All, we had about 18 riders out on a Dudley’s Dream ride yesterday. I started riding from Ramona, with the aim of exploring Black Canyon Rd. in my preparation for Belgian Waffle Ride – a 12.6mi, mostly loosely packed dirt road connecting Ramona and Mesa Grande. I was hoping someone else would join me but Larry got sick the day before the ride and everyone else had other plans. I started around 7AM and it was freezing cold going through Ramona, with temperatures dipping in the 40ies, as per my Garmin. The Black Canyon is a beautiful road featuring some of the most amazing views in East County. If you are not afraid of riding on dirt (it’s fine and not too technical for road bikes, but 25mm tires are recommended), you should try it. I saw only one person walking their dog on the entire ride up to Mesa Grande. It’s a great shortcut – takes a bit over an hour to go from Ramona to half-point of Mesa Grande. I got to the top a bit early so I rode East on Mesa Grande until I spotted a large group of descenders. It was first ride for Farkas with us in many months – he lost so much weight his old Descenders kit doesn’t fit anymore! We also had Eric Fischer, a friend of Rick’s, who is basically my neighbor, joining us as well. Plus all the regulars.
About 1 mile after I joined the group, there was a loud pop sound – Rob’s rear tire had a blow-out flat. Rob changed it pretty quickly, but the group already split up – some chose to carry on, perhaps realizing they may get caught on the East Grade climb anyways. Our group contained 9 riders – Jim, both Erics, Tony, Rob, Rick, Neil, Farkas and myself. Up ahead was another group of 9 – Hodges, Voris, Jeff & Eileen, Len, John, Sheehan, Bernie and Matt. We only saw some of them, half way up East Grade.
However, one unfortunate consequence of that quick stop is that we all quickly split up into smaller groups of 2-5 riders, and there were several riders who got phase-shifted and I never got a chance to ride with them, despite chasing them all day along identical route. At least I rode a mile or so with some them briefly, early on!
Jim attacked the opening few miles of East Grade at 400+ Watts, soon to be joined by Rick. They flew up East Grade in amazing time of 46 minutes and change. Neil tried to follow them too but quickly came to his senses and backed off. Both Eric Fischer and Eric R. went hard at the bottom too and had more than a minute on me – I eventually caught them half-way up and we worked together to the top – we could see Neil less than a minute ahead of us but we never caught him. At the top Eric F. took off on the downhill, perhaps trying to catch Neil, while I waited a bit for Eric R. and the two of us took it easy, all three of us finishing in 54-something.
We went to observatory at conversational pace – I was chatting with Jim, who was done with hard efforts for today, and Neil. We saw Bernie, Matt, Voris and Hodges going back down already. Jim and I rode/walked out bikes to the observatory to take some photos. When we got back to Mothers’, some riders already went down South grade, while others were contemplating going back East Grade and bypassing South grade.
I convinced Matt to do the full Dudley route – once again, I attended Matt’s descending clinic by descending on his wheel and learning from the master – both on South and East Grades. On the way down South Grade we saw many descenders already coming up – Voris and Hodges were already half way up (they had good 20-something minutes on us), as well as Jeff & Eileen and Rob and Tony. Matt and I rode up easy – it was getting hot. We were still somewhat surprised we weren’t catching Tony and Rob who started the climb maybe a minute ahead of us. Turned out Rob was flying – he had the fastest time up South Grade of all descenders, followed closely by Eileen and Jeff. We could see Tony up in the switchbacks but we weren’t catching him either, he was riding strong!
We regrouped at the top – Jeff and Eileen took off on East Grade descent a few minutes early, since they wanted to go slow – Rob was already descending too. Matt and I waited for Tony but he wanted to take a few more minutes recovering, so in the end we reluctantly decided to descend without him. The East Grade road surface is getting worse and worse so we took it easy. We caught Eileen and Jeff at the very bottom – perfect timing! – we slowed down just in time for giant wild turkey that was slowly walking across the road and eventually flew away. It would be a shame to crash into a turkey at the bottom of 11-mile descent! Rob was waiting at the bottom as well, taking photos. The five of us climbed Mesa Grande as a group, staying together pretty much to the top. Jeff and Matt took some strong pulls until I turned on Black Canyon – Matt set a KOM descending Mesa Grande, over Cyclocross Champion Tim Johnson. On the Black Canyon descent I was hoping to catch Hodges, not realizing he was good 20+ minutes ahead of me at that point. The descend on the dirt was a lot of fun, except for occasional washboard and many blind corners. Not for everyone, but we should make this an option for future descenders rides, for
adventurous types. I noticed several descenders rode *down* Black Canyon (as per strava) but nobody did it going up, at least not all the way to Mesa Grande – in my opinion climbing on dirt is always less technical and easier in many ways.
When I got back to the car in Ramona, the ride was 101 miles for me (a quarter of it was on dirt), with about 12K ft of climbing and many descenders scored ~80 miles with 10K ft of climbing. Hodges had the longest ride of 105 miles by riding home via Black Canyon to Ramona and 78.
You Should Have Come!