A River Runs Through It: A Wet, Wet Galbraith Keeps Its Flow (Bellingham, WA)

In the Northwest’s rainier months (that is, about eight months out of the year), parts of the Galbraith trail system can become a virtual water world… but don’t worry; for the most part, the riding’s just fine.

Just because some of the trails turn into streams (free mud baths for everyone!) doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be had in the foothills of Bellingham, Washington. I took this picture a couple of months ago of young Cory riding his bike down a gushing stream alongside the fire road climb up Galbraith Rd.

For some reason, Cory thought he could roll the steep bank down into the rocky stream. (Somebody get that boy a physics teacher, stat!)

For those who haven’t visited Galbraith in a while, there are new and improved lines that just might surprise. Here, Brian drops into Unemployment Line, a wide, bermy, machine-built trail:

No doubt you’ll run into someone you know–or perhaps meet some friendly strangers on the trail, like Robin and Nick.

While building improvements continue at Galbraith, some trails never seem to change; Evolution, the classic descent from atop the radio tower, is as impressive as ever, with rampwork features that emerge from the forest like an Ewok village.

Of course, some trails are better than others in the moister months. You’ll want to avoid trails that tend to flood when its wet, like the  Whoopsie Woodle XC trail, which understandably loses its flow when it happens to be several inches underwater. (And riding in those conditions can’t be good for the trail–I certainly won’t be riding that one anytime soon).

Galbraith Directions and Route Finding

A convenient place to park when you’re riding the trails on the south side is in the Upper Lake Padden parking lot just across from Galbraith. Directions: From northbound I-5, take the North Lake Samish exit (#246) and turn left onto Samish Way. Continue approximately 100 feet past the Samish Way/Galbraith Lane intersection and park in the lot on the left. From the lot, it’s a nice spin across the street and up Galbraith Lane to connect with the fire road/main access to the trails.

Be sure to look for the bike-oriented scenery and architecture along the way, like the grand “door to nowhere” that features fine chainring and crankarm detailing.

You’ll appreciate the trailhead map provided along the way (on Road 2000/Tower Rd.) There are also maps available for download online–or buy one in Bellingham to support a local bike shop). Here’s one that highlights a few of the trails:

When route finding at Galbraith, there are the convenient rock landmarks, painted blue, red and yellow, respectively, to remind you to “duh, turn here” when your body and brain are overtired. Ride to the right of the blue rock to access Road 3000 and most of the south side trails.

Further on, pass to the right of the red rock to access Unemployment Line (or go left to take Mullet into Cheech and Chong’s and Safety Break for a wild ride).

If you want to access Evolution, stay on Road 3000 (passing by Unemployment Line) until you turn left at the yellow rock and head up the fireroad, staying left until you hit the radio tower and then Evolution.

The trail signage is great at Galby–not only for route finding, but also for making bikers feel important. That’s right; bikes may be banned on singletrack in other uncivilized places, but in Galbraith, it’s horses and hikers who need not apply:

If you arrive in Galbraith from out of town and find yourself a little unprepared, just thank the trail gnomes for their foresight. The trail-side tool shop is just what any unprepared rider needs.

Here’s what those ladders and jumps on Mullet, Cheech and Chong’s and all the other fun trails look like before they’re born–just a stockpile of wood in a builder’s eye:

Rain or shine, if you’ve got the day off, it’s a clear sign that you should be heading to Galbraith.

See you up there!

Angela Sucich, freelance writer


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GoPro Fun at Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park

Last January my friend Brian and I went in together on a GoPro video camera, which we picked up at the Sturdy Bitches’ silent auction/fundraiser (with 50% proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Fund). Of course we decided that Duthie Hill would be a great place to test it out.

Here’s a sampling of some of the easier ladders and features at Duthie Hill in Issaquah. Great skill building/XC fun. (Don’t miss the 16-year old kid featured at the end…and what’s that on his friend’s leg?)

Here are a few picture outtakes:

Wow–what’s wrong with that last picture? Make sure to check out the video to see if he lands it.

See you on the trail.

Angela Sucich, freelance writer


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They Don’t Have This Ride at Disney World: Mountain Biking Gets Big in Ocala, Florida

They don’t have this ride at Disney World.

Does this look like Florida to you? In a state where the largest “mountain” tops out at 344 feet, mountain bikers looking for their fix have to get creative. Not to worry; there’s big quarry riding at the Santos and Vortex Area Trails in Ocala, Florida, just northwest of Orlando.

Proving that Florida fun does not require beach or theme park, riders wend their way through subtropical and scrub forest, darting around oak and pine trees, ducking under Spanish moss and charging through thick-fingered palm fronds. Part of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, these off-road trails are maintained by the Ocala Mountain Bike Association (OMBA) and include beginner, intermediate and expert routes. For the big air-inclined, there are dirt jumps and freeride features in the spectator-friendly Vortex area.

Distance: 30+ miles, depending on how you link trails together. (The entire Cross Florida Greenway Santos Trail System spans more than 115 miles.)

Elevation: ~100’ (seriously; it’s Florida.)

Terrain: hard-pack dirt and clay, grippy rocks (it’s a quarry), soft dirt, some sugar sand

Notables: After the freeride area was completed in 2006, the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) gave the Cross Florida Greenway Santos Trail System its premiere “Epic Ride” designation. My ride last Sunday gave me a glimpse of how it earned that award.

Jimmy Stewart, Craig Sucich and Glen Johnson at Santos trailhead.
The Ride: The pedaling began last Sunday at 10 a.m. in balmy, 70-degree weather—not bad for the middle of March. Beginning at the Santos Trailhead, we warmed up along the low-grade Marshmallow and Canopy trails en route to the Vortex section. There, we started our workout on the 2.2-mile IMBA Red/Vortex Loop trail, a roller coaster of a ride with short, steep power climbs and quick descents. The trail traversed a limestone ridge circling the old quarry, now filled with dirt jumps, pump track and drops both big and small.

Progressive jump lines, from table tops to kickers and gaps.

Jump lines and wall ride in the old limestone quarry

Go big or go home? After scoping out the big drop to the left, going home sounds good to the rider above.

Ladder drops hidden in the forest dump riders into the quarry.

Big air opportunities are not the only draw to the Vortex area. The IMBA Red XC loop, listed as an expert trail, boasts some technical challenges: rock and boulder riding, sharp corners, small drops and ladders. And given the quick elevation changes, this loop makes for great interval training if you put in the lap time.

Glen gets a ladder assist to a rock drop.

Craig takes the same line on the rock.

Glen dropping in.

Long ladder rides get riders used to elevated structures.

Leaving the Vortex, we took the Twister trail back to hit the Santos area. Twister is listed as a “more difficult” / intermediate trail on the map, and at first I thought this to be misleading. Granted, there were plenty of whipping turns (hence the name) to practice cornering, but once I picked up speed I understood. Riders in the Pacific Northwest know what it’s like to try cornering on slick, off-camber roots. Well, the bane of southern riders must be the thick, loose layer of oak leaves, which cause your bike to “float,” or slide out when you’re trying to hold your line in the turn. The remedy: aim for any patch of dirt to find traction.

Who knew that leaves were skill-building? Get used to riding terrain that moves.

All the trails are all well-marked, thanks to OMBA. There’s also a handy map you can download from the OMBA website (www.omba.org) to keep your bearings.

Santos and Vortex trails

Trailhead signs and gateway features remind riders to ride with caution.

As a rider who has little to no sense of direction, I always appreciate a map and good signage. I also value OMBA’s cautionary signs, such as the one above. Gateway features and explicit messaging are essential when your trail system is designed with progressive skill development in mind. Of course, if you’re visiting from out of town, you may have to put the Santos/Vortex XC technical difficulty scale in context. (Trails marked in red on the OMBA map are listed as black diamond or double-black diamond level; blue are intermediate; yellow are easy). These technical distinctions are consistent across the trail system and coherent taken together—just don’t expect the Santos’ “expert” XC level to match up with Whistler’s. This is Florida, after all.

The “red” trails, such as the Vortex Loop/IMBA Red, John Brown, Rattlesnake Ridge and Magic Mountain, are challenging for their sudden, steep climbs, their variable terrain (including rock gardens) and some advanced features.  Intermediate trails at Santos, on the other hand, tend to be long, flowing, flat singletrack with the occasional rock, root or sharp turn to keep you on guard.

Craig sticks the landing.

Jimmy gets steep on a rock-and-root descent.

Jungle riding, with hanging vines and huge fronds all around.

Final push to the top at the end of the John Brown trail.

Coasting down Magic Mountain.

During my visit to Florida, I was thrilled to see how the Cross Florida Greenway Santos Trail System is helping build up the mountain biking community in the ostensibly mountain-deficient State. I saw many young kids—the next generation of riders—at both the Santos and Vortex trailheads. Some looked like they were getting their tires dirty for the first time; others were already schooling older riders on the pump track and dirt jumps.

A young BMXer takes his bike out for a run.

A great place to take the kids.

If you have plans to visit Florida, you just might want to think about spurning the sunny coast and heading inland. If you do, there are a couple of bike shops near Santos that offer rentals:

Santos Bike Shop
8900 S.US Hwy 441
Ocala, FL 34480
(352) 307-BIKE

Greenway Bicycles
3085 SE 80th St # 19
Ocala, FL 34480-7324
(352) 351-3475

Directions to Santos Trailhead (3080 SE 80th St, Ocala FL 34480): Ocala is just under an hour and a half drive northwest of Orlando. From Orlando, take the Florida Turnpike/Ronald Reagan Turnpike north, merging onto I-75 N. Take exit 341 (Marion County 484) toward Belleview/Dunnellon. Turn right at County Hwy 484. Turn left at SW 16th Ave. and then turn right at SW 107th Pl. Turn left at County Road 475/S Magnolia Ave. Turn right at SE 80th St. and follow to the Santos trailhead parking lot. There is paved parking, picnic areas, restrooms and camping nearby.

Directions to Vortex Trailhead (9150 SE 25th Ave, Ocala FL 34480): From Country Road 475/S Magnolia Ave, turn right at SE 95th St/Co Rd 467 and then right again at SE 25th Ave.

Santos Bike Shop

See you on the trail!

Angela Sucich, freelance writer


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Ladies Have Their Night Out at the W.O.W. Event (Seattle, WA)

“Ladies Night” typically means that women drink free—and so drink free they did at the third annual Women on Wheels, a women-only cycling extravaganza held yesterday at Gregg’s Cycle in the Green Lake neighborhood. But that’s not all they did…

Billed as Women on Wheels: A Ladies Night Out, the free event drew over 300 of the fairer sex for an evening dedicated to women and cycling. It featured guest speakers in the industry, informational clinics, live music, refreshments (including a bar tended by Gregg’s employees) and—perhaps embracing the gender stereotype with a sense of irony—a cycling fashion show.

The fashion show helped kick off the event by turning the spotlight on the latest in women’s cycling clothing. The models, who clearly did not take themselves too seriously, sported apparel by Fox, Troy Lee Designs, 661, 510 shoes, among other labels.

While waiting for the speakers to take the stage, event-goers mingled throughout the store, dipping into appetizers, listening to the live band and sampling treats provided by local chocolatier, Theo Chocolate.

The first featured speaker of the evening was Kat Sweet, Youth Program Coordinator at Cascade Bicycle Club and Director for Cascade’s Trips for Kids Seattle. An Endless Biking-trained skills coach for the local Dirt Series, Sweet herself rides for the Gregg’s-sponsored Dirt Corp Team.

Sweet’s talk was on overcoming fear—an emotion likely experienced by a majority of the audience as they watched a video of Sweet launching gap jumps on advanced lines at Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park in Issaquah, Wash.

During her presentation, Sweet discussed her approach to coaching women-specific mountain bike courses and also kids’ bike camps, like the upcoming Learn to Ride bike camp at the Seattle Bike Expo (March 12 & 13). She offered tips for silencing the negative thoughts that can arise when confronting a new challenge on the trail. Her techniques include drowning out negative thoughts with positive, mind-focusing mantras and also relying on memorable visual/verbal/ergonomic concepts to gain confidence and focus. A favorite was the reminder to keep your arms in “chicken wing” position to maintain control of the front end of the bike.

The keynote speaker of the evening was Emily Edison, owner and founder of Momentum Nutrition and Fitness in Seattle, and Sports Dietitian for the University of Washington Husky Athletic Department.

The title of Edison’s presentation was “From Tricycling to Triathlons… Performance Nutrition from the Inside Out.” Her talk focused on the concept of “intuitive eating” and how it ties to sport nutrition. Arguing from the premise that “You are the expert of your own body,” Edison explained that giving yourself the unconditional freedom to eat, and tuning in to figure out what your body is truly asking for in a given moment, can provide a good foundation for health in general, and an athlete’s health in particular.

A significant portion of Edison’s talk concerned the philosophy behind eating for performance, specifically the benefit of taking an “eating from the inside out” (listen-to-your-body) approach as opposed to maintaining the “fueling” (body-as-vehicle) mentality to which athletes are sometimes prone. She also went into detail about the effect of specific foods on the body. For instance, I was surprised to learn that athletes should avoid eating nuts, which slow digestion, immediately before or after a workout. (Don’t worry; it’s okay to eat them at any other time.)

In between the educational and entertaining presentations by the featured speakers, event-goers also had the opportunity to talk with representatives from Cycle the WAVE (Women Against Violence Everywhere), Bike MS, Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, Cascade Bicycle Club, Bicycle Alliance, Team Dirt Corp and Trek Travel.

The event was a great place to catch up with long-lost friends, like my friend Jen Kniss, who I hadn’t seen in nine years:

Sturdy Bitch Racing teammates, Kathy Malvern and Katie Jackson, attended the W.O.W. Event:

Topping off the evening was a well-orchestrated raffle. Katie Jackson was one of the many big winners. Check her out on the red carpet with her Basil Bag (a prolific raffle item that night), among other prizes.

If you missed the party this time around, don’t worry; there are plans for another one next year. Of course, you don’t have to wait to get involved in the many cycling organizations and activities promoted at the event. Just keep checking the community calendars, visiting the local nonprofits’ websites for information on rides and events, and looking around the bike paths and trails for women on wheels. Because these ladies like to get out and have a good time.

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The End in Sight: Grand Ridge To Duthie, Coming Soon (Issaquah, WA)

That’s right. Soon there will be mud-free mountain biking all the way from Grand Ridge to Duthie Hill. Well, maybe not mud-free, but definitely less mud. The long-awaited Grand Ridge bridge-over-muddy water  is nearing completion, courtesy of the Washington Trails Association.

The bridgework across the notoriously muddy bog just off the Issaquah-Fall City Road now spans about 30-40 yards. With about the same amount left to go, it won’t be long before XC riders have no excuse not to throw in a skills session at Duthie in between spins up the Ridge (and vice versa, freeriders).

Goodbye, mud. We won’t miss you…

For trail beta on Grand Ridge, read my previous posts, Meet Me on the Climb: Winter Riding at Grand Ridge and Slip-Sliding Down Grand Ridge. For directions to the Grand Ridge trailhead, see below.

Sunset Exit Directions: (If you want a flat spin warm-up before you climb the ridge, park here.) From Seattle, take I-90 to the Sunset exit (exit 18) towards downtown Issaquah. Just as you reach the bottom of the ramp on East Sunset Way turn left into the dirt parking lot. On your bike, head north over I-90 along the paved bike trail. The trail turns into a railroad grade trail that runs along the north side of the highway. After about 5 minutes of spinning you’ll see a singletrack trail with a trail sign on the left. This is NOT the preferred route, but if you want to take it, it will eventually connect with the main trail. The normal route (which is better maintained) is another few minutes’ spin further on. You’ll see the Grand Ridge trail switchbacking up on your left. (If you reach the High Point parking lot at the end of the railroad grade, you’ve gone too far.)

High Point Exit Directions: (If you want to access the climb ASAP, park here.) From Seattle, take I-90 to the High Point exit (exit 20) and turn left under the freeway to park in the small lot on the north side, or turn right to park on the road on the south side along with all the Tiger Mountain hikers. On your bike, ride through the north side lot and through the gate to access the railroad grade trail. After a short spin, start looking for the first obvious singletrack trail on the right that turns upwards. Welcome to Grand Ridge.

Of course, you can always start at Duthie Hill (27101 SE Duthie Hill Road, Issaquah, WA 98029).

See you on the trail!

Angela Sucich, Freelance Writer


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Breasts, Bikes, Beer and Bitches: A Breast Cancer Fund Auction

Mountain bikers sure know how to have a good time—especially when it’s for a good cause. Last Thursday the Sturdy Bitch Racing team* held a silent auction at Seattle’s St. Andrew’s Bar & Grill and, with the help of generous donors and bidders, raised over $ 2,700  to benefit the Breast Cancer Fund.  

The event drew quite a crowd of supporters, from the usual suspects in the bike scene to the merely bike-curious. A portion of the funds raised from the auction will also help defer the cost of team race kits, entry fees and travel expenses for the 2011 season. 

While there was no shortage of bike and sports gear to bid on—a Diamondback Sortie frame, a snowboard, bike bags, jerseys, shorts, helmets and more—there were also fun services donated. A limo-supported wine tour. A two-day Harley rental. A cabin weekend in Leavenworth. Ah, such class.

For the exercise-inclined, there were entry tickets for endurance events. Did those bidders really know what they were doing when they signed up for the Group Health Seattle To Portland (STP) Classic, the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon or the Mudslinger Events High Cascade 100 mountain bike race in Bend? Or did they have just one beer to many? Perhaps we’ll never know.

For the exercise-disinclined, there were baskets of wine and liquor, and even a private party at the Baltic Room for you and 24 friends.

Yes, there was something for everyone. As people knocked back a cold pint or two (or three or four), they listened to the happy warblings of emcee Jon Kennedy of Diamondback Bikes. Jon kept the magic alive from the 7:30 start time to way-past bedtime, making sure to spread the wealth around by handing out raffle prizes both big and small.

Of course there was the standard raffle fare—gloves, water bottles, T-shirts and other accessory bling—plus big-ticket items like a cruiser bike and patio cooler.

Thanks again to our sponsors for 2011:  Sturdy Bitch, Diamondback Bikes, Georgetown Brewery, MDJ Racing (aka Matt Jackson) and Big Tree Bikes. And thanks to all the companies who donated to the cause.

Visit our website, SturdyBitchRacing, to see the list of generous sponsors and supporters.

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, contact the Sturdy Bitches at seattlebikegurl@gmail (dot) com.

See you on the trail (or at the bar)!

Angela Sucich, freelance writer


*Full disclosure: the Sturdy Bitches are my Bitches. I race for this bike team, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

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Fun was in the Cards at Stinky Spoke (Woodinville, WA)

Last Saturday promised rain, but the only thing unleashed that morning was a massive crowd of dirt-loving cyclists, hailing their friendly fury down on the trails and streets of Woodinville. All manner of mountain bike–from XC to big rig, plus the occasional ‘cross bike–were in attendance at Red Hook Brewery for the start of the Stinky Weather Poker Run. With two route options, riders gamboled and gambled their way along 16- and 18.5-mile loops, gathering playing cards at key checkpoints for a chance to win prizes, depending on the luck of their draw and the strength of their hand.

The course was almost all dirt trail, with flowy singletrack, thick gravel stretches, some asphalt and a few noteworthy hills that had riders pedaling squares or even pushing their bikes in spots. The scenery was also worthy of mention–not just the horses and cows doing double-takes at the train of riders passing through their backyard–but also the riders themselves. Some donned dress shirts, jackets and ties as if headed to corporate jobs on the East Side. Others wore underwear on their heads in “Old School”-style. Fortunately, I didn’t snap that photo.

Riders were well-hydrated and well-fed, with aide stations all along the way. One of the tents was set up beside Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center, which received proceeds from the event. The organization provides equine-assisted therapies for children and adults with disabilities.

The rain miraculously held off until after the ride was over. By then, riders had made themselves comfortable in the huge tent set up on the Red Hook property. Live music, food, (beer of course) and good company awaited.

It was great time to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. Randy clearly had a great time…

…Robert was just as pleased, if a bit more reserved…

…and my teammates, the Sturdy Bitches, shut the place down.

Here are directions from the Stinky Spoke website for those who might want to ride the course on their own:

From Redhook, south on the Sammamish River Trail, left up the Powerline Trail, over the hill on into Farrel McWhirter Park, out the other side and then EITHER head into the Tuscany Trails then Bear Creek road north OR go into the Redmond Watershed and then the connector trails from Trilogy.  No matter what route you take, you end up on the Tolt Pipeline Trail.  Take that back west to Redhook.

See you on the trail!

Angela Sucich, writer


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