Biking Chronicles for 02/24/2013 – Pleasanton Ridge

Feb 25

Today Team ZOIC (we all bought the same orange mtb shirt from the recent SF bike expo since the vendor, ZOIC, was selling them at a severe discount) set forth on a typical Sunday morning mountain biking run.

Photo Feb 24, 9 29 59 AM

With winter in California being what it is, we’ve been inconsistent due to the rain causing the hills to become too wet to climb. The nearest and most central trail to everyone (as we’re all coming from extreme ends of the Bay Area) is the Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park, located off Sunol Blvd on highway 680 (which runs north to south along the eastern side of the bay area).

In short, the hills in this region are brutal when it comes to the incline, and Pleasanton Ridge (aka P-Ridge for short) is the worst of the bunch. Particularly because there’s no warm up, or any flat sections near the start. Out of the gate at the parking lot it’s an immediate steep climb for a punishing 45+ minutes of non-stop incline riding.

Bobby taking a jump

Bobby taking a jump

If you do it consistently enough, you’ll build up enough endurance to do it in one shot. But being out of practice Nabeel and I (in our early 40s) would take a break frequently. Keep in mind, I hit the gym and do cardio 5 days a week, and Nabeel plays soccer with 20-something year olds 2-3X a week. So it’s not like we’re out of shape; P-Ridge is just that hard. The youngest in our crew, Bobby at age 39, somehow had the endurance to power to the rare flat parts and wait for us older folks to catch up.

Along the way were a couple of spots where cows were on the trail, and up close their size is intimidating. And they looked at you as if you were a threat, particularly one cow that had calves nearby. There was one point where I thought one was going to charge at me.

Photo Feb 24, 9 03 48 AM

Hikers dominate P-Ridge’s trails, and when you’re in the easiest of gears (the only usable gear), a hiker easily can out pace you. Which feels embarrassing, so you push yourself to barely stay ahead. The terrain for most of the way is fire road; roads created for fire trucks to drive up in the event the hills catch on fire (which is typical in the summer as all the brush becomes bone dry).

But all that upfront investment in fighting gravity pays off when you get to go downhill. There’s a section of single track that we recently discovered that the hikers don’t peruse, which is perfect for mountain biking, and someone has been building and shaping mtb features such as jumps and berms.

There’s one main jump where you start at the top of a decline, and with gravity as your friend you bomb down for 50-70ft, and then it suddenly inclines up with a steep lip, allowing you to get some air.

This one spot is a great way to practice jumps with relatively low risk of injury. So having done it a few times, we ride up a bit further and start coming down again to that spot. And since it’s the last opportunity of the day to take this jump, I figure I’ll go all out.

The problem is that when you’re going downhill towards it, the grooves of the terrain don’t line up exactly with the jump, you have to bank a bit to the right at the last second. And to complicate it, there’s a rock right in the optimal spot, which makes you want to navigate around it, but it’s within 10ft of the jump.

I should have just let the suspension do the work, but instead tried to dodge the rock, and when hitting the jump had already had some rotational momentum at play and started twisting towards the right and wasn’t lined up to land balanced.

After crash landing, it obviously hurt, but knew I could shake it off. And after a few minutes felt right as rain. I could see my black thermal pants having some blood soaking through, but the pants are skin tight and tapered at the bottom so you couldn’t slide them up. But since it wasn’t hurting, I figured it was just a scrape.

We continue on down looking for this one 10ft drop off. I thought it was much further ahead, and before I knew it, it was right in front of me! I started to brake, but had too much momentum, so I let go of the brake and just went for it – which was awesomely fun (keep in mind, I’m injured at this point and unaware of how bad it is).

After that are vast rolling hills, and we descend so fast, trying to stay on the track, that when we get to the bottom we could smell our brakes which had started to overheat and burn. I didn’t even know you could do that on a bike. But that was huge blast! Even though we were using XC/Trail bikes with 120mm suspension, it was soaking up the terrain no problem.

So I get home, and begin to change, and for the first time get a look at the damage on the leg. My reaction was, “wow, that’s going to take more than a band aid.” I walk over to my wife and casually ask, “can you take me to the hospital? I think I need stitches.”

Photo Feb 24, 11 38 13 AM

Amazingly, there was no wait time at the ER. So I went into a room right away, and they started working on it. They had to peel back the skin to clean it well, and that part (although I was curious) I couldn’t watch – it was just way too gross.

With some stitches and bandages, I was all patched up and went home.

Photo Feb 24, 12 30 28 PM

So what’s the moral of the story? Wear proper protection. 🙂

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