Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fall Big-Wheelin'

After considering a road ride, I have decided to take the 29er on a mixed trails and roads ride. Starting at the bottom of Windy Hill preserve means climbing for the first 3 miles with no warm-up, from 600 to 1800 ft. Despite the recent cool down, it was warm (78F) and few of those really steep pitches were quite brutal. Once on the "ridge", I realized how beautiful fall riding is here. Despite the trails being dusty, the views were nice, the tall grasses are all either dry yellow or gone (means no pollen for me allergy sufferer), the poison oak is almost all red and thus easy to recognize, and mainly - no fog.
I felt strong and tried to climb in the middle ring standing up. To my surprise, that's where the big bike really came alive and the rough rocky trail was nice absorbed by the big wheels with 35 psi in the Kenda SB8s. The problem is that I can hammer standing for like 5 minutes at the time, so often I resorted to spinning the granny sitting. Also, the quite worn out rear tire was easily spun out, but not anywhere as easy as on the 26" bike.
Here is a picture from the Ancient Oaks Trail, it is my favorite place to stop for a gel or bar.

The second half of the ride was on a road, getting passed by some roadies, but beating many while doing about 17mph.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dirt Rag Magazine Article on Mountain Biking in the Czech Republic

Czech it out!

Mount Tamalpais MTB Ride

Going biking around North Bay always poses a dilemma for me, a Mid-Pen inhabitant: is it worth the trip through San Francisco? What is the weather going to be like north of the GG bridge? And no singletrack to speak of, are the fire roads really that interesting?
But the descriptions of "hot rides" on sounded good, weather forecast for Fairfax was mid-seventies and a friend was interested in riding together, so we decided for a ride up Mt. Tam from Ross via Eldridge, Hoo-Koo-E-Koo and the Old Railroad trails.
The day began by driving to the meeting point through the 19th Ave fog and drizzle (I knew it, what the hell am I doing at this place, only the Scots and Brits may possibly like it here etc etc...), finding Ross Commons with all the GPS-suggested streets being closed for repairs, and continued by us reaching the trailhead just to learn the trail around Phoenix Lake was closed and the shortest alternative was a 10 mile detour on pavement. The other alternative was to sneak through the gates. Guess which one we chose.
The climb up was actually quite scenic, first through some redwoods with small creeks flowing, and then on exposed hillsides of Mt. Tam with views like this:

After some initial steep climbing, the road grade decreased once we hit the Old Railroad trail, which I guess is the advantage of all old railroad beds.

After a short break at the East Peak, we headed down to take the supposedly more technical way down Eldridge Grade. It was definitely rocky and steeper than the way up, with two lines to pick: one with the "death cookies" and the second one on solid but sharp rocks. Well, the loose small rocks definitely make steering above certain speed interesting, but I guess the author of the term did not ride some of the downhills at the MTB Himachal race. This downhill was over in no time and we backtracked the last portion of the ride the same way we started, for total of 32km (20km up and 12km down). There is no Garmin track for this ride as my Edge 500 was in my Camelbak in a powered down state.
Conclusions: this is a really nice ride, the weather in Ross and Fairfax is probably mostly really nice, all mountain bikers and even hikers said hello, and the views fromthe summitt are fantastic.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tahoe Classic

On Saturday 9/11, after three years of planning this ride, it finally materialized: The Flume Trail at Lake Tahoe got to feel the touch of my bike's tires. My two Czech friends and me did the classic, one way ride from Spooner Lake to the shuttle pick up on Hwy 28, for the total of 16.8 miles. All I have read about this ride was true, it is not very technical, except the occassional exposure and deep sand in turns, it has fantastic views and after the initial climb to Marlette Lake, it is quite flat.

Lots more pictures are here:
And the Garmin track and ride stats (nothing to brag about, this was mainly sightseeing!) here:
It was well worth the trip from the Bay Area, I am already planning the Mt. Rose to Kingsbury 45 mile ride, but this may have to wait until the snow thaws in 2011.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A week of mountain biking at Whiskeytown - Weaverville

There were several reasons for this trip, whose primary purpose was a relaxing vacation, not a strenuous mountain biking: getting sick of this year's cold summer (a fter all, having sun in summer months is the reason we DON'T live in San Francisco!), desire to get away from people and all the Bay Area BS, have a chance to swim in water without a wetsuit, and finally the rich mountain biking history of the area.

For a few weeks before going on this trip, I read ride descriptions in Max Walter's book North State Singletrack and I got excited: lots of singletrack, steep hills, remote creeks and waterfalls, the famous Lemurian  race course etc etc.
It all proved true, I found the ride descriptions very accurate and directions easy to understand. Two things were a bit off in my opinion: warnings about technical difficulty usually turned out to be a little exaggerated (or has my 8 years of mountain biking in New England made me a very skilled rider? I don't think so...), and warnings about how steep the climbs were going to be proved a little too mild. For the Boulder Creek Falls ride the book says: "Top of the climb! You've GOT to be glad that is behind you".  Well, I ended up pushing my bike for a mile up steep, dusty fire road in 100F heat, hating myself for being such a sissy and not being able to spin my granny gear up the hill.  But I couldn't, every time I tried, my heart rate spiked to 1000 bpm and the liters of electrolyte water sloshing in my stomach wanted to depart me. But the falls were pretty and the downhill from there back to the lake was fun.

The following rides (The Chimney, Weaverville trails and the Whiskeytown Lemurian) went much better, mainly due to proper pacing myself at the early parts of the rides and perhaps me getting used to the hot weather.
One of the highlights of these rides were the Rich Gulch Trail, where the locals must have spent countless hours shaping the jumps and berms. It was more sandy that I am used to but a super nicely flowing downhill trail. Another gem is the whole Weaverville Basin Trail system with all kinds of trails, super smooth winding singletrack, rocky trails, beautiful forest scenery and the La Grange mine ditch trail, which was something completely new to me.
With the exception of the first Sunday ride, I have not met another mountain biker on these trails during 4 days, 65 miles and 10 hours of riding. In fact, I saw perhaps 3 people alltogether on trails, two equestrians and one lady picking blackberries. Those were the best trailside refreshments (blackberries, not the ladies) and beat the GU gels any time!

The Garmin tracks, elevation and all the other info for these rides is here:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Skeggs MTB Ride Sunday 7/25

It has probably been a year since I rode at El Corte De Madera Open Space preserve. This place is really great, offering technical riding so sparse on the Peninsula. I like the combination of singletrack downhills, fire road climbs, rutted manzanita sandstone trails (shown above on Resolution Trail) and redwood needle covered trails.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kings-84-Water Dog

Kings-84-Water Dog by jan.r.berka at Garmin Connect - Details

Bombing at Wilder Ranch SP

Weather forecast said less foggy, so I decided to head down to Santa Cruz coast to ride at Wilder Ranch. I like the variety of terrain and natural environments here. After climbing the gradual doubletrack and riding into the warmer air away from the ocean, a quick look back to the coast.

I rode the usual Wild Boar and Old Cabin singletracks up to Chinquapin trail. This time, I went to explore the Woodcutter trail which I never tried before. It was a nice 1.9mi downhill, finishing at a fern and redwood grove.

The climb back up was not bad. Then it was Chinquapin back and a fast Eucalyptus Loop trail descent to the Enchanted Loop. The singletrack portion of Enchanted Loop was fun, I was glad I climbed up the redwoods section, since the drops caused by the tree roots would probably be too technical to descend.

Back at the top of the loop, I found a ranger truck parked across the trail and a park ranger taping the trail entrances with a red tape. He was just closing off a good portion of the park due to a bomb threat! A google search on Monday revealed that somebody dumped a box labeled Explosives with tile grout powder in a nearby garbage dump, causing evacuation of locals and rerouting the rest of my ride to the coast. The 7mi Ohlone Bluffs trail had fantastic views of the ocean. I would have never rode here, thinking this would be a boring, flat, coastal trail. Thanks to the terrorist threat, I saw this part of the coast:

Visiting the Swanton strawberry farm on Highway 1 for a tasty snack and box of strawberries was a great way to finish a day.

June 29 - July 15

Four bike commute to work trips (4x 37mi), one nasty middle ear infection and a beautiful hiking trip to Lassen Volcanic Park:


Small Coastal Loop June 19

Monday, May 31, 2010

Roads and Trails to Tunitas Rd Bike Hut

This ride was a test of several things: to see what happens if you climb hard, full out, as suggested by my friend John; to see if I could find enough water sources along this remote 65mi ride; to see if I could climb some of the steep trails on my 29er with the lowest gear of 22/27; and finally to test my new Ergon GR2 Leichtbau grips.
Here are the results:
1. Climbing hard early in the ride means you pay for it later. I knew this, but perhaps it is a way to get faster.
2. I found a new building with water faucet outside and had to make a nice ~ 6mi detour to the Tunitas Rd. bike hut to refill my one bottle, so it worked.
3. The tall gearing of my 29er was not low enough to make the steep pitches at the top of the Whittmore Gulch trail. Otherwise, the noticeably better rollability of the big wheels make climbing over steep obstacles better than one would think.
4. The grips are great for hand comfort on roads and jeep trails, the bar ends are excellent for climbing, but the palm rests get in a way of proper braking on steep technical downhills, to the point of being quite scary. The grips also weigh about five times more than the Bontrager foam grips they replaced, so I am not yet 100% convinced. I am glad I did not buy the $100 carbon version.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Joseph D. Grant Ranch MTB Ride

No GPS track this time. Sort of a photo essay, I wish I had my camera with me instead of just iPhone. About 17mi in 3 hrs with some very steep climbs.
Here is the map of the figure eight loop:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tour of the Uknown Coast Century

Tour of the Uknown Coast Century at Garmin Connect - Details

Above is a link to the Garmin website for ride details. Here is a recap: The ride started in Ferndale, CA and after a few miles of riding through farmlands and a section on Highway 101 with barely any car traffic, we entered the redwoods at the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The section through the Avenue of the Giants was really nice, although chilly and dark. The 25mi rest stop was at the Immortal Tree:

The next 15 miles were through more redwoods and some nice rolling terrain, untill a rest stop just before the Panther Gap climb:

From here, we climbed to about 2800 ft for about 7 miles. It was nice to get out of the woods and have some sun to warm up. It was only on the descent where I realized how bad the road surface really was. I was wishing for my full-suspension mountain bike and had to stop to get blood flowing in my hands. So the lunch stop at mile 60 came at about the right time:

There were few climbs and short descents between miles 60 and 73, with beautiful views back into the valley with deep forests and glacial water rivers.
We then descended to the coast and rode north along the beach. The yellow flowers along the sand dunes were beautiful, but there was a strong head wind, making this section a painful one. At the end of the beach, we arrived at the Sea House, which stood at the foot of "The Wall", a one mile climb of 18-20%. This picture taken from the Sea House does not really capture how scary steep this hill looked:

But it turned out this climb was not all that bad. The one which came at mile 83, the "Endless Hill", was a tough one, since it did not seem to have an end. But it did, with about 6 miles to go. It turned out these were some of the toughest miles of the whole ride for me, since it was all steep winding downhill with more potholes and gravel. Luckily, there were no cars untill Ferndale.
When I sprinted through the finish line at the fairgrounds, I was quite happy this ride was over but sad at the same time that the fun ended. If the Humboldt County ever decides to repave their roads, I may be back for another ride through this beautiful part of California. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Follow your doctor's orders

With another bout of an acute middle ear infection, I sought advice from my ENT physician on Friday. He prescribed me a load of antibiotics and advised me: "Run less, ride more".
So I ran on Saturday (less, 5mi) and rode on Sunday (more), hoping to finally break the 75mi barrier. It worked! With temperature in the low 80-ies and me feeling more or less sick, I was very slow. Riding through the beautiful Los Altos Hills on Elena Rd., I came upon this sign:

I should not complain about my sickness - poor Clares had to have it worse....  OK, at the end it was 74mi back to my house, so I had to ride another 0.9mi uphill and back for 75.8mi and 6,490ft of elevation.
The whole Garmin picture of this ride is here:

75mi Monastery Ride by jan.r.berka at Garmin Connect - Details

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for GG Bridge to Nicasio and Back

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for GG Bridge to Nicasio and Back

Short of the planned 63 miles (55.6mi) but a beautiful spring ride nevertheless. Nicasio church shown here. There is a potential to extend this ride by another ~ 15-20 miles by going around the Nicasio Reservoir to Point Reyes Station and loop back on Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring 2010 Training Plan

WeekDateMilesRiddenActual miRoute
1Jan 3035X35Canada and Woodside Loop
2Feb 1340X52Canada-Woodside-Alpine Out and Back
3Feb 2745X55Canada-Woodside-Arastadero-Elena-Moody
4March 1355X2x35Peninsula Hills 
5March 2765X56Marin County - Nicasio
6April 1075------No miles, moving
7April 2485X76Peninsula Monastery Ride
8May 185X57Small Coastal Loop
9May 8100X97.8TUC!!!
...Total500 mi....498.8.....

OK, that's it for this century training miles! Fell little bit short against the plan, but let's see how it plays out on Saturday May 8th in Ferndale, CA.

Friday, March 5, 2010

B-Log Day 1

OK, so now when nobody uses them anymore, I have started my blog. It is called "B-Log" because it will be a log of my bicycle rides. I am planning on irregularly posting links to my GPS traces from bike rides or races, as well as posting my weekend and other ride plans. So if you are interested to know where Jan will be riding next, you have come to the right place.