The Cantina rides

September 30, 2022 § 3 Comments

Wednesday nights, 5-5:30ish, the place to be was the west end of Peñasquitos Canyon preserve. Back in the early to mid 1990s.

Back in the day.

The meetup was for the famous Cantina mountain bike ride. Year round, with at least a half dozen riders, but 20 or more when it was summertime. This was the first Golden Age of mountain biking and San Diego was a great place to be.

Back in the day only the main trail on the south side was legal for MTBs. You were allowed to ride up to Del Mar Mesa on the service road under the telephone poles; one on the west end was also legal but getting there wasn’t. Creek crossings were fords, and not generally bridged except with the occasional unapproved plankings.

The map

The Mesa itself was undeveloped, just some utility company roads which took one back and forth. It was also outside of park boundaries. On the north side of the Mesa there were trails heading out through agricultural land and on the south side many of the currently legal trails back down to the canyon floor. In those days the north side trails, from creek to Mesa were hiking and equestrian only.

We ignored that.

Oh it was fun. The group would tear ass down the main trail and cut over at one of the crossings- wagon wheel, sycamore, Carson’s. There was another ford just past wagon wheel that I think is no longer a crossing that got used a lot. Waimea, Lucas’ (now called Sidehill), Cobbles and Poles would take us up. Maybe we’d just do a few of these. Often, we’d ride around the periphery of the bean and pumpkin fields. Blow through the agricultural workers camps- that was an education for someone new to California, like me.

The big ride to Black Mountain was an occasional challenge. We’d blast out the main trail, charge up Poles and head out through Cambodia. That’s the nonPC name for a section of utility company road that had huge ruts. Through some streets out in Mira Mesa and suffer the climb up the Black Mountain service road. Back then there was just one good trail down past the glider port and it was time to hammer home.

There were night rides, probably later in the year when nights got shorter. I got myself some NightSuns and joined in. Those were a hoot.

I remember a few of the guys. Big Brad the Barber. Dave, the photographer. Marc, baked to the gills every night but climbed like a rocket. The shop owner, Tom. Mike F. Dan and his wife. Rob P. Mara (?) the insane downhill racer.

Good times. I see one of the above every so often because he works at a local non-bike-relate retail establishment I use regularly. I’ve run into two guys from Cantina rides in the past year that remembered me, but I can’t quite call them to memory. One of whom works at a new bike shop situated at the west end of the Canyon. They have my old map tacked up on the wall.

The bikes were varied. Yeti, because the shop repped those. Then they had Slingshots and a few guys bought the weird cable downtube flexy frames. A Merlin, titanium of course. Mammoth, a local “guy who can weld aluminum” frame, so there were a few. A Rhygin, after some East Coaster arrived. A Ritchey P23 steel classic, red of course, that was Marc.

The sponsors

At some point Tom decide to sponsor some racers and came up with a jersey. I think this was the first one…and he had it for sale as well. It reminds of some more of the classic brands from the day. Slingshot bikes. Cook Brothers made a sweet crank. OnZa for bar ends, tires, brakes and probably other stuff. Avocet was still a major player, known for saddles from the 1980s. Hypocell was some nasty tasting hydration additive, iirc.


I suspect at that point I was doing the Mongoose contingency racer thing. So I didn’t race for them.

Eventually I got busy and stopped riding much. The shop closed at some point. All good things come to an end.


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