they're European). Again, the patio is a good thing.

Some examples of Bike Friendly Places

Whister, BC, Canada - the ultimate mountain biker destination - have hotels which specifically cater to the mountain bike tourist. Not only do all these hotels and lodges have secure storage for bikes but they also have cameras and motion detectors. They also bring up another good feature: laundry facilities.

This Forest Freeride Bunkhouse in Wales sounds like a great place to stay. Not only is this place near trails but there is a BBQ area outside. Wales is a place that really "gets" mountain bike tourism. Scotland is another great mountain biking destination that has made the effort to make mountain bike tourists feel welcome. This impressive listing of accommodations breaks it down into categories like hotels, B&Bs, camping and bunk houses.

In Santa Cruz, my favorite bike friendly restaurants are the above mentioned 99 Bottles and Seabright Brewery. For faster food, I like Taqueria Santa Cruz (although I hear that Taqueria La Cabana - across from ABS - is definitely worth checking out) and the Summit Store for a post ride snack after riding at Soquel Demo Forest.

Do you have any other features that you like to see in accommodations and restaurants when you travel with your bike? Can you recommend places to stay and eat in Santa Cruz which you deem to be mountain bike friendly? Please post some comments and share them.

Cloud Nine Design

I had a great visit and conversation with John Caletti and Cloud Nine Design custom bikes at his very clean shop. Cloud Nine is Santa Cruz's newest independent frame builder and they make steel frames which include cyclocross, road, mountain and 29er frames. Cloud Nine bikes have been featured in the 24 hour race at Laguna Seca in June and at the Hand Made Bike show in Santa Jose earlier this spring. John and his wife Cory are active in the local cycling community and they recently became supporters of mbosc.

A couple of weeks ago I rode my friends 29" single speed at De Laveaga and I really enjoyed the experience. I've been very interested to try a 29 er for an extended time and the Calettis had offered to loan me Cory's 29 er for a couple of weeks. I paid a visit to Cloud Nine to pick up the bike. Buckethead (one of my favorite artists) was playing on the speakers and provided a great soundtrack to his small but very clean and organized shop. He is passionate about cycling and advocacy and he is meticulous in the detail at which he constructs the bikes. We had a great conversation about all things bike, Buckethead and the riding potential of the Coast Dairies properties. I'll be taking this bike for a spin this afternoon:

Santa Cruz is lucky to have a lot of great custom frame builders which include Rock Lobster, Hunter Cycles and Calfee Design (which has a bamboo and hemp mountain bike). If you are interested in a new hand build steel hardtail frame then consider supporting some of the crafts people who build frames in Santa Cruz county. These frames are race proven and tested in the wild and wooly local trails of Santa Cruz.