Chasing Fall on Mount Piños

Southern California has been an October oven, with temperatures hanging out in the 90’s and 100’s for months now. Last week, we had enough and organized a group shred sess on Mount Piños, our favorite, yet not so frequented trail network about an hour and some change from Golden Saddle Cyclery. The drive isn’t bad either when you factor in the fact that everyone is going the opposite direction on Interstate 5. We sent out a text thread and gauged interest. Cache, one of the shop mechanics at GSC wanted in, as did Kyle, Serena, Colin, Matt from Mount Wilson Bicycling Association, and myself.

Truthfully I was a little worried about this ride. You climb about 3,000′ in 10 miles and it’s straight up with no change in grade. I hadn’t ridden since South Africa, save for a few grocery store runs, on a lower saddle, across flat terrain. While I was concerned, I’m not one to sit around and wait for the recommended four weeks of recovery, especially since I hadn’t felt pain in over a week. The human body is strange like that. It’s like a tea kettle, only whistling when it’s hot. I had been going hard leading up to South Africa, a bit of “training” if you will, which consisted of mostly doing bigger riders on dirt and here in LA, that means lots of steep grades. After South Africa, it was so hot out that I couldn’t ride even if my body was in working order. There’s nothing more miserable for me, not being able to exercise at all, yet I found motivation in the distraction-free life of being forced to sit at the computer every waking moment. Regardless, it had been what felt like an eternity… Was I finally rested up?

We met at the parking lot at the bottom of Mt. Piños Rd, discussed how wonderful the temperatures felt. My car’s thermometer read 55º, so I grabbed a jacket, pulled on my long sleeve merino shirt and started pedaling with the group. Well, I was soft-pedaling with the group. Before I knew it, we had hit the half way mark up the climb and I was feeling great. Shortly there after, we were summiting the mountain, kicking down cairns with no trail marking significance – seriously, leave the rocks where they are! – and trying to figure out how many more times we’d be able to ride down the trail before people’s obligations beckoned them back home.

Mount Piños is unlike any trail we have in our local mountains in Los Angeles. It’s steep, sandy and flowy. In fact, there are so few rocks, that when you finally hit a short rocky section, it throws you off-guard. Instead, the moments of pucker factor lie in the blown out corners and hard ridges where mountain bikers have gone off-trail on sharp turns. The game is to focus on where you’re going, not where others have gone in the past. This trial is most likely shuttled more than it is pedaled up and the conditions are only worsening with the lack of rain these days. Next time, I’m bringing some tools up.

Once making it back to the cars, we decided to cram all of our bodies and bikes into Colin’s new, gentrified Sprinter Van. It’s like a Bushwick loft buildout on wheels, powered by a turbo diesel, fitting 6 bikes, six bodies and a few beer cans inside, and we made it up the climb in 15 minutes, easy. This time, we made it even faster down, hardly stopping at all, knowing we had to finish at a decent hour to still make it home before traffic got hairy in Los Angeles for rush hour.

As we were rolling back into the parking lot, a breeze chilled my spine and my sweaty hands got cold, leaving myself and everyone dreading to head back into the oven that is big city livin’. Oh and we’re all glad Matt didn’t lose his keys on the trial! If you haven’t ridden Mount Piños, check out our ride on Strava.