Over the last few years I picked up mountain biking. I used to go bike riding regularly years ago, but it was always road riding on bike paths along the beach or paseos, never any real off-road “mountain bike” riding. That is until a few years ago when I decided to pick up a decent full suspension mountain bike and got serious about finding some real trails to ride, not paved paseos, but real hills to climb and single lane dirt trails to ride down. Out in the wilderness away from the concrete jungle.
My Mountain Bike
At the time I thought that if I spend around $1,000 I would be able to get a pretty kick ass bike, but I was a fool to think that, you can’t get shit for that price on a new bike. Any decent full suspension bike that is ideal for single lane trails are made by Trek or Specialized and they start around $2,000 on the low-end. But even the low-end bikes are great. The mountain bike I finally decided to pick up was a Trek FuelEx 6 full suspension ride, the 2009 model. The higher end bikes can easily go $5,000 to $10,000 for some really sweet rides.
Even on the low-end, the Trek FuelEx 6 is a sweet mountain bike to ride!
This was the first bike I’ve ridden that used the clipless pedals, something that was new to me. I’m not sure why they are called clipless when they should be called clip in. This is when you have to wear special shoes that clip into the pedals on the bike, allowing you to pull up in addition to pushing when you pedal. This can be very helpful when riding uphill along with flat roads, plus it works more of your leg muscles. However it takes a little bit of time to get used to them and being able to pop out of them quickly. I fell down a handful of times when I could not detach the clips fast enough when I need to stop quickly.
Eventually I changed the pedals to Shimano dual platform mountain bike pedals, a hybrid of step platform and clipless pedal that provides more flexibility and allowing me to keep my feet free and ready to put down quickly and clipped in when needed. When I’m riding more advanced technical trails or new unknown trails that I’m not familiar with I find it better to not be clipped in, giving me more control and flexibility, but when I ride trails that I’m comfortable with I usually stay clipped in to power through the trails.
Mountain Biking Tapia Canyon
So now that I had decent bike, next I had to find some real trails. Living in the northern part of Los Angeles in Valencia, part of the Santa Clarita Valley, I’m fortunate to have discovered some decent mountain bike trails right in my backyard, literally! The one I ride all the time is Tapia Canyon, it’s very popular with local mountain bikers. While I drive over to the trail head, the peak is actually closer to my house and while there is a way to get to it from my home, it’s not as optimal for the full loop trail riding.
To get there simply take the 5 fwy north and take the first Castaic exit onto Parker Road. From the exit take a right, and another right and you can park at the Castaic Sports Complex and ride up the road or drive past it and follow the road until it ends, go right and then left onto Tapia Canyon. Drive up to the end of the paved road and park along the side by the oak tree. Then ride the dirt road all the way up. This map shows you where I park and the loop I make on my ride.
Depending on where you park, it’s about a five mile ride up on a fire road to the main peak, then from there you have a few single lane trails that you can take down. There’s Kona, Dog Tags, and G-Out with Carl’s toward the end of Kona and Dog Tags that parallels the Tapia Canyon fire road. There is one more trail from the top across from Kona but I don’t know what the trail name is, it does lead into the lower part of Kona.
Kona is a great beginner trail that I continue to go back to regularly, only because I can really power through and ride it fast and hard. It’s a lot of fun. Then Dog Tags is a little more intermediate with a couple of steeper hills and more cut backs. Next is G-Out which isn’t overly advanced but of the three it is the more technical one with a few spots that are a little trickier to ride and navigate, but nothing extremely challenging as long as your careful.
From the top going towards G-Out the fire road does go further up the mountain and I’m sure there are other trails to ride, I just haven’t ventured out there yet to discover them. I’ll have to go exploring that way.
Riding your mountain bike in the open hills while the sun is rising is good for your soul.
These days I try to ride a couple of times a week, at least once a week. It’s helped me get in better shape and lose weight, however more importantly is that it is very enjoyable. I usually ride first thing in the morning, often catching the sun rising on the climb up to the peak. While the ride up is a great workout, it is also very relaxing and meditative. I find it helps clear my mind and when I get to the top I just soak in the beautiful vast views of the surrounding mountains and valleys while the sun is rising. It’s like a deep breath of fresh air for the mind and soul.
Recording My Rides
On Christmas of 2010 my amazing wife Jenny got me a ContourHD 1080p Camera as a gift. An awesome little high-definition video camera for recording outdoor activities. I picked up and installed various mounts so I can mount the camera on my helmet and bike for different angles. Since then I’ve been recording my rides regularly and slowly getting better with having the video be more stable. The last few videos I made have turned out fairly well, you can see my videos on my YouTube Mountain Biking Playlist.
Video: Tapia Sunrise
A short video as I ride up the final hill to the peak of Tapia Canyon just as the sun is coming up, along with a 360° degree panorama view from the top.
Video: Mountain Biking Kona
Here is my most recent one of Kona, the camera was facing back so you get a rear view of the trail riding away.
Video: Mountain Biking G-Out
Then this one of G-Out is the first one I’ve made using two videos to create a picture in picture effect. I recorded them on different days, but on the same trail with the camera in different positions but they line up fairly well. First showing the trail, second showing me!
Video: Mountain Biking Pirates & Ferns at Snow Summit
This past summer I took my bike up to Big Bear while Jenny was doing a 30k trail run. At Snow Summit they have the main ski lift/sky chair running to the peak in the summer and you can bring your bike along and ride down. This video shows one of the trails there, loads of fun!
On The Lookout
Now I’m always on the lookout for new places to ride, especially anything similar to Tapia with a good fire road ride up and single lane trails coming down. So far I’ve ridden at Malibu Creek and Snow Summit, but Tapia Canyon is where I go regularly. However if you know of any good places to ride please feel free to share some info about them in the comments below. Also if you ride and would like to ride with me, simply hit me up and we’ll see if we can hook up and ride together.
In the mean time, here’s to great and safe riding!
Mountain Biking Resources
- Google Map of Tapia Canyon to Kona Trail Loop and Dog Tags Loop
- My Mountain Bike Videos on YouTube
- My Mountain Biking Photos on Flickr
- Trek Bikes, current FuelEx 6 model
- Specialized Bikes
- Shimano Cycling
- ContourHD 1080p Camera on Amazon
- Snow Summit Summer Mountain Biking
- Mountain Biking on Wikipedia
Do you mountain bike? Got any good stories or tips? Please feel free to share your thoughts below and thanks for reading!