2020 - The Year that Was
It’s been a year to remember. This year we have seen about as wide an assortment of crazy as I could have ever imagined. From a sprained wrist, to the Covid 19, to California fires, to the loss of my wonderful Pup, it really did feel at times like 2020 had it in for us!
As many things as there were to feel bad about, there were also plenty of reasons to keep my chin up this year. Let’s take some time to see what made 2020 a year to remember:
In January, I was still healing from my crash and injury at the local bike park. I had limited range of motion and the time off the bike made me slow and sloppy. I enjoyed the break, but I was in a big hurry to get back on the bike and start preparing for my big road trips to Whistler and to North Carolina.
My first ride of the year (that wasn’t taking the kids on a spin down the local bike path) was on the dirt in Los Gatos. My go-to trail is typically pretty easy to clear, but my recovery made it tougher. 1000 vertical feet in 2 miles isn’t too bad for a trail that it takes only 10 minutes to drive to from my house, so I decided not to complain.
I was also able to ride at UC Santa Cruz. The wreckage after the wind storm was a sight to behold, but the trail maintenance guys cleared that out pretty quickly and we were riding clear dirt again in no time.
Corona hit! The state of California shut down and one of the only activities that was still allowed was biking! When I went out to the local trail, so many people were already there that I wasn’t sure if I would return home with a Covid souvenir or not. I was scared off my regular trail and I have to say that I haven’t been back since. That’s okay – staying away from St. Joe’s helped push me to start riding other trail systems in the area.
On that note, I decided to venture south of my location in April and check out Rancho Cañada Del Oro. I guess I hit the park at just the right time since the sun was shining and the hills were green! It was amazing up there! I fell in love, and this preserve became a regular of mine.
The warmer weather ignited something inside me that, for once, wasn’t heartburn! I felt the momentum and carried it to Santa Cruz where I rode Wilder Ranch. Bombing those downhills is funner when you can see the ocean in the distance. I’ll never get tired of Wilder.
I made a few upgrades to the Spokesman Bike Shop in May. I purchased a few much-needed tools and installed my compressor. Both were great decisions since, with the virus making local bike shops quote repairs several months out, I am now the local neighborhood bike shop!
We all had Covid projects in 2020, and mine was a new bike build. Being able to ride a prototype Ibis Ripmo v2, I was sold on the design and I purchased one. I built it out with SRAM AXS and built my dream bike! It cost an arm and a leg, but it rides like it’s worth it.
I had to cancel my Whistler trip due to travel restrictions from Covid, but I was able to take some of that time and get out to some more promising trails locally. I rode The Flow Trail at Soquel Demonstration State Forest for the first time in several years and the new bike made it SO MUCH FUN! It felt like a magic carpet ride.
I was also able to visit the Exchequer bike park near Groveland, CA. It’s a small and simple park with fun trails and some cool people. It’s not enough for a dedicated bike trip weekend, but my friend lives nearby, so I’ll definitely be returning.
July saw us taking a family trip to Durango. Driving through Flagstaff, Arizona, We planned 6 days in Colorado. Although we had to come home a few days early, we were still able to get in some great family time rafting the Animas River, checking out the town, and riding local spots like Overend Bike Park, Twin Buttes, and Purgatory Resort.
My big North Carolina road trip was approaching fast and the pressure was on to get a little bit more cardio under my belt before I left.
Riding at Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland, CA was a fun afternoon with a local rider. This park is located in the hills above the city and contains a surprising number of fun trails – some very challenging!
A long ride down Mt. Umunhum and home via the Woods Trail was the perfect 25-mile day to get me ready for my trip. The views from the lookouts are amazing, and the climbs are both challenging and fearsome. It was worth the effort, but I’m in no hurry to do that ride again on a 100º+ day.
It was time to hit the road and embark on my 2020 road trip! The route was to take me east to Brevard, North Carolina, and home through Crested Butte, Colorado and Moab, Utah. I was able to hit almost every location on my itinerary, and I had a great time riding with some old friends and a few new faces as well! I got a mountain of footage to release videos, but not all of it was usable. It turns out that heavily shaded parks are just too dark for a GoPro Hero 8 when you arrive before dawn because it’s going to be a 105º day. Oh well, Oklahoma City’s Little River State Park will need to live on in my memory instead of on Youtube.
Kingman, AZ was a quick stop on the trip that was super fun and a great way to kick off the journey. The trails were rocky and a little bit challenging. Mostly, it felt good to be on the road and riding new dirt.
Visiting Angelfire, NM was a dream come true. I had heard so much about this place on my previous road trip, so I added it as a stop while traveling east. Angelfire did not disappoint. The downhills were fun and challenging. Flow, gnar, drops, and great features made this bike park one of the best I have ever visited. I don’t know when I’ll be able to return, but I want to go back.
Arriving in North Carolina, I met up with friends and rode Kanuga! This park was ridiculously fun and completely kicked my butt on a 90º 98% humidity day. Wow – that was rough. But the trails were absolutely amazing and I got to ride them with my pals! It was such a treat!
Riding as part of the Seth’s “Berm Peak” trip, Red Wolf Tours took us to DuPont State Forest where we rode a wet and wild loop through what felt like a jungle. After that, they took us up one of the toughest trails in the Pisgah area; Pilot Rock. Its 9 mile climb was a test of my ability and endurance. I failed miserably. I made it up the climb, and I enjoyed the brutal descent, but I paid for it the next day when we returned to Kanuga.
After leaving my friends in North Carolina and heading west, I was scheduled to ride in Bentonville, Arkansas at places like Coler Park and Slaughter Pen. It was a chance to ride epic dirt, but it was not meant to be. I ran into a major thunderstorm in Memphis and I didn’t feel like riding in a lightning storm, so I continued west through Kansas and decided to enter the Rocky Mountains two days early.
I had an appointment with Chasing Epic in Crested Butte, Colorado on the weekend, but I decided to spend my two-day layover in Salida. This enchanting town is small, but offers a great deal to the enthusiastic mountain biker. There are some great local trails that sprout from downtown and I was able to ride them for a short while with my friend Amanda from the Berm Peak trip in North Carolina! She loved a couple of hours away and agreed to meet me so we could ride some more local stuff.
We loved the rocky local dirt, but the real treat was a 35 mile day along the Monarch Crest Trail. This path follows part of the Great Divide and treats riders and hikers to views of over 100 miles on all directions. The average altitude of the trail is over 10,000 feet, and that reduced oxygen becomes apparent as soon as you get to the top. The ride was fantastic, and I’m thankful that Amanda was there to share it with me because she is a capable rider (far more capable than me!), and I felt a lot more comfortable riding in this remote area with a fellow rider. We also had a great time in town – Salida is filled with shops, breweries, and restaurants and it doesn’t fail to impress.
Moving on to Crested Butte, I arrived at my posh condo rental with BKXC! Steve at Chasing Epic provided a fun and professional atmosphere for a variety of riders who were visiting from cities and towns all over the USA.
We rode the singletrack above Crested Butte on the first day. The weather was clear and the sky was blue. I’ve never seen a prettier time on the bike, and the downhills were fabulous! Man, Colorado is the best place to ride!
The next day, we headed back to Monarch Crest where we started on the same trail I rode two days earlier, but dropped down the other side of the mountain. Agate Creek was a technical downhill that crossed water some 30 times! By the end of the day we were wet, tired, and happy. I was glad that I was hanging back with the “less advanced” group since these trails were challenging my abilities. I wasn’t on the edge, but I was 100% spent by the time the days came to a close.
Doctor Park was a smoky adventure through some of the sweetest singletrack I have ever enjoyed the pleasure of riding. The trails, while difficult to get to, were a fun romp through the aspen groves. Climbing up to the trailhead was enough for me to question my sanity, but it was all worth it in the end with the fun, flowy downs and the rocky switchbacks at the end.
The last day saw a storm approaching, so we left the higher elevations and rode Hartman Rocks park south of Crested Butte in the town of Gunnison. I almost bailed on this ride since I was worried about the cold and, possibly, the snow. My fears were put to rest when we arrived, but we were greeted with some of the most intense wind I have ever pushed against on the bike. It slowed us down and made communication difficult, but we were able to get into some of the most technical rock dancing on the entire trip, with fun rock rolls and steep drops.
Saying goodbye to the cool people on the Chasing Epic trip was tough, but I knew I’d be seeing at least a few of them again and riding with Chasing Epic as soon as my schedule and the pandemic allowed. Moving on to Moab was the perfect way to push forward and, as always, Moab didn’t disappoint.
My closest riding buddy, Patrick, visited Moab a few years earlier and ride the Captain Ahab trail. I had only ridden Slickrock and the Whole Enchilada – both epic rides unto themselves – but I wasn’t familiar with Ahab. I hired a guide and he took me to the Hymasa trail entrance where we climbed to the top and descended the canyon on one of the coolest and wettest September days he could remember.
Ahab is a tough ride. The climb is tricky enough with its 5000 foot elevation, but it is also very technical. Pile that on top of it being my sixth day of hard high-country riding IN A ROW and I found myself having to stop for rest breaks regularly. I even bailed on a painfully novice segment that I really should have cleared without even looking.
The descents were fun, techy, and sometimes quick. My guide was a great rider and just a bit insane. I like that. He took me down the rocks with a good line and a quick wit. Most of the time, I didn’t even know I was just a few feet from certain death. I’d love to do this again on a day when I have more energy.
I originally meant to stay in Moab one more day and ride Slickrock, Jackson, Rockstacker, or Barney Rubble, but I knew I was wiped out. Frankly, I was ready to be with my family again and I was looking forward to pulling into my driveway back in San Jose. I decided to call the trip and drive through to Vegas that night. I skipped my stop in St. George, deciding instead to save that town for a different trip.
The next day, I drove home and recovered. Looking back, I think I left the last three days of my journey because that itty bitty crash messed up my shoulder. It wasn’t a big injury, but it was enough to alter my riding enough to make me want to slow down a bit. I’m writing this two days before Christmas Day in December, and it still hurts a bit. I’m still riding, but I need to be careful.
I bought my Hero 9 Black the day it was released, and I have since upgraded it to include the Media Mod, Max Lens Mod, and a lavalier mic. On top of that, I picked up a Sony a7s III for shooting locked down video in the shop. These additions to the equipment locker will hopefully allow me to step up my production quality and start releasing content that less resembles my personal channel, and more resembles something the Loam Ranger would feel comfortable showing. Video production is a long road and we shall see where I land.
In October, I took the family to Los Angeles and carefully visited some nice spots with them. Of course, I brought the bike and I was able to ride two fun locations; Topanga Canyon and Whiting Ranch. Josh, a friend from the Berm Peak trip, lives nearby and met me for a romp through the mountain east of Irvine. We climbed some brutal dirt, and dropped down The Luge. This was a great day to be on the bike, and I absolutely love riding with Josh. He pushes me just enough to promote improvement while having a great time along the way.
The pandemic really got moving in the Bay Area in November. We have seen some pretty substantial case counts and it was advisable to stay home for the majority of the month. I tried to use this time to explore some local parks that I didn’t ride very often, and that led to the discovery of some shirt but challenging trails at Santa Teresa County Park. With its short, but steep climbs and ultra-rocky descents, I found myself returning over and over just to experience the bumps. It’s a little taste of some of the tech I rode in North Carolina, Colorado, and Utah.
The fall of the year brought with it seem easier local rides and some much needed time off the bike. My shoulder injury could definitely be bothering me more, but it is enough to remind me several times each day that I need to take it easy for a while. As a result of the injury, as well as the ever worsening pandemic situation, I am taking on some home projects.
In the coming weeks, I will be doing a wheel-build video and maybe some maintenance content. January and February are usually pretty slow months, and I will likely use that time to refit or upgrade some of the bike parts. I’ll also be exploring the idea of a mud ride, and maybe a night ride.
2020 has been both challenging and incredible. The state of the planet has taken society to a place that is new to every generation, and the world is learning how to rise up and meet the challenge. There is a lot of disagreement, strife, and misunderstanding, but I also see a great deal of compassion and love. In terms of mountain biking, 2020 was a tough one for most. Travel was difficult, I know several people who had to cancel Whistler trips (me among them), but I was able to get out and embark upon my most amazing bike trip yet. With an abundance of caution, I traveled over 6000 miles and saw things that made me feel incredibly fortunate.
2021 promises to bring its own challenges and I can’t wait to meet them. With an open mind and a sense of adventure, I think the opportunities will be difficult, but in the best way possible. I have a new road trip planned for the coming year, but this one is focused on the family. I’ll bring the bike, but the emphasis on national parks might make riding tricky.
We will see what content the new year brings. Many rides are in store, and lots of memories are waiting to be made. I can’t wait to meet the challenges and push the boundaries as they materialize. Whether riding alone or with friends, I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world right now and I’m thankful that I can share these experiences with all of you.
Happy holidays, happy new year, and may you always be able to ride. I’ll see you out there on the trails!