Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘mountain bike

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.



Fat Tires

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The weather was nice when we set out on a bike ride yesterday around 12:30. That niceness didn’t last. On the plus side, Cyndie’s brother, Ben, offered me a chance to ride his fat bike, so mine didn’t get all muddy.

It was my first time riding on the gigantic tires. The first thing I noticed was that my legs made contact with the frame around the wide back tire while we were cruising down the asphalt on the way to the gravel road that cuts into the woods.

Before I expand on my experience riding the big beast on the “intermediate” level off-road trails, there is a story about the pedals. I ride clipless pedals (the complicated descriptor for pedals that click onto a cleat in my shoe and keep my feet fixed in place while riding). Ben’s bike had standard flat pedals.

Knowing this in advance, I decided I would take the pedals off my road bike before coming up, so I could swap out the ones on Ben’s bike. The problem with that last-minute plan came about when I couldn’t get the pedal on the right side of the bike to budge. It was frozen solidly in place.

Several times, I took a break from futile attempts to loosen the pedal and let some penetrating oil soak in while I made other preparations for departure. Finally, I went inside, showered, and then drove the packed car out of the garage, ready to head out after making one last try on that stubborn pedal. The wrench slipped and my left hand slammed into the teeth of the big chainring. It cut deepest in two specific places on my thumb, filling the nasty gashes with dirty chain grease.

I rushed back to the house to wash out the cuts as best I could tolerate and then had to go find Cyndie for assistance in bandaging it up. Frustrated and angry with myself, I packed up the pedal wrench and drove off, leaving the road bike behind with one pedal on and one pedal off.

I held my wounded left hand up in the air for most of the two-and-a-half-hour drive north.

Yesterday morning, Paul and I decided to simply try swapping the pedals from my off-road bike for the ones on Ben’s bike. Both sets came off with ease. Problem solved. Oh, how I wish I hadn’t wasted one second struggling to take the pedals off my road bike.

My thumb wishes that even more.

So, now I had my clipless pedals on Ben’s fat bike and I was ready to try it out. The frame is taller than I want, but I can straddle the cross tube because it slants down just enough. It took me two tries to get the seat lowered to the right height, and then I was ready to go.

After the opportunity of riding my bike on similar trails the day before, I had a good reference for comparison between the two. The fat bike felt like a truck compared to the nimbleness of my old-style bike.

The shifters are different enough that I needed to think much more consciously about gear changes, rarely with the precise timing preferred. That wasn’t as much a problem as the basic difference of frame geometry and tire size. It felt like the bike took longer to make it around corners. Sure, the big front tire rolled over hazards easier, but it never felt like the back tire did.

Final verdict: I’m not sold. I think it would make a nice bike for riding on packed snow, but for the rough trails through the woods in summer, I prefer the much skinnier tires on my mountain bike.



Written by johnwhays

August 4, 2019 at 7:28 am