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Julian Tires Out Mountain Bikers

April 22, 1993|RICK VANDERKNYFF | Rick VanderKnyff is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition. and

Julian, a quaint hamlet set in the mountainous backcountry of San Diego County, is best known for the apple harvest festival it holds each fall. For the past few years, however, it has also gained a high profile in mountain-bike circles.

The Julian Fat Tire Festival, now in its fifth year, takes place over two weekends each spring. It opens Friday and continues through Sunday with a series of fun rides each day, tailored for a variety of skill and experience levels. The events will be repeated the following weekend, April 30 and May 1 and 2.

"We get anywhere from beginning mountain bikers to real good riders," said Rich Wolf, head of the R&B Bicycle Club, which runs the event. Several loop rides will be offered each day, winding through heavily wooded Cleveland National Forest land and nearby state and county parks. Lengths of the rides range from six to 30 miles.

Night rides will be offered Friday and Saturday. Special events on Saturday include a "poker ride" in the morning, in which riders stop at each of five checkpoints to pick up a single playing card. The rider with the best poker hand at the end of the ride wins a prize.

Also on Saturday, an afternoon "bicycle rodeo" will be held, with riders demonstrating their handling skills by riding on a log and by taking part in a barrel race. Sunday will open with a hill climb. The weekend concludes with a group barbecue Sunday afternoon.

The lineup of events is the same both weekends. The event was held over a single three-day weekend until two years ago, when attendance reached about 400. "For one weekend, that was a few too many," Wolf said. "That's kind of the essence of mountain biking, not to have thousands of people out on the trail."

Wolf expects between 300 and 400 people over both weekends this year. The group events are all non-competitive "fun" rides.

Julian is an old Western-style town set at about 4,200 feet, about two hours from Orange County. Temperatures are in the upper 60s--perfect weather for mountain biking. "It's beautiful," Wolf said. "Spring is in the air, and the wildflowers are out."

Many of the participants will camp in the area for the weekend. Some bed-and-breakfast accommodation may still be available as well. Cost for the weekend's events is $46, which includes all riding events for the three days, along with an event T-shirt and the Sunday barbecue.

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