Riding the San Gabriels with Snow, Rocks, Poodle Dog, and Two Metal Heads.
“Woe to you, oh earth and sea
For the Devil sends the beast with wrath…”
During a road trip to Los Angeles, the sunshine capital of the Golden State, our scheduled trail ride with Golden Saddle Cyclery conjured images of urban footpaths, blistering sun, and less-than-satisfying mellow terrain. After an hour’s drive into the dark, moody San Gabriels, we had an experience that upended our expectations.
(The bushy plant lining the trail above is Poodle Dog Bush, a highly aggressive skin irritant that is reportedly worse than poison oak. It thrives in the San Gabriels. It’s small hairs release a toxin that enters your bloodstream spreading the rash to unpredictable places… best to avoid Poodle Dog.)
An unusual spring cold front had delivered a deluge of rain to LA and snow to the adjacent mountains. As streets turned to streams and the surrounding mountains accumulated snow, Los Angeles locals quickly labelled the unusual moisture event, the “storm-pocalypse“.
Harsh conditions are a welcomed evaluation environment when you’re in the business of making obsessive, high-quality riding gear. Anything can work in mild conditions… but some weather let’s us show our mettle.Our cohorts were not discouraged by snow either; they were up early and energized for a fast romp in the crazy weather. The crew included none other than the heavy metal maniacs of cycling, John Watson and Kyle B. Kelley.
Our cohorts were not discouraged by snow either; they were up early and energized for a fast romp in the crazy weather. The crew included none other than the heavy metal maniacs of cycling, John Watson and Kyle B. Kelley. John, the founder of the Radavist, and Kyle, co-owner of Golden Cycle Saddlery, are not hobbyists. Each have built reputations for photography, storytelling, and great panache when it comes to cycling fashion. Both John and Kyle’s perspectives are rooted in a wide interpretation of cycling, referencing a mix of music, art, urban fashion, personality, and love of process. While individually distinct, they share many values and a strong friendship.
Kyle was impressed with his new Olive Icon Shirt. Our rugged Pendleton-wool shirt is often used for every-day wear, but looks and functions great on the trail. “Man, I’ve wanted one of these since they came out, I got on the waiting list when they first sold out, and have always wanted one.” Soon he’d put it through it’s paces.
Though they can wax eloquently about apparel, steel, music, and art, these renaissance men can thrash it up with the best of them. We chased them accelerating out of turns on the damp tacky surface, navigating slippery snow covered granite with rocks flying, spraying us with melting snow. Chilao (our trail for the day) offered a nice balance between risk and reward.
With a full-sized camera pack it was easy to cross the threshold of control while chasing Kyle and John around tight washed out turns and stair-step drops. Towards the end of the ride, after cameras were packed and speeds increased, Elliot caught his front wheel on the wrong side of a fin-shaped rock, catapulting him off the downhill side of the trail, deep into the chaparral 1o-feet below. Luckily the loudly snapping shrubs and camera pack worked in unison to break his fall.
After post-ride exchanges, John took the opportunity to quickly photograph his steel Rosko hard tail for the Radavist, despite the fact his new bike was covered in granular dirt. He prefers to show things messy and in their element. With conversations done and photos taken, Kyle had to open the shop, and although we wanted to ride more after such a short tease of a shred session, it was time to get back to the obligations of the day.
With a reputation for its sprawling urban jungle, it was exciting to see that Los Angeles County upheld California’s reputation for vastly beautiful public spaces where a wide variety of users can escape and enjoy the wild. We were certainly left with an impression that more was out there, that infinite adventures are there to be had exploring the high trails of the San Gabriels. We look forward to returning!