A few weeks ago, I flew out to Santa Cruz to have some much needed R&R with the family, and also to see my bro Brendan, who has resettled in the bay area. With beautiful Cali weather afoot and some terrain I had never seen or ridden, Brendan made the call over to Shuttle Smith for a ride up the mountain.
We picked up a bike for the day, and met Dave at a nearby bike shop / parking lot at the base of the Sequel Demonstration Forest. He was fully set up with a 4wd pickup truck, bottles of water, and a world of knowledge. (For larger groups, he also has a bus he can use for shuttling, but for the two of us, it was a more intimate setting).
We headed out from the parking lot, and the knowledge dump commenced. It was a truly amazing day of biking (I’ll write about that sometime), but the trip to the mountain biking was an experience onto itself.
Dave is part mountain biking historian, part tour-guide, part California enthusiast…and all awesome. All along the way, he was pointing out both historic artifacts from the Sequel area (such as one of the oldest hotels in California, and the location that they used to keep the horses…or an incredibly rare albino Redwood tree) and locations of incredible significance in the development of mountain biking. For years, I’ve seen the videos taken in the “post office” dirt jump track, and I shed some online tears when it was destroyed to make room for development. We got to see it in person. I’ve seen the videos of amazing mountain bike and dirt jump riders and the crazy things that they can do with bicycles. We went past their houses–past their personal jump tracks. It was a ~30 minute drive, and every second of it was filled with incredible stories about the area, the history and the culture. For just about every pivotal moment in the sport, Dave’s been there–or talked to the person that was. He was truly a wealth of knowledge. In Illinois, the drive to somewhere to bike is rarely scenic. In California, every second of the ride was. Dave knew the best routes, and the best spots to stop and take in the scenery. When we reached the top of the access road in the Demonstration Forest, Dave pointed out all of the possible trails in the vicinity and gave expert recommendations on suggested routing to maximize our ride time and minimize our suffering on the climbs. He talked about current trail conditions (dry, dusty) and suggested lines that would maximize speed and control (stay high on the berms to avoid the loose dirt at the bottoms). He talked about places to stop for a breather, and obstacles to avoid. He talked about places to grab water, and places to hit for dinner after the ride. In short, he gave us the expert lowdown on all things Santa Cruz Mountain biking. We happened to just work with Dave for one ride up the mountain…but if you’re so inclined, he’ll shuttle you back and forth up the mountain again and again and again, until you’re incapable of riding any further. He was incredibly enthusiastic, police, and knowledgeable. Overall, it was the best guided shuttle service I’ve ever used, and lead to one of the best days of riding I’ve ever had.
If you’re ever in that neck of the woods and have some time to get out on a bike, drop Dave a line and set up a shuttle ride. You won’t regret it!