Working the New Line at Tokul East (Fall City, WA)


Grunt work

Trails don’t make themselves—that’s the job of the forest gnomes. And the gnomes were out in droves today at Tokul East (despite the concurrent Seahawks game). We discovered them digging in the dirt, sawing logs, building berms and working their magic to make the local riding routes in Seattle’s big backyard even better.

Forest gnomes

Members of Evergreen (Mountain Bike Alliance) and local riders spent the day building a new line to connect Last Frontier with Flowtron. We haven’t ridden it yet, but it should be good to go by the time of this post, thanks to the expert engineering and grunt work of such fellows as:

Jon Kennedy (...or forest creature?)


Scott Smith (or Texas Chainsaw Massacre stunt double?)

…plus numerous amazing others. Thanks to all who helped build the new line—it gives us something to look forward to next time we’re in this neck of the woods. Currently, the other trails along the hillside are in good shape despite the recent rain and snow melt.

Ady and Elie (heart) Tokul East

Ady blur (slow down, girl!)

For directions and trail beta, see my earlier post, It’s East vs. West: A Mountain Bike Showdown at Tokul Creek.

See you on the trail!

Angela Sucich, writer

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Skill Building on a Rainy Day in Paradise Valley (Woodinville, WA)

It was raining, but we had a plan: wet-root riding and puddle play on the twisting trails at Paradise Valley Conservation Area. There’s nothing too crazy out there—no real climbs, no big drops, no fast descents to coat a rider in mud. But there is fun, serpentine singletrack with plenty of small logs and obstacles to keep hands, brain and body at work and engaged.

After fording the river that the Mainline Trail had become, my friend Brian and I began cornering practice in the “Mountain Bike Park” area on two well-designed loop trails,  followed with wet-root riding on the frolicking Two Trees Trail. Rampwork welcomed us on the scenic Cedar Run, and there was a bit of everything on Lloyd’s Trail: some flow, a few rooty corners, small obstacles, even a teeter. There were a couple of down trees on the “Detour” loop connected to Lloyd’s Trail, but it was worth riding anyway. (A hike-a-bike is just a reminder that you’re really riding.)

Brian on Lloyd’s Detour:

Can’t ride this one:

If it had been a nice day today—sunshine, birds singing—we could have had a picnic in “The Clearing”, an area not too far from the parking lot. Looks like a great place to take the kids after a spin around the park.

For directions here and further trail beta, see my earlier post, Singlespeed Paradise in Woodinville, WA.

See you on the trail!

Angela Sucich, writer

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Nearly Mud-Free Riding at Black Diamond, WA

This Sunday I was poised to join a group of friends for a mountain bike ride at Grand Ridge in Issaquah. But the thought of spinning my wheels in traction-less mud (like a Hanna-Barbara cartoon character running in place to the sound of a bongo drum-roll) did not  particularly excite me.

As you can see from my previous post on Grand Ridge, the trail still turns to quicksand when it rains, despite the Herculean (or Sisyphean) efforts of persevering WTA trail workers.

However, one area that drains remarkably well is Black Diamond, a nebulous system of trails located just south of Auburn. The trails maintained on the property owned by the Real Life Church provide an excellent stomping ground for XC riders and dirt jumpers alike.

Black Diamond continues to improve as a local riding destination, with visible signage, good drainage and new trails designed for more flow.

Tribulation Trail, for example, is a fun little singletrack hacked out about a year ago, which has become quite flowy under the impact of dedicated hands and able wheels .

With its low, wide (1-2 foot) bridges, it’s also a great place for new riders who want an introduction to rampwork.

Most bridges are low, roll-able and have ride-arounds, and all maintain traction well when wet (or when covered in snow).

If you’re looking for interval training, fun flow, big jumps at the Summit Ridge Freeride Park (if you want them) or practice dodging trees, you can find all of that here. For directions to and trail beta on Black Diamond, check out my earlier post, Diamonds in the Rough Get Smoother Every Day.

See you on the trail!

Angela Sucich, writer

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Meet Me on the Climb: Winter Riding at Grand Ridge (Issaquah, WA)

There’s something lush about Issaquah’s Grand Ridge, even in the summer when the trail is dry. And in the winter, when the singletrack up the ridge and down through the creek bed turns to peanut-butter mud, it’s just as green and fern-tastic, a Jurassic Park in your backyard.

Yesterday I rode out with my friend Brian in the spitting rain from the Sunset exit parking lot (see my earlier blog post, Slip-Sliding Down Grand Ridge, for directions and trail beta). We thought we’d be the only ones out there, but soon we met up with Scott Kennard, whose unfaltering pace kept us motivated the six miles up and down the summit (and back). You never know what new friends you’ll meet on the trail.

Indeed, we ran into other riders at the Canyon Creek bridge (a HUGE shout out to the Washington Trails Association for the amazing bridge building and trail maintenance work they continue to do on this and other trails).

I admit that conditions at Grand Ridge can be challenging this time of year… Okay, “lush” is just another word for “wet”, but wet isn’t always bad. Sometimes it’s beautiful:

Make sure to get some climbing in during the winter season. Grand Ridge is a perfect choice for that–and it’s right in your Big Backyard.

See you on the trail!

Angela Sucich

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Snow Patrol at Tokul West (Fall City, WA)

Crunchy snow = crazy good traction. Who knew?

And it’s not ugly, either…I guess winter’s not so bad.

On Sunday, a group of us intrepid riders scoffed at the idea of heading to the hills with skis or snowboards. Instead, we donned hand and foot warmers and jumped aboard our two-wheeled snow machines, pedaling off into the Great White Northwest. Check out a few pics below.

(For directions and ride beta for the Tokul Creek area, read my previous blog post, It’s East vs. West: A Mountain Bike Showdown at Tokul Creek.)

Susan flows through the snow-dusted forest:

Carolyn makes it look easy on Full Bench:

The gang’s all here:

Susan on the Bra Trail (I guess trees need our support…):

See you next time it snows!


Angela Sucich

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Launching Off Lava Rock at the High Cascades 100 (National Ultra Endurance Series) in Bend, OR

What do you get when you add 100 miles (80% singletrack), 11,000 feet of climbing and screaming descents on jagged lava rock & soft sand? Nothing that my carbon Diamondback Axis couldn’t handle.

Distance100 miles. Seriously.

Elevation Gain: 11,000’+

The Race: Last weekend Bend, Oregon, played host to the second annual High Cascades 100 mountain bike race. What I recall from last year’s event is a blur of  sand—thick, soft, unrideable sand. This year, the forecast was sand with a layer of smoke from nearby wild fires, which firefighters were working hard to contain. The good news was that this time around, the sand turned out to be manageable. The course was better designed (very little course overlap), the number of racers had more than doubled and high-talent pros were in attendance, no doubt because the event was added to the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series for 2010. It’s sure to be even bigger in 2011.

The Course:

It was “dark-thirty” (5:30am) when we rolled out from Wanoga Sno-Park in a peloton for the neutral start, and some people barely seemed awake. The warm-up section on the road was a blessing, and it helped us get primed and ready for the sweet singletrack we were promised. We should have held our breath for a bit longer: first we were greeted with dusty ATV trails—with the kind of dust that hangs in the air like fog—but all was soon forgiven when we hit Metolius and Lava-Edison trails.

Think sandy hardpack with exclamations of lava rock to power up and drop down. Think long, flow-y and relatively smooth singletrack descents—the perfect conditions for me to sit down on my hardtail and power it out in the big ring. And I can’t remember when I had so much fun cornering. Thank you, trail designers.

Once back to Wanoga, the course moved into the second lap (aka “The Big Epic Lap”). I seem to recall having fun at some point, perhaps around Upper Whoops and Skyliner Trail. But any fun was deeply overshadowed by the heat of the day and the pain of the sandy, relentless climbs. I had been in a solid 3rd place for the first 60+ miles of the race (it’s no surprise that the more technical parts of the course—my strong suit–were in the top half), but by the time I hit the aide station at mile 68 I was pretty cooked. For the next last 40 miles I tried to put mind over matter as I forced my legs to turn the cranks. The final loop was a proportionally short 13 mile loop down Tiddlywinks and up Funner, to finish in Wanoga Sno-Park. I ended up finishing 5th out of the pro women field, which had a strong pool of talent, including first- and second-place finishers, Sue Butler and Cheryl Sornson. Cary Smith and Chris Sheppard took the top places in the men’s pro field.

Although it would have been nice to reprise my victory from 2009, I was quite pleased with my finish, considering my limited training time this season and my fast pace during the first 60 miles. My Diamondback Axis hardtail did everything I asked of it and  more. I finished unscathed—with no crashes and no lacerations from the threatening volcanic rock—even though I pushed my safety limits on the descents and my energy reserves on the climbs. And I left it all out there on the course, which is the way it should be.

The highlights:

Less sand. Mike Ripley informed me that the reason for the awful conditions last year had to do an endurance equestrian race held in the same area just a week before the HC 100 mountain bike race. This year: no horse race and less sand. And happier mountain bikers.

Epic views. The 40+-mile loop we took around Mount Bachelor cut through pristine wilderness, with great photo ops for people who didn’t care that this was a race. The rest of us just took mental pictures.

Awesome race organizers. Mike Ripley and his Mudslinger Events team know how to throw a party. The course was well marked (I only missed a couple of turns and realized the mistake soon after), the aide stations were well stocked and everyone was friendly.

Ultra-friendly racers. Maybe there’s something about Bend—or about Mudslinger Events races—but people could learn a thing or two about racer etiquette from these guys. Thanks for being so nice, people.

The lowlights:

Uh, the sand. Yes, there was less soft sand this time around, but the soft sand that remained still sucked. Of course, we were riding in central Oregon in August. What else would you expect?

Grouse attacks. Much had been made (by the race organizer and certain media officials) of a single “attack”-grouse living on and policing one section of the course (dubbed “Foul Hen”). I did see the grouse—firmly holding its ground and giving me the stink eye as I turned a switchback a mere foot in front of it—but I witnessed no attack. I expected more out of you, little grouse.

I had a great time at a great event. Next time you are in Bend, don’t miss out on riding some of these trails. And if you hit them during a season when it’s less dry and sandy, you’ll have even more fun.

See you on the trails! And check out other exciting news and reports on the Diamondback HDXC Team blog.

Angela Sucich, Writer

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Coming in Hot at the Gear Jammer Mountain Bike Race (Squamish, BC)

Part of the 2010 “Hell of a Series” that includes the popular Test of Metal event, the Gear Jammer is a 52K (32-mile) point-to-point race that takes riders up and full-tilt down some of the premier XC singletrack in Squamish (which already happens to be one of the greatest areas to ride in the Pacific Northwest).

Here’s what it felt like.

The Ride

It was HOT.

It was rather late in the morning (11 am) when the huge peloton of mountain bikers rolled out from the start at Alice Lake Provincial Park. That meant the summer sun was high and blazing long before the leaders of the 322-rider convoy reached the finish line hours later at Squamish’s Rose Park. It was the kind of hot day where strangers at aid stations instinctively poured cold water down the back of random riders’ necks as they rolled by. And I happened to be one of those lucky riders. (Thank you.)

As my body remembers it, the trails were speed-bump, spine-jarring rough—and dry as any Sunday in a Midwestern town. The bumpy, technical terrain gave a certain advantage to full suspension bikes (the easy majority in the field), but my nimble Axis was more than able to rally down and get up and over all the gnarly roots, rocks, slickrock and bridges comprising the course.

I have to say, Gear Jammer is a good name for this race. The boulder-strewn, technical XC course was certainly hard on gear. It punched holes in tires, broke chains and roughed up more than a few riders.  I was lucky to get away with just dropping my chain (multiple times) and getting my fair share of chain suck. At least the worst of it didn’t plague me until the final miles of the race.

I still came in a solid 12th out of approximately 60 women, finishing near the top third of all riders in a strong field of mainly Squamish, Whistler and North Shore talent. Brandi Heisterma of Brackendale (District of Squamish) finished first among the women, and it was a rider from Washington State—Logan Wetzel of Bellingham—who took top place in the men’s elite.


There were so many trails that the well-marked course incorporated, most of them remain a blur in my memory. But some of the more memorable (and memorably-named) ones were Tracks from Hell, Recycle and Psuedo Tsuga. These were the same amazing trails that I had ridden just a few weeks before on Day 6 of the BC Bike Race 8-day stage race. In fact, the thrills of Squamish Day 6 were the determining factor in me signing up for the Gear Jammer. Once bitten…so the saying goes. I wasn’t about to pass up another chance to rally down these fine trails.

Here’s one favorite that you won’t want to miss: the Powerhouse Plunge, a technical XC downhill chock-full of boulders and roots that require non-stop, split-second decision-making. Riding trails like this one will make you a better, faster, stronger rider. I loved every second.

Next stop: Bend, Oregon.

See you on the trails!

Angela Sucich


Posted in Biking, British Columbia, Racing/Competition, Squamish, BC | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment