Michael Hotten and Patrick Brady left the Sea Otter early to make it up to Super Sweetwater this year. Here’s the interview on RKP Podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe and follow all their interesting talks and adventures. Starts at minute 42
Late Summer and early Fall are strange for me here in Northern California. The “end” of Summer means going back to work (doing my “real” job of teaching high school Spanish). It also means I’m ready for a break from working on my house. This was my 13th Summer project. Our 1914 farmhouse sloped 2 inches in every direction from the center to the sides of each room. I had to “shim” it up and put in another 3/4″ subfloor and then Cali bamboo. Sometimes going to work seems like getting time off. Weird. The change in season also means I go back to commuting to work. As much as I love to shred the dirt in Occidental, Tam, Annadel or far away places, and ride our crazy Sonoma County back roads, there’s something innately satisfying about using my bike for transportation. My first mtb., a Specialized Stumpjumper, was my commuter, explorer and weekend mtb fun bike at Humboldt State from 88-92. It’s on these early morning commutes and rides home that my Grasshopper gears start turning. We’ve got a great series of adventures planned for you and hope to open Reg on Nov. 1st. In the meanwhile, here’s a few videos to get the juices flowing.
As Sonoma County continues to grow, the NorthWest County stays wild. Living in the small town of Sebastopol I still find myself in the busy streets of Santa Rosa at least a couple of times a week. SR has become a hub of cycling in Sonoma County but it’s a hectic place at times. When we moved here in 1977 Santa Rosa had just over 40,000 people. Now it’s up to 4x that. Windsor was all but non-existent and Rohnert Park had just been formed. I would never trade where I live, but the change is undeniable. Still, there’s always the exploration and escape via bicycle to remind me of the beauty and remoteness of the North Coast. West of Occidental and north of Jenner it’s as if my entire being exhales; relaxes into a more simple, slower way of being. June 25th marks the final stage of this year’s Grasshopper Adventure Series. We began this journey together Feb 13 with Old Caz. with 400 plus riders on a crazy loop that symbolizes Grasshoppers. Next followed a smaller,but hardy group that faced floods and torrential rains at Chileno Valley. Super Sweetwater provided the challenging mix of road and dirt that included Old Caz, Meyers Grade and Chileno Valley. On the ticket this year was Lake Sonoma MTB and the trails were minty. At 25 miles this was by far the shortest Hopper and was a great social gathering afterward. Nearly 100 riders battled and survived Skaggs! last weekend in what is truly the hardest 100 miles you can do in Sonoma County. And 20 riders reached Jedi status by enduring and finishing the last 10 miles on Lake Sonoma single track. Here’s a little piece from Kitsbow that sums up the history of Hopper explorations and the day on Skaggs.
This leads us to King Ridge Dirt Supreme…
It’s been an honor to choose, organize and present these challenging rides over the last 18 years. When we first started doing King Ridge “in reverse” people had a hard time wrapping their heads around the loop. As a mountain biker I love riding up the “downs” and down the “ups”. Kinda’ like my favorite quote “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”. In terms of cycling this means that if you mix it up, you have at least double the options. This has become one of my favorite Hoppers. Descending dirt on Willow Creek on a road bike, riding up Hwy 1 to Fort Ross, the dirt decent to Hwy 1 via Salt Point, climbing Kruse on gravel, ripping down Hauser, and the never ending climb west to east on King Ridge. Oh, and the finish up Willow Creek. Here’s a few shots of the days adventure to get the juices flowing!
See you on June 25th.
Yours in adventure,
This is my “go to” image for Lake Sonoma. It sums up the color, texture and rolling rhythm of the trail. Mid October of last year I decided to bring back a MTB stage in the Grasshopper Adventure Series and am stoked I did. We will be back next year and this will be part of the overall point series. The ride itself is less social than Old Caz, Chileno Valley or King Ridge, but the overall experience was a highlight for me. Mountain bike racing is a strange thing. Unlike road events, you can turn completely inward and race against the clock. It’s nice to have company but not necessary. The narrow, challenging single track condenses a 2hr +race into fractional moments; stop-motion film making in our minds. I was lucky to get to ride the course on Thursday with Kevin Gambini from Breakaway Bikes and Brooke and Amity from Machines for Freedom. And I loved taking a leisurely pace marking the course. Saturday was no such affair. The pre-race prep was much the same for me. No, not my diet, hydration and bike work but the craziness of another work week slamming into a Hopper weekend. I did manage to clean my drivetrain, check the air pressure and grab a clean kit to wear. 3 GUs and a HealthWarrior Chia Bar were enough food for the day and fresh 2.3 Specialized Captains gave me confidence on the sometime packed, other times loose, ripping trails. I finished packing the trailer by 10:30 PM on Friday, ice at Safeway at 11 and in bed by 11:30. Up at 5 to be ready for reg by 6:45. As if racing isn’t challenging enough, I’ve come to enjoy the crazy pleasure that Hoppers bring me; with a cold start with no warm up. Saturday I had to drop the microphone after a pre ride chat and make a running cyclo-cross start in order to make the front group heading up Skaggs. Front…well, I tried. A wicked for me, casual for them, pace by Ted King and Levi Leipheimer forced me to settle into the second group. My aspirations of a top 5 or 10 were quickly fading. Luckily Cameron Falconer came by just as I was loosing hope and gave me a bit of a rest. As long as there was no traffic heading into the opening single track we would be all good. I took hole shot from our small group across the parking lot and into the single; was a relief not to have to make any passes on the technical initial section. I soon saw Forest Murnane and Roger Bartels so knew I wasn’t doing too bad. “Smooth before fast” is my mtb mantra and so I put it to the test, settling into a rhythm I could sustain after a blistering start. I eventually picked off a couple of riders but never caught Roger. At the feed I was sitting in 5th so started feeling the pressure. I got my Camelbak hand-up from Kevin and attacked the short but steep climb after the feed. The second half of the loop is the “space out zone” for me. With no one on my tail that I could see I focused on hydrating and staying out of the red zone. But as we finished the last couple of turns on the madrone climb I saw Forest and Michael Hosey catching on quickly. I made a resolution to stick it on the grassy and rocky section that followed but couldn’t shake Forest. Michael cracked so at least I held off one. The last climb was hard but better than climbing Bummer Peak, and the sweet BoarSkat trail was a fantastic finish!
Congrats to Forest Murnane and Cassidy Mountjoy for fantastic rides. The pups get fast quickly.
Thanks to Chef Correa from El Molino Culinary for making lunch. Thanks to Kevin and Breakaway Bikes for the feed and Support. Camelbak for the rad podium bottles, GU for the gels and hydration. Thanks to HealthWarrior Chia bars and Guayaki at the feed and finish. Thanks BarFly, The Hive, Arnot Roberts and Mercury Wheels for the rider swag. And thanks to all who came out to make it a fantastic day on two wheels.
Looks like we’ll have temps in the low 80’s tomorrow, why wouldn’t you come join us? Pre-reg closes today at 6:00 PM. There will be day-of reg for +$10. This is a unique Grasshopper for several reasons; not least of which is the start. We will officially begin at Riverfront Park on Eastside Rd. Riders can roll out on their own or together by 9:30 from the Occidental Community Center. We’ll have a brief riders meeting and roll at 10:15 from River Front. Safety is always our number 1 concern when planning these adventures. This start will allow us to cross the busiest roads carefully before the official start, and finish close to Occidental.
For veteran riders in Sonoma County beware as our already challenging road are out to bite ya! If you are new to these roads, proceed with extreme caution. Fascinating that the County can pay to have the asphalt dumped and raked but make no effort to pack it down….I think I’d prefer an open hole, this way we would at least not have the false sense of security of the look of fresh pavement. We’re going to have a fantastic day out there, everyone ride safe and look out for each other. Remember, the roads WILL be open and there WILL be vehicles. We have permits to hold the event on these roads but there is no road closure. All riders must OBEY the rules of the road.
Check out Jeff Karkove’s video from 2014. Can’t wait.
Hasta mañana, Mig
Yes, it was one for the books Patrick Brady. You wear the invisible badge of courage. Good to hear your story. And see you for the next stage at Super Sweetwater on April 16th.
It’s normal that riders wonder and worry about the water level of East Austin Creek prior to the Old Caz Hopper.However, flood conditions are not usually a concern for Chileno Valley. I won’t for a moment put my wants and needs above the glory that is a wet winter. After a scorching Feb in which I mowed my field twice, with mouth open wide raised to the Heavens, I welcome the rain. But closed roads and torrential downpour can significantly affect the logistics of putting on an event and doing our best to keep riders safe. The first concern was marking the course. I think I only saw two or three arrows that endured the heavy storms. At least one rider made it nearly to Petaluma before turning around, and others supposedly “missed the turn to Joy” and went up Freestone. (A likely story!) If there was any doubt that we can and do ride during the craziest of weather, I think it’s been washed away. Thursday’s road report said both Freestone-Valley Ford Road and Hwy 1 were closed. It would not be a problem to go around Freestone Rd but Hwy 1? That was a problem. I checked the weather, and tide tables, and it looked to be in our favor. Tide tables you ask? Yes. You can see a difference of 5-10 feet at the creeks if it’s a high tide. Fortunately, tides peaked at 2:00AM on Friday and 9 PM on Sat. Also, there was going to be a break in the storm from Friday morning until 10 AM on Sat. Perfect! Even so, packing the trailer and planning for the day I was not content with the Sonoma County Road report. Closed, yeah. I get it, but by how much? When I lived in Occidental and taught in Tomales there were many flood days. One year, maybe 99′, school was canceled on 12 separate occasions. Usually this meant I had time to grab my bike and go ride the flooded roads. Why, adventure! And maybe a subconscious desire to get really good at rebuilding my hubs, bottom bracket and headset. Think cups, races, ball berrings. Do we still have these in our bikes? Remember when you first installed a sealed BB? Yes! Like sliced bread but smoother. I diverge. I jumped in my car and drove to see the roads that we labeled “closed” and was stoked to see they were just a “little bit closed” and knew that with the predicted rains and tides we’d be all good. And, with late rain we were able to stage and hang out without getting stoked. Perfect. But then, predictions of high winds. At least it wouldn’t be an easy day.
Here’s how the day unfolded for me. (Or more precisely, “How I Came Undone, Again, on Chileno Valley Hopper” or, how “Joy Rd. kicked me in the nuts when I was already lying in puddle of my own …” Anyway, you get the point.
With a field size 1/4 of what we had at Caz, fewer logistical complications and a dialed in group of volunteers, the morning went smoothly. I even had 10 minutes to get dressed and ready for the start. It’s still a little strange organizing the Hoppers and then jumping on my bike the last second to ride. Somehow during the busy week of teaching, being a dad and tweaking the last details of the Hopper logistics, I manage to make a mental map of how I’ll ride a particular Hopper. The beauty of mental imagery, meditation and focus is that it calms the mind. We can cull from nearly infinite variables, a few specific ones that that help us create a focus that is essential when preparing for a challenging event. In this case, Chileno Valley Grasshopper. I knew the field would be smaller than usual due to inclement weather. I also knew that those who did show would be a hard bunch. Based on my experiences over the last ten years when my fitness does not match my ambition, I knew that the chances of cratering before Joy were likely. My conservative game plan was to let folks ride away on Coleman Valley, settle into the third or fourth group on Hwy, and have a hard but civilized 5 hour ride in the rain. If I ended up in a group going too fast I’d simply let them go, conserve and save something for the end. Plan B? Plan B was to wing it and hope for the best. Actually I knew exactly what would happen, and it did, again! Cresting the starting climb up Coleman Valley with Levi and Pete I knew I was in trouble. Why, because Levi was gabbing away and I could actually here Pete breathing. Nice warm-up eh? After we dropped into the valley I did “let” lots of folk “get away” on the short steep climb. But then I saw George Hope as we hit the ridge and of course I didn’t want to let him go. Dug deep and bridged up. We survived a crazy windy descent to Hwy 1 and our group for the day was formed. The first couple of pulls were crazy hard. I was dangling as we climbed up from Salmon Creek and I was hoping that whoever was so excited up front would not find much support. Not sure who the instigators were but every five minutes or so it would get really hard, then ease up again. Dan Boyle, Matt Rossi and myself were all wondering if we should just let them go. Eventually in the crazy wind on the way to Valley Ford I made the decision to stick to my game plan and let them go. I was relieved, feeling a little smug about my decision as I drank and ate but then rolling mellow we caught the group on Franklin school. It now had grown as we picked up other riders who had popped off the front group. Including the Rocket Rog, the Thurmanator and the Swifties who were crushing it but being blown like kites. This meant only a small group of 6 or 8 were ahead of us. We all stayed together into Tomales and all the way to Marshall. At first the pace up the climb was fine and then I found myself digging too deep to hang on. Anyone who has ridden this course has to be thinking of Joy at mile 30. I was. DB was. Again, I followed my better judgement and let them roll away. Then Gianni Lamperti who had waited for Luke came ripping by and bridged up to the gang. I faked my way to the front of the climb so as not to get dropped as the pace increased, and managed to make it over the top intact. There was some yo-yo ing in our group along the flats and I was feeling surprisingly good. Wilson hill, no prob, grab a feed and hurry to drop the descent ahead of a speed-racer milk truck. I was thinking we’d sit up on Chileno Valley and regroup but things came undone. Rich Thurman and another were just ahead and a couple behind. I stopped to finally put on my raincoat and was not able to grab the back end as other riders bridged up. Shit! Then Gianni and Ben came by and hollered to get on. Couldn’t hold their wheel. Damn! Oh well, it’s over I thought. Then another solo rider came by on a slight downhill and I managed to dig crazy deep to follow him and join the group. I assumed, incorrectly that I’d just hang on the back. Soon we hit a wicked sidewind. Someone up front took a hard pull and I popped off. Gone for good. From here I rode solo until Joy. A couple solitary riders had passed me but oh well. Then I was caught by George, MJ and Jady. Whatever, then came the double hammy cramp; straddling my top tube standing by the side of the road and Dan Boyle passes me. What can I do? I walk the last climb, get back on the horse and roll up to the finish zone. Hardest Hopper ever for me? No. Hardest one since the last really hard one. Yes. And, until the next one.
HUGE thanks to Occidental VFD at the start, Dirk on the moto, Chris and Mary from 2UPYoga for the SAG, Nick aka SAG Monkey for the feed and SAG, Andrew from BiciSport for feed zone support, Brian Borchers from Russian River Cycles as the mobile mechanic, El Molino coaches, riders and parents as marshals, and Tera; for allowing and helping me put on (and ride) these crazy hard adventures.
I know that those of you who have signed up are wondering, “are we really going for it?” The answer is “yes”. The course is challenging on a nice day; in a storm it will be epic. You must be prepared for a long day in the cold. We will have two hydration/feed stops as planned. The course has been marked but you must carry your map or download the course to your GPS. You can find the route HERE. Please study the route map. I have included some information and alternatives if you decide to bypass potential flooded sections. It was rain like this that defined the Hoppers 18 years ago. We hope you will be able to make it but remember, you must ride within your ability and be prepared. There will be an emergency vehicle on course and a SAG for mechanical injuries. We will also have Brian from Russian River Cycles en route to help with mechanical needs but not to transport you. Huge thanks to Andrew and BiciSport for helping with the feed and Chris from 2UpYoga for driving SAG.
I’m limited in words to express the beauty that is the Chileno Valley Hopper. For now, let me dangle a few images that will tempt and inspire you.
Painting by Charles Beck
Old Caz 2016 has come and gone. No need to wait until next year for another Grasshopper Adventure. Next up, Chileno Valley on March 12th. Spent the day yesterday doing recon for Skaggs Gravel. Over the top, epic, phenomenal…(add your own over-used cliche to sum up a ride that blows your mind). 95 miles. 9500ft of climbing with a finale of 10 miles of single track. And don’t forget Super Sweetwater, Lake Sonoma Mtb and King Ridge Dirt Supreme. So much fun I can’t stand it. Put ’em on your calendar early before your weekend’s get packed with chores, wine tasting and kids soccer games. Hasta pronto, Mig.
Check out this killer video by Paul C Miller. that sums up the day.
And don’t miss another great write up by Patrick Brady at RKP.