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Schley and Simmons Sample So-Cal: A Wheel Road Trip

Mar 13, 2014
by Wade Simmons  
Richie and Wade

hitting the first trails in laguna s classic paths

When you’ve been buds for a long time, not much is said over the phone. Especially when the scenario has been played before:

WS -“So, we gonna do this?”
RS - “Yeah man, it’ll be good to have some early season shots in the bag”
WS - “Yeah, yeah of course. You have locations dialed then?”
RS - “Of course!!”
WS - ”Buddy…we need to get a little rad”
RS - “Well…. what you bringing?”
WS - Pause - “A new 29er”
RS - Silence – “What...no!! I thought you wanted to get rad?”
WS - “Don’t worry, it’s capable”
RS - “Dude…”
WS - “OK just kidding, no 29”

this is a pretty respectable road gap with sketchy roll-in..

I supposed to see Wade out of his comfort zone on a road gap with a 29er .. nope.. he just overshooted the gap a bit on the first attempt

Two weeks later, photographer Ale Di Lullo picked me up at LAX, and we pointed it south to meet up with the ex-patriot in his adopted nirvana wintering grounds: Laguna Beach, California.

Ale Di Lullo is one reason the trip came together in the first place. He’s a burgeoning photographer living in Italy. Richie and I shot with him on his first professional shoot for Marzocchi at the Lake Garda festival in 2008. Ale would now be in the States for 3 weeks shooting, and he initially sparked this So-Cal road-trip idea to kick his first week off.

the Schleyer itself

the godfather of freeride

tony the tiger one of the funniest guy ever and true laguna player from cuba was so excited from this shot that decides to try it the next day.. guess why the rock is named collarbone rock now lol

Knock-knock. We banged on the door of Richie’s 2-bedroom beach bungalow, 2 blocks off the ocean: not too shabby Schley. I proceeded to unload the gear, and began assembling my bike in the parking lot out back, when all of a sudden I heard a scream over my shoulder, “Noooo, you brought the 29? Arrrgh!”

Schley is at this point a Laguna local. here is hitting the most famous laguna shot on a real rad sunset

Wade on the collarbone rock in Laguna

I don t even remember where was this.. I remember it was a looong trail above noble canyon.

That night, wine-Richie is gluten free, so no beer-washed down the planning of our weeks shooting. Conversation then progressed/digressed, depending on perception, to the state of the bike industry, more specifically wheel sizes. We debated whether or not riders are being forced change, or is there true merit. Richie apparently is very passionate about his arguments on the former, and me a “cog in the MTB marketing wheel”. Richie, still bitter about my 29 decision.

Richard Cunningham the man behind some of the good riding we find in this trip you are the man RC

I was really shitting in my pants due to the presence of some mountain lion in the area so when the sun was gone I pushed to hit the way to the car...

breakfast in a weird looking diner in town. pretty good meal tho.

We awoke to clouds. Not a photographer's dream start. Richie and I snuck out for a Laguna shred checking on some potential locations while Ale busied himself buying batteries and other things that photographers generally forget. That afternoon, the clouds relinquished some sun breaks, and we were off to our first location that Richie promised delivered epic shots.

those dead trees were the most notable thing in the panorama on the upper part of Noble Canyon

nice little sandy switchback are always fun

the middle part with some trees

“Top of the World” is a well known kickoff for some of Laguna Beach’s best riding. Trails like Telonics, Trail Mix, and many others cascade 1000ft down to the Laguna Canyon road. I remembered I had shot here years ago, also with Richie, back in the “Freeride” heyday when we were part of the Froriders. It would appear now that freeriding remains alive and well in Laguna, fueled largely by the Laguna Rads. Numerous features dot the surrounding landscape, and are obviously sessioned regularly by locals.

sandy turns on the lower part

lower Noble Canyon sandy and fast trail

getting aggressive with the 29er

A smooth step-down occupied us for a while, the “warm up” Richie said for a sizeable air we’d hit up next. Incidentally, Tony the “Tiger”, Richie’s roommate, was so inspired by our daily stoke every time we came back to the house that he went up alone and sent that step-down for the first time. The result: a broken collarbone. The gap is now called “Collarbone Rock” (heal up Tony!). After exhausting the step-down, we moved to the next jump. I had this feeling that Richie was hiding something because he wasn’t being very forthcoming with info when I asked, “How big is the next one?”

the 29er failed once.. a little too much air action from the godfather and the wheel was bent.. but wade showed that was not his first time in the middle of nowhere with a bent wheel.. 20 minutes after he was riding again on the same wheel

this was half the way down to Noble canyon Trail.. maybe not the most spectacular panorama but something you wanna stop and check for a little while.

pushing hard on the turns..

I didn’t say much to Schley prior to hitting the road-gap. Bastard was definitely sandbagging me, or more specifically, my bike. Things get silent when the shooting pressure is on: setting sun, photographer in place, sketchy in-run, sizeable air. Hiking back up after a couple of roll-ins, I overhear Schley whispering to Ale, “he’s out of his comfort zone on that bike, and I’m loving it, hahaha!!!”
“I can f%$king hear you Schley,” I sneered, and then I sent it.

Cunningham was the man. he oldchool explained us how to get there explaining driving directions... no google heart no digital era here.. and seeing the rock-age scenario was just the perfect way

almost a natural rock pipe

Richie s special big ass steep rockface.

With a couple of nice airs over Laguna Beach in the can, we headed south the next day to ride in San Diego County, Noble Canyon and Pine Valley the destinations. Neither of us had ridden Noble, but relished its legendary single-track, and IMBA Epic status. Rather than fumbling around to find the goods, I made a call to a legend himself, So-Cal trail guru Richard Cunningham. Richard was luckily free and more than happy to guide us around the area. He also enlightened us on the history of such wheel-size debates, and their not-so-humble beginnings. Richie and I may be old Freeriders and pretend to know a little about a lot, but Cunningham, and his peers are walking MTB archives.

steep little rock in the area above noble canyon. a lot to explore there

aggressive turn

Wade s line choice steep and skinny

The next morning, we rendezvoused with Cunningham, and drove to the top of Noble Canyon. Extremely spectacular country up there at 5500 ft. To the east is a 3000 foot drop to the desert, and west is open pine forest leading into chaparral. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t co-operating, sending Ale into a little funk. Us riders didn’t care too much though, for 12 miles of singletrack, and 3000 feet of descending was on the menu.

richie s line choice. bad ass steep

the rock was really fun to ride cause the duo were keep on pushing up to ride it again

probably my favorite shot that session.

The morning was spent shooting sweet trail as we serpentined our way down Noble. Plenty of playful trail-side features snapped Ale back into his creative groove. The trail starts with fun-flowy ripping corners swooping through pines before dropping into the rocky canyon. Richie and I traded off cheap verbal jabs as the trail conditions switched between wheel size advantages. Me, loving the chunky rocky technical big wheel chomping, and Richie lighting up the switchbacks and tighter sections. After a mile of easy climbing out of the oak-lined canyon, riders are rewarded with what I thought was the best part of the trail: 2 miles or so of roller coaster ribbon with natural hips and doubles. Pretty much perfect IMBA.

the last our of light gave us gold.

time to pack after a very long day of roaming. thank god the luck was on our side and gifted us with an epic sunset on big rocks.. just perfect.

classic godfather steez

Ale lined up some angles on the more fun lower jumps as Richie and I got to work. Up to this point, I was pleasantly surprised with the 29’s performance. It had been pretty much punch-for-punch with Schley on airs and technical lines. Even that sandbagging road-gap he tried to eliminate me on. Not the slightest twist of a nipple had been necessary, when it all came crashing down on one kacked-out hip landing on that piece of perfect. All I heard from Schley was, “I guess that argument is proven”! A couple of bangs on a rock, and a whole lot of nipple twisting, and the 29 was back in the game.

this shot got selected in the red bull Illume top 250 Richie wasn t excited to have the same shot and not being selected sorry bro

big ass double with a trail bike.

smashing turns

The great thing about the Noble Canyon trail is that it ends in a place called Pine Valley, which is home to a sizable, human-sculpted natural jump park. I recall that this was the location of a whip-off comp a few years back, and according to a local dude, is still used hard by San Diego shedders. Here, I felt a little under gunned with the big wheels. We managed to get comfortable on some of the medium airs, but the big dogs were technical, and required something a bit more specific…like 200mm travel.

Sunset in Alpine CA. Richie has style.

Laguna canyon has this steep narrow and green like Ireland trail that remains humid the most of the winter-springtime

another part of the laguna canyon trails.

Picking Cunningham’s brain of little known So-Cal secrets to go next, he divulged a zone he had ridden only once before, and promised of fruits to our labour. The region was back up north through LA, and a little to the west off the highway headed to Vegas. We thanked Richard for his guiding prowess and MTB lore, packed up and headed north.

tree-view of the froriders

just the perfect situation single track on the pacific ocean at sunset.

just the perfect situation single track on the pacific ocean at sunset.

Rolling off the I-15 at the highway 138 junctions, we realized that Cunningham knew exactly what we were searching for. After the classic, epic single-track in Noble, we were now going to time-travel back to our freeriding roots, hike our asses up some sandstone spines, and get rad. The zone was a quasi Moab/Virgin Utah landscape with apparently many ride-able lines, even picturesque single-track wound through the area. Ale morphed into a bloodhound and ran around chasing the game.

magic sky

The Godfather and Schleyer getting enlighted by the last ray of sun

hammering till the ocean

Schley and I got a feel for the terrain on some of the smaller lines, and when the sun slid into its golden hour, Ale commanded the scene barking orders form the helm like a captain. Realizing the potential results of such orchestration, we were happy to oblige. I’m willing to say that here on these sketchy-ass spines, the 29 may have been outperforming Schley’s 26. Traction was the key factor; you made sure you didn’t slip.

Schley getting air over a small bump

we managed to get some air shots with a little bump on the trail.

Wadegoing fast in the golden california sunset light.I think this was the last action shot of the all trip.

Rat-racing it back to Laguna, Ale seemed pleased with the variety of shots and terrain we had encountered. We still had tomorrow available to shoot, and the weather was promising more clouds.e Richie quelled the disappointment with one sentence: “Hey c’mon, I have Laguna dialed for every condition”. That being said, the next morning found us halfway up the Laguna Canyon in a seemingly oasis of grenery; a stark difference from the start of our trip a mere 500 ft above us at the “Top of the World” five days earlier. The rad-factor was diminished, but needless to say we enjoyed the tacky dirt and getting into some good ol' mountain biking.

it was a while that the 2 weren t been riding together so at every stop there was always something to tell and to laugh on.

On the flight home the next day, I reflected on the trips highs and lows, and smiled wickedly about the heated wheel debates. After it was all said and done, I could not say whether Richie or I had more fun despite the difference of wheels. And after reviewing Ale’s shots, there is a noticeable difference upon first glance, but evidently an air is still an air and a drift still a drift. We just each got into it in our own way. I concluded that it’s really no different than people riding with a 3 x 9 or 2 x 10, 1 x 11 or 130mm or 150mm travel; you still get to your destination, and probably have as much fun regardless of implement. Bottom-line is: a road-trip will always be a road-trip, and rad will always be rad!



Author Info:
wadevsimmons avatar

Member since Oct 30, 2007
4 articles
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  • 56 0
 Great shots boys!! Ale di Lullo is one of the best photographers I've ever worked with. I expect him to keep blowing up and continue to be an A-list big dog lensmen!! Keep charging Ale!!
  • 20 0
 That was one of the best articles i've seen/read in a while. Wade. please write an article a week! i'm begging you! amazing way with words that is easy to relate to and takes you on the journey! Thanks man! made my day!
  • 3 0
 right. wade is a cog in the marketing machine. wade is the f*cking man!
  • 1 0
 I have yet to see anyone as smooth and flowy as Wade. Inspirational!!!
  • 19 0
 thanks guys! glad you like the shots!
  • 5 0
 Hey, get to work! More epic photos please!
  • 2 0
 vaaaai bosssss!!!!
  • 2 0
 Beautiful work. Any one of those shots could be my wallpaper.
  • 1 0
 4th and 5th to last shots are incredible. also loved the dark woods shots. that area looks so tight.
  • 11 1
 Thanks for all the kind remarks. Thanks for making us look so good Ale. Great times always with Wade. We have another cool one planned, so stay tuned. BTW, most of the bikes I am currently riding are 27.5 except for my DH. All wheel sizes work. I agree, less wheel talk, more wheels turning.
  • 2 0
 The last pic says it all - just two buddies out riding their bikes, who cares about any other details?
  • 1 0
 It's a good thing you ride so well because watching you order and drink a wine spritzer at the GLC is painful! Wink
  • 10 0
 Absolutely stunning photos. Legends!
  • 3 0
 Only thing missing was a cameo appearance by Hans Rey... Razz
  • 6 0
 I dig the central message of this blog - it doesn't matter what bike you're running as long as you're having fun and getting rad with the homies. in a way trying to tell us pinkbikers to shut up and stop whining about products.
  • 11 2
 Coming back to your Porsche after a hard days shred. On another level.
  • 2 0
 good one... you made me laugh
  • 3 0
 Great article and beautiful photos at a couple of my favorite spots. I've always drooled at those big sandstone spines from the freeway and wondered what could be done with them, glad to see them get properly shredded. Nice work!
  • 7 0
 So many PODs!
  • 2 0
 ^ this exactly, PODs everywhere Smile
  • 2 0
 Yeah, scrolling down it got pretty epic pretty quick. Amazing photographer, good terrain and those boys shredding... KA-CHING!
  • 2 0
 I can't remember an article with so many "keeper" pictures. It was intense just scrolling through the photo set. And I really like Wade's economical use of prose... well said. I agree with Makripper, it'd be nice to see a few more pieces from him more often. Especially given the wicked locations he gets to travel to!
  • 2 0
 Great Pics, Could it be that some of the descriptions where a bit off? Like mixing in some Noble Canyon pics when still talking about Laguna and some Vasquez rocks pics too? Just asking because if not I missed some really cool spots on my home trails and have to go out and search for them.
That said it would be rad to have a map showing trail names and where all the pics where taken on these kind of road trip stories. I guess i would leave the office right away with that info!
  • 2 0
 The Noble Canyon Pics and Laguna pics are mixed. The pic of the Noble Canyon trailhead was before they even mentioned Noble Canyon. That kind of threw me off until I read down.
  • 1 0
 i noticed the same. pictures aren't in order of what they were saying.
  • 1 0
 not vasquez rock
  • 6 1
 They are neither new school nor old school. They are teachers.
  • 4 0
 Nothing beats riding with old buddies. The article almost felt like trying to sell a 29 though. Great photos.
  • 1 0
 Great write up Wade! These trip exposés are so great to read (fantastic Photo work Ale Di Lullo by the way!). It gets a lot of people stoked this time of year for the season, and even more - allows you to reveal another dimension of your talent! … plus it’s always fun seeing you and Schley get together! – stay Rad.
  • 1 0
 Heart SoCal. Having ridden all of these trail makes me appreciate where I live. Having El Moro and Laguna Canyon in my "backyard" makes me realize I need to get out there more! The "secret" place they go to is called "tunnels" and was used by migrants coming to California a long time ago. It's heavily patrolled by rangers now unfortunately. Awesome place to ride though.
  • 2 1
 Great pictures, awesome riding Rich and Wade. Sooooo good to see buddys riding, wheel size......., big friggin deal. Done a couple of camps with Richey at Whistler, he's a cool dude, down to earth, and very keen in all types of riding . Waiting to learn from Wade !!! Honey Badger of 2012 !!!!
  • 1 0
 Wade good to see you still going hard. Your the reason I got into downhill. Rbr 2004 captured my attention and bam 10 years later I'm still rocking the Rmx wanna send me a flatline lol
  • 2 0
 Wade's words of wisdom - Bottom-line is: a road-trip will always be a road-trip, and rad will always be rad! Great photography and riding.
  • 3 0
 Amazing pics and true words. I'm so tired of the wheel size debate...go ride your bike.
  • 1 0
 Is that a glimpse of Richard Cunninghams famous Volvo wagon? I'm surprised. I imagined it to be an old 240 wagon, not an 850 for some reason. Good on ya for getting the miles out of you car.
  • 2 0
 Great feature and great people. Good job Ale, you smashed it with all creative angles and stunning backgrounds!
  • 4 0
 What !!!!!! no Tippie?
  • 4 2
 -=!!!!!!!LONG LIVE 29ER!!!!!!!=-

If your over 6ft tall I'm sure you know what I'm say n'
  • 6 2
 I am 6,3, what are you trying to say?
  • 2 1
 Great article, good to see you both enjoying my home town of Southern Cali. Grew up watching both you guy's and it's great to see you still killin it!
  • 1 0
 Pensavo che Aledilullo fosse un fotografo sud americano ma poi vedendo la bandiera italiana ho capito tutto ;-D . Belle foto complimenti , davvero , per me tutte POD.
  • 1 0
 to bring a cross country or all mountain bikes, are good photos. Nice shoots
  • 1 0
 Great article, great shots! Oh and thanks for sharing some of the locations in SoCal!
  • 2 0
 So many POD's and so many wallpapers !!!
Happy problem to choose one :-)
  • 2 2
 Ale captures some great images in this...I am always so tired of So-Cal images, but he really captured some unique looking shots-on over shot terrain. Great Job guys.
  • 3 0
 Great stuff guys!
  • 2 0
 Amazing photo after amazing photo....
  • 2 0
 More articles like this!!!!!
  • 2 0
  • 2 0
  • 2 0
 epic photos!
  • 3 2
 So are 29ers rad or not?!?!?!?! I need to know!!!!!!
  • 5 0
 I don't know. Wade still has that incredible style, but on a 29er. If you've seen Wade's photo's before you can see he's got a bit of a different look. Maybe because the bike is bigger, but it looks more like the bar was too wide to get tucked in. Still flatting a 29er though. My 29er is fun to ride but doesn't manual like my 26er's and not as easy to pull style out of, but I still have a good time at the end of the day. I think that was the point of the whole 29er thing.
  • 2 0
 If you come from a big bike, or Moto background a 29 might feel a little more natural. Since they have slower handling and a little more stability. My dad has ridden motorcycles for about 40 years and he prefers the 29 because he says it "rides like his ktm 200". Wade rips on that thing that's for sure!
  • 4 12
flag counterpoint FL (Mar 13, 2014 at 9:26) (Below Threshold)
 Looks like Wade has lost a bit of that style on a 29'er. Schley looks a lot better in the air photos!
  • 1 1
 26er to me is like riding a pitbike. lean back a little and your on your ass.
  • 1 0
 one of the images has a big white footer on it!
  • 2 1
 Awesome photos! I hope you ripped that Porsche as hard as them bicycles!
  • 3 0
 you better bet! lol
  • 2 0
 Great pics and words!
  • 2 0
 killer photos!!!
  • 1 0
 Amazing photos Ale. You killed it!
  • 3 1
 more schleybletops!
  • 1 0
 Great pics...and good to see familiar trails showcased.
  • 1 0
 Great article, looks like I need to get out to California
  • 2 1
 massive props for taking a porsche to carry your bikes!
  • 1 0
 Riding the spirit of the south like a boss..
  • 2 1
 i like schley for standing up against 29er e Big Grin haha
  • 1 0
 Grande Ale...Keep pushing!
  • 1 0
  • 2 2
 riding bikes for a living..... luckiest guys on the planet!
  • 1 0
 Really beautiful scenery
  • 1 0
 old school rippers!!!
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