Created by Satchel Cronk
The Santa Cruz mountain biking scene is a bit oxymoronic; richly local yet famous the world ‘round. Those riders who call this paradisiacal wooded enclave home enjoy not only a sensational spider web of redwood singletrack, but a community that is all about milking every bit of stoke from the ride; before, during and after. Giro Sport Design takes you into the world of bikes, beers, and burritos with Locals, Part 2.
Get Out of Town
In a city chocked full of opportunities for outdoor adventure, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is conveniently placed to provide another kind of adventure, if you so desire. But, if carnies creep you out and you prefer rollercoasters made of dirt, you’re in luck. Sometimes you just need to get out of town for some peace, quiet and new trails, and Soquel State Demonstration Forest provides. Santa Cruz offers unparalleled access to world class surf and trails right from town, but some of the best riding in the area sits in this zone way up in the hills, far from the taquerias and beaches down below.
“Demo” lies northeast of Santa Cruz and is one of eight State Demonstration Forests in California. The forest provides excellent opportunities for hands-on forestry education and outdoor recreation. We luckily haven’t been schooled there yet, but can most definitely attest that the fun-factor of the Demo trails is high on the Richter Scale. Speaking of seismic activity, the San Andreas fault runs through the forest and the epicenter of the infamous 1989 Loma Prieta quake sits just outside of its boundaries.
For those looking to shake up their regular mix of loops near town, Demo is a rockin’ place to do it. This is in large part due to the efforts of Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz, the local trail advocacy group that built a 4-mile flow trail in Demo between 2014 and 2015. While the rickety rides down on the Boardwalk pull screams from their victims, this masterfully-crafted rollercoaster quite effectively puts smiles on faces.
Earn the Burn
While an earthquake could surely get through Demo quicker than any Santa Cruz mountain biker can make a post-ride grub decision (burritos…duh), the goods in Demo require a solid investment of time and sweat equity. There’s no easy way up, and a multi-mile climb to the finish patiently awaits you at the bottom of any descent in the forest. But when you put the work in to get to the Santa Rosalia viewpoint, there’s a lot more than just a good view awaiting you. Tired legs may tempt you to sink into the benches overlooking Monterey Bay, but eager mountain bikers who know what’s coming certainly won’t sit long.
Dropping in with a group of riders on a summer evening, it’s a marvel that the forest’s CalFire proprietors don’t get reports of smoke snaking up from beneath the trees. Demo’s trails are fast, dusty, feature-laden and invite you to get loose. Eyewear is recommended if you’re following another set of tires, but it can be hard to keep the dirt away from your teeth as grins inevitably are cracked while surfing through the golden smokescreen. On this particular day we switched it up and hit Braille Trail, forgetting the hot climb as soon the trail turned downhill. Pain and lactic acid are soon replaced with whooping, hollering and convincing yourself to stay off the brakes.
No doubt we love all the good food, music and everything else that Santa Cruz has to offer. But getting back to the parking lot on a perfect summer evening after a long, hot, and joyful Demo ride, it’s hard to want to go back to town. If you planned right and have a cooler stuffed with snacks and cold beer, it’s real tempting to make a particular pitch to your buddies: Let’s just hang out and do that again in the morning. It’s happened more than once!
That’s just one essential Santa Cruz ride experience, and a happy soul requires more than just one ride. Trust us—Santa Cruz delivers. Check in next week for Part 3 of Locals, and a healthy dose of golden dust.