Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mountain biking - new hobby

Last summer Monica was invited by her friend Dave to be on his team for 24 Hours of Great Glen, a mountain bike race near the base of Mount Washington.  She wasn't an experienced rider but as is pretty common with her she threw herself into the experience and her competitive nature made her want to be better at the sport for next year.  With David's help and lots of research she bought a new bike to replace the Boat Anchor (David's words) that she had been using.  I have an old bike and this fall we went for a few rides locally with Brenda, Steve, and Michelle and I think I got the bug as well.  One thing was sure, my bike (and the Boat Anchor) weren't suitable for keeping up with Monica.

Since the winter started out with a dearth of snow, and we had a bunch of shared vacation time between Christmas and New Years we took a few rides on new terrain.  I borrowed a bike from David - the one Monica rode at Great Glen - and armed with my new GoPro camera hit the trails at Great Brook Farms in Carlisle, MA and Big River Reservation in West Greenwich, RI.  We learned our share of lessons about layering for the cold, riding during hunting season, the fine art of falling safely, and mud.

First, let's establish some ground rules: I'm not an adrenaline junkie.  Sure, I like sports that require you to get out there and push the envelope from time to time, but in the grand scheme of things I don't like really fast speeds or living on the ragged edge.  This point was driven home forcefully a few years back when I was driving F1 gocarts at a friend's bachelor party and I came in dead last in every race.  Small children were passing me in every corner because I just don't have the killer instinct needed to dive into those turns at top speed.  Apparently using the brakes is frowned upon.  And this translates to mountain biking in a way that means each segment we ride I start out right behind Monica and while trying to negotiate a tricky section I look up to see that she is gone, leaving a cloud of dust in her wake while I chicken out on log jumps.  Such is life.

I own a mountain bike.  Well, I own a bike that many folks would consider a mountain bike.  It has a front fork suspension, but I've modified the bike for commuting and the less said about it the better.  When Monica got her bike I borrowed her old bike; formally the Barracuda but now rechristened the Boat Anchor. Until recently I would have been happy with a bike like this, but riding the terrain we've been riding recently its shortcomings are clear.  It's an older bike with a front fork but other than that it doesn't compare favorably to a Big Wheel, let alone a full suspension bike with disk brakes.  Finally, I borrowed Kathy's bike (the one Monica used at Great Glen) and riding became a whole new sport.

With a full suspension, trails look very different.  Terrain that used to have me picking my way down at a snail's pace I could now ride at a good clip, looking ahead to pick out my best line without worrying about every rock and root.  As the speed picked up I fell into a better rhythm allowing me to enjoy the ride, rather than think my way through everything.  Riding became more instinctive and flowing, and while I still don't have the killer instinct that lets some people ride down cliff faces I can go across narrow bridges, jump some logs, and get through steep descents without embarrassing myself.

I'll be picking up a new bike for myself this spring and exploring the local trails.  It's a great cross training sport, and is more stimulating than road biking.  Maybe a western mountain bike adventure is in the works?

1 comment:

  1. Good for you, Dave! Mtn. biking is so much fun... minus those coupla nasty falls and trips to the ER. When the snow melts this spring, you should definitely check out Kingdom Trails - probably the best trails I've ever ridden (or run!).