Thursday, March 25, 2010

Climbing the Canyons

I'm a little nervous, and I've still got three hours before my Redlands TT start, so I thought I'd channel some of that energy into a blog post. Now, for your reading pleasure, I've gathered some of the crazy things you're likely to see while climbing one of the gorgeous canyons found around the LA area on a busy weekend.

Let me begin by sharing that I've gotten a pretty good taste of the local canyons around here. We climbed up and over many of the canyons over towards Agoura Hills and Malibu, and most of the following photos were snapped over in San Dimas on the Glendora Canyon Road. These canyons are all really pretty, they have tons of curvy switchbacks, and on the weekends they're downright packed with various thrill-seekers.

Road Bikers
Average Skill: 5.5
Average Speed: 34 mph (note: all average speeds are for the descent only)
Hazard Factor: 4
Friendliness: 8

Naturally there are plenty of spandex-clad roadies lugging their bodies and bikes up these canyon climbs. Most everyone was friendly -- responding to a wave with a wave, unless both hands were needed to steer around a turn. While some of the roadies I saw appeared decidedly less confident than others, the fact that every bike I saw was equipped with two (presumably) working brakes took their Hazard Factor way down. Not a single fixie in the mix to ruin our score.

Downhill Skateboarders
Average Skill: 7.5
Average Speed: 22 mph
Hazard Factor: 7.5
Friendliness: 6.5

We saw a car full of these guys unloading at the top of the hill, about to hop on their long-boards and surf the asphalt wave all the way down. While downhill skateboarders aren't the fastest guys on the slopes of the mountain, they put up a good argument for being the most dangerous. They've got no brakes, and their only way of slowing down is to swerve violently back and forth across the road, carving like a snowboarder. On the bright side, I don't think there are many total beginners who drop Glendora Canyon, so the average skill rating is pretty high for these guys.

Soap Box Derby Racers
Average Skill: 4
Average Speed: 31 mph
Hazard Factor: 3
Friendliness: 10!

Talk about awesome! These guys lug their gigantic, rickety, soap box derby racers up the hill and race them down. With no engines, big disc brakes, and obviously stoned drivers, the soap box derby guys were pretty low on the hazard meter, but got really high marks for friendliness.

The Scooter Gang
Average Skill: 4
Average Speed: 17 (yes, that's for the descent)
Hazard Factor: 5
Friendliness: 5

We rounded one bend, and couldn't believe our eyes: probably fifty dudes, all riding sub-50 cc Honda scooter, traveling down the hill in a big swarm. Some of these scooters (and their riders) were priceless, and I wish I'd been a quicker shot with my camera. Imagine lots of silly 'mods' on theses bikes, things like ape-hanger handlebars, extra headlights, chrome fenders, and milk-crates loosely attached to the rear-racks. As for the riders, it was a total hodge-podge: every type of helmet under the sun (was that a football helmet I saw?), lots of old-style goggles, and a few shirtless dudes. The only unifying characteristics of the group appeared to be teeny-tiny wheels, and lawn-mower engines.

Crotch Rockets
Average Skill: 5.5
Average Speed: 75mph
Hazard Factor: 9
Friendliness: 3

So I cautiously put a skill factor of 5.5 up there, but remember that's an average. Some of these guys clearly knew what they were doing, and had skill factors of 8 or 9. These guys were decked out in all the customary armor, and knew how to handle their machines: letting off the gas before hitting the turn, taking a smooth, steady, fast line all the way through the corner. On the other end of the spectrum, we'd get passed by some guys who seemed like total amateurs, guys who just got their motorcycle license this year, and their first bike is a 1200cc Kawasaki. Usually wearing jeans and a tee-shirt (and sometimes with a terrified girlfriend clinging to the back seat), you'll see these guys hitting the brakes and adjusting their line through the turn, looking more like they're riding a bucking bronco than a motorcycle. My danger detectors were going off like crazy whenever I'd be in the washout path of the motorcycle on a blind turn. Crash all you want Crotch Rocket Guys, just don't take me out with you please. While they seemed perfectly friendly off their bikes (they would usually wave back), the way these guys rode by us (fast, often, and close), knocked their friendliness factor down a notch.

1 comment:

Martin Criminale said...

Good luck Sam!

Man, seeing all those canyon dwellers reminded me of this video on YouTube: