I grew up around outdoorsy feel in Almaden/San Jose, skateboarding and just getting around the neighborhood and I got myself a bike to cruise around on. I met up with some kids that were all about going off into the dirt trails, and we were mountain biking on these little BMX bikes and finding the steepest levees to drop into and push each other harder and harder and making stupid jumps out of rolled up leather and ghostriding bikes downhill, we used to just mob around. And I was like entered up in the foothills of Los Gatos and so I had this BMX bike, started delivering papers with my BMX bike and then when I was old enough to ride a full-size bike the mountain bike had just come out.
It was like '83 I want to say. And I got my first mountain bike, it was a Bianchi Cervino, 15 speeds. 15 yep! It didn't last long, it was stolen. And then I got a Schwinn Sierra from this shopping center, believe it or not there's an old bike shop here in this shopping center. My dad and I came over and I remember the guy, he's like "Yeah, he'll grow into this thing!" It was never the right size, it was this big, big bike that had these roller cam brakes like the old Richie Cunningham roller cam brakes. And I would climb that thing to the top of Los Gatos on this trail called Kennedy, we used to call it, they call it I think "Death and Dying" now, or "Dogmeat." But back when I was growing up it was, what was that thing, we would just like rail down this fire road on our shopping cart mountain bike.
So I was riding all through junior high, high school mountain biking, and then when I went to Santa Barbara, really started to learn how to mountain bike. 'Cause that place is rugged! I got there and I was within like a month, this friend of mine said "Hey man, you want to come with me? We're going to ride up this trail called 'Tunnel'?" Yeah, Tunnel. Burly rocks, probably like a 3000 vertical foot descent on my old Diamondback. It was horrible. You had to stop every mile just to shake the hands out, no suspension right, just rigid. But the whole time you're looking out over the Channel Islands and it was awesome.
There are a lot of trails in Santa Barbara, really rugged single track, lots of really challenging little puzzles you have to work out. I really honed the skills where you're just constantly trying to save yourself and get your momentum so that when you see the exit you're just on the throttle, you're like "I don't know what I'm going to do but I'm going to pedal harder and get up this thing and if I fall I'm going to get up and do it again."
Oh my gosh. Bikes are really cool to me. I think that starting from when I was a child the bike was, ah, the exploration device. I would get on my bike and start exploring, all the local knick-knacks in the neighborhood, the levees I was talking about. I could get away from my parents and just explore and then I found the thrill, right, and adrenaline rush and I think the adrenaline from the "Oh my God I just almost ate crap" kinda thing, that really appealed to me so I just kinda started looking for more and more dangerous things to do on my bike. That fed into mountain biking pretty quick, so I was all about the downhill after that, I would climb and I liked the fitness because I was always an athlete, rowing was a big part of my life and during my rowing years I was training in time, mountain biking was a great complement to the training so that was how I enjoyed climbing to the top of, you know, however many thousands of feet and then downhill, all about it, it's where I wanted to be, going down the mountain, on the mountain bike.
Man, uh, mountain biking has taken me a few places and some places really stand out. Most of it's all really close to home, I'm a California kid so there's lots to do in California. Unfortunately some of my best rides I can't talk about, it's kind of off-limits, but in Tahoe and Downieville it's probably some of the best. So some of the big rides at Downieville stand out, Fiddler Creek, and A-Trail, two money trails for sure, and usually it involves riding with my closest buds and a few mechanicals we have to work our way through, but at the end of the day it's a good day.
You know, without telling you about the name of the trail there's a ride I did just north of Santa Cruz: pitch black, night ride, dumping rain. It is so loud I cannot hear anybody talking to me, they can't hear me because the rain is just something and the Madrone trees, super loud, we climbed out this wicked single track just grinding forever and then just shredding these rude, wet twisted ruts for seemingly miles and rides like that really stand out that I live for.
You know, I've had a lot of bikes over the years, and each time I build a new bike it's like the best bike I've ever had. My current build that I'm loving is my Mojo HD3 and quite honestly a lot of the parts that are on my HD3 have been on other bikes before and I just love 'em. I run the Chris King hubs, bottom bracket headset, NextTR one-by drive train kinda guy, XTR brakes, but I have these sweet made-in-Redwood City Flaming rotors from Dirty Dog. Dude they have like dragons blowing flames as the rotor material, it's cool.
And then, you know, little bits of color. I love green, it's my favorite color so when they did a green frame I had to wait like five months for the green frame but it was worth it. There are some purple bits on there, WTB tires and saddle, and my favorite grips of all time, these Troy Lee grips, I love 'em.
You kidding me, grips are one of the most important components of my bike. It is, you know, I totally disappointed a guy interviewing me at the bottom of the dual slalom course at Sea Otter a few years ago 'cause he asked me what the most important component on my bike was and I answered "My grips" and he was so disappointed, you could just see it on him, like "Really, Dude? Your grips?" But, you know when you're in the gate, and they're saying "Red course ready. Blue course ready. Racers ready." Dude, you're like gripping the grip and it's everything, you know, it's all about getting that contact.
Yeah, I used to run Oury’s, I ran them forever, it was the only grip, in fact people used to recognize a trail head build because it had Oury grips.
Black, oh yeah, just black. We didn't run all those fancy colors until later although I do like colored grips, actually it was during a night ride a little while ago and my buddy looked over and is like "Dude, are your grips glowing?" and I was like "Oh yeah. Glow in the dark TLD grips. Hell yeah! It was so good!"
Oh my God, community involvement? I don't even know where to begin. Wow, well we opened in '97 and one of the first things that we started doing is sponsoring the Los Gatos High School mountain bike team. That was really cool. We've sponsored a lot of kids over the years as well as adults, and really helped the grassroots riders get the best equipment so that they can compete against others that have more than them. And that's been a big part of Trailhead, we have a big race team now, Trailhead Racing, so a lot of racing background but, I'd say my biggest community outreach has been through, twice a year we host swap meets in our parking lot here. We invite the entire cycling community to just drive in and set up all their bike stuff that they want to sell--that pile of junk in their garage that they'll never run again, you know 26-inch wheels, tapered bottom brackets, whatever--somebody else will use that stuff they just need to find a home for it, but you know selling stuff online is a pain in the butt. So come on out to the swap meet, they can find people that want to buy it, that's been really good.
We also do two dirt demos a year, so we take over Santa Teresa ? county park and bring a bunch of vendors out with mountain bikes to ride and invite all the customers to come test drive bikes in the dirt and just have fun. We sponsored a lot of the schools in the area with donations, and that always goes a long way.
And I'm probably forgetting a million things because I can't remember--like the Flow Trail, that little thing? I've been a steward of the Soquel demonstration forest since '98 back when the Braille Trail was not an official trail, we used to hike in and hike out. The rangers discovered it and they were going to close it down. And we really were active in petitioning with the CalFire to do whatever it took to make the Braille Trail an open trail and they said, "Well, we need to be able to get an EMT up this trail and we can't" and we're like, well we can make it so they can. So we got a bunch of volunteers together and went and did a bunch of trail work days and we basically made Braille Trail accessible by an ATV with safe around the stunts and features routes. So Braille Trail became incorporated into the trail network at Soquel Demo. Well that was like scratching the surface of what happens later, fast forward to 2015 and we opened up the Flow Trail and I say "we" loosely, that was Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz who we sponsor through various ways whether it's volunteer support or flat-out dollar bills or giving away loads of schwag at trail building events, organizing volunteers to come out and dig and maintain. So the Flow Trail we are a title sponsor, we have segment six with a little cool sign of our bike shop up on the tree and that means a lot to me being a longtime steward of SDF.
Can't wait to see where it goes, I think we've got more trails on the horizon, in fact I know we have more tails, we've been working with CalFire about new trails in the Demo forest that I can't wait to develop with them.