Ride Report: Through the Gulch with a Butcher – Helena, MT

With a newly acquired client, it has given me an opportunity to travel to Helena, MT last week. Like most of my trips, whether it’s business or pleasure , I always look for an opportunity to ride. As soon as I received noticed that I’ll be traveling to Montana, I immediately searched the web for nearby trails. What were the search results?… Singletrack galore! Next step was the bike. I was debating if I should bring my bike on this trip however at the time I was making my plans, rain was in the forecast for Helena. Also since this was my first trip to Montana for work, I wasn’t sure how much time I’ll have to ride so I decided to just rent a bike.
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I mapped out my hotel, office and local bike shops – ALL were within two blocks or less than 1/8th of a mile from each other. My office was 20 steps from my hotel and the local bile shop was literally around the corner. It can’t get easier than that!!! 🙂

I arrived in Helena, MT on Tuesday evening. Wednesday was an all day meeting but during my lunch break I made a trip to the local bike shop – Great Divide Cyclery. I made arrangements for a bike rental for later in the afternoon however I didn’t quite commit to it yet as I still had a lot of things to do and wasn’t sure how long I’ll be in the office. In speaking to the guys at Great Divide Cyclery, there were describing the trails. Just the talk of the singletracks got me excited and I couldn’t wait!
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Singletrack on my mind

Back at work, I was waiting anxiously for the day to end. As soon as we called it quits, I took a quick drive to the trailhead. Oh, that’s the other thing… the trail, Mt. Ascension was also just a few blocks away… WOW! At the trailhead I talked to a few mountain bikers that just finished their ride. They gave me a few pointers where to go and what to look out for. I then returned to hotel, left my car then walked to the Great Divide Cyclery. I arrived there just before their closing time, but the guys didn’t stop short of providing me with excellent customer service. I was truly impressed! For my rental, they brought out a brand spanking new Santa Cruz Butcher. I’ve been dying to try this bike and the new APP linkage. Steve with Great Divide Cyclery made sure the bike’s suspension was dialed in for my weight. The only thing extra that I asked for was a bottle cage on the bike and they provided it with a water bottle.

With my Garmin GPS, off I went… from the shop to the trailhead was about five minutes. First thing I hit was the switchback climb off Davis Street. I was on a mission to get to the top.
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Switchbacks that took me to the top

This series of switchbacks were not that steep however it would be a gradual climb for awhile. Somewhere along the way, the trail leveled off and started to split in different directions. Unfamiliar with the trail and not seeing the marker that I was suppose to look-out for, I chose the one that would cut right through the middle of the mountain. From here, it was a rolling singletrack that would eventually ascend into another section of the mountain.
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Reaching a vista point I had a general idea where the city was and I was never too concerned about being lost. I was on an adventure!!!

I hit several segments of the Mt. Ascension, but the best part was the singletrack that lead down to Davis Street. At this point I must have hit the mid section of this descent, but as soon as I realized that I was heading closer to the exit, I turned around and climbed back to the top, passing my entry point. Reaching the top I turned around and pointed my bike towards the bottom. What was ahead of me was epic singletrack… smooth, buff, flowy, superfast in some sections… truly one of the most enjoyable downhill runs I’ve ever been on.
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Endless singletrack!

At the bottom, I ran into a hiker. With another trail system across the way, I asked him for directions. This place was unbelievable. Singletrack was spawning everywhere. I crossed Davis Street (a dirt road) and continued my adventure onto another mountain. There were more climbing and more singletrack… my ride ended down a hillside. The singletrack was running through tall grass. Looking back at where I just came from was just awesome!!!
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Exiting on a singletrack

I had minor issues with my GPS. It was turning on/off intermittently however at the end of my ride, my GPS listed 6.20 miles. I would say this was a pretty good ride considering I didn’t know where to go.

I’m scheduled to go back to Helena in July with additional trips before the year ends. I’m hoping for a lengthier stay so I can get out to the other trails. With the sun setting at 9:30pm, I’ll have plenty of light to explore. Helena is a small city but there were definitely lots of mountain bikers. I saw plenty of cars with mountain bikes mounted on the racks.

Turner RFX – A Unicorn Sighting!

For several years Turner followers have been waiting patiently for the RFX, their 6” model. Since they’ve partnered with DW Link, this was the only model that hasn’t hit production. Rumors floated around the mountain biking world of sightings, yes it’s in production, etc… but the truth is it not currently available. Many have been waiting for this model to hit the market including myself.
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At the Sea Otter, I was able to finally see it. My previous trips by the Turner booth, the RFX prototype was not available. Then late Saturday the bike was there! Turner DarkHorse racer, Jeff Williamson was getting ready to race downhill with it!
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While still in prototype, the buzz is out there. This bike is SICK!!! Specs are subject to change therefore Turner did not go into detail when speaking about the RFX. In the meantime, check out the pics and let’s hope that we see something by the end of the year!
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Take your buddy for a ride!

We’ve known for years how much RL loves hairy little creatures. At every opportunity we’ve had, we’ll snap a picture or share our encounter with RL just to get a reaction from him.

Over the weekend, I decided to play a little prank on RL. Our place of stay in Pebble Beach was crawling with caterpillars… On our last day, as we were packing up I picked up a little critter and placed it on his headset. Watch the video below as when RL sees the little guy… priceless!

Titus on a comeback!

Recently saved by On-One from permanently disappearing in the cycling world, Titus was at the Sea Otter showcasing their bikes. Nothing new at the moment, but they were there showing their presence and that they are here to stay.
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Titus show casing their current line-up

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Speaking to the rep, they have several plans that will appeal to many Titus followers. For one, the good looking El Guapo is slated to change from 160mm to 170mm of rear travel. Plans for other 29er models are also on the table. Keep checking their site www.titusti.com for updates.

Ride Report: GMR Downhill

This past weekend my friends and I headed up to Glendora Mountain Road aka GMR. We would be descending down a trail called Monroe Truck Trail or GMR East. There are several names for this trail but it’s commonly referred to just as “GMR”. I myself have been riding this trail several times the last two weeks, since my friend Perfecto showed it to me. It doesn’t seem to get old… It’s pretty hard to pass up a super fun descent that is SIX miles long.

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Big group gettig ready to hit the trail!

The way this works is we shuttle the riders to the top. We typically leave several cars at the bottom parking lot then drive up to the upper parking lot, next to the trailhead. The drive up is the only downside for this ride. If you easily get car sick / motion sickness, best to prep yourself as you will go up a winding road. GMR is also popular to many other users such as road cyclists, motorcyclists (fast guys who drag their knees on corners) and longboards (skateboards). The road can be busy so be careful. It’s about an 8 mile drive to the top.

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View from the trailhead. Pic by Nel Manimbo

Description of the trail – from the trailhead you will start on a descent. You will encounter a short climb, then the rest is all downhill. There is nothing technical with the trail, just a few exposures on the side of the mountain as you pick up speed. There will be short s-turns, switchbacks, loose rocks in some places, … but most of all FAST sections. If you are familiar with the Luge in Orange County, it’s similar but much longer. Talk about smiles for miles… (*There is an option off this trail for a more challenging downhill which has a real steep section).
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Area where we regroup

This group ride consisted of 21 guys. The plan was to do two runs. The first will be down the trail I described above and the second will be down GMR West, a two mile DH run. I myself haven’t been down GMR West and was looking forward to it. Heading down the mountain, the group split into two – 12 went with me down the route mentioned above and the other 9, Perfecto’s group, turned off at the *steep section. We stopped at the breakpoint to regroup. From here we would typically go down the switchbacks but decided to try a different route. It was supposed to be longer… little did we know what the bottom had in store for us. Water crossing after water crossing!!!
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One of the many water crossings. pic by Nel Manimbo

Just when we thought we were out of it, there would be more… not only that, some sections were impossible to ride through as the shrubs were overgrown. Needless to say we had to hike-a-bike through some of it. When we finally made it out, we regrouped at the exit.
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more water… pic by Nel Manimbo

While waiting for the others to exit we noticed a FD helicopter flying overhead and fairly low. Uh oh… we had a feeling something happened. From here was a short ride to our cars that were left behind at the lower parking lot. When we got there, there were more FD and paramedics. We asked what was going on and all they can tell us is someone got hurt. Not knowing the details, we suspected it was someone from the other group that split off. There were no other mountain bikers on the trail except for us that morning.
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Landing somewhere up in the mountain. pic by Flex Jamboy

We waited at the bottom for awhile waiting for the other group to come down. When they didn’t, six of us went up for another run down the mountain. Reaching the breakpoint we see Perfecto’s group – one less rider, Jay. Apparently there was a mishap and Jay crashed down the mountain. I don’t have the details of his crash but it required him to be airlifted out of the mountain. Perf’s group, now one-less rider, were taking turns bring Jay’s bike down the mountain.
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Securing Jay before the airlift. Pic by Flex Jamboy

My six guys finished the ride by heading down the switchbacks avoiding the previous water adventure. Almost at the bottom, our friend Dexter comes very close to rear ending Alan and had to veer off the trail. Fortunately there was a tree that kept him from going much further to the bottom of the mountain. We pulled him up and he walked away unscathed. Wow what an eventful ride!!!
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Dexter peeping out like an elf…LOL

Jay went home from the hospital the same day. From the pictures and posts on FB, he appears to be ok. Below is a video from our last run… Rescue Dexter is at the end of the clip 🙂

Ride Report: Maui, Hawaii

This past week I traveled to Maui. After many trips to Hawaii, I was finally going to get to ride! Needless to say, I was super excited! Prior to my arrival, I’ve been in contact with West Maui Cycles which was located in Lahaina, the same city as our hotel.

We arrived in Maui on Wednesday. On our way to our hotel, I stopped by West Maui Cycles to pick up my rental. Only bike they had available was a Giant Trance in either a small or a large. The guy helping was Aaron aka “Moose”. If you have seen The Collective, you may remember a segment where they rode in Hawaii. Their guide for that shoot was Moose.
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With my rental – Giant Trance. Lanai behind me

My original plan was to ride at the Makawa Forest, however the trail was on the other side of the island and I was there for a company function, so I didn’t want to be too far away. Moose gave me directions to a trail that he’s been working on called Nillpes (It’s actually a body part but since this is a PG site we’ll change it a bit). It’s located just outside of there shop. Being in the same city, this would be a perfect fit for my schedule.
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Nilppes from the trailhead

Moose drew me a map…a couple of landmarks, turns here and there…climb… and singletrack. He swapped the stem on the Large Trance with a shorter stem and I was good to go! I also rented a bike rack for $5.00.

Excited for my ride I made sure to turn in early Wednesday night. Thursday I was up at the crack of dawn. I followed Moose’s instructions and headed to the trailhead. I parked at a shopping center and rode in. The trail started off relatively flat, riding through red dirt. Just about one mile in, the ascent started. I reached the base of Nilppes and continued to climb. Nilppes was an actual hill that I would have to ride around to get to the top. At this point, I had only gone about 2+ miles but I was soaking wet! There is a lot of humidity in the islands thus making this a warm ride at 7:30 am. I wasn’t going to let this stop me. The directions that Moose gave me were very accurate and I knew there was a singletrack at the top!
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Looking back from the top

Portions of Nilppes was a rock quarry. As I made my way around the mountain, workers were starting their day. Several passed me on their work trucks giving me the “shaka / hang loose” sign. The steepest of the climb was the last stretch just before I reached the top of Nilppes. At top, I took a short break and examined the first parts of the singletrack. Loose dirt! I lowered my saddle and started down the singletrack. It was pretty flowy but apparent that not enough people are riding it. As I got closer to the trees, I was surprised with a little wall ride that was built on top of a pipe that ran through portions of the trail.
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The climb up on loose gravel

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Wall ride

A bit uneasy, I walked through this part; little did I know there were more surprises coming up. All of a sudden the trail started to get technical. I came up on a some rock drops that was a little over my skill set. Shortly after this I ran into the pipe again. This time there was a teeter-totter on it. This ended on what looks like The Great Wall of China (see pictures below). Past this section was more singletrack that eventually led to the fireroads that I rode in.

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Teeter-totter

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Part of the trail, what appears to look like The Great Wall of China

Once I knew I was nearing the exit, I hooked up with the main road and did the loop again. It took me this long to ride in Hawaii, I might as well enjoy it as much as I can. The ride was a good one considering I walked portions of the technical section. The ride is different from what I was used to, regardless I had a great time! Cant wait for my next trip to the islands!

Leatt-Brace DBX Comp – Protection for your neck!

In our sport of downhill (DH), whether you are racing or just riding downhill trails, nothing boosts more confidence than having the right protection. Other than the obvious – helmet, you can now have protection for your neck. The Leatt-Brace DBX Comp employs the patented Alternative Load Path Technology (ALPT) which minimizes movement of your neck upon a crash.

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SRC Winter Series 2, Photo by Jason Cleghorn, www.cleghornphotography.com

The Leatt-Brace, maker of the moto neck brace has come out with a specific brace for bicycles – the DBX Comp (Downhill and BMX). Although similar in appearance as the moto neck brace, the DBX Comp is constructed with thinner pads, ¼” thinner vs. the moto. The DBX helps protect riders from head or neck impacts. The ALPT helps disperse the energy that is typically transferred to the neck, resulting from an impact to the head and assists in the transferring of forces away from the vulnerable neck structures to less vulnerable areas of the body and is pivotal in the design of all Leatt-Braces.

The DBX (and other Leatt-Braces) helps protect the rider from the following scenarios:

– Hyperextension: Extreme bending of the head in a rearward direction
– Hyperflexion: Extreme bending of the head in a forward direction
– Lateral Hyperflexion: Extreme bending of the head to one side
– Posterior Hypertranslation: Movement of the head relative to the neck, at ninety degrees to the neck.
– Axial Loading (when combined with Flexion, Extension and Lateral Flexion): Helps prevent axial loading when the axial forces act in combination with bending moments or shear forces. As an example, this typically occurs when your head is forced downward and forward (Hyperflexion) or downward and backward (Hyperextension).

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Specs on the Leatt DBX:

– Injection molded
– Glass reinforced
– Nylon neck brace system
– Designed by medical professionals and motorcycle enthusiasts to help prevent extreme neck movements upon a crash

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The DBX Comp’s key parts are the neck brace which are two pieces – front and back. The front includes the piece that sits on your chest and the back piece includes the thoracic member. The front and back are connected by “pins”, one on each side. A strap is included to keep the brace in place (optional).
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Side view of the DBX Comp

The most important part of wearing the DBX Comp is the fitment. It’s imperative that you are properly fitted to ensure you have the maximum protection. The DBX Comp comes with four pairs of pins to accommodate various sizes:

– Short Pin (0mm)
– Medium Pin (10mm)
– Long Pin (20mm)
– Long Pin (30mm)

Having the Leatt-Brace too big (loose) or too small(tight) can affect the way the brace protects you. The DBX Comp can also be opened or closed on either left or right side. There is a hinge closure that locks onto the pins.

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The extra pins; the medium is mounted in the DBX

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View from the back with the thoracic support

In the racing circuit, I’ve also noticed that the Leatt-Brace has inspired confidence to many riders of all levels. From Professionals to Beginners, they are no longer wearing body armor. Note that body armor is a personal preference, however if you do decide to wear it in conjunction with the DBX, you have to be sure that the thoracic piece is sitting flat on your back and is under the spine protector. Armors that have been in production with thicker chest padding and spine protection will not work well with the DBX… again, proper fitting is key. They now have body armor out in the market that is designed specifically to “fit” with the Leatt-Brace.

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Wearing the DBX Comp in the Southridge Finals without body armor.

Real life experience: Since wearing the DBX Comp, I’ve personally experienced how the Leatt-Brace can save your @$$! Jan. 9th 2011 Fontana Winter Series #1, practice run – I was following RL Policar down the DH course. At some point I bobbled at a technical section which caused me to stop and redo. At this point RL was long gone. I continued down the course with out anyone to follow. I came up to a section which was a roller/drop off. I should have stayed on the right side where it was a fairly easy roll. Not knowing which way to go, I went left and the rocks started to gap. End result – Over The Bars (OTB). Point of impact was the right side of my head and I rolled over, slamming my right hip onto the ground. I’d hate to find out what would have happened had I not been wearing the DBX. I walked away with bruises on my right hip, leg and buttocks.
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My crash in January. Photo by Tibor Fazekas, www.tibiphoto.com

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Not too long before my OTB, I learned that one of my friends, Perfecto (Perf), crashed while on a casual downhill ride. He was at a local secret DH spot in So Cal with a lot of jumps. Now this guy can hit the jumps… but sometimes we all have mishaps. So what happened – Perf crashed hitting his face first, shattering his helmet. A typical face-plant type accident without a Leatt-Brace, the force of the impact is typically transferred from the ground to the helmet; through the helmet to the scull and scull base where it is then transferred through the neck to the back (thoracic spine). With the Leatt-Brace, the force will instead transfer from the ground to the helmet, through the helmet onto the Leatt-Brace once impact is made. Some of the force will then be transferred to the brace and dispersed to the less vulnerable parts of the torso. If the impact is significant enough, the brace is designed to fail in crumple zones (similar to those seen in cars), thereby helping to absorb some of the energy of the impact.

See before and after pictures below. Had he not been wearing the Leatt-Brace, he would have had a serious injury.
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Perf’s helmet when new

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Helmet after the crash

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So does it work – YES it does! Both scenarios mentioned above could have easily resulted in a more serious injury. Able to walk away from it is priceless. We should always think safety first. Leatt-Brace DBX has other models available – The Ride, the Comp I or II and the Pro. The DBX Comp retails for $395.00. For more information, visit Leatt-Brace at www.leatt-brace.com.

Ride Report: Hummingbird Trail, DH in the Valley

Saturday group rides have been a staple to my schedule for quite sometime. My group of friends typically frequent the various Orange County trails… however from time to time, we’ll explore other Counties.

This past Saturday we ventured to Simi Valley (just past the Los Angeles area) to a trail called Hummingbird. From Orange County, it’s a good 1.5 hour drive… a bit far but definitely worth the downhill that was in store for us. For sometime I’ve heard how fun Hummingbird is… it didn’t disappoint!

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Early start, 6:00am truck and bikes read to roll

Our group met at the end of Hummingbird trail. There were about five other cars that met us there. From here we left one car, then doubled back to Rocky Peak (previous freeway exit) where we can catch the trailhead for Hummingbird. Getting there was a challenge on big bikes… needless to say, there were a lot of hike-a-bikes. A few of the guys that were on lighter bikes were able to pedal up.

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At the top of Hummingbird Trail

Below is a video of our first run. From the start until the end it was pure descent. There was maybe one short pedaling section but if you carried enough speed, it’ll carry you to the top. Hummingbird reminded me of Sedona, AZ but without the red dirt. There were tons of unique rock formations, several of which were on the trail and you had to maneuver through.

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A truck load of bikes!

Our second run was down another trail just before Hummingbird. It’ll remain nameless as it seemed to be a “secret” trail. I wouldn’t want to ruin it for the locals. Just to give you an idea – it’s filled with jumps, step-ups, drop-offs, plus more… If you like all of these and have excellent handling skills, this trail is for you. Unfortunately none of the guys were familiar with this trail and our ride did not flow as we were trying to get around the tougher parts. But for sure this trail rocks!

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Myles looking down the trail… pretty steep

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Exiting out of the tunnel

Hummingbird was a blast! Looking forward to the next trip to the Valley!

Sweat GUTR – The Ultimate Sweatband

Tired of sweat dripping into your eyes? Check out the new Sweat GUTR. This sweatband catches and channels the sweat away from your eyes. Unlike similar products, the Sweat GUTR doesn’t saturate which gives you that nasty feeling of soaked headband…yuk!

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The GUTR is made from a non latex material and is non hypoallergenic. It’s a proprietary product made specifically for Sweat GUTR. It comes with three closure bands (small, medium and large) which assists in the fitting and securing the GUTR on your head.

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Smoke color shown with the three closure bands.

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The Sweat GUTR positioned just above the eyebrows

Benefits if the GUTR:

– Channels sweat from your eyes
– Never saturates
– Ultra Comfortable
– Great with bike helmets
– Built to last & easy to clean

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Low profile and hardly noticeable

Circle back as one of our Team Racers tests the Sweat GUTR. For more information, go to www.sweatgutr.com.

Weekend Ride and “NO” Race Report (OTB in practice)

This past Saturday my ride was at Turnbull Canyon in Whittier, CA. Since southern California has been pounded with rain and storm for the past several weeks, this would be the first dry weekend for riding… In addition majority of Orange County’s trails are still closed due to the rains. Needless to say there were a lot of mountain bikers that flocked to Turnbull.

My group of friends consisted of about 15 guys. On the trail we met another group of friends which had 10 guys… so we had a big group ride!
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Heading to the trailhead

One highlight of the ride was my friend, Dexter, invested in the Shuttle Buddy. This is a motor assisted contraption that mounts on the rear wheel of your DH bike.
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Basically this is a self-shuttle for those who can’t pedal up the mountain. This would be his first trial with the Shuttle Buddy. From where we parked our cars, it’s about 1/8th of a mile to the trail head. The Shuttle Buddy motored him like a mo-ped. For awhile it sounded like a lawn mower was following me. Unfortunately his Buddy crapped out on him halfway up the first climb on dirt so I never got any details on how it was working for him.
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An Intense 951 faster than a 19lb carbon bike???

Onto the trail… conditions were excellent! There were a few wet spots but nothing that would cause trail damage. As always, Turnbull is a fun trail. If you’ve been there, we made our way down the switchbacks to 7th Street. This is a fast descent after the series of switchbacks. From here we climbed up a different set of switchbacks and headed to a singletrack called A-line. If you haven’t been there, below is a video of the downhill sections we rode on Saturday.

On the same day was the first race of the Southridge 2011 Winter Series. As you read SSuper Dan’s race report (the post prior to mine), while I was making my way to Fontana, he was tearing up the course on his singlespeed. Congrats Dan!!!

For 2011 I decided to move to the Sport Class. Registered and ready for practice RL, Wes and I headed up for a run. This would be the first run for RL and I. Prior to riding we walked about halfway down to check out the course. Not too bad, although there were some steep, roll-able sections.
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Sport number plate for 2011

Making our way down I was following RL. At some point I wobble at a section where I stopped and we were separated. Now I was making my way down without anyone to follow. I reached a steep section where I should have gone right, instead of left. On the right was much smoother transition; the left were rocks that gapped. Into the drop, I knew I was going over… I hit the ground – lights out! I’ve never felt pain like this before. Immediate pain on my right butt cheek radiating down to my leg. Fortunately there were people there that assisted me. Photographer Tibor Fazekas (www.tibiphoto.com) captured a sequence of my OTB. They stopped practice until I got my bearings. They eventually helped me off the course and EMTs came up to tend on me. Fortunately nothing was broken, just got my bell rang.
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Coming into the section. Photo by Tibor Fazekas, www.tibiphoto.com

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wadding up with my bike. Photo by Tibor Fazekas, www.tibiphoto.com

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Photo by Tibor Fazekas, www.tibiphoto.com

While the EMTs were working on me, they resumed practice and guys started coming down again. A series of guys come down, then one of my friends comes through and does the exact same thing I did but slams his head onto a rock! Result – broken helmet and a couple of gashes on his head. This was not good… The EMTs started working on him to stop the bleeding. We eventually made our way down the course where they loaded us on the shuttle vans and took us to the bottom. I ended up going home, bruised and very sore. Needless to say, no racing the following day. Come to find out that there were a lot of casualties from this race. It was tough all around… 🙁