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Big Basin MBTB 2009 - May 22, 2009

Distance: 35.1 miles Ascent: 5268 feet Moving time: 4:20 hours

I have seen the "May By the Bay" ride descriptions in the MTBR NorCal forum before, but had never participated. I decided to give it a try with their Big Basin ride this year. This is usually a tough ride due to combination of distance and ascent, so I was a bit concerned about the pace. There were comments that this would not be an issue as there would be plenty of slow people. I didn't know what to expect and I didn't know who would be there, but I decided to go.

I got there a bit later than I wanted, but several others pulled into park headquarters at the same time, so I wasn't late. I didn't recognize anyone else, but the bikers were pretty obvious in the mostly empty parking lot. I got squared away pretty quickly and was ready to go with everyone else. My first hint that this might be a long day was the number of singlespeeders. This is one of the places that I have been glad to have lots of gears to help with the hills and eat up the distance. Half of the bikes were singlespeed. This meant that they would be much lighter and that their riders were probably a lot stronger than me. The second hint came as we started moving. The group conversation quickly turned to the recent races they had participated in. The third hint was that I discover that I had no rear brake (it was later found to be a failed master cylinder). It was looking like it could be a long day.

Actually, I held my own on Gazos Creek. We all rode together out to Sandy Point. At this point, I discovered my value to the group. I knew where we were going and recognized the trails and junctions. I was glad to be able to make a contribution. We headed out Whitehouse Canyon and Chalks Mountain. The group spread out a bit on the ride along Chalks, but Charlie (aka Skyline35) managed to take some rather good pictures as we rode. We made it up the hill to the summit, but it was clearly quite an effort for the singlespeeders. Once we got to the top, I showed them the picnic bench and we took a short break.

After the break, we continued along Chalks to Whitehouse Ridge Trail. This was a very pretty but very steep. The trail was tight. I really missed having a rear brake. We made to the bottom and then out the Whitehouse Canyon dirt road to Highway 1 and headed north. The group stopped at the Gazos Creek Cafe for a break.

After the break, we headed up Gazos Creek Road and Cloverdale Road to the bottom of Butano Fire Road. We started the climb back. This started out well for me, but I started slowing down relative to the rest of the group. I didn't drop too far behind, but I was the last one to arrive at the re-groups. After we passed the abandoned airstrip, one of the singlespeeders developed leg cramps, first in one leg and then both. He called out as I passed him that he was having trouble, so I rode and walked with him the rest of the way to the top.

Once we reached the end of Butano Fire Road, I directed everyone down Johansen and then Middle Ridge. This was a good ride with a few short steep climbs for the singlespeeders. While we regrouped at the Ocean View Summit, a guy without a helmet on a cyclocross bike came shooting by and headed down the hill. A while later, his friend showed up and said he was taking a break. We head down, only to see the first guy riding back up. We regrouped and the bottom and then headed back to headquarters on Gazos Creek to wrap up the ride.

We enjoyed some camaraderie and snacks in the parking lot before heading back. It was a good ride and a nice day. My legs always feel it after a Big Basin ride, but I think it was a bit more than usual this time due to the faster pace. I think we averaged over 8 mph for the entire ride (including walking with the guy with cramps), which is pretty fast. It was a lot of fun, but it was also quite a challenge with the faster group.

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