Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mountain Biking - On Real Mountains!

Has it really been over a week since I posted anything here? Crazy. But I have a series of good excuses, from the worst food poisoning of my life (yet) to a mini-vacation in an internet-serviceless mountain cabin to some exciting developments in my personal life. The good part about the mountain trip was that I got to put the Schwinn to several of its intended purposes: transporting it easily on vacation via car-mounted bicycle rack, and riding off-road.

I have griped before about the incompatibility of the standard trunk-mounted rack and step-through frames. One of the reasons I added a diamond frame bicycle to my collection was to have something I could toss onto a rack and take on vacation. The simplicity of hoisting this bike onto the rack, strapping it down, and walking away was such a relief compared to the handful of times I have tried to take Blue Belle somewhere. In that case, it was 30+ minutes of wedging, readjusting, swearing, getting greasy, and snagging delicate cables, followed by rage at the failure of the rack manufacturer to accommodate my precious bicycles. Several people have suggested using a 'boom bar' to create a good mounting point, a bar that grips onto the stem and seatpost. But my old-fashioned seatpost does not have the little knobby clamp that would make it secure on that end, and my stem/ headtube area has bells and shifters and other stuff mounted to it that would get damaged. So, ironically, I had to go out and get a bike to fit my bike rack.

Anyway, the other reason for the Schwinn was the beautiful, wooded, utterly tempting forest roads near this cabin, which we visit regularly. We would often take long walks along the paved and unpaved roads, talking about how much fun they would be on two wheels. I was not interested in crazy rock-jumping trails, but those bumpy roads leading back into the woods were too much to resist. And they were no place for a city bike.
That looks steep. And slippery. Help!

The Schwinn has fat tires with a slightly knobby texture, an extra-sturdy frame and fork, 21 gears, a slightly shorter wheelbase, and probably some other stuff I don't know about. It's an older-style mountain bike though, so it is made of steel and doesn't use shocks. The way they used to do it! It also still doesn't have bar tape or a new chain - I've been busy.
He's done this before...

The Beau coached me through the basics of riding on unpaved surfaces, gravel, leaves, ruts, etc. It's a lot like riding past a construction area or something, where there is gravel and sand spilled. He gave me some tips for climbing, corners, avoiding hazards, and going down long grades (don't ride your brakes). And then we rode up a mountain. It was fun, though heavy breathing replaced conversation after a while. It was also hunting season, which worried us both a bit. We got all the way up to the top of the ridge.

Then we rode back down the mountain. There was screaming. There was hollering. My arms and hands got tired from holding on to the vibrating, bouncing handlebars. I felt like I was going way too fast. It was a scary and entirely new experience, but also loads of fun! Like a roller coaster! But you don't have to stand in line and the view is much nicer. I'll definitely do it again.
Looking pleased with myself after a successful ride on forest roads

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