Friday, March 28, 2014

Arizona Day 5 - Sedona BFL

When I planned this Arizona trip, I had hoped to ride most of the Black Canyon Trail in a day as a point-to-point shuttle. Wednesday's ride left me a bit shattered, and neither Cathy nor I relished the idea of spending a few hours in the car (Cathy was going to shop at the outlet mall at the trail terminus until I got there). And besides, why drive to a ride when staying in Sedona with so many great miles of singletrack right out the door?

I did piece together a big loop to ride in Sedona before leaving on the trip. It roughly followed the route of a annual informal race held each March, called the Sedona Big Friggin' Loop. When we drove into Sedona Tuesday evening, we stopped at Absolute Bikes to pick up an updated Sedona bike trails map. Fresh off the press, in fact, March 2014. It showed all of the newer stuff, such as Hiline, Hangover and all of the Hog trails. Little did I know, a chunk of my planned route did not show on the new map.

Chilly starting out early, only a windbreaker was needed, which soon came off. A mile from the hotel I was on dirt. It didn't take long before I realized this was going to be a different kind of ride than what I've done the first four days. I like trails that flow, where you can put steady power out if you want and get good return on climbing by being able to let speed run out. Today was not going to be one of those days.

Early morning sun, looking across to the Cockscomb (center right) and ledges
I would be riding on shortly (center left).

Soon I was riding on a skinny ledge. Hmm, I was saving exposure for later in the ride on Hiline Trail, but I was getting it just a couple miles in. The trail I was on does not exist on any map. Later I learned it is named as LF in Strava. Riding solo, I was uber cautious and walked some sections. A fall might not have been instant death, but it surely would have meant airlifted out in a few spots.

The Cockscomb

After I rode right under the Cockscomb, still "off the map," I started picking up named trails. The north side sequence I hit was Aerie, Mescal, Chuckwagon, Lizard Head, Thunder Mountain, Teacup, Jordan and bits of other trails.

Either Cockscomb or Aerie Trail

Much of this riding was quite technical, involving steep drops into washes and punchy climbs back out, often with big water bars to hop or natural ledge outcroppings. It didn't require huge cardio output, but it did require constant explosive power for a few seconds at a time, something my legs didn't have after four big days of riding.

Coffee Pot Rock on Teacup Trail

I must say I was glad to have my long travel 29er. I was rolling stuff I wouldn't think of rolling on my 26" dualie. The big bike doesn't make me a better rider though, and I'm not sure attempting bigger moves is a good thing.

Level, buff sections were fleeting instances on this ride. Chuckwagon Trail.

I had thought the first 30 miles of this loop would take less than 3hrs. I was very, very wrong. When I passed through town and stopped to top off my water, I called Cathy to let her know the ride was going to take two hours more than I planned. Tired legs, riding solo and cautiously, not having ridden these trails before, and constant stream of hikers and other bikers to yield for made for slow progress.

Even though the riding along the northern perimeter of Sedona tails didn't have the flow I'm accustomed to, there was some very sweet riding to be had. Particularly on Chuckwagon.

Riding rims on Chuckwagon Trail

After crossing through town, I picked up trails I've ridden before, but always in the opposite direction. Broken Arrow rides quite nicely from the Sedona end. Did have a few dabs on the way though. After wrapping around on Llama Trail, I was really feeling it and decided Hiline was not a good idea. You could die in a fall on that trail. I opted for Templeton instead, which wraps around the rim right below the famed Cathedral Rock.

Chicken Point (next to Twin Buttes) from Templeton Trail.

Cathedral Rock from Templeton. Pretty heavy overcast late in day. Temp probably didn't
get much above 60F. Perfect for me.

I've come up the Templeton switchbacks before. Hike-a-bike. I didn't fare much better going down them either. A couple guys were coming up that I had met on Teacup 1-2hrs earlier. Cathy didn't like the pictures I took riding this section.

Exposure approaching Templeton switchbacks

Cathy doesn't like seeing these

One of the riders I met earlier passing point where above two photos were taken. Don't look down!

I crossed over Oak Creek, which I was surprised to see flowing pretty good despite the serious drought the area has been in. Got my wheels cleaned and feet soaked. All I had left was to climb Herkenham Trail back to 89A, which I take a mile back to hotel.

Oak Creek crossing, Cathedral Rock in background. Wet feet and sticky cleats followed.

There were a few steep punchy bits on Herkenham that had me dabbing. I couldn't get my freaking feet out of the pedals! It appears that wet cleats pack up with red clay dust and form concrete when clipped in. In once case, I toppled over into dense brush and got my helmet caught. There I laid, clipped in, head stuck, unable to move. F-bombs!

Now I didn't dare clip in. I could not get the cleats to work freely. It took an inordinate amount of force to get a release.

Coming up the bank to pavement was another rocky incline, with rocks like daggers poking up everywhere. With fresh legs, it would be trivial to pop up this bank to the road. But I was damaged goods. So with something like 15 feet to go to finish the ride, how do you think this panned out? Of course I wrecked. Pretty much a backwards endo. Unable to get either foot out of the pedals, I came down hard on my ass and elbow. First thought was hip fracture, as you know, I have the bone density of a 70 year old woman. More F-bombs. I'm sure passing cars heard me if they had their windows down. 46 miles of rugged, risky terrain, and this is how I crash and get hurt?!

A couple hours and lots of Aleve later, I can barely walk or sit. Friday, my last full riding day, is going to be interesting. May have to settle for a Schnebly Hill dirt road climb.

Anyway, Cathy is enjoying herself while I ride. Wednesday she did a Pink Jeep tour out to Chicken Point and more. They made her scream a few times. Today she hiked part of the loop I rode, climbing up Little Sugarloaf, which is close to the hotel. The last two nights we ate at Thai Spices restaurant.  I eat a full entree with double steamed rice (family size serving bowl full) and then finish the second half of Cathy's entree. Have to roll me out of there afterwards, but very healthy preparations, tasty, and reasonably priced. Already dreading having to leave in a couple days.

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