SoCal From Three Bikes, One Cyclist, Over Three Years – Part II
Read Part I – Gibraltar: The Solo Climb if you missed last week’s installment.
Sycamore Canyon: On the Heels of Greats
The approach to Sycamore Canyon
Southern California – specifically, a little park off the coast between Ventura and Malibu – isn’t where you’d assume the great mountain biking happens. But Sycamore Canyon in Point Mugu State Park on the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains delivers trails for beginners, and climbs and descents that even pros will admit are challenging. And so, as a beginner, I headed to the park on my second year in California tagging behind three of Canada’s top mountain bikers, one of whom would compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio. On the heels of greats isn’t just a cute tagline, it was a reality as my novice mountain biking background quickly made itself known.
Sycamore Canyon map and elevation via Strava
Riding in Sycamore Canyon, you quickly realize two things: that forest fires – even with a serious lack of forest – can be brutal, and that you’re probably not wearing enough sunscreen. Expect heavy sun and don’t plan on finding a calm, shadowy route back to the car; you’re going to be exposed to the elements (mostly just sun, but sometimes wind). The singletrack crisscrosses doubletrack climbs and washed out descents, and rocks are more prevalent than roots. Cactus occasionally presents a problem, if you’re uncoordinated enough to fall into it, but it’s slightly less problematic than in the nearby desert Southwest.
As the three mountain bike pros wheelied and high-fived into the distance, I chased as hard as I possibly could to catch up. This was particularly embarrassing as I had yet to master one-handed riding while reaching for a water bottle. Since they were still casually chatting while balancing mostly on one wheel and occasionally shimmying up the berms on the sides of the trail, I realized I was hopelessly outgunned in terms of power, but not in terms of photo capabilities. They mugged for the camera, gladly showing off and giving me precious seconds to catch my breath. My role as a photographer proved enough to stay with them for another half mile until we hit a more technical area of singletrack and they unceremoniously dropped me.
To think that I married one of them two years later is galling, but it shows that there were no hard feelings.
The author on a section of Sycamore Canyon’s excellent singletrack
This is part two of a three part series. Read Part III – Mount Palomar: Herding the Kids which followed.