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Preaching the Pedal
Freeriding Big Bear, California

Baldwin Lake
Standing in Big Bear Bikes, I felt like a leftover. NORBA had just swept through town, created quite the commotion, then suddenly vanished and everything quieted. The masses had gone home, the locals surfaced, and there I stood with nothing to do but ride.

I found myself with a rental bike, tools, water, a sunburn, but no clue where the good loops began. Sure I could consult the map and the handy ride guide, but I wanted more. Pick the best trail in any guidebook, then ask a local hammerhead where the hottest singletrack is...they'll never be the same.

"I had no idea where I was or where I was going, but I didn't seem to care — I just wanted more...."

Just when I thought I was riding solo, my train rolled in. Like a charging bull, through the shop door he came, howling, "I'm soooo glad to be home!"

Who was this crazed man and what was he yelling about?

"Sorry man, I just got back into town," he apologized. (He must have seen the startled look on my face.)

This ever-so-caffeinated cyclist happened to be Rich White — Reverend Rich White to you. Man of the cloth, preacher of the pedal; he certainly was excited about something. Hmmm, this could get interesting. Being the only other patron in the shop, I made his acquaintance quickly. He was headed out for a ride and I had to speak up. I asked if I could tag along and soon enough we were gliding down his driveway and heading for the hills.

At first we pounded some pavement and settled in at a good pace. As we spun past Baldwin Lake and down a few fire roads, the scenery was outstanding. Suddenly we rounded a corner and lo and behold — there was the town dump! (Where is he taking me?) Already dizzy and breathing hard from the altitude, I didn't have much to say, but as we banked left and ducked into the trees, there appeared the singletrack. Ahhh yes, the moment I'd been waiting for...

Accustomed to sloppy Seattle and its wet trails, where muck sticks to your teeth and tires, the dry, sandy trails had me fooled at first. As we carved through the hillside, my front tire just wouldn't trust the dust. It slid out more than a few times but the soft sand left me feeling like I was riding in a sandbox without my shovel and pail.

The sweeping views weren't helping my handling skills either. My dilemma was a tough one: Try and keep up with my compadre or enjoy the scenery? Endure the heat and altitude, or take it all in? Eventually I joined the Rev at the end of the first section of singletrack, and he was smiling as much as I was. (I think he slowed down to wait for me.)

We broke for a minute, munched a few energy bars and saddled back up. We began the next bump of the Perfect Cycling Trail. After a series of short climbs and roller-coaster descents, we came to a fire road and began a steady incline. Needless to say, I was feeling whuuupped. I was gasping in the thin air, squinting from the bright sun, and dizzy with overexertion, but damn I was having fun!

Meanwhile, Reverend Rich was filling me in. Riding at my side, he gave me the local scoop. I wasn't saying much and felt a bit antisocial, but I was breathing too hard to talk. I managed to squeak out a few words, but a full sentence hurt. At last we crested the ridge and the road eased off a bit.

Moments later we were reunited with the singletrack. Somehow we managed to get off trail, find the trail again, then lose it again, but it didn't really matter, it was all fun. It was the first time I'd ridden a full suspension frame and it felt cushy, and most plush on the miles of downhill that followed.

Banked turns, rock hops, soft drops — you know, that eye-watering giddiness? We hooted and hollered the entire way down. I had no idea where I was or where I was going, but I didn't seem to care — I just wanted more.

It's times like these that have I to take a step back — put two total strangers on steeds, point them in the direction of the trail, and soon they'll be playing like schoolchildren.

Remember when your mom told you not to talk to strangers? Well, your mom's never ridden with the Rev. Not only will he take you on an epic ride, but he'll fill you in, too. While you're gasping for your next breath, he'll be explaining the trail or telling you a dirty joke. Eventually he'll pause, point downhill, and tell you to have fun. There before you is the playground of life — Mother Nature and her shoulder-wide trails that twist through the trees and across the hillsides. At this point, it's all up to you. My advice? Point it.

At the end of the descent, we stopped to fix a pinched tube on the fire road into town, dodged a small, yet ferocious dog and stopped for a six pack. The ride wouldn't have been complete without a few beers on the deck, enjoying the sun, rehashing the day and telling a few lies.

Sadly enough, I left town with just a taste. I'd sampled a bit of the singletrack, but I'm still craving more. If you desire ups, downs and sweeping views, Big Bear will take your breath away.

Lucas Kane, riding with The Rev for

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