Okay it has been quite a few moons since I last rode the San Juan Trail. This past Monday I made a return trip. The trail is the trail over course but I was a little taken back by the condition of those bottom 10 switchbacks that you open up with.
Those switchbacks have always had thier troubles with errosion and they were pprobably the more maintenance intensive bits. That being said these switchbacks have damn near been replaced with lollipop turns. Here is an older picture of that section.
Take a look at the switchbacks now.
They are all rounded out. WTF? People were making those turns on downright arcane MTB rigs. With all of the modern bike tech that is out there right now why is this happening?
I have my theories. Most of them involve some type of rider/tech with “tard” or “hole” added to the end of it.
After mentally grumbling about how much easier and less rewarding these switchbacks now are to clean I realized another fact. This trail still goes freaking uphill. Its good stuff. This was my first “epic” trail and still a classic in my book.
I did not do the lollipop on this day. I was plenty fine with heading back down after chillaxing at Cocktail Rock for a bit.
The descent rocked
On a whim, I decided to head up to Corona and investigate a trail I have l been eyeing for a year or so. To get there I needed to climb the Skyline Drive Fireroad on the the northeast side of the Santa Ana Mountains. I arrived at the trailhead at fairly descent time and since this was an on-a-whim ride, I was joined by all of my friends. The temps were pretty nice as I started my solo climb up the fireroad.
While the grade did not seem steep, I was surprised how quickly the elevation stacked up. There were some nice views to the north despite the ickyness that was setting down in the valleys below (That is not fog).
The climb went by quicker than expected and I even got a really cool treat. I rounded a corner to see a young bobcat crossing the fireroad. The cat was not much bigger than your average house kitty. He climbed up a steep embackment and stood at the top looking down at me for a good 15-20 seconds. I was trying to get my camera out without causing him to bolt, but as soon as he saw the camera come out of the bag and me start to raise it, he stepped into the brush. Geez, he was pretty. It was awesome to get to admire one of these critters up close. It was not long after this encounter that I made it to Beek’s Place and continued along Main Divide past the golfball.
I have been tinkering with a new helmet camera mounting setup that would allow to get away from having a dedicated helmet for the camera system. Wearing the helmet camera on long climbs when you are not filming is a bummer. I want to be able to quickly remove the camera gear so that I could only carry a single helmet on a ride. The new setup basically uses the quick-release mounts designed for professional/prosumer grade camera tripods. When completed this setup should be must more versatile. So far I have only completed my full-face helmet. That was also part of the reason I chose this trail, it seemed silly to bring a full-face helmetcam out to some place like Penasquitos Canyon.
After about a mile of climbing on Main Divide Truck Trail, I reached the “Skyline DH” (Have no idea what it’s actual name is yet). I was looking at this ridgeline quite a bit on the climb up and it certainly looked to have some steepness.
Steepness it did have. While this trail felt a little like Bell Ridge at the beginning it soon became much more like Coldwater. These types of trails are somewhat of an acquired taste. There were some sections of pure adrenaline rush as you just flew down the trail. Other sections were so so steep that you had to be somewhat surgical with controlling your bike and the brakes as you could only marginally control your rate of acceleration let alone stop. I like sections like that for the challenge they present but they are not my favorites. As I neared the bottom, I came upon a firecrew contracted out from Oregon to do some debrushing for fire abatement on the trail. They were doing a fine job, but since I caught them in mid-workday, they had yet to remove all the trimmings from the trail below them. This made the last bit of descent slow going but overall this ride was well worth it.
Wow! The Trabuco Canyon – Bell Ridge loop is a bunch bigger than the 20-mile distance would leave you to believe. I have not crunched all the numbers yet but it looks like something like over 4,400 feet of climbing. There was supposed to be three of us, but one our cohorts in grime whipped out a “little” 70-mile fixie night road ride last night and somehow managed to oversleep. I have no idea how that could have happened 🙂
The ride started pretty rough for me. I participated in a hockey skating clinic yesterday and I woke up with some funky kinks and soreness in my legs. We had a five-mile dirt road ride to start things off before hitting the Trabuco trail. The road did little to get my legs to feeling better. It was not until somewhere around the turnoff for the West Horsethief trail where my legs seemed to start feeling okay. Of course this is also the spot where the Trabuco trail starts getting really tricky to climb in spots with patches of loose shale rocks that requires a bunch of finesse while extracting some extra energy from your legs.
Once we made it up to Main Divide Truck Trail it was time to take the Los Pinos trail a ways before peeling off onto Bell Ridge. This ride had some great views in all directions, but boy did we pay for the pleasure. Most of the time my butt was either on the nose of my saddle climbing or nearly dragging on the rear wheel on descents.
There were at least three sections that were Hike-A-Bike climbs and one that most riders would Hike-A-Bike down. I took a long hard look at the one gnarly downhill section in question and decided to hike it down. I’m pretty sure I could have cleaned it, but I was not so sure about doing it on the first attempt. Considering we were a long time away from help, I opted on the safer option. Next time I’m going to bring some protective gear and give it a shot.
The steep up and down action of the trail kept on going until the last few miles when grades mellowed out to “moderate” and the sight lines opened up to allow for some bits of sustained speed. We finished up the ride by dropping down into a neighborhood and take a bit of surface street action back to our truck.
Bell Ridge was a great ride that was a bit more challenging than unabated fun. Check back on the site over the coming weeks to see a full review and maps.
UPDATE: The Full Review is now posted