In these parts your will to win mountain bike races is measured by your willingness to ride Clarks-Radford. From 2N10 (aka Skyline Dr) in Big Bear, Clarks Grade is a twisty sandy road that descends to the sleepy settlement of 7 Oaks, which is mostly cabins and campgrounds. From there, you can travel to all kinds of places, but the most popular options on a bike are to head west to Angelus Oaks or east on 7 Oaks Rd or Converse Rd to Glass Rd, Barton Flats, or to the always fun Santa Ana River Trail. For those who like to suffer, there is another option, and that’s Camp Radford. The mostly abandoned and run-down camp located northeast of 7 Oaks is simply put, the entry way to Hell. Radford Camp Rd is a mostly exposed boney 5 mile road that leads back to 2N10 via Sugarloaf Truck Trail. Essentially, if you do the Clarks-Radford combo from Big Bear, you ride the final third of the loop with the Devil. If the relentless climb, oven-like heat, and gardens of loose stones don’t kill you, the army of gnats will drive you to tears. Just in the first couple miles of Radford Camp Rd, many have been found in the fetal position, but more than rocks and insects, Radford Camp Rd is littered with souls.
Last Saturday, me, Woody and Jeff Stanners raised our fists to the Devil and gave it a go anyway. Sorta. Instead of doing the Clarks-Radford combo from Big Bear, we began at the gateway, heading straight up Radford Camp Rd from the start. No warm-up (it was already warm enough); no opening shredding descent; basically, no fun. Our first pedal stroke was headed up, strangely, in the direction of Hell. I can testify that the experience was infinitely worse by the fact that Woody and I were pedaling… singlespeeds (insert menacing music here). Well, I wouldn’t actually call it pedaling. Stomping, is more like it. We stomped over jagged boulders, we stomped through clouds of gnats, we stomped under the searing sun, and we stomped up. Up, up, up. Meanwhile, Stanners spun. Granted, he had to spin over, through, under, and up the same Hell that we did, but let’s face it, on easy days no one ever says, “I’m gonna go for a stomp.” It’s always, “I’m gonna go for a spin.” Anyway, my point here is this: Stanners is smarter than Woody and me. The gears in his brain turn at a significantly faster rate than the gear (singular) in Woody’s or my brain.
It took roughly an hour to summit, and by that time my back felt like it had been trampled by a herd of wild horses. At the top I was swimming in sweat and couldn’t get warm, even in the summer heat. After re-grouping and gathering our composure, we headed straight to the reason for the ride: a singletrack trailhead at Grandview. Word on the web is that an old singletrack was recently fixed up and that it’s a fun descent from Big Bear to the Camp Radford area. Word on the web is only right about half the time. True, it’s fixed up, but I wouldn’t exactly call it fun. More than half of the trail is on loose hillside and only a few inches wide. I spent almost as much time traversing my way on foot as I did actually riding. It should come as no surprise that Woody, who is known to clear and clean most any obstacle, was able to roll significantly more of the trail than Stanners and me. With the way things have been going as of late, I was just happy to make it back to the car alive. The next day, however, my back was really unhappy. Although not on the same level suffering, and in a completely different circle of Hell, I got a little taste of Trish’s world on Sunday. I was confined to the couch mostly, accompanied by the comfort of a heating pad and this question in my mind: “What in the Hell were you thinking climbing Radford on a singlespeed?”
In these parts Radford Rd is a source of folklore and a place of legend. But climbing it on a singlespeed? Now that's just divine comedy.