22 April 2012

Japanese Gulch MTB tandem ride

We set out to try a new trail today - Japanese Gulch. This is a really cool ravine in Mukilteo with railroad tracks (the steepest grade in the state of WA!) running up the middle and trails on both sides. The loops are not super long but you could easily string together two, three or four for a full day of riding. And it's incredibly accessible. Some sections of the trail do not drain very well and the soil has some clay in it so be prepared to slide around a little, a lot if it's wet.

This was our first mountain tandem ride of the year and for some reason it takes me a while to dial in the bike handling every spring… Let's just say we should have had a helmet cam.

We parked, changed, pumped up the tires and headed out. The Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance site said the east side of gulch was more technical but I was disoriented so we headed west. Mistake #1.

We rolled down to the train tracks and the only trail I could see went straight up at a precipitous angle so instead we opted for a road parallel to the tracks which was a great warm-up. The road takes you all the way to the top of the gulch and suddenly you are RIGHT next to the Paine Field Airport. There were even a few planes landing while we climbed the road and this enormous shadow would flick across us and then be gone. Pretty cool.

At the top I did not know where to go so we headed in the most likely direction of the ridgeline. After a couple of twists and turns on the road and a gentle roller we hit the trail. And then we hit the deck.

It was laughable really. About 20 feet after the trail started there was a mud puddle as you went through some sapling trees. As I saw the puddle I slowed way down. Mistake #2. There was a thick branch submerged in the mud at a shallow angle, our front tire hit it, got deflected and down we went. To be perfectly honest, Shelley went down - head first - into the trees and mud. I somehow managed to stick my foot out and just submerge my shoe in goo but didn't take a bath. Nice. Not the way you want to start the ride if more riding is what you hope to do with your spouse… I felt pretty bad to say the least. :(

To her credit Shelley was able to shrug this off. It took a couple of minutes in the fetal position (while lying in the mud) and then some walking around but we did get going again.

If you have ever had a bad fall you know that after you get up the natural reaction is to ride chicken. That's what happened to me. Mistake #3. Now we're riding along at about 4 mph and I'm grabbing the brakes every time there is the smallest little bump or corner in the trail. Dang.

ASIDE - we had our brakes cleaned, adjusted and the pads replaced by Wrench Bicycle Workshop and they did a great job. They even cleaned and lubricated the pistons and the action was utter silk. I highly recommend them.

After more halts and dabs than I care to recite I finally had the bright idea of lowering the stem. Being relatively tall I usually put a stack of spacers under the stem and run a pretty long one. This combination makes any bike steer like you are holding onto a rudder and it's only amplified on the tandem. I moved about 2 cm of spacers above the stem and instantly the bike felt better. I am an idiot. I am also wondering how I could have ridden this bike like it was setup for so long…?!

Anyway, now we slowly started to find our rhythm and actually ride. We still had to dismount for the occasional tight switchback but we also handled a few muddy sections just fine. Thanks to Shelley's encouragement. We'd be riding along and she would see the mud/root/obstacle and I would hear, "We got this! Go, go go…!" I love it.

We met some other cyclists, most of whom were quite impressed that we had taken a tandem on these trails. We also encountered several people running these trails. In retrospect they looked ideal!

When we got back to the car we thought about trying the other side of the ravine but after riding about 100 m up the trail we realized we were both pretty tired and since no fall had resulted in serious injury yet we decided to head back to the car and call it a day.

That was fun. I want to go back.

Sleep 6
Waking HR  
Body Weight  
Body Fat  
Breakfast 5:30 AM - grapes, orange, tea
7:30 AM - Smoothie 2.0
Workout Food nothing… it was a really short ride
Time of Day 10:00 AM
Workout Type fun ride
Weather 65-70, sunny, dry, calm
Equipment Ellsworth Witness

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