Sunday, July 19, 2020

Hitting the Trails

 I had a rough day and the road bike was being repaired. I broke a spoke and was waiting for a neighborhood repair guy to get it patched up. He was only running about a week for minor jobs while the bike shops were taking up to two weeks....

Anyway, I needed to get out. I had been avoiding the mountain bike for several reasons including the fact that most of the trails near my house are pretty narrow single track and my knack for getting hurt when I ride. I am also out of practice which makes me more prone to doing stupid things.

I had no choice but to take my chances. It was a coolish night and I waited until dinner time figuring the trails would be mostly empty. I was mostly right.

I masked up and made sure I had my orange lenses on. They don't fog up quite as much for some reason and killing myself on an obstacle I didn't see seemed dumber than killing my killing myself on an obstacle I saw and still tried....

The first part of the trails near my house are a 1/4 mile road ride away, so I figured I make use of my front fork lock and give myself a bit of a break before taking on the trails.

The first section of trails is fairly rugged single track that starts off with a steep hill. I always try and never succeed in climbing it. I either get scared that I'm going to flip backwards or my rear tire spins out. From the top of the hill, there is a steep narrow run along a ridge that ends in a sharp turn. I was feeling tense the entire ride and reconsidering the wisdom of my choice. I could surely blow off some steam with a nice little walk around the hood...

The bike felt extra poundy and reactive which I chalked up to nerves and lack of saddle time.

Once off the ridge the trail winds through some thick woods, across a short, narrow bridge, and into a rocky area. The bridge was nerve wracking. I had to force myself to look across the bridge and not at it. All I could imagine was missing the mark by a fraction, hitting the handle bars and ending up in a pile.

Once over the bridge the rest of the section was fairly easy. There were plenty of rocks and the front end was jumping all over the place. The trail was reasonably wide and nothing looked like it would cause too much damage if I went down...

After about a mile until the first rider passed me. I was at a rode crossing and we both were wearing masks and keeping space. He even called out to alert me to his approach. It was all very pleasant and confidence inspiring.

After the road crossing, the trail stays pretty narrow and winds through the woods and up a hill before another road crossing. This section is nice because it is not too technical. There are some roots, but nothing big. The only tricky parts are knowing which turn takes you to the road instead of the dead end and a small rock wall. The rock wall is your sign that you took the correct turn. I mostly cruised through this section. The hill took its toll on my legs and the rock wall wasn't pretty, but I felt good.

After the second road crossing, the trail is super smooth. I winds through a nice marshy area covered by a wide bridge and ends up in a forested area with some minor obstacles. There is one particularly narrow twist between three trees with a ton of roots. I nearly bought it because the front tire was bouncing all over the place. I managed to keep the bike on the right line.

Once I crossed the third road, I started running into people. The first part of this section of trails is a wide fire road that is very popular with walkers, runners, ect. The first group of people I saw was easy to avoid. They were just beyond a side trail that I was not planning on taking because it is reasonably technical. However, my fear of people outweighed my fear of injuring myself on the bike, so I took the side trail.

The side trail was not as rough as I remembered, but it wasn't a fire road. There were plenty of roots, rocks, and sharp turns.

When I popped back onto the fire road, I noticed that there was still a group of walkers just up a head of where I wanted to go, so I took another side trail that shoots along a small ridge line. Other than that it has steep drops on each side of the trail, it is smooth and straight. I was able to cruise and was certain I would pop back out ahead of the walkers.

I was right about the walkers; they were definitely behind me when I got back onto the fire road. However, right in my path were two fat, white, middle age guys riding full suspension e-bikes. Of course they weren't masked and were riding side by side taking up the entire trail.

WTF. I'm all for people of all shapes and sizes getting some exercise. I don't even really have too many issues with e-bikes (although I'm not sold on the need for full suspension ones) because they do get more people biking. I do have problems with a couple of over privileged idiots ignoring both public health guidelines and basic trail etiquette.

They didn't move into a single file line so we could both use the trail. I had to pull off to the side and watch them silently cruise by under full e-power.

The rest of the ride was pure cruising. The trails were wide and groomed all the way to where I popped out of the woods. I did, briefly, consider the water tower trail as a I cruised past but wasn't in the mood to push my luck. The bike had been jittery the whole ride and the cut backs and incline felt like a step too far.

Once out of the woods, I had a mile ride back home on the streets that includes a big hill. To make the ride easier, I decided to lock out the front fork. When my thumb reached for the button, it couldn't push it in. I checked what was going on figuring that I had snapped the cable or something. Nope - the fork had been locked out for my entire ride....

I felt silly but also a little bit better about how much trouble I was having riding the rougher sections of trails.

The ride home was an uphill slog. The hill is long and steep. It is perfect for getting the thighs burning and the great pumping.

Aside from the idiot pair, I was really impressed with how much care my fellow trail mates were taking to keep COVID at bay. It was nice to get on the trails in a way that felt safe and did wonders for my mental health. Now I feel like I have one more outlet.