"Ooh, that's the highest point in LA, right?"
This is the response you get from anyone when you tell them you will be visiting Mt. Lukens in the near future. There is also a face that goes along with it. It is similar to the face that someone makes when they smell someone passing gas in a busy bar room They squinch their eyes and their mouth turns down at the corners. It is almost like they're not into struggling up a mountain on dirt roads, but, then again, you never know.
We were down in LA to ride ride ride with our pals Sean and Ryan from Team Dream Bicycling Team. Sean always does a good job of not only playing host to us when we're down there but often times even initiating the whole process. Well, of course it wouldn't be a party with just those two (not that they aren't exciting), so we invited a few of our favorite friends from Portland - our very own Julie and Abby Watson. They brought along Kelton, she brought the hot hot heat. Ben Lieberson, Papa Cole Maness and Bon Vivant Adam K. Masters rounded out our little sunny bunches of oats. Now, that, is a party.
(This is the same ride from these photos.)
Why were we there you might be asking yourself. Good question. Why are any of us here?
Well, I don't have answers to life's bigger questions, but this one I do. To escape the dreadful weather, the dark doldrums that we call the Pacific Northwest. It rained something like 30 days straight through December and into January, so any and every excuse to get the heck out of Dodge would be taken. LA Art Book fair? Sure thing, be right there. How about the testing of a Cannondale Slate Bicycle? Now you're talking.
This bike has only been on the market for a short while, but has piqued everyone's (meaning mine) interest with a few of it's unique features. And with a spokesperson like Tim Johnson at the helm, my question is this - how could you possibly go wrong? Have you seen that handsome man? The bike comes with 650 wheels, it has that crazy Lefty fork setup, the tires are wider than most and most importantly, it looks great. So, would I test one of them? Duh.
There was only one in my size. Sorry guys, the rest of you are stuck with shiny CX bikes.
Off we were, to ride this fabled, and graveled Bifrost Bridge from South Pasadena up in to the hills and straight to the top of Mt. Lukens. To tell you that we were excited is to downplay the entire situation. David and I were STOKED to blink our dark mole-like eyes up at the California sunshine. We were BEYOND STOKED to be holding hands with Sean and crew, if not in reality, then figuratively. Sean had just opened, or recently opened his Cubhouse, so it was also an opportunity to check out his most recent venture. Then, considering the fact that not only Cannondale, but Mavic were into supporting our endeavors made it into a trip worth throwing ourselves at. Which we are both really good at. Ok, so to be clear - new shoes - new helmets - pull up your socks - slip into this silky smooth thin fade Team Dream Bicycling Team Jersey - or the old school blue polka dot one - and let's frigging ride some sweet bikes.
---- Side Note ----
Here's what I've come to figure out. People (or companies) probably do not want me testing their bikes. Generally, I do not have bad things to say about bicycles or bicycle rides. Which I know sounds like a good thing, but it's very biased. Biased towards fun. Which can't be a bad thing (Side Note: does this mean more people actually WILL want me to test their bikes?) This is just a disclaimer that I'm putting out there because I know that reviews tend to be a bit homogenous. This one shall be no different. But, if you're a discerning purchaser of bikes that is looking to pick up something new or just looking for some beta on this new style of bike out there, this "review" (aka - "it's fucking rad, get one") might not be for you.
---- Side Note Over ----
look! tiny cyclists!
However, here are a couple facts for you about the Cannondale Slate:
- There is no fork blade on the right side. (Just in case you didn't know that)
- It is a glorious flat black with purple colored hubs. Do manufacturers not know that their bikes could go up a notch in the cool department if they would just do this. Simplicity wins every time!
- I crashed it. I told you, just the facts. I almost put Bruce Gordon Rock-n-Road tires on it. Kyle Kelley from Golden Saddle Cyclery even sold them to me for the sole purpose of putting them on this bike, but then I didn't. Mostly because I'm lazy. Sean did a good job of documenting my crashiness. Geeze talk about kicking a guy when he's down. It wasn't my fault, I promise. Ok, it was my fault, but we made it through.
- People will stare at you and your bike because of the fork. Again, just the facts.
- Purple. Purple looks good with matte black. Purple is a crazy color. It is a proven fact that crazy people like the color purple. It's also a color of royalty.
Back to the riding bits. Let's fast forward a little bit because it doesn't matter how we got there. Generally, it is the same way that you get halfway up most of the climbs you've done. Clip in. Roll out. Stop four blocks later for coffee. Clip in again. Follow someone who knows where they are going and then before long you're trudging along through mountain passes marveling at the vast expanse of wilderness laid out before you. Or behind you, or next to you.
Then, Cole rides up next to you, casually mentions he's going to be a father and rolls away, with Shaolin Soul blaring from his jersey pocket. No big deal. People ride differently when they're faced with certain things, heavy things, like fatherhood and on this day Cole rides like a man possessed. He claims it is because he's training for an upcoming trip to Colombia, but his smile and good natured-ness has been turned up a notch and it's not for that ride.
Then, just as you're starting to get into the groove of things you're on your way back down. Something tells me that it had to do with our extensive conversation at the top the mountain. It had all to do with ice cream and some of the best spots that may or may not be at the bottom of the hill. How you motivate people to ride more after that is beyond me. And while we may have not even visited the cream spot at the bottom, it drove our every move on the way home. It should be noted here that Julie does not go to the front of any group ride unless the words "ice" and "cream" in that particular order are uttered directly before.
And then it's over. Any of the complaining about length. All of the flat fixing. The bumpy road-ness. The coordination problems. They are all behind us at that point and we are all standing in front of the Cub House smiling and laughing at whatever Cole has just said (or maybe just that he's covering his junk with chocolate milk?). And that's how you know that it has been a good ride and one worth logging into the memory banks.