giro atmos

Mount St Helens : Ape Canyon, Plains of Abraham, Smith Creek

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Mount St. Helens is an active Stratovolcano located in the Cascade Range just 50 miles northeast of Portland. In 1980 the volcano erupted devastating the region and drastically changing the landscape of the mountain. Fast forward to present day; hikers and bikers have been granted access to it's beautiful trail system. [portfolio_slideshow id=4265 width="1200px"]

We’re currently dealing with extremely high temperatures in the Pacific Northwest so we set out early hoping to avoid the afternoon heat. With the sun already beating down on our necks we bombed the paved road from the parking lot to the trail head of Ape Canyon. The trail slowly climbs through an old growth forest of Douglas-fir, Western Red Cedar and Hemlock. There is the occasional kick of the gradient but for the most part your making your way through a labyrinth of switchbacks and twisty climbs.

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Our legs are warmed up as we enter the Plains of Abraham which is an iconic stretch of trail with the resemblance of a moonscape. The ground is littered with Pumice and there are occasional sections where I had to hike and bike. The trail briefly flattens out offering incredible views of Mt St Helens. Its here that we paused to reflect on how nice the weather was. We were expecting temperatures in the high 90s but there was an amazing breeze sweeping through the ridge lines cooling the summer air. From here the trail hugged the mountain walls, twisting and climbing until we reached the epic view of the volcanic damage. The view is breathtaking and I feel fortunate to be here.

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I pedal out ahead traversing the spine of the mountain in hopes of capturing a picture of the crew. I love riding with friends but there is something to be said about being alone on the trail. After snapping the photograph I catch up with the guys. We have lunch at a lookout, it’s hot now and that once cool breeze is long gone. From here we jump on a paved road and climb to the Smith Creek Trail head. The trail is steep and loose with pumice. I am chasing dust left behind the crew and I struggle to keep up. The trail is overgrown and at times it’s hard to see where the tires are going. We fight our way through the overgrowth but not without taking a branch to the face. Reaching the river bed we’re disappointed to find the water is static and dirty. The glacial water is freezing and regardless it feels damn good crossing it. After a punchy climb the trail opens up to a flowy section following the river. The section is short and drops us off at the foot our climb back to the car. Once a fire road is now a 4 mile tree covered climb from Smith Creek to Apes Canyon. It’s one of those climbs that just keeps going and going and going. Eventually the trail opens up and spits us onto the road.The summer heat is reflecting off the pavement and we find relief at a small glacial stream just off the road. The water is freezing but too good to pass up.

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New Jersey Trail Exploration with NoLifeLikeThisLife

I have to admit I was pretty stoked that JP agreed to come along on a ride with me. I’ve been following NoLifeLikeThisLife since it started and finding good company during the winter isn’t that easy. I promised closed roads coated in fresh powder, technical single track and all of it just across the Hudson. I pre rode a portion of the route the day before to make sure the snow covered roads and trails were ridable. The conditions were epic and the ride was destined to be rad.

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We met around 9am and it was much colder than we both expected. Low 20s? JP wore the wrong gloves and spent most of River Road trying to warm up. I was stoked to see that a day later my tire tracks were still the only ones in the snow. NYC your missing all the fun! JP added a layer of gloves at the Alpine Ranger Station and I produced some hand warmers from my Fanny Pack. Can I get a high five for a Fanny Pack filled with warm treats!

Next stop Ruckman Rd aka the gateway to all that is rad.

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JP and I both used to ride BMX which kinda gives us the ability to ride trails on CX bikes that most can’t or won't. Queue the #bmxersonroadbikes hashtag. We bombed the Red Ravine Trail down to Anderson Ave. Ice covered river crossings, single track dusted in snow, bunny hooping logs and navigating frozen rock gardens. I could tell that JP was stoked and at that moment I realized this ride was already a success.

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We took Wild Turkey up. Its a technical climb made up of snow covered switch backs and a couple sections that we had to hike. From the top of the climb there is a really fun section back to Ruckman featuring more frozen river crossings and rhythm sections of fallen trees. Back on Ruckman JP spotted a rad line. (see photo above)

Back onto the Ravine Trail we linked up with the Red Trail. Lots of rad lines. Scenic as hell. We kept a good pace and JP definitely pushed me to ride some lines I hadn’t. We ran into some Mountain Bikers and picked their brains. I fixed a flat. Talked to some more Mountain Bikers. We successfully navigated through the Single Track to Rockleigh Rd. What a high that was.

We navigated our way to The Market. Next time I am bringing my stove and cooking lunch on the trail. JP you down?

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At this point we had to decide how we wanted to get back to the GWB. I wanted to take the Shore Trail to the Alpine Boat Basin. I had done parts of it before and figured it would be the same. Ridable with some hike and bike sections here and there. JP was down. I was down. Right off the bat the trails were pretty sketchy. Lots of ice. Lots of rock gardens. We were walking in no time. There was a frozen Waterfall and a really steep set of stairs that lead us to the Trail head. It was pretty incredible. Again we were hiking in no time.

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The hiking turned into climbing and the climbing turned into crawling. We approached some some large snow covered boulders and as we begun to cross a hiker came around the corner. He strongly warned us that the hiking sections ahead were extremely dangerous. He pointed to the section we were climbing and said that this would be the easiest portion of our hike. I am not sure why we didn’t believe him. I am pretty sure we both thought in our heads that it couldn't get much worse. We were wrong.

The trail disappeared. There was no trail. Endless snow covered boulders as far as the eye could see. It was fucking infinite. This hike would have been challenging enough in hiking boots yet we were doing it in cycling shoes while carrying our bikes. Every time we thought we came to the end we were just confronted with more. I fell twice. Both times were scary. Both times I could have really injured myself. JP seemed to be doing alright. For the majority of the time I couldn’t even see him. At one point I freaked out. I had just fallen. I was bonking. I yelled for JP to wait. At that moment I even considered ditching my bike and continuing the climb without it. I hit rock bottom.

Where is the fucking trail!

After over an hour of climbing on snow covered boulders we had our sights on the trail! What a moral boost it was. Nothing else mattered. Just get me off these fucking boulders.

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I now know the section of the trail we Hike and Biked is called the Giant Stairs and is made up of a boulder field created by several thousands years of rockslides. What the fuck! I found an article about it here.

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I can’t really describe what it felt like reaching the trail. Weightless? Relieved? Mad? Sad? Happy?

At this point we were both out of gas and no amount of Gels or Bars could change that. We dug deep to get back on the trail. At this point the goal was to just make it back onto familiar roads. Again a huge relief once we got to the Alpine Boat Basin. Home free. Home fucking free.

The sun begun to set as we made our way to the George Washington Bridge. This was the first time I met JP Bevins. Broken in the best possible way.

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Check out JP's write up of our adventure on NoLifeLikeThisLife!

WTB's Nano 40C Monster Cross Tire Review

When a group of my Mountain Biker friends wanted to go on a BikePacking trip in the Santa Cruz Mountains I was faced with a problem. I needed to find a tire that would fit on my Cyclocross bike that could handle all of the rough Fire Roads and technical Single Track we'd be riding.

The solution? WTB Nano Race Tire

I originally heard about WTB's Nano tires through Prolly's website but I wasn't sure if they'd fit on my bike. After combing through forums and even contacting All City; I couldn't find a firm answer that the 40c Nanos would fit on my bike. I had recently run 38c Schwalbes so I figured I'd give it a shot. Worst case scenario I'd be stuck with some tires that I could eventually sell or trade some time down the road. So with just a few days remaining before my trip I put in a rush order through Western Bike Works out of Portland whom had them in stock.

The Nanos showed up in the post two days before my BikePacking trip. One of the first things I noticed about the tires were how soft and grippy they felt to the touch. WTB offers a Race version featuring a foldable Aramid bead for $49 and a Comp version with a wire bead for $32. To be honest the only reason I got the Race version is because they could be shipped faster. Wire bead tires can't be folded so I wouldn't be able to purchase two day shipping. A perfectly good excuse to upgrade in my opinion.

So back to the tire.

I picked up some tubes from the LBS and threw on the tires when I got home after work. Like every morning in Santa Cruz I woke up before the sun and headed up to UCSC to put the tires to the test. I filled the tires up to 30 psi in the front and 35psi in the back to be on the safe side. I also rode with all my BikePacking gear so I could get a sense of what it would feel like the falling day on our trip. The first stint to UCSC is on pavement and the tires felt smooth and soaked up all the little bumps that I used to feel on my 28s. After reaching the fire roads it was apparent that these tires were made for this. The tires flew up the dirt climbs, gripping the soil and propelling me forwards. The grip, the suspension from the low pressure and god damn the grip.

It was like I had a whole new bike!

Fast forward in time the Nanos have been on three BikePacking trips and were used almost daily to ride World Class Single Track in Santa Cruz. I pushed the limits of these tires and feel pretty confident that WTB themselves didn't even come close to riding them like I did. Overstatement? Maybe .... but I really don't think so.

And here comes the list :

  • The WTB Nano Race Tire 40c Tires transform your CX or Touring Rig into a trail shredding machine. Fire Roads, Single Track, Gravel? Yes, you like that? You want these tires.
  • The entire time I got one flat after hitting a large rock which ended up denting my rim. This is the downside of riding 40c tires on Single Track meant for Full Suspension bikes. Was I bummed? Yes, but I bent my rim back, replaced my tube and was rolling later that day. Problem solved.
  • Would I buy these tires again? I am already planning on it! I've already wrote way too much so to wrap this up I am going to keep it simple. If your looking for a tire that will enable you to explore more Fire Roads and Single Track on your CX bike you have to buy these tires. WTB's Nano 40c Tires are a fucking game changer! Wait. Let me repeat that. The WTB's Nano 40c Tires are a fucking game changer! And thats a wrap!

My First Cyclocross Race : Surf City Cyclo-x Series

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Two years ago I decided that I wanted to give Cyclocross a shot. I grew up riding BMX and over the past few years have fallen in love with road cycling. Yet there is something about Road Cycling culture that bothers me and I was always looking for away to escape it. Every ride I'd seek out the back roads, the fire roads, the single track, anything that would challenge me beyond just pedaling fast and sticking with a group. I am inherently a rebel, a loner and I felt like Cyclocross could bridge that gap. I spent months looking at articles focusing on what to expect at your first Cyclocross race. Racing is intimidating and I sought out comfort in these stories. In away; all I was really doing was talking myself out of actually signing up for a race. Cyclocross came and went on the East Coast. Another season in the books where I was just too damn terrified to sign up.

Fast forward to present day and I've found myself in Santa Cruz California on contract with a local Production company. My wife had to go back East for a bit; so I am working and riding and working and camping and working and riding. Santa Cruz is home to the Surf City Cyclo-x Series presented by the Family Cycling Center and I talked myself into signing up for the first race in the series. For a lot of people thats not a big deal but for people like me who are just getting started; it is. That first step, registering, taking your wallet out and typing in your credit card information. It's a big step. The best step!

The following banter is a fragmented snapshot of what happened during and at my first Cyclocross race.

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A few days before the race my friend in San Francisco asked if some of his racing buddies could have a place to spend the night. Racing is both physical and mental. Not having to wake up and drive 90 miles to the race makes a huge difference. I was happy to help out.

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The race was 10 miles from my house in Twin Lakes. Geoff and Brandon the racers whom I was hosting offered to give me a lift but I decided that riding there would be better. 10 miles to open my legs up, watch the sunrise and pre ride the course.

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The course at Aptos high was really fun. Twisty single track, gnarly descents, sand and a few places to even get rad.

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Racing Cs meant we'd be responsible for making lines through all of the loose sections. Those loose sections would be super hectic during the race but something I definitely excelled at. Towards the last couple of races those loose sections would be clearly defined and riders would have no problem riding them.

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Lining up for the C race I was a little nervous but not as much as I thought I'd be. Geof and Brandon told me to make sure to get out front and try to get the hole shot. So I made my way to the front but eventually got pushed back to 2nd row by some dudes that have obviously raced before. After a quick introduction by the organizers the race was off.

I immediately made my way up to fourth position. The pace was comfortable, my legs were strong and I was very confident on the technical aspects of the course. Then boom! We hit the run up which was a super steep and rutted hill with a barrier below it. Every advantage I had was gone immediately. Gasping for air I clumsily pushed my bike up the hill. Racers started to pass me. One, two, three, four and then I loose count.

I managed to hold on to the back of the pack that had passed me. On one of the technical descents there was a crash and I was able to rail it past them. Riders were crashing left and right and I quickly found myself alone. Calling it chasing would be a huge hyperbole but technically I was chasing the lead group. I could see them in the distance but I think I just gave up on the idea of winning. Instead I decided to concentrate on going fast and riding smoothly through all of the technical sections.

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I really found my rhythm throughout the race and was able to float through the technical sections. There were two sections that you had to run (or in my case walk up) during the race and I lost so much time on those. It was very frustrating but at the same time I was making it through the race and I let out a smile anytime I wasn't gasping for air.

Somewhere on the second lap I started to catch up with a rider in front of me. I stayed on his wheel through a technical climb and was able to pass him once we reached the top. My new goal was to keep him off my wheel and finish before him. During the third and final lap I had made quiet a gap and was racing alone. I made a lot of mistakes. Spots that I had dialed, I rode sketchy and I even slid out on one of the technical descents that I had owned earlier on. The lead group was nowhere in site; all alone.

I crossed the finish line in 7th place. One minute and thirty three seconds behind first place. I was stoked! I had so much fun and all I could think about was how I wanted to do it all over again!

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The rest of the day I was buzzing. I watched my buddy Geoff and his friends race Bs. Brandon was racing As which was pretty incredible to watch. Looking back the best thing about it all was that I got hooked on racing Cyclocross and over that initial fear of doing your first race. I am already looking forward to racing next season in Oregon.

Before you scroll down and check out the rest of the photos from the day here is a quick run down on what I learned at my first Cyclocross race.

- Warming up the legs and pre riding the course is essential. - Carry a small water bottle in your jersey or have friends give you some hand ups. I was so thirsty the entire race! - Bring a towel so you can jump into your civilian clothes after the race. - Bring plenty of snacks since most races are in the middle of nowhere. - Always bring a pair of gloves. - Smile. Smile a lot!

If your considering your first Cyclocross race. Shoot me an e-mail. Now enjoy all of the radical photos from Surf City Cyclo-x below!

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Eagle Rock + Big Basin Jay Camp

I didn't really let my buddies Mike and Brian know this but my goal for this trip was to suffer. The original route made its way through UCSC and up Empire Grade to Eagle Rock. At Eagle Rock we'd hop on the fire roads to Big Basin and make our way up Middle Ridge to the Butano Fire Trail. From Butano Fire Trail we'd connect with Olmo and drop into camp at Butano State Park. The route featured over 6000 ft of climbing which was mostly on dirt. I quickly realized that the route would be too challenging for this trip so I went back to Strava and made some tweaks. The final proposed route was 37.8 miles with 5490 feet of climbing which can be viewed here. EagleRock_BigBasin

The first 20 miles of the trip was pretty much one long climb up Empire Grade. Brian was running Odyssey BMX pedals and Mike was on a borrowed bike (thanks Jackson!). I've only climbed sections of Empire so I was stoked to finally get a chance to climb the entire stretch.

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After making the long ascent up Empire we found ourselves at a dead end. We could see Eagle Rock and the abandoned Fire Lookout that sits at the peak but we couldn't find the entrance. We did however find two locked gates. Are only other option would be to back track up Empire and ride down Jameson Creek which would have just felt like a defeat. We could see the Lookout spot and we could see a labyrinth of trails leading its way up to it. Brian and Mike found a pretty clear depression on the barbed wire fence next to one of the locked gates which made us think that it's used quiet frequently. I decided to do some recon while Brian and Mike tried to rid their legs of all it's lactic acid. After pedaling down the trail a bit I was pretty set on taking this route up to the Lookout so I pedaled back with the good news.

Getting loaded bikes over tall gates is never an easy task. Team work is generally required. I definitely do not condone trespassing but we were left with no choice.

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After taking runs around a motorcycle track that we found it quickly became clear that the trails we had found would not lead us to the Fire Road. Mike is an Arborist and was the most qualified person for a recon mission in the woods. He quickly found a route through some bushes and up a steep section of loose dirt. With some team work we were able to get our bikes up onto the Fire Road and we were on our way!

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I don't think any of us expected that the view would be so damn good. Eagle Rock sits at 2488 ft of elevation on Ben Lommond Mountain which is located in Little Basin. The Panoramic view is absolutely breathtaking. From mountains to oceans; here you can see them all!

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I am pretty sure Brian's brain was turning when we got to this place. Brian's photography is next level so I could only imagine how much fun he was having capturing the vastness of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Brian wrote an awesome article which is accompanied by some incredible photographs from the trip onThe Radavist!

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After Eagle Rock we got to shred an amazing ascent down the Eagle Springs Fire Road. Eagle Springs dropped us off right into the Little Basin Campgrounds. We got a little turned around here but with a little help from some strange wilderness instructors we found our way to Pine Mountain Road. The initial climb up Pine Mountain Road was really steep. I watched my Garmin top hit 30% which is definitely the steepest incline I've had the privilege to climb. Brian was motivated and made it up the steep section as well but you should have seen his face! Everyone has a Pain Face when it comes to cycling. Brian and Mike both found them on this trip. As sick as it sounds I am pretty stoked I was able to curate a trip that would do that to them. We all walked away stronger and I am sure Mike and Brian would agree.

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After reaching Blooms Creek we came to a group consensus that we should wrap things up and camp at Big Basin. Big Basin has a really nice Hiker / Biker campsite and it's within walking distance to the camp store which is over flowing with beer, chips and all that other good stuff. The nice part about ending the trip a bit early was that we had time to sit back, relax and really enjoy the redwoods.

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We rolled out of camp fairly early. The climb out of Big Basin was cold and slow. Once out of Big Basin we basically had an endless descent into Boulder Creek. Nothing like an early more descent down twisty country roads to wake you up and put a smile on your face. Once in your Boulder Creek there aren't too many options to get back into Santa Cruz. Mike worked out a cool route that took us down highway 9 to Felton. In Felton we'd pedal through Henry Cowell and pedal along the train tracks back into town. Highway 9 could be a world class cycling route if it weren't for all the angry drivers. Its safe to say that we all just wanted to get down into Felton and the hell off of 9.

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Rolling into Henry Cowell felt like a huge achievement. We made it down Highway 9 unscathed and now we were in the redwoods jamming over tree roots and hobo single track.

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This was the last of three railroad bridges that we'd cross to get back into town. As we got closer to town we slowly found ourselves near Heroin Hill AKA Pogonip. Small encampments could be seen littered through the brush and we occasionally passed a group or two of the lost, the high and the soon to be dead. It's a dark side of Santa Cruz that is rarely seen.

Towering redwoods opened up into blue skies. The sound of the ocean. The sound of the Boardwalk. Lost in our own thoughts. What a rad fucking journey.

+ If you liked this make sure to check out Brian's write up on out trip at the Radavist!