Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Trail Riding

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It has been a very long time since I have ridden my beloved hard-tail mountain bike. So long, in fact, I forgot how much more work it can be compared to my road bike. I bonked yesterday in a 16-plus mile ride with my life-long friend, Paul Keiski, whose biking condition is much stronger than mine.

Luckily, I was still close enough in contact with him to enjoy the spectacle of his slow-motion crash as he let out a little laugh over the predicament of tipping in the direction of the down-slope into the scrappy growth, wheels up, and on his back for a second.

The Makwa singletrack is a hairpin winding hardscrabble trail of big roots and jutting rocks that frequently will bring momentum to an abrupt halt where I would find myself in an unwelcome pedal stand and needing to muster the gumption to somehow kick the bike forward over the obstacle on the incline before me.

Yeah, I got tired. If I was on my road bike, I would coast for a while and catch my breath, but there is little time for relaxed coasting on this kind of trail. Arms constantly flexed, absorbing the concussions with obstacles and desperately working to hold the bike on the trail.

We chose to circle back to our starting point by way of a gravel fire lane road that had been re-graded not too long ago and was softer than preferable. I was already exhausted, but being well aware of the mostly uphill grade we needed to accomplish to get back to the pavement added a psychological burden that caused me to walk up more hills than I care to admit.

I was in the company of a generous friend in Paul, who was very patient and smart enough to have some energy supplements along for the ride which relieved my fatigue for a bit.

The last leg back to our lake place was on the pavement which felt great for the comparative ease but I was acutely aware of the fact this bike lacked the better geometry and larger wheels of my other bike.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my trail bike. It is wonderfully responsive to my moves in the woods and probably saves me from calamity despite my lack of experience on more occasions than not. I only inadvertently wandered off-trail several times when I failed to control my momentum and negotiate a turn, twice successfully carrying on anyway and riding back onto the trail without interruption.

That quick response of the bike made my soft gravel road riding a little squirrelly which only added misery to my fatigue, but overall, I am grateful for the way this old refurbished Trek performs for me.

It deserves to be ridden more often and my skills and conditioning improved enough to do it justice, but I am afraid being on the upper side of 62-years-old has me more inclined to just settle for hopping on the road bike and coasting down paved roads.

Many thanks to Paul for inspiring me to join him in the adventure and adding one more precious trail riding memory to our shared life experiences.

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