Thursday, November 1, 2012

Back to Basics: Mountain Biking

Nine years ago in San Diego, I bought my first mountain bike: a $500 Specialized Rockhopper hardtail -- and I remember hesitating at the price! -- which eventually got down to pennies per mile and was one of the best investments I ever made.

That gateway led to road biking, then road running, then trail running and associated madness, etc., but I'm getting ahead of myself.  That bike deserves it's own post, eventually, but we had our share of adventures.  I rode great, classic trails in Southern California (Noble Canyon; Big Bear Lake, where Neil fractured his clavicle far into our ride), and while contemplating a move to Colorado, I took a final trip up to Idyllwild for one last ride at Hurkey Creek.

I found a(n inelegant) way to carry a surfboard on that bike...and then moved to Colorado, where I carried x-country skis instead.  And experimented with studded tires.

Along the way, I rode classics in Sedona, Moab, Fruita, Winter Park, Monarch Crest, Snowmass, Crested Butte, Kenosha Pass, Vernal, Rollins Pass, and up-and-down the Front Range (looking back just a couple years ago, it was a relief during the stressful transition back to school and moving to East Denver).  I brought it to my parents' house in OKC once, so I could drive another hour to ride some great trails near Tulsa.  I even rented some bikes when traveling, so I could ride the John Muir trails in Wisconsin, and the Tsali Trail in North Carolina.

I got as much mileage as I could on the original, before upgrading components, eventually buying a new wheelset and putting on disc brakes.  I hammered out a dent in that wheelset and kept going, and when my rear derailleur busted, I converted it to a single-speed.

Alas, my rear derailleur hanger mount on my frame busted; my front shock is unpredictable; and my bottom bracket is suspect.  And, I simply ran more as I biked less.

But I missed it too much, especially when being on trails that just beg to be ridden instead of trodden (Fruita), or just those sloppy winter days where just riding around town on snowy roads, dirt roads, and trails is enough fun.
And I missed the culture as well: from group rides or trail commiserations with fellow riders, riding with my brother-in-law who finally got a decent bike, and even to the simple act of reading "Dirt Rag" when my wife and I hang out at Barnes and Noble, I wasn't ready to relegate myself as a guy that "used to" mountain bike.

So, with an awesome closeout deal at Lee's on a 2012 Cobia, I finally bought a new bike!
I've just gotta sell some old gear in the garage to help pay for it.

As the fads go, this is my first 29er -- still a hardtail -- with the idea being that the momentum and comfort from bigger tires will go well with the type of riding I usually do (cross-country, often from my house with some road riding to the trailhead), along with the impractical type of riding I dream about doing but haven't told my wife (Colorado Trail, Kokopelli Trail, Great Divide), as well as the more practical riding I'm more likely to do in the future (hauling kids around town in a trailer).  I do all my own mechanical work and I'm suspect of new technology and was wary of hydraulic brakes, being more comforted by the ability to swap around cables in a mid-ride emergency, but I'm willing to try it.  (As a tradeoff, the sales gal pointed out that the Recon air shock can be easily maintained at home if needed).

From a running perspective, I've already re-learned how much more motivating it is to keep momentum on steep uphills, so that it's easy to jack up heart rate by ironic laziness than it is when running (for me anyway).  Downhills aren't cake, either, for when you get a long, rocky downhill and sit back behind the saddle, your quads are burning by the end and the shoulders, forearms, and wrists get a workout as well.

So, here's to rediscovering an old love.  See you on the trails!

1 comment:

  1. The Fruita brother-in-law rides a hardtail 29er everywhere and does great, so I'd think that configuration should serve you well. If you're going over 6" or more feature you're probably not going to be in the saddle anyway.