Exploring the Kamakura Mountains

Last weekend I went out to revisit some of the Kamakura trails I have been on in 2004 and also check out some of the trails I had never ventured down before.   This area is really awesome and it offers a lot of great trails that range from mild buffness, to scary hairball rocks and roots.   Navigating around here can be real interesting.  There are lots of trails optons and not all of them are well marked.   Even when marked, there is the whole language barrier thingy for me to help keep things interesting.

There was no shortage of good trails.  

 One of my favorite things to do when riding out here is to stop by this mountain rest stop were you can grab a bit of local grub as well as a mid ride snack.  It seems like you are out in the middle of nowhere until you come upon this place.   This group of hikers I had been leap frogging around for about and hour or so as I checked out most of the various splits in the main trails while they plodded along.   

 Yummy Oden.  It is mostly different types of Tofu, veggies and seaweed. 

 After lunch I decided to check out a route that none of my friends had tried before.  (Or at least not talked about)     The trail started near the mountain hut and went to the Kencho-Ji Temple in Kamakura.  

 For being a trail to place considered peaceful and good, the trail was more like a guantlet of trail evilness.  There were enough roots, rocks and drops to get most riders thier fill of technical playtime.  This would be a good trail to come and session all the features on. 

After a but of tough riding and a fair amount of hike-a-biking I arrived to the mountain peak above the Kenchoji Temple.   What followed after this was a very long, narrow and steep set of twisting stairs.

The stairs lead to the upper area of the temple known as the Hansobo which is the temples inner sanctuary. There are numerous and very impressive statue of creatures known as Karasu-tengu which roughly equates to Crow Goblins.  They are considered part of the protective spirit of this place.


 The Kenchoji Temple ranks first among Kamakura’s so-called Five Great Zen Temples and is the oldest Zen training monastery in Japan.   It was built in 1253.

The light was pretty crappy that day for taking pictures and I seemed to be having a “bad camera day” for some reason when it came to getting a good shot of the temple buildings.    There were lots of artists out working on thier craft and I soon figured out they had all the right viewpoints.   Thier paintings were much more interesting than any pictures that I was trying to get that day.

After spending about an hour on the temple grounds I meandered my way through downtown Kamakura and back to the apartment.   It was good to get in some culture along with a nice chunk of riding as well. If you like to read some more about the Kenchoji Temple first check out this site before hitting up Google.

I love bamboo!

Who cares about the little retaining clip dohicky thing anyway?   That is what I have often thought about the clip that goes onto the end of the post used on XTR brakes to keep the pads and the spring in the calipers. I have also thought of these as being along the same lines as “lawyer tabs” on forks.   I mean the post is screwed in anyway.    Okay so I noticed the clip had went missing a week ago.  No big deal.   Well out on a ride a couple of days ago it became a big deal.  All of the sudden my back brake went completely dead.  Lever to grips and no pumping would help.  I was also in the middle of precarious dip in the trail so it was “exciting” to get through the section and then get stopped.  I check out the brakes and holy smokes!  There was nothing back there.   Both pads, spring and retaining pin gone.   At that moment it hit me that I was a good ways from getting back to a street where I could limp back “home”.   I was also nearly at the highest elevation I would be for the entire ride.  Every route I knew of to get off of the mountain (I was exploring a new area for me) involved a white-knuckler descent.

Well I was not going to get anything fixed if I did not find my brake bits.   The good news was there was only about a 50 yard section of trail from where I knew by brakes were working perfectly to the spot of total failure.   Not too far of a distance, but the trail is only about 12″ wide and dense foilage is all along the edges.  So off in search of I went.

When I was growing up in North Carolina my Dad and I did a lot of hiking and one of our hiking activities was looking for Indian arrowheads and artifacts in argriculture fields and along the river and lake banks.   After tiling and fresh rains was considered prime time for looking for these.  It was good Father-Son times.   Beside it being a fond memory, the point I bring this up is that you develop a skill for scanning the ground and looking for stuff when you do this activity much.   I went into scanning mode and started looking for the brake bits.   I first made a quick pass along the trail just to set my end points and see if I could get lucky.  Nothing on the quick stroll.   The second time down the trail I went much slower and was focusing on just the 12 inches of the trail.   I managed to find one of the pads.   How can I fix this with one pad?  Better keep looking.  One more really slow pass netted me the other pad that was laying about three inches off to the side of the trail and was paritally hidden by leaves.  What a lucky bastard I was.   It had taken about 40 minutes so far and I was not interested in prolonging this anymore.  Time to figure out what to use for the post and spring.    My zip ties were too big and while I had some wooden matches for a retaining pin, a couple of rides ago I gave up all of my tape to boot a friends sidewall so I was out of something easy to hold the matchstick in place.

There is one thing in bountiful supply in Japan, bamboo.  It is nearly perfectly round, smooth and comes in an assortment of diameters.   I stripped a piece of bamboo of its leaves and slipped it into place folded it over and the small end was flexible enough to allow me to use it as binding string.   Sweet!

Now what to do for a spring?   Bamboo to the rescue again.   I got a bigger diameter section of bamboo this time and cut out a section slightly bigger than the normal gap in the pads.   I then split the bamboo, cut to  length and wedged it between the two pad backings.  The folded over piece of post bamboo also served to hold my spring piece in place.   After a few quick tests I was stoked to see the green bamboo was providing enough spring action. I felt confident enough with the setup to not bail on the ride.  I ended up riding about another 20 miles that day.    The following day on my way our for a ride, I swung by a local shop and picked up a set of pads, a spring and retaining pin.   I put it in my pack so I would have a “spare” in case my bamboo should break. 🙂         

What a Tragic Loss

Yesterday I found out that a person I highly admired but had never met in person passed away a few days ago.   Anthony Sloan had deep and true passion for the Mountain Bike lifestyle and life in general.  He often shared this love and his zest for life on MTBR.com in the passion forum which he epitomizes.  His captivating words and stunning pictures were simply inspirational.   His incredible ability to take you along on his adventures by way of his near-magical photography and storytelling is something I aspire to cultivate.  Here is a quote of Anthony from his website

I prefer to think that I have put some part of myself on these pages.Through words and images I have tried to share some of the things that touch me.


When we were kids, there was a feeling that was so magical that it almost defined childhood. It is hard to describe, but it is a sparkly, exploratory sort of feeling.
A feeling of newness.
When we became adults, we left this feeling behind, only to experience it all too rarely and fleetingly.

This feeling is called “a sense of wonder”.
“rapt attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to one’s experience”

Try to have some of that each day.


Here is one of my numerous “favorites” from his site which is totally unrelated to mountain biking.  It is from the Khazneh in the ancient desert city of  Petra in Jordon.  I was there as well in 1996 and took a picture from nearly the same spot Anthony would take a picture from some years latter.  Anthony’s version of the experience captured with his photo is a benchmark that I strive for.  From the same spot with just a slightly different angle, some small detail that transforms mundane to extraordinary.   

His perspective and ability to see what “could be” from the same spot allowed him to convey that sense of wonder that mine missed.  He did this with not only his photography but his words as well.  The extraordinary is often right there if you know how to see it. 

Anthony’s imagery and words over the years has often left me and thousands of others in that “sense of wonder”.   A truly great gift to all of us.   If you have not had the pleasure of enjoying his work you can check out his website that will continue to be maintained by his family.   


Here is a short write up about him on MTBR and a link to some of his articles there.

Here is one of the several active posts about him.

Anthony you are missed.






Welcome back MrMountainHop!

Four months ago a good friend of mine Bill O’Neil pretty much destroyed his left wrist in bad crash at Soquel Demonstration Forest near Santa Cruz.     His story of the crash as well as x-rays and operating room photos are chronicled on the SpokeJunkies forum.     Be warned there are a few pics not for the squimish.   


Like any good friend I made a point of sneaking in some comedy with my Beer Sherpa job opening.

Well it took four months but MrMountainHop is back on the bike and once again telling good stories about it.  Check out his story of the return to the bike.

Welcome back Bill!  We were missed.  Now lets go ride!

A skinny weekend

Tires not my waist 🙂   This weekend was pretty darn cool in a very uncharacteristic manner for me in that it did include any fat tire action.   Saturday a bunch of the LA bike messenger crowd were doing a century+ ride from downtown LA to the Stone Brewery in Escondido.  By buddy Jerry from the OC was going to do the ride with themas well and asked if I wanted to get in on the action.  Normally I would have balked at the idea of giving up a perfectly good  Saturday to skinny tires, but since there was a good friend and what would be my first trip to Stone, what the hell.

Saturday was really pretty and after a few phone calls to time thingsjust right, I left my house on a bit of a wandering route over to Oceanside to join up with the group.   It had been months since I was last on the road bike, but it did not take long to get the road reflexes reengaged.  It only took one pothole that nearly knocked by fillings out my teeth to drive home that I am was not on my 6″ travel plush-o-rama  mountainbike and I had to look where the tires were going.  It was about a 19 mile route over to Oceanside and I had plenty of time to kill before the rest of the group got there.  Jerry split a little early from the last rest stop and was the first one to roll in.   He needed hit the ATM and grab a snack.  It was not long, before the lead group was in sight.  We hopped on our bikes to join them.  This was a bit of a wake up call, as I had to put some effort into staying with this group.   I’m glad they already had 80 miles on thier legs at this point as I would have been struggling otherwise.

While it had been quite a few months since I had been on the road bike, it had been years since I had ridden in a group.  It was was a little scary at times being so close to other riders.   Over the course of the next 22 miles or so I got a lot more used to it.   We soon found ourselves at the brewing company and over the next 45 minutes we chilled while the rest of the group made it in.  This was a pretty entertaining and talented group of folks.   Soon we all piled into the Brewery which is freaking huge.  The Bistro/restaurant area we really cool and they had great food and brews to boot.   We had a good time there and I eventually gave the wife a call to come pick Jerry and I up.

Of course I could not leave empty handed.  A 2-liter growler of the Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.  Yummy!   Jerry and I worked a little on this the rest of the evening.

Sunday we bummed around most of the morning and then heading out towards Palomar Mountain to watch the final stage of Tour De California.   The plan was to drive up and what the racers coming up the 5,200+ foot mountain and then let my youngest son (Jake) and Jerry bomb down Nate Harrision Grade while I followed in the truck.  Jake has not done this route yet so I was a little concerned, so I had him bring along all of his hockey arm and knee/shin guards.  My oldest son, Will had climbed the mountain back in April of last year.   

Conerns over Jake handling the ride ended up not being an issue as the road was already closed by the time we got there so we went for Plan B and setup to watch the race from Cole Grade Rd.  There were cars lined up all along the route through here and there was a festive mood on the mountainside.  Cowbells were bountiful as fans were cheering on the many amateurs who were riding along the route in the hours before the pros would come through.  There was a breakaway of four riders and there was a parade of cars, motorcycles with flashing lights and sirens that preceding them.  It was amazing to see the pace these guys were climbing at.

About a minute later the first group of chasers where in view and headed up the grade.  Lance Armstrong was right up in the front helping to push the pace and ensure that teammate Levi would maintain his 36 second lead in the tour.

I have watched many of the Tour De France stages on TV and always liked that look of determination on Lance’s face when he was “working”.  It was really cool to see that look in person, even if it was just for a few second or so.   Oh yeah, the chasers were ripping up this hill and they were looking so smooth in the process.

After the chase group, there was a long train of the support cars following with lots of expensive bikes on thier roofs.  I probably saw a quarter of a million dollars in bikes go by.

Some minutes back came the rest of the peloton

There was some suffering being done in this group. (They were still ripping!)

After the final folks went by we spent a long time in stop-and-go traffic out of the area.   We stopped at a near by taco shop for dinner but the traffic was still pretty screwed after that.   We did not mind the traffic too much as it was good to see so many people out supporting cycling.   This was the Tour’s visit time in San Diego County and judge from what I saw and the TV highlights, I think we represented well in the fans catergory.  We eventually made it back to the coast were I dropped Jerry off at the train station and headed home.  This was a pretty cool weekend even if it did not include any fat-tire time.

Klunkerz Showing

Yesterday afternoon, Jake and I went to Encintas to checkout the showing of “Klunkers”.  It is a film that explores the early days of Mountain Biking.   Waiting to get in was just as much of an event for me as the film itself.

I saw quite a few people I had not seen in quite sometime.  I also did not recognize a couple of my friends that I have never seen without thier bike gear own.   

Of course there were sightings of the Usual Suspects.

It was a really cool film and it was crazy to see some of these guys screaming down Mount Tam without helmets on.  Freaking Crazy!.    Jake really thought it was cool as well and I liked the fact he learned a little about the history of mountain biking in the process.   It was also pretty cool that and Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly were there and did some Q&A after the showing.

Here is the website on Klunkers.

Intense Demo Day and UZZI Test Ride

Yesterday, the Intense Demo Tour along with BikeBling were at Daley Ranch in Escondido so I swung by to check out the scene.  There were lots of folks buzzing around right from the start and it did not take for the 20 plus sweet demo rigs to be set free with test riders out onto the trails. I’m pretty sure that I saw the entire lineup of bikes go out at least twice while I was there.

There was more than just the production bikes there.  There were some prototypes and preproduction bikes to kick around as well.  Here is a Jeff Steber science project bike.  This is a Tracer with a set of ISCG tabs welded onto the bottom bracket to allow for a Hammerschmit crankset to be used.  (Production Tracers don’t have these tabs) This is an internal geared crankset that allows you to shift under full load, while coasting or even pedaling backwards.  It is effectively a 22/36 crankset.  The additional clearance this thing could give is pretty freaking crazy.  This could also be pretty awesome if you had a bike that does not accommodate a front derailuer.

There were also couple of rigs they were setback for gawk and droll.  One of those rigs was a preproduction UZZI in Works Blue. What an incredible looking bike.  This one had the adjustable G3 dropouts set to the shorter wheelbase, a Rockshox Totem fork and the new (I think still prototype?) 2010 Fox DHX-A shock. I’m not sure how much the bike weighs but I guess around 34 pounds or so.

Later on in the morning the guys let me put some dirt on this thing and I have to say I was pretty freaking impressed. Daley Ranch is quite hilly but really does not have all the features to put this bike through all of it’s paces.  There is enough there to establish an impression.  If I had to sum up my thoughts of this rig into a single sentence it would have to be this. 

A killer rig that will have you thinking you have much less than seven inches of travel when you are climbing and you will swear you have much more than seven inches of travel when you are descending.

I do very little shuttling or lift-assisted riding so a rig of this size would have to be able to climb for my usage.  Daley Ranch is an excellent place to get your climb on, and I purposely picked a route that would meet my “threshold” for climbing.  Basically if the rig could  climb this route without undo pain, it would meet my criteria for a “climbable rig”.   The sag on the DHX-A shock was not too far off for me so I only added air to the main pressure chamber to get the sag somewhere around 30-35%.  So you know what I comparing against, my normal rig is a 6.6 and I have ridden it with an older style (15-click propedal) Fox DHX-A, a RP23, and most recently a Cane Creek Double Barrel shock.    Right out of the gate I was impressed with the small bump compliance.  I was taking the rockiest lines I could find and it felt really good.   The propedal worked as it should, but I found that the climbing efficiency of the VPP design makes propedal not a major concern for me.   The bike was setup in trail bike mode with the adjustable G3 dropouts setup for the shorter wheelbase, higher BB and steeper head angle.  The slacker angles compared to my 6.6 with a TALAS 36 fork where noticeable on the climbs. I routinely drop my fork down on steeper climbs but you can’t do that with the Totem fork so adjusting your body position was required on the steeper stuff to keep the fork on the ground.  This is something I find easily adaptable.  

I worked my way to one of my favorite spots that has some rocks to play on that include some drops.  I was pretty quite surprised when I hit the first drop.   The rear shock felt freaking awesome.  In the past I was never really able to get either the RP23 or the DHX-A balanced where I could have small bump compliance and not blow through all of my travel on drops.   The feeling in the rearend of the bike on the landing was very similar to the progressive ramp up that you get with a coil shock.  I was by myself, but still had to verbally say “WOW”.  I spent a good chunk of time sessioning the drops and rocks just to keep checking out the feeling.  This shock was not blowing through the midstroke travel like I had seen before in the older DHX-A on my 6.6.  I have no idea what is going with the internal changes for the 2010 model but it is certainly a vast improvement.   Now experience wise I’m still pretty new to the coil-shock scene, but I would have to say from a layman’s perspective this new DHX-A felt very coil like.

For the downhill stuff, Daley Ranch offers only small bits for letting this rig loose.  When those spots came, the bike as expected shined.   Holding lines, sucking up rocks and bumps, it was cool.  I’m pretty sure this rig would be quite the Chunk Gnar-Meister.  I’m betting that those G3 dropouts would be really awesome for some lift-assist action or someplace like Downieville where you could lengthen out the wheelbase, lower the BB and slacken up the headangle. 

I sure hope the guys at Intense will be able to get off all the drool marks both I and everyone else left on thier bikes. 🙂

WANTED: New MTB Model/Beer Sherpa

Avid Southern California Mountain Biker/Website Owner seeks Mountain Bike Photography Model/Beer Sherpa.

This is two-three month temporary position with the potential for migration to a full-time position.

Applicant must possess ability to ride technical trails in backwoods remote enviroments.

Must have a loose interpetion on the follow terms:�
– Lost
– “Almost There”
– “Minor Flesh Wound”
– “A Little Hike-A-Bike”
– “Perfect Cycling Trail”

Must have sound interpersonal communications skills required for dealing with rangers, land managers,  locals and hot trail chicks.   Must possess a diverse knowledge and deep appreciation of North American Microbrews.  Applicant must also possess ability and means to procur such libations. (Even in Utah)   Possessing a sense of humor on the suttle differences between an epic and a death march is a plus.

Send resume, pictures of your female riding friends and six of your favorite  microbrews to the following address:

4E01 Intense Rules Trail
Notarealplace, CA 92081

If the brews and pictures pan out you will be promptly contacted by a member of the MountainBikeBill staff. 🙂

 Joking aside, I got some really bummer information today.  One of my closest riding buds with whom I have done countless rides and numerous trips had a nasty crash over the Thanksgiving weekend.  There are probably more pictures of Bill, AKA MrMountainHop online, on my site than anybody else. 

The place was Soquel Demonstration Forest near Santa Cruz.   The place is a awesome place to ride and challenge yourself.   Bill has some folks in San Jose so he rides this place often enough.   The scene of the crime was one of the many jumps out there.  I’m not sure which trail it was on yet, but Bill said if landed, it would have been his biggest jump yet.


Well the landing did not go well and his wrist took the worst of it.   This does not look good at all.


Ouch Ouch Ouch!   At least he is right-handed.   When I last spoke with Bill, he was about to go into surgery to get somethings put back in the proper spot. 

Bill – Heal well my friend, I guess we just have to straight the beer and mexican food for a while!


A Shocking New Toy

Time to tinker with the bike so I’m trying a new shock out.  My Intense 6.6 has been a really killer bike so far and it has played a part in helping me to push myself.  I have been getting more comfortable getting the bike in the air lately.   I am at the point with my Fox RP23 air shock on my bike that when I put enough air to keep from bottoming out harshly on larger jumps,  I loose small bump compliance.   Time to try out a coil shock.  Enter the Cane Creek Double Barrel.


This is going to add some weight to the bike, but at this point, I got more than a couple of pounds of beer reserves around my belly to be more concerned about.   Why not a Fox DHX Air?  Well I rode a 6.6 with a DHX-Air for a few months and the difference between the RP23 and the DHX Air on the 6.6 just did not seem to be all that much all things being considered.   I got a steel spring on the CCDB for now.  I just could not see dropping the cash on a Ti-Spring until I know for sure what spring rate coil is going to work for me.  One bummer is that I’m heading out of town for a couple of weeks and will not be able to test it out until I return.  But man, does it look prudy!

A little bit of Skyline DH

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.