Zhifang Liu // Mini Epic

I started my biking adventure last Dec, when I thought about buying a cheap bike to cruise around. Luckily I was able to get a beginner hardtail amid the manufacturing shortage. After a few rides along the flat roads/trails, I figured: hmm, now that I have a mtb, why not bring it to some mountain trails? Then I looked at the map, and found the nearest county park with many trails: Santa Teresa... I didn't even make it to those technical trails, as I could hardly breathe after climbing only about 100ft on Bernal Rd up Santa Teresa. That was my very first "mountain biking" experience.

With another luck, and more of a privilege, I have a friend who's probably well known for cycling here: Lei Liu. He has since taken me and my friends to various roads and trails, where we increased our power and learned the skills. Gradually we're able to climb hundreds and thousands of feet. When he first invited me to the Bay Area Epic event back in Feb, I didn't believe it had anything to do with me looking at the distance and elevation number, so I sat in front of the computer, read all the information, but didn't end up pulling the trigger.

Fast forward to April, Lei has taken me up to Calero, Quicksilver and Mt. Umunhum, and I have gone up Mt. Hamilton a few times, I became optimistic that I'm probably ready for an epic ride. There it goes today!

After dropping the kids to the school/daycare, I had one less thing to worry about. I've had at least one ride for each of the trails included in the Mini route, so I knew what's coming when starting. The weather was cool today, so even though I started sort of late (9:50am) I was not fried, and the 2.5L water I brought turned out sufficient.

I wouldn't say I did a good job in pacing, as I refreshed a bunch of PRs early in the ride. The climb up the Bald Peaks was still challenging for me which required many short power bursts, and I had to unclip and hike my bike at the few switchbacks early on, but I think I felt much better than the last ride which was 2 months ago. Downhill to San Vicente was smooth and I was very familiar with the San Vicente loop, so I made it to Quicksilver without a hiccup. Went ahead with the Quicksilver climb after eating some food. Nothing interesting during this steady climb, but this is probably where I screwed up the pacing and used too much power I think.

When I finished Quicksilver and was about to start the Umunhum climbing, I felt a bit exhausted. The lower part of the Umunhum road climb to the parking lot was the segment I was most desperate about today. Since I just climbed it with a road bike last weekend with the accompany of a friend, today alone with a mountain bike whose tire pressure was set up for trails, I simply felt the bike was not moving forward and it took forever to get to the parking lot where the singletrack starts. I stopped at the parking lot and ate another round of food. It was my first time going up to the summit via the singletrack. It was fun: the grade not as steady as the Umunhum Rd, and a lot of switchbacks for me to practice. I finally managed to go up the last few switchbacks without getting off the bike, which was super exciting and then I found I was at the summit! I ate some more food before descending.

Descending Umunhum Rd and Hicks Rd and making it back to Calero, my stomach got upset by the food, which might be due to the fat in the energy bar... I suspect the carbs I ate at the cube were not fully absorbed, so the remaining half of Calero my muscles were yelling at me all the way, which could offer just so much power that my heart rate barely exceeded 150. This part took much longer than I expected, but finally they still brought me back to the end without cramping! Thank god.

Though with a few hiccups, it was a very pleasant ride. It was challenging, but that's what made it epic. It certainly gave me a feeling of accomplishment, as well as some lessons. To highlight a few achievements:

  • First time trail riding with shoes clipped in from the beginning to the end.

  • Managed to ride up the last few switchbacks, after practicing and failing on the early ones.

  • Longest ride, and biggest climb, and it was on gravel mostly!

  • Most importantly: finished the ride in one piece!

Finally huge thanks to Lei for the coaching and encouragement, and to my friends who ride with me! This epic ride wouldn't have been possible without you. And thanks to the organizer who gave me this opportunity!