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Riding the Santa Cruz Fun, I Mean Mountains

In the Santa Cruz Twisties

So when Specialized said they wanted to introduce us to a new road bike, nearly the only detail they revealed ahead of time was that we'd be riding in the mountains north of Santa Cruz. The riding there includes long climbs, disused roads with surfaces as scarred as a shark attack victim’s skin, and descents as unpredictable as the moods of the stock market. Generally speaking, it’s not a place you take someone riding a borrowed bike.

In two days we rode 145 miles and climbed more than 16,000 feet. Too often I've gone to product intros where the roads are smooth, the climbs negligible, the descents pedestrian. The point isn't that the riding wasn't cool enough, it’s that you were never on terrain sufficiently challenging to make you focus on your effort, on the road ahead, to forget about the bikem and let it talk to your body.

Um, I did a lot of forgetting about the bike. While I'd previously ridden in the Santa Cruz Mountains, my time there was limited. According to Strava, I’ve ridden only one of those roads as many as three times. On climbs like Mountain Charlie I focused on finding the cleanest line possible over that lumpy pavement, knowing that the more I allowed myself to be bounced around, the more I'd slow down, the less I'd be able to spin that 36x26, the more I’d hurt.

I noticed on some descents, like San Jose Soquel Road, that I was screaming through turns with my cranks level, not with the outside pedal down and standing on it like I was squashing a spider. Smooth pavement, knowledgeable riders, sticky 24mm tires and a bike with geometry I trust. It’s a pretty good recipe.

It’s an inexact science, but mixing up unknown and challenging ...