All posts by jmpreston

A lowly intermediate mountain biker who loves to ride the big kids’ trails with roots, rocks, and ruts. My favorite trails are around Moab, UT, Lake Tahoe, Downieville, CA, and near the west entrance to Zion National Park and Bryce National Park. Mostly I ride the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Bend Oregon For Intermediates

The Deschutes River Trail up river from Bend is a very scenic and mostly easy ride.

I’ve done two road trips to Bend, Oregon this year, one for a week with my wife in May and another a few weeks later by myself in June.  A few thoughts:

  • The trails near Bend are mostly flowy beginner / low intermediate with few rock gardens and gentle climbs.  My wife loved them!  I wanted a bit more technical so when I returned in June I rode the higher elevation trails that were buried in snow in May.  More rocks but mostly ridable rock gardens.  I don’t find the lava rocks to be as much fun as sandstone though.  There are several flow trails with berms but Tiddlywinks is by far the best.  Big features and long descent.

 

  • Both Bend and Sisters are great fun to visit!  Bend has 22 breweries and a few distilleries.  We really enjoyed the fine dining on Wall and Bond Streets and tasty elk burgers at Deschutes Brewing.  Sisters has a very good intermediate level trail system, interesting fine dining at Open Door, cozy cafes, and the the Euro Sport bike shop has local brews on tap in the mechanic shop!
The beer bar at Euro Sport bikes in Sisters, OR.

 

  • There are a LOT of trails and loops.  However, the lodge pole pines get a bit boring as they are often the only view.  Higher elevation trails near Mt. Bachelor have some terrific views of the volcanoes and the Deschutes River Trail is a scenic gem.

 

  • I rode nearby Oakridge a couple of times.  I’m not excited about hanging on the brakes for long descents.  Two good shuttle companies available.  Mostly upper intermediate level.  It was OK but not my thing.  Enjoyed the town and meeting folks though.  We upgraded our XT brakes at the bike shop and that went well.  You’ll need the better brakes to ride Oakridge and probably Mt Ashland which is also a shuttle served big descent destination.

We will return to Bend.  Fun trails, people, town, and a great bike culture.  Not an expensive place to visit and I park in the forest for free.  Go for a swim in the river to clean up.  Toilets at major trailheads.  Some nice state parks to camp at but a lack of Forest Service camps close to the trails.  Better camping is out at the lakes.  Cheap motels available, especially compared to Moab and Hurricane.

Rode Redding California And Loved It!

Just rode 2 days in the Swasy Trails system. Loved it! Great terrain and loved the views after a week riding in the Oregon forest.  I prefer big views over being deep in a forest.

Locals sent us up Wintu Trail counter-clockwise a little before noon on our first day. Redding was supposed to reach 96F that afternoon so getting warm by then. 13% grades in the hot sun was un-fun even to hike the bikes but I guess that is how the locals test visitors.

When we finally got to the top of the new jumps section of Wintu we decided to move on and descend Meiners Trail instead. Several locals told us the jump trail part of Wintu had huge gap jumps that couldn’t be avoided. The signs at the top are hardly encouraging.

We’ve worked on and rode the Demo Flow Trail and the Corral Flow Trail at Tahoe and played around on small gap jumps at the famous Post Office Jumps in Aptos so we aren’t complete cowards but the trail advice made it seem like a bad idea for us.  Maybe next time…

No problem because we loved dropping the east side of Meiners! Even found a few rock gardens and I was desperate for rocks after a week of riding X/C near Bend and above Oakridge.

We were going to drive home to San Jose after this ride last Sunday but decided to ride again Monday, Memorial Day.  We moved on to the saloons in French Gulch in the afternoon, an old mining town, and some free campsite near Trinity Lake on a rushing stream. Still a lot of snow higher up.

Odd thing happened on Sunday. Some equestrians gave us great trail advice. I haven’t had the best experiences with equestrian advice starting with backpacking in the early 60’s.

We got an earlier start on Monday, about 9 AM at the TH, and climbed Meiners, Escalator, and dropped down Mule Mountain Trail.  This route was recommended by a very welcoming local guy.  The climbing was easy, even fun.  Loved the descent on Mule Mtn!!!  Rock gardens, large gravel, narrow trail with steep drop-offs, the technical riding that I prefer.   My wife has been very cautious since her ER trip last fall but she started to regain her mojo on this trail.  This is what our Yeti trail bikes were designed for.

There is a lot of poison oak in the area but it was well clear of the trails we rode.  Only a few mosquitos.  I was surprised how early the trailheads clear out.  It wasn’t that hot and we had a nice breeze.

Wintu Trailhead, Redding, California, about 1 PM. Pretty much everyone has left due to heat. The next day at another TH and the same thing. We relax after rides by setting up our camp chairs in the shade and drinking Chardonnay.

The trailheads we visited have nice toilets and picnic tables.  They are crowded early in the morning but the locals run away when it heats up.  We were fine with the heat.

We did a Google search for bike shops to get local info and maybe a map with more trail info than the apps.  None of the shops in the search results were open, really odd for a place that seems to want to be a destination.  I searched through some related mtbr.com posts until I found a referral to Sports LTD and they were open.

Not only are they not listed under a bike shop search, pretty dumb for a business not to have basic SEO, but their bike shop info is under the Backpacking section of their site.  Talk about clueless hicks.  It was very difficult and ate time to try to figure out what they do.

The guys in the shop were awful at describing trails, probably the worst I’ve encountered in the U.S. west, and their map was a cheap tourist thing and worthless.  They made riding the Whiskeytown trails seem awful so we didn’t consider them.  I’ve heard since then that they are great trails.  I was pissed off for wasting my time on this wild goose chase.

The bike shop scene needs improvement for Redding to be considered an MTB destination.  Good opportunity for an Over The Edge shop.  The trails qualify and the extra attractions in the area such as swimming, fishing, exploring old gold towns, etc are also qualifiers. Don’t miss the saloons in French Gulch!  Bring cash.

(Destination MTB tourism has well established criteria.)

It would be good if Redding had a map from AdventureMaps.net like Oakridge, Bend, and many other MTB destinations in the west. Their maps give visiting riders a much clearer picture of what is available than the smart phone apps.  Or something like the maps that Moab has available.

Anyway, other than the shops, I highly recommend Redding!  I’ve rode CA, NV, UT, CO, AZ, WA, AK, OR, and even Russia.  Seen a few trails and towns.

Outstanding Trail Bike Upgrades!

I’m still riding, and loving, my 2014 Yeti SB95c.  However, over the years I’ve rode a bunch of demo bikes with different component setups and slowly figured out what works best for an intermediate who rides rocks carefully and doesn’t want a trip to an emergency room.

This post is useful for any trail category bike with a beginner or intermediate rider.  Advanced riders on all mountain bikes have plenty of resources online.  These upgrades had a major positive effect on my riding!  I have a whole new bike!

I’ll never be a strong 24 year old stud again with legs like pistons.  When I was a ski bum for 3 years after high school, 100 days a year on skis, and then 2 years as a power company lineman climbing poles and towers my legs were damn strong.  No MTB back then however.

My Yeti SB95c riding Great Escape Trail, Moab, Utah.

First I’ll update my opinion of the 2017 Fox Factory 34 140mm fork I installed in October, 2016.  I have a previous blog post about this.  Then my rear shock upgrade.  Last I’ll give you the details of my gearing upgrade from the original 2 x 10 to a 1 x 11 that includes the same low gear range as the old setup.  I have a 1 x 11 that can climb!

2017 Fox Factory 34 140mm fork.

I rode this fork for two weeks in Moab and Fruita in late October, 2016 and never crashed!  For me that is amazing.  I didn’t ride much during our very wet Northern California winter but I returned to Hurricane / St. George, Utah, Fruita, and Moab for three weeks in March and April, 2017 and started riding gnar I previously hiked the bike on.  Again, no crashes!  This fork gently lifts me over everything I’ve hit, even a very low speeds such as 6 mph.

For 2017 Fox re-engineered their slow speed bump performance, probably the first fork manufacturer to specifically target intermediate riders with a performance fork.   It made a huge difference in the low speed gnar performance over Rockshox, and probably the others.  Before this the manufacturers were focused on racing and we got the leftovers.  Now we have a product designed for us but it also performs for advanced riders.  Fox has tweaked the low speed bump performance a bit more for 2018 but I haven’t rode one of those yet.

The bike performance is so good that I’m starting to ride very famous gnar such as the infamous Drop-in to Horsethief Bench near Fruita and Flying Monkey in Virgin, UT – and still not crashing!

My riding skills aren’t better – my equipment is.

So I just put the new fox fork on my wife’s SB95c and she is starting to ride stuff she used to walk.  My strong feeling is: Screw Rockshox.  I won’t ride them anymore, and that includes the Pike which sent me over the handlebars on not very big rocks.  They aren’t designed for us slower intermediates.  I had two Rockshox reps, several mechanics, and eventually me adjust the shit out of my Rockshox Revelation.  No adjusting made up for antiquated engineering.

I’m going to restate:  This blog is for intermediates.  I have no opinion for advanced and expert riders.  I can’t and don’t test for their riding styles.  If they think Rockshoxs are great then fine, they were designed for them anyway.

Fox Factory Aircan upgrade.

I asked the Fox factory reps at the Trailhead Dirt Days demo event in 2016 if I should upgrade my Yeti to the new and exciting Fox X2 rear shock.  They recommended the simple Aircan upgrade which costs about $100.  So I upgraded my shock and noticed a softer more plush ride through rock gardens.  The result is a little safety and more control and comfort.  Not a big deal by itself but when combined with my other upgrades it helped to improve my bike’s performance in a major way.

1 x 11 gearing setup for climbing. 28T x 40T.

My new Shimano gearing has a 28T (tooth) in front and a 40T as the largest in the back.  This gives me the same low gear as my old standard 2 x 10 setup.  I’m not a strong climber and the standard 1 x 11’s on demo bikes don’t have that low gear.  That is why I didn’t change over years ago.  This upgrade cost me about $600 but I could keep my XT crank because it was originally for 3 gears up front, although I was running 2 from the beginning.  The middle placement worked for the 1 x 11.  Hey, I got a good deal on it when building up the bike!  Shifter and derailleur are new Shimano XT’s.  They have to also be replaced.

This is a close-up look at my Shimano cassette.

For your reference the above shows all the gears in the cassette and how many teeth they have.  The 37T and 40T are the most important for me.  I need low gears for climbing and these nail both the long grinds and the technical rocky climbs.  Earlier setups didn’t do both well.

My wife’s SB95c with a 1 x 11 setup and an oval chain ring.

After I tested my setup and it worked fantastic in Moab, Hurricane, and Fruita, our favorite rocky trails, I recently setup my wife’s SB95c similar but not the same components.  Not cheap but worth it!  The only changes are that she has a beautiful black Box 46T cassette, a pretty gold 30T oval chainring, and a new crank.  Oval is supposed to help on the climbs. Shifting and derailleur are new Shimano XT’s.  She hasn’t rode it enough yet to have opinions on the gearing.  Total cost for this plus the Aircan was $900 installed.  The Fox Factory 34 140mm fork is $879 retail and hard to find cheaper.  She has noticed a huge improvement with the fork on the gnarly Styles Ranch Trail in south San Jose.  She’s had the fork a few weeks longer than the gears.

Gold oval 30T chainring.

I don’t know the manufacturer of the chainring, it is not on it or the invoice.  She has a Raceface crank but I don’t think it is important for intermediates who makes this stuff as long as they are reputable manufacturers.  Whatever you bike shop supplies should be fine.

46T Box cassette.

The 30T gold oval chainring required a bigger 46T cassette to achieve the same low gearing as my setup.  Gearing gets technical so I rely on my mechanic, Scott at Trailhead Cyclery in San Jose, and the software he uses to figure this out.

So now our bikes ride like the new ones or even better for us.  We see no need to upgrade our trail bikes.  However, yesterday we demoed the Yeti ASRc, a lightweight cross country bike that can handle some gnarly tread, and the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR pedal assist bike with 3 inch tires.  Both would be terrific second bikes for us but my wife fell in love with the Levo 🙂

Meanwhile, we’ll be riding the Santa Cruz Mountains, Henry Coe State Park, and the Sierras this summer.  Back to Utah and Colorado this fall.  See you on the trails!

In Fruita, CO Recovering…

I attended the Hurricane MTB Festival, very nice and bigger every year, and shot the wonderful Zen Trail to add to my remake of the video for that area.  I’m ready for post-production on that remake.

Before that I “biked” the easier of the Cowboy Trails near Las Vegas. I like rock gardens but wow, no break with these!  I had to hike the bike to save my ass and back and my 127mm Fox Float rear shock with an Aircan is pretty plush.

After Hurricane I drove to Moab but it was starting to rain so I drove south a couple of hours to bike Phil’s World near Cortez, CO.  About a mile and a half up a gentle flowy trail through junipers I realized I had the flu and headed back to the TH, booked a motel room for a few days, and felt miserable.  So terrible to be laid low in MTB heaven.

In Fruita now and recovering slowly.  Starting to ride again.  I have several trails to shoot here to finish production for this video then over to Moab to finish up the shooting over there.

I have a new GoPro Hero 5 Session camera and it is getting good results with the chest mount.

Upcoming Great MTB Festivals!

We’re having a very wet winter in northern California so I’m not getting much riding in. Actually, since I returned from a month in Moab and Fruita at the end of last October I’ve done only two rides. So getting restless!

Here are some great bike festivals in the American Southwest red rock country.  These will help you get back on the bike soon.

On the trails near Moab fall Outerbike.

March 3rd – 5th is the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival in the beautiful red rock country of Arizona.  We used to ride Sedona but moved up to Moab 14 years ago and haven’t been back.  There were mostly Jeep trails then but I know they have much more single track now.  Lodging in Sedona is expensive with only one place as low as $100 a night and it has only a few rooms.  They offer event camping at a walk-in campground for $150 for two nights per person and that includes breakfast.  Otherwise head up Oak Creek Canyon to the Forest Service camps.  There doesn’t seem to be public showers available near Sedona except at one Forest Service campground far up Oak Creek Canyon so go for a swim in Oak Creek.  A few days here eats into my travel budget too much so I don’t attend this one.  It is hard to spend six weeks to two months on MTB road trips when places like Sedona eat a bunch of money fast.

March 24th – 26th is the Hurricane Mountain Bike Festival near Zion National Park, Utah. It has been growing lately and getting to the size of the Fruita Fat Tire Festival. Fantastic place to test a bike on famous trails like Gooseberry Mesa and Guacamole!  It is only 2 1/2 hours north of Las Vegas off I-15.  Amazing scenery!  Over The Edge Sports in Hurricane sponsors this event and they have a couple of showers available at the shop.  Usually plenty of both primitive and RV park camping in the area, or get a motel room.  Nearby St. George rooms are cheaper than Hurricane.

The following weekend, March 31st to April 2nd, is the spring Outerbike MTB demo event in Moab, Utah. It is about a third smaller than their fall event.  Moab has a huge selection of world class trails, great scenery, usually plenty of camping available during their MTB events, and the town has many places to shower if you want to do this event cheap.

I may be at both Hurricane and Outerbike but I’m launching a business soon and may not have the time for a spring road trip.  Well, I could work on my software while traveling…

The lively and really fun Fruita Fat Tire Festival is from April 27th to 30th.  There is some slick rock riding in the area but not as much as Hurricane and Moab.  The terrain is scenic and varied, with wonderful flow trails at 18 Road, mesa type riding with plenty of rocks to challenge you on the Kokopelli Trails, and scary trails like Holy Cross and Eagles Wing along with intermediate trails across the Colorado River from Grand Junction at the Lunch Loops.  There are two breweries in town along with the famous Hot Tomato pizzeria.  Nearby are a couple of state parks with camping and showers, an RV park with cabins, and a BLM campground at 18 Road. Lodging in Fruita and Grand Junction is cheaper than most of the other areas.

August 18 – 20 will be the first Outerbike festival in Crested Butte, Colorado.  Lots of trails there but I’m not yet familiar with the area.  Very high elevation riding with long climbs, although Outerbike will have shuttles.  I know even summer lodging in the ski resort area is expensive but cheaper accommodations down the mountain are available.  Lots of Forest Service land in the area so probably campgrounds and primitive camping is available.

Mountain biking season in the Northern Hemisphere is almost here so tune-up your bike, get in shape, and we’ll be on the trails soon!

 

 

 

Rocky Mountain Instinct 990 MSL BC Edition 29er

Rocky Mountain Instinct BC Edition

I rode this fine stead on the Guacamole Trail, Virgin, Utah during the Hurricane MTB Festival in March, 2016.  I don’t demo many bikes on “The Guac” but ride it several times a year and know the trail.  There are some great places to test a bike on this trail with steep rock climbs, descents, rock gardens, and two foot jumps.  The scenery in front of the red cliffs of Zion National Park is stunning.  It is one of our favorite trails anywhere!

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Niner WFO 9 2016 Trail Bike

I’ve liked Niners for years.  As their name indicates, they only make 29ers.  Their people at the MTB festivals are really nice and helpful and the frame designs are good.  They ride well.  However, they haven’t produced a real trail bike until now, and the WFO 9 is a great ride!

Niner WFO 9
The model I rode had the 150mm Rockshox Pike, alloy metal frame, 1×11 XT setup, and the Reverb infinity dropper.  The head tube angle is 67 degrees, nicely between XC and all mountain.  It weighed in at 29.5 pounds, not bad for alloy and a large frame.

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