Sunday, January 15, 2006

A Roadie Goes Mountain Biking

as posted in the D.O.R.B.A. forum on 09/23/05

A few weeks ago I decided to buy a mountain bike. I've been riding road (120+ mi a week) for quite a while and figured it'd be fun to get back on the trails and mix up the long rides with the tree dodging.

Thanks to a DORBA member I bought a wonderful bike, used (thank you Lance), and have started riding some trails. Last night I went to LB Houston because it is close to work, it is considered an easy ride and I more or less remember it from 10 years ago when I raced some DORBA events.

While riding road I have become quite accustomed to a few nuances such as mindless folks who do not understand the concept or organization of a pace line (pick a wheel!) or the random placement of potholes and cracks that can be bunny hopped once seen from 25 yards out; but one of the strangest things I found I need to get used to when getting on a MTB from a roadie bike is the fact that there are trees and rocks. Not only that, but some idiot decided to put them literally everywhere.

These trees and rocks seem to pop up out of the ground, rather unannounced, right in my path of travel. Now, I'll be the first to admit that sometimes my path has nothing to do with the intended path, but that's beyond the point. I mean, here I am minding my own business, cranking down a trail, fully expecting the bramble of brush and foliage to turn gently and continue on a nice berth into the forest. However, upon reaching this festive ornamentation of nettles and ragweed, I find that the trail suddenly turns right. Sharp right. On sand. This sad fact leaves me with two choices: 1) get on the brakes (seen as a no-no to a roadie) or 2) plow through the trees and pray that the trail will somehow reappear on the other side.

Take last night for example. I'm probably one of the only people that are capable of falling down at L.B. Houston because he forgets to unclip from his SPDs, even though I've been using Look pedals for years as a roadie. Everything started out great. The trail was fast and clean, the trees were just far enough apart to not make me panic, and the rocks were being quite nice by staying out of my way.

Then, I saw a sign for "The Dips". This sounded like a lot of fun and, thankfully, they were a fun and energizing way to fear death and stave off cowardice. What a great extension to a trail! I can't tell you how big the grin was on my face after flying up and down through the dips, whooping with joy! Not once did I remove my hands from the bars as though I were on a rollercoaster, but some sick bastard did install some rather tight corners on the exit side of the dips, and this caused me some problems when I realized, in mid-air, that I needed to change direction to avoid hitting an oddly positioned root or tree stump. Still, the section is a great addition and I applaud the twisted, sadistic person(s) with the creativity to add this to the trail.

After negotiating this section handily I decided that the sign for "Difficult New Section" would likely be just as much fun. This, sadly, is where I fulfilled my first and second appointments with the earth. Things were going great on the new section until I encountered... what was it? Oh yes, the first turn.

The first turn seemed to serpentine through a route that would cause squirrels to pause in a state of confused apprehension thinking, "My god, how are we to navigate such a thing?" With my mind occupied with such thoughts I found myself with a single, obvious course of action. I plowed into a tree. Then I got to the second turn, and there's another tree in my way. Well, no. I missed the second tree and did stay upright until maybe the third or fourth corner when the trail wound tightly around some more trees and went uphill over a very randomly placed mound of dirt. At this point I lost all of my momentum (the 2 mph I was traveling), neglected to unclip and, rather uncerimoniously, fell over. Yep, I just fell down. Panic set in, my foot fought furiously against the grip of the SPD and that was that. Tuck the shoulder, keep your hands and arms inside the car at all times and turn your head so as not to see it coming. From this prone position I was then able to get my feet unclipped (yes, I was still attached to the bike) and right myself on the trail.

Not to be discouraged I decided to continue onward. While valiant, this was not in the best interests of my calves, since they now look like they were in a violent fight with a cat that has just been on an extended visit with the vet and has decided to take out its frustrations on a defenseless, conveniently placed sofa. No bother, I finished the lap with another couple of near foliage encounters before reaching open land and I let out a little cheer that sounded, to the casual ear, something like, "God be praised! I'm alive, I'm really still alive!"

Thanks to a quick rest, a resilient body and poor short-term memory I was out for my second, third and fourth lap before calling it a day. Folks, I'm sure all of you know this already but what a load of fun! Now, I just need to work on the "unclip in a state of shear terror and panic" portion of riding and everything will be groovy.


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