My rides on my Volagi Viaje have always been singular by nature. The bike is versatile yes, but I would never extract this versatility in a single ride. Instead, using it as a road bike one day and a mountain bike the next. My usual rides on the trails weren’t cutting it for me, not only were they routine, but after cycling the PCH from Santa Barbara I was craving something more.
I was also eager try my new Bruce Gordon Rock and Roads on a long ride
This would be a completely new style of ride for me. Being equally experienced in road and mountain biking, I find that both have their advantages. Mountain biking is more enjoyable in the moment easily takes you to remote places. While road cycling alone can be a bit boring, the distance you can cover is unmatched and is more enjoyable in a group. My thought process revolved around combining the distance of my road bike rides with the remoteness of my mountain bike rides. I didn’t expect more than 11 hours in the saddle and hiking over washed out trails.
Cue Map My Ride(my go to planning site):
As you can see, I planned to ride from my apartment in South Pasadena, after nine miles I would reach the Mt. Wilson Toll road,(clockwise from the start) beginning the brutal nine mile, 5,000 foot fire road climb. Next came the big unknown; the rim trail was notorious for being on the edge of the mountain, treacherous and in disrepair. This would link up to the Rincon Redbox road that I could use to traverse the San Gabriels and I would hopefully find a nice single track back to civilization. With my road tires tucked into my bottle cages I intended to make a tire change for the 30 mile ride back home. Not a crazy route but lots of uncertainty as the status of the rim trail was unknown and the Rincon Redbox road was little ridden or reported on. Going solo on a ride like this was invigorating, uncertain and committing; a much different experience than the normal Sunday ride.
I departed from my South Pasadena apartment under a veil of clouds, the sun trying, unsuccessfully, to break through. I carried a Camelbak with 3L of water, the normal tools (tire lever, pump, multi tool, Gerber knife, multitool), a handful of Cliff Energy Bloks, Cliff Bars and a Nutella/banana sandwich. Still sleepy, I sipped freshly pressed coffee from my thermos as I spun through the early morning traffic, making my way to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road.
Stashing my thermos by the trail head, I squeezed through the gate and began my 5,000 foot ascent up Mt. Wilson.
I knew the climb well and was in good shape so I just lost myself in the rhythm that a strenuous climb induces. It was a surreal feeling to climb into the moist, dense clouds, only later to emerge through them into the sunshine.
Upon reaching the top of Mt. Wilson I found a nice surprise; new Audi Q7 and A6 test mules that they were putting through the paces, here’s a shot of the Q7.
After inhaling my Nutella sandwich I set off in search of the rim trail. After a few false starts I found the trail and wow! Tight and fast, it was a trail that required you to slice through with precision and flow. The Viaje absolutely eats this kind of trail up. The euphoric feeling of discovering new trails with flow is incredible and I was on cloud 9 for the first mile. The euphoria quickly faded once the trail dropped onto the north side of a ridge. Soon I was hiking with my bike as the trail disappeared underneath my feet. My progress slowed tremendously as I wandered off trail a number of times.
Trail? What trail?
While I did spend 50% of the Rim trail hiking, when I could ride my bike it was a blast, with the Bruce Gorden tires performing admirably.
Leaving the Rim Trail behind I followed a fast singletrack that brought me to the Rincon Redbox road that would traverse the San Gabriels. The sandy road slowly sapped my energy requiring a tremendous effort to keep my pace up and intense focus in corners to avoid washing out. What silly lives we live riding the same trails and roads day after day, like mice running in a wheel. I’ve lived in LA off and on for five years and I’ve never experienced this remoteness so close to home. Riding along ridge I looked right and left only to see mountains, a unique experience knowing massive sprawl that is LA was just over my right shoulder somewhere. At this point I hadn’t seen a human being for hours and the joy of being out in the wilderness was immense. Lost in my own thoughts, deer would sporadically jump into my path and wake me from my mental slumber.
I had expected it to be mostly downhill after the rim trail but it was surprisingly flat with some gradual climbs. Finally closing in on civilization the road suddenly dropped fast into highway 39. Alternating between joy and terror, the decent was fast but the sporadic washboards would rattle my teeth out. Nothing except a nice full suspension bike could smooth those sections. Descending loose sections in the drops can be daunting but with practice it can be exhilarating. It’s something you have to experience to understand; our natural instinct to lean back but the front wheel quickly looses traction in this position. As I approach loose corners I unclip my inside foot and move my hips forward. My center of gravity is in the middle of the top tube and few inches to the inside of the corner. This allows the bike to rail around corners with more traction than a MTB thanks to the weight over the front wheel. Thankfully the Rock and Road tires break traction progressively and it’s easy to counter steer out of corners. Another advantage of this position is if you lay the bike down, you can easily step over/around the bars and walk away, something I’ve done a number of times.
4o miles in and 8,000 feet of climbing isn’t extraordinary for me, but I was exhausted and running out of daylight. My intention was to continue traversing the San Gabriels and descend GMR or Lower Monroe road but that would add another 20 miles and I didn’t have my lights with me. The hike through the Rim Trail and sandy Rincon Redbox road had taken it’s toll and I decided to call it a day and start the 38 mile road ride back home.
Stashing my 23mm road tires into my water bottle cages seems like a pretty ingenious solution. However, I didn’t account for where I would put the 42mm tires once I made the swap. I received some inquisitional looks with a mtb tire hanging out of the mesh pocket on my camelbak. Although the tire swap took more time than I imagined, it was paying for itself as the bike was transformed into a road bike and I was ripping down the 39 at terminal velocity….Until whooosh! A flat. My first flat in eight months on these tires and not wanting bring 6 tubes with me (3-23mm/3-42mm)I only brought a patch kit. Worse the leak was near the unrepairable area next to the tire stem. Thankfully a friendly roadie was climbing up the opposite direction and gave me his spare. Thank you sir!
The ride home was brutal, even with a snickers and coca cola induced sugar rush I was bonking. Snaking through the same rush hour commuters I saw in the morning felt satisfying. I felt like I had accomplished something, and challenged myself on many levels. Not just physically and mentally but it exacted all my creativity, determination, navigation and problem solving skills. This was the most enjoyable ride I had done and I began to think about why. I decided we cyclist don’t have enough styles of riding(sarcasm) and I want to add one more.
Based in the spirit of fast and light alpine climbing I introduce to you Viajeing. (journying?):
-The ride must be committing and an all out effort, for some people that may be 50 miles other’s 120
-It should be mixed terrain utilizing both roads and trails.
-The ride should have uncertainty to it, exploring unknown trails or linking together new routes.
-It could be done in a single day or multi day trip, but you should be traveling light and fast.
-More? What do you think?
I really encourage anyone reading this to get out there and try a ride like this, it was tremendously satisfying and I’ve got another one planned for this week.
As the sun was setting I neared home, contemplating the ride and feeling a bit sad, for even after 11 hours in the saddle I didn’t want to stop. I had dreams of putting on my lights and finding some more trails, but I’ll save that for another day.