Mountain Bike Lunch Ride Redux

At the top and contemplating life's mysteries.
At the top and contemplating life’s mysteries.

Lunch rides are the backbone of all cycling companies. Some are “world famous” and almost all bike companies include their lunch ride in the company employee benefit package next to the bullet points about health insurance benefits and your 401k eligibility. However, because I ride back and forth to the office I opt out of the mid-day reindeer games and microwave something from Trader Joe’s. Today was different.

My old buddy Mike Cushionbury paid us a visit. He’s the editor of Dirt Rag and was making a tour of SoCal bike industry places, which included a drop in at Felt. And like the consummate professional he is, he squeezed a free lunch out of us on Monday. Today was no free lunch – instead we took him on our mountain bike lunch ride.

To bring you up to speed – Cush and I have history going back 20 years or so, which included riding a fully rigid steel mountain bike with aluminum forks down the Mammoth Mountain Kamikaze course. The reason we did this is because at the time front suspension was still in its infancy and we didn’t have it on our bikes yet. Ahhh…those were the days… Now in 2014 Felt makes a full carbon fiber, dual suspension mountain bike that comes in around the 21-pound range.

A group of us rolled out of the office and made our way over to Whiting Ranch, located behind the Oakley headquarters. Not an overly technical course, but a fun one that includes some short, steep climbs and swoopy singletrack with berms to rail off of. Last time I was up here I ate shit into a cactus and I still have the marks in my palms to prove it. This time I swore to myself this ride was going to be different.

Mike Cush - the man, the legend
Mike Cush – the man, the legend

While I remember mountain bikes as full rigid machines that rattled our kidneys through the lower intestine, my shredding skills are more than a bit rusty. I haven’t owned a mountain bike since my Tom Kellogg made Merlin was stolen. Also, word quickly spread back at work (backed by photographic evidence) of my yard sale into a cactus a few weeks ago. So my mountain biking skills were immediately called into question – as they should have been. As we rode along I noticed that I was the equivalent of that “special needs” child. Sure, they’re loved by everyone but regardless they need supervision. Several times during the ride I heard people say, “I’ll stay back with Neil,” to make sure I didn’t launch myself off the hill or conversely, “Let me get in front of Neil” as they thought I might tip-over on any of the steep inclines and ruin their line up the hill.

The ride to Whiting Ranch includes a fire road behind the Irvine/ Lake Forest neighborhoods and finally pops us out onto Glenn Ranch Road. From there it’s across the road and into the dirt playground of whoops, drop-offs, and berms. Oh my.

While everyone was either on their personal carbon fiber rig, or in the case of Cush, a carbon Nine Series, I was aboard the Virtue Nine 20 – our enduro/trail bike. Sure, the racer in me wants to throw a leg over a full carbon Nine Series, but the Virtue Nine 20 is the perfect bike for me right now. I’ll spare you the the hype, but what I will say is that the Virtue Nine 20 uses the Equilink suspension platform which allowed me to make some mistakes and not pay with my life for them. Picked a bad line? No problem – I just plowed through like a Stuart tank rolling through the Ardennes in the Battle of the Bulge. One other feature I loved is the dropper seatpost. A quick flip and the post dropped out of the way so not to damage my nards. I heart dropper posts.

20140121_122911The ride ended with a detour through a wooded area that reminded me of the scene in Star Wars Episode IV when Luke is bombing after the Storm Troopers on the speeder bikes. Yeah, I’m a sci-fi geek.

By the time it was all said and done no one had crashed and no mechanicals. Plus, I was able to add an extra hour and 15 minutes to my daily ride total which will put me over three hours for the day. Not a bad way to take a lunch.