Over the Bars Mountain Bike Club

OTB Epic Chilao 2008

By  Steve Messer

This was the 15th year we've done the Epic Chilao ride, from the city up to Chilao Campground and back down. This year's route we took the Mount Lowe Fire Road up to Valley Forge, the Redbox Fireroad up to Redbox, the Strawberry Peak trail to Wikiup, a few miles of pavement to Alder Creek, then the Alder creek trail and fire road up to Chilao. This route gives us about 7800' of climbing and about 5000' of descent.

The return route was down the Silver Moccasin, then pavement to Eaton Saddle, Upper and Middle Merrill, then Sunset Ridge.

As usual, we had an assortment of riders... about 18 doing the entire ride up, a few riding up to Redbox then back down, and of course, Garo who at 72 years old rode the whole climb up then rode back down the same day. Damn 70-year olds...too much time and energy on their hands! :lol: Shawn had flown in from Prescott Az (in his own plane), and Ed had driven down from Sacramento just for the annual campout. This one brings us together every year.

I spent the days before replacing my extremely worn drivetrain. New drivetrain, new bottom bracket, new WTB Devo saddle, and the old Edison was running smooth as butta... Then working on the brake I noticed a drop of fluid on the caliper. A spongy squeeze later and there was more. So I ended up doing the day one ride with only a front brake. The rear brake was gone, and the fluid had drained by ride morning.

The climb up Mt Lowe was fairly uneventful. Martino and Tom had left 45 minutes earlier, thinking they'd be slower, and wanted to get a head start. We never saw them again until camp. They had their own adventure with a couple of crashes and run-ins with Yucca.

Valley forge was really fun. Six of us opted to do the extra credit, while the others headed down the road to Redbox. Valley Forge is always like skating on layers of leaves in places, and that was pretty interesting with just a front brake. I washed out the front wheel, went OTB, but landed on my feet running down the hillside about 25 feet. I got lucky on that one.

Valley Forge:

Log Ride on VF:

We climbed out through Valley Forge campground on to the fire road. It's a 3.5 mile climb out, and doesn't get steep until the last mile. We learned our lesson in past years that climbing the Gabrielino, which is steep and very technical, has too high a price.

At Redbox we had a vehicle waiting with food, water, and a hitch-mount rack for the tired. Only one taker on the rack, but we all enjoyed the food.

Strawberry Peak trail all the way to Wikiup on the Upper Big Tujunga road is one of the most fun sections of trail around. I had to take it easy with one brake, but it's still fun. The section below the Colby trail turnoff, which takes you back around the strawberry peak loop, was a little overgrown and very loose in a few places with a couple of downed trees, but overall in great shape.

From there it's a few miles on pavement to meet the support vehicle for one more refuelling stop at the alder creek trailhead.

Alder creek trail is loose, sandy and covered in Yucca. It's a gentle grade overall, climbs from the road up to a saddle, then drops back down. I dropped my tire pressure to about 18 pounds and was able to ride all but two sections.

Julio washed out his front wheel and crashed into a yucca, ending up with Yucca puncture all over his legs and chest.

Bernie was on his Salsa 29'er and flatted, but only had a 26" tube. Took a little work but we got that changed out. There's one creek crossing, and in hotter years we've had to filter water there. This year temps were cooler and ideal.

We re-grouped at the fire road and started climbing the punisher. Bobby had been posting on the OTB Boards and hearing about "the punisher" at the end of the ride, but didn't really appreciate it until today. It's a fire road that just gets gradually steeper and steeper as it climbs. It's in direct sun in the afternoon, and there is no shade. Fortunately this year we only had one person with severe cramps, but several people walked.

Top of the Punisher:

As we started out on the Punisher climb, Otto came rolling down the hill, handing out gu's like candy, feeling fresh as could be. He'd just ridden down from camp... work duties prevented him from doing the full ride.

Otto (far left) joins us:

Bobby and I cruised on up to the top with Otto. Once there, Otto rode back down to help our cramping rider. By the time we were in camp we'd done 36 miles with about 8,500' of climbing and 5,000' of descent.

A few who had started early, and our support drivers had the campfire going and the barbecue underway before we got to camp. Food always tastes better after riding and when camping. Sitting around the campfire and listening to Otto's "true stories" and hanging out with the crew of about 23 people was a good time. For once, I think we were the loudest in the campground, but everyone crashed by ten and the neighboring sites kept going until the wee wee hours.

Otto has everyone's attention:

Fortunately Martino had seen my post about the brake and brought his old spare rear brake, which I was able to mount up for the second day. I slept under the stars and slept hard. We woke up to find three bikes with flat tires. Pretty normal for Alder Creek trail. Breakfast of pancakes and juice.

The ride back was really fun. People were worked and sore, so and a few opted to drive down. We rode the Silver Moccasin out of Chilao, and had the short pavement punisher to climb up to Vetter. Then we dropped into the Silver Moccasin to shortcut saddle, which is fast becoming my favorite section of the silver Moc. Here's why:

From there we rode pavement back to redbox. Dave, who was on his first OTB epic was cramping pretty hard and got a helpful push.

We dropped in to Upper Merrill. Fun, loose, exposed and exciting as always.

Middle Merrill was really good, since we'd put in a few days of trailwork. We were also able to survey it for the upcoming trailwork day on May 6 and see what needed to be done.

Finally, Sunset Ridge was great too. these are all trails we ride often, but usually after climbing Mt. Lowe so to hit them after only a few miles of pavement climbing (10, actually) made them seem pretty fresh. Day two ended up being 22 miles with 3000' of climbing and 6000' of descent.

The OTB Epic has happened every year since 1993. My first was in 1994. Definitely a tradition we won't give up easily.

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