First rains bring riders out to hills

Josh Hansen watches while shovel maintenance takes place to rebuild the take-off lip of a jump. John Sanders

Nothing is more anticipated than rain in Southern California's motocross community. Rain brings life to freeriding in the hills, life we only know several times a year because of the region's moderately dry climate. So when the rain comes all Supercross riders and FMX riders pack up their gear bags and shovels to head toward the most happening spot.

After a short hiatus away from the sport from 2005 to September 2011, I returned to Temecula, Calif., having found myself with a gear bag packed full of fresh Fox gear and a practically brand-new CR 250 ready to go turn key. I was excited to make another go at riding.

This was short-lived, however. You see, my first ride at the beginning of 2012 back in the hills of Beaumont, Calif., I did the unthinkable and went too big, resulting in splitting my talus foot bone in half. So there went my winter riding season and I spent every day of 2012 thinking about the next season.

Fast forward to the end of 2012 and the current freeride season. The first rains have fallen and, let me tell you, the hills are alive. Having grown up in Reche Canyon my whole life I thought it would only be fitting to go back to the place I called home for more than 30 years. After all I rode those hills day in and day out as a kid, burning roughly five gallons of gas a day easy. So when the news weatherman said a big storm was definitely coming in, I geared up to go shovel some new jumps.

Now let me explain my passion for riding in the hills: I was so excited to be back in my own hometown riding spot that while it was raining, I drove from my current home in Temecula to Reche Canyon and sat at the Canyon Cottage (a pizza and grinder restaurant inside the canyon) all day just so I would have eyes and ears on the ground. I wanted to know exactly how much rain we were getting and when it stopped. I had major plans inside the hills and was not going to let one hour of shoveling get away from me!

While eating at the Canyon Cottage and having several adult beverages with the locals, the rain lightened up and it was time to drive into the hills. I already had a spot eyed up that I wanted to shovel, I just didn't realize the true beauty these five jumps were going to bring. In the first line was a three pack that I named the "Snake Bite." I named it that because Reche Canyon is notorious for taking the best guys in the world on a dirt bike and tossing them to the ground to remind them, they're riding the most technical form in the world in the hills. And the "Snake Bite" delivered, sending me down along with X-Games medalist Ronnie Renner, Ronnie Faisst, and Jeremy Stenberg. All were OK and got up to ride away but it was proof that these hills will do nothing but teach you how to be a better rider.

With social media and freeriding becoming more popular every year, Reche Canyon has become a staple freeridng spot for all motocross enthusiasts. Though I hate seeing my back yard go mainstream, sometimes you have to accept what you cannot control. And let me tell you everyone and their buddy and their buddy's best friends were out there.

On this particular weekend we had SX riders coming out to "playride" (a term used by racers before there was freeriding) and a handful of FMX riders. This included pro FMX riders such as Josh Hansen, Dean Wilson, Stenberg, Faisst, Kyle Partridge, and many others who came out to enjoy the real Reche Canyon experience, as I like to call it.

We sessioned the "Snake Bite" line until we exhausted ourselves from shoveling. I then took them on a loop through the hills, wrapping around to the infamous "kamikaze" cliff jump that was so popular back in the late 1990s. We then headed up to the top of Blue Mountain and began to cut in a new downhill line, weaving in and out of giant rocks, creeks, and drop-offs all the way to the bottom to conclude the day's ride.

The first rain was a success and maybe too much of one because now Reche Canyon is on the map more than ever now. I guess it's not a bad thing, in my opinion, having the best freeriding spot in the world as your own back yard.

Someone asked me if I was going to drive somewhere else to ride and I replied: "Why would I drive to Disneyland when Six Flags is my back yard."

I love the spot I grew up in, and I love freeriding in the hills with my friends. So till the next rain, I will be waiting patiently and promise to deliver the mantra of "living to ride, riding to live."