Chill Ride

Chill Ride

Remember when you were ten and it would rain? As soon as the rain would stop, you’d hook up with friends on bikes and rip through every mud puddle in the neighborhood. The dirtier the water, the better.

Southern California has received almost double its average rainfall. The day before the third running of the Tranquilo ride, SoCal got a dousing. On a Saturday morning, friends gathered on bikes to find and ride through mud puddles. It was time to be ten again.



The Tranquilo ride was put together by the good people at Bonk Breaker Nutrition. 85 miles, most of it road with three sections of dirt. Unlike many of today’s sponsored driven events, the Tranquilo ride made no promise of being the hardest or the longest or the steepest or the nastiest. It simply vowed to live up to its name, Tranquilo.

Tranquilo means calm, or chill as the kids would say. It was the nickname given to Bonk Breaker founder Chris Frank during his racing days. Chris was the guy who could turn a recovery ride into a throw down.  So as teammates do, they attempted to put him in his place by calling him Tranquilo.

With a break in the weather, we rolled out of Bonk Breaker HQ in Santa Monica, and for the trip up Pacific Coast Highway, the ride lived up to its name. Considering there was a former wearer of the yellow jersey and a former gravel world champ in the bunch, the rest of us were fine with the conversational pace that covered the first 40 miles.  We were chillin’.


In dry conditions, the route could certainly be handled on a rim brake, road bike with a pair of 25s. A third of our bunch stuck with that choice. But with a rain gauges reaching levels not seen in seven years and a storm just clearing out, the popular choice seemed to be a ‘Cross bike with wide road tires. In my case, a disc brake Cyclocross rig with a file tread 33s.

Brush fires have been more common than Southern California rain in recent years and Sycamore Canyon was the scene of a fierce blaze a couple years ago. The vegetation has still not come back. There is very little growth on the canyon’s slopes to hold back the rain and mud. We headed straight up the gut of Sycamore and straight into the runoff. In a matter of a few creek crossings, 40 and 50 year olds were rolling back the years.


I lost count of the overflowing ditches we sloshed through. Most of them were deep enough to cover bottom brackets. The deepest one took out our host. Mr. Tranquilo was dunked into a gushing river of brown water. He emerged giddy. Oh, to be ten again.


We climbed out of the canyon and back onto tarmac. We were acting our age again: orderly riding, mature discussions on a predictable surface. This return to adulthood would be temporary.

The dirt climb called the Frankenberg was decorated for our arrival and ascent. Banners lined its lower half and Bonk Breaker staffer cheered and pushed us over its top. Were back in the slop and back to our youth.


On the other side of the climb, a piece of single track that had reached the saturation point. This was a ride and slide contest. By all accounts, no one cleaned this section but no one complained either. Kids in wet dirt generally don’t gripe, they just don’t know any better.


The most valuable thing to have in your pocket, something handed out at sign in, was a Popsicle stick. They make more efficient work out of scraping mud from tires and shoes which was much needed after reaching the pavement again. You were served well if you had grabbed more than one.


Now three quarters through the route, we had lost a noticeable portion of the group. Maybe they had revisited there youth enough. Maybe the mud had overwhelmed their fork and tire clearance.

Our final push was on the dirt section of L. A.’s famous Mulholland drive. I had ridden it the week prior and found mud from edge to edge of many sections of this fire road. But somehow the dirt had done a miraculous job of soaking up the heavy rains of the day prior. We had surprisingly dry conditions for our seven mile trip to the Nike Missile site.


With a film of dirt and sweat and smiles on our faces, we descended back to Bonk Breaker. They are scouting pavement and dirt in the north bay area.  We mostly acted our age during the post ride festivities. In other words, we were chill.

Final thoughts: NorCal Tranquilo in the works for June.


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