Posted Jan. 11, 2004 : 7 p.m.
Tunnel Trail!

This weekend we assembled a crack team and drove down to Santa Barbara for a taste of warm weather, cool trail, hot chicks and cold hikers.

The crew
When you cram seven characters into a shuttle vehicle, you best pick the right ones. Here's the Mickey Mouse Club:
  • Brandon Sloan - Stony dude and the product manager responsible for Enduros, Epics, SXes and Demo-9s. Thanks for wrangling the Specialized van!
  • Curtis Keene - One of the fastest DHers in the U.S., and definitely the fastest soon-to-be-ex-electrician in Fremont
  • Rich Gonsalves - We call him "The Beautiful One" for a reason, but he doesn't let it go to his head ... really.
  • Matt V - Mesomorph and rockin' semibro' DHer
  • Chris Monestier - Mr. "I can borrow anyone's bike and ride it faster than they do, even with a rear flat"
  • Erron McCurdy - Dr. Orange, or "I only need one pivot to rip"
  • Me - Captain Blood Blister. 12 weeks post clavicle break and way too weak for DH -- but I rolled it anyway. I'm considering a new rule: If you can't lift your bike onto a roof rack, you shouldn't be riding it.
The trail
Tunnel is the roughest trail I've ever ridden. In 20-30 minutes you bash into about 12,000 rocks of every size and shape imaginable. If your kung fu (and your bike) is good, you can find a crazy flow amid the gnarl. Here's a photo of my bro' Jim Norman on a lower section, from the '02 Tour de California:

This weekend we were too busy riding to take many photos, and the ones I took were overexposed (my fault: I forgot to reset the camera after the last shoot). Oh, well. I snapped the guys flowing a drop on the exit of a fast right.






The hikers
I've ridden in Marin, and I'm here to say Tunnel has the most intense hiker/biker acrimony I've seen. It's a recipe for conflict: a shuttleable DH trail amid expensive estates in an outdoorsy community. As we coasted slowly at the bottom of the trail, an old man waved at me, and I waved back, then I realized he wasn't waving; he was wagging his finger, like "I know you're up to no good." One woman walked on the wrong side of the trail with her arm stretched across the way, just looking for trouble. During the '02 Tour de California, my buddy Jim got caught in a booby trap. Here's the story.

When you ride Tunnel, do it on a week day, wear a bell and kill the jerks with kindness.

The good news: The UCSB Excursion Club was out for a hike. Tasty little morsels everywhere ...

The bike
Brandon set me up with a fresh Demo-9 for the day. It pedaled well, and it tracked right over the biggest, nastiest rocks. I didn't even scratch the surface of what that bike can do. I didn't spend much time dialing it in, but I'd say the Marzocchi 888 fork, while it felt a lot more plush than my Boxxer, wasn't on par with the bottomless rear end.

The frame weight is 10.5 pounds -- same as an Intense M1. While the stock bikes are set up burly for "freeriding," you can get a race bike around 40 pounds, which is excellent. The lateral stiffness, short rear end and low center of gravity will make this guy a rocket ship.

Curtis has been testing Demo-9s for a few weeks, and he says it's the best DH bike he's ever ridden. Last year he ran a Santa Cruz V10, which he loved at the time.

The Specialized Roller Pro RS tire hooked up like crazy on the sandstone, and it rolled a lot faster than you'd expect from a 2.6-incher. Bonus: No flats!

Thanks again, Brandon.
Check out this Tunnel story, from the '02 Tour de California.


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