Bad days are dirt days. Nothing shakes out my own frustration, embarrassment and grief quite like a weathered trail. In the Santa Monicas, there’s a vast network of fire roads, all readily conquered on a road bike.
On those hot, dry days on the trail, I like to be visible. The park is always busy with runners, hikers and all variety of mountain bikers and gravel grinders. Having a bit of pop to my kit helps me stand out, especially one with a pattern that breaks through the high grass.
From Topanga, you can take the trail network over the mountains and drop down into the city in under two hours. When I was commuting, this was my favorite way to do it. And when I have a tough day at work but enough sunshine left after the laptop is closed, I ride out to the Summit-to-Summit Motorway. It’s a wide firebreak along the ridgeline that looks down from Topanga into the San Fernando Valley. A few years back, the northern slope below this fire road burned in a brush fire, threatening the safety of the canyon. You can still see the charred trunks of resilient bushes, and it keeps me vigilant.
Last fall while riding this fire road, I saw smoke again. I was on duty for the Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness. I rode home with urgency, trying to get back as quickly as possible to man the canyon’s emergency hotline. It’s moments like that I’m grateful for good kit and fast bikes.
But most nights, it’s just about disconnecting from the screen and reconnecting with the dirt, trying to regain some semblance of my basic instincts. And when I do, it’s hard to turn around and go home. The sun sets and I can almost hear my parents calling me to come inside. It’s getting dark. Better hurry. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I can’t believe how safe the ASSOS UMA GT Clima Jacket makes me feel. It’s breezy enough to wear in the heat of the falling sun, but wow does it shine in the headlights. I don’t need reflectors. I am the reflector in this jacket, and damned if it didn’t encourage me to stay out just a little bit longer.