To Bear and Back by Bike

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I had cycled 80 miles and had 10 hours to think about it and I still couldn’t decide how I wanted to theme this article. A bicycle adventure? Cross training? Accomplishing a goal? How far a bike can take you? Proving that you don’t need the most expensive, high-tec equipment to have fun? A Soma Double Cross review? Here’s a follow up to my adventure from last month and you can catagorize it however you’d like.

Some big hills in the background

One of my goals for the summer was to ride a bicycle from the base of Big Bear to my grandparents house on Big Bear Lake. RL was generous to lend me a Soma Double Cross for the trip since I didn’t have a road bike. Why roadie talk on an MTB site? Road biking is a great way to target your cycling muscles while performing in an aerobic heart rate zone for an extended period of time. The result is strong legs and stronger cardio. Mountain biking still offers good cardio but tends to be a more anaerobic workout meaning you will build more muscle and not push your cardio level as much. I feel I could perform much better in DH racing if my cardio was higher both in terms of stamina and keeping a cool head. Exhaustion leads to dumb mistakes and those small slip-ups are the biggest things people beat themselves up over on a bad race run.

I was having trouble getting a pickup car at the top or bottom of the mountain so I decided that parking at the bottom and riding up and down all in the same day was the way to do it. In my head it made a lot of sense because I only saw it as riding 40 miles up the mountain and coming back I was going to let gravity do all the work. Highway 38 was a bit longer than the 18 but it made the most sense since it was much less traveled and was a wider road in general. I did some research on where to park my truck and found a little picnic area called Thurman Flats at the base of the 38 in Yucaipa. They require an Adventure Pass for your car and they have clean restrooms and trash service. From there it was a straight shot up the 38 right up to Big Bear Lake clocking in at 40 miles one way. I felt prepared enough for the trip so off I went.

I got to Thurman Flats ready to ride at about 7 at a starting elevation of just over 3,000ft. The highest point was 8,500 so I knew there would be a lot of pain involved. Cars were a major concern for me on a twisty mountain road but I was surprised to find a decent size bike lane for almost the entire ride which made things a lot less nerve racking. The other things that put me at ease was that it was a Monday morning and that the 18 had just reopened weeks earlier, alieviating traffic down to a trickle.

Plenty of room for cars and bikes

I’m not going to lie; I seriously considered turning around a couple times because this ride was intense. The road was lonely, my hands and butt were killing me, my legs were sore and, without a bike computer, I never knew how much further I had to go.

I finally reached Onyx summit, the highest point of the ride, by about 11am. From there it was a 12 mile, 2,000ft, decent into Big Bear to my grandparents house where lunch was waiting. Now to figure out how to not feel akward when hugging Grandma and Grandpa while wearing skin-tight lycra.

The destination

A couple hours later I was back on the road now feeling more sore than ever with 2,000ft to climb back up before I really got to enjoy the easy part of my day. I must have taken about 5 breaks going back to the summit because of how much pain I was in. Turning around wasn’t an option at this point because my truck was at the base of the mountain and I wanted to go home. When I got to Onyx summit I ran into the only road bikers I saw all day and we stopped and chatted for a while before descending the mountain together.

It definitely wasn’t all a party from the top as the road bobbed up and down a handfull of times in the middle really testing my stamina. Regardless, I suffered through the uphills and sped through downhills making quick work of the remaining descent. The fast winding road down was incredibly fun and I could take up the middle of the road for most the way down as there were very few cars. I was back at my truck by about 5pm and more than ready to let an engine do the rest of the work from there.


The ride was fulfulling. The road was amazing. The drivers were courteous. The mountain view was unbeatable. As for the bike? No $5k, carbon fiber clad steed with helium-filled tires here. The Soma is a 25 pound CrMo street missle. A little heavy for a pure road bike from what I’m told, but hey, obviously it worked just fine here. It’s crazy to think that every time I consider buying a road bike I feel the need to spend at least $2k just to get something I’d deem competent. I don’t know how the line between wants and needs always gets so blurred but some savvy shopping and $500 should be able to get the average joe enough bike to tackle any road.

My mountainous steed

1 thought on “To Bear and Back by Bike

  1. Great article all around! I read the whole things and really enjoyed it. I’ve also started riding a bit more road in order to loose the extra pounds I’ve packed on at my desk job as well as to increase my stamina. It is definitely those times when I start to get tired that I make avoidable mistakes… even just fall over clipped in cause I just forgot to unclip in time.

    I think it rings very true that you don’t have to have a light carbon bike to do some cardio cross training.. as long as you’re pedaling for an extended amount of time, that’s all you need.

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