Friday, June 8, 2012

Off days are part of the game.

Every so often you have one of those days where nothing seems to go right.  For me Wednesday was one of those days.  It started off well enough.  Despite being at work until 5pm and doing my best to fill in for the branch manager, I managed to survive the work day.  The mere fact that I was able to get everything done and be out on time was actually quite amazing.  Usually I get stopped just before it's time to leave and end up having to change my after work plans entirely.  Today I was lucky, and the ride I had been looking forward to all week was looking like a definite possibility.  Little did I know, it was going to be a ride riddled with issues.

I arrived at Passion Trail Bikes, in Belmont, just after 6pm.  That gave me plenty of time to get ready and warm up a bit.  It was going to be my first time riding with the crew from Passion so I wanted to make sure I gave myself enough time to figure out which group to tag along with.  I ended up with a rather large group of 14 riders that was a mix of different skill and fitness levels.  Just my sort of group for an easy ride, as I never feel like I'm pushing to keep up, but I'm also not having to dial my speed back either.  On top of that, the fact that I was just along for the ride meant I didn't have to worry about looking out for people.

We rolled out from the shop around 6:30pm, and right away I knew it was going to be one of those rides.  From the first shift under load the bike seemed to be hating me.  I asked for smooth downshifts and got nothing but noise and ghost shifts.  Annoying considering that the bike had just been into the shop for a week to have a full tune up and new drive train installed.  I tried to keep my shifting to a minimum, but the ghost shifts made it difficult to build up a decent flow on the trails.  Sections that I normally wouldn't down shift for I found I was shifting just to avoid the chance of the bike doing it for me.  No amount of cable tweaking or derailleur adjusting seemed like it was doing anything to help either.  By the end of the ride I would finally figure out what was going on (at least I think I know), but by then my mood would already be soured by the rest of the nights events.

The shifting issues were bad enough, but then to drop a chain on a hard climb effort and have the derailleur completely lock up was a major pain.  I literally stopped dead in my tracks mid climb.  I ended up getting the bike to shift again but everything was still off.  Then while just riding along chatting with some of the guys on the ride I spazzed out and put my wheel right into a ditch, sending me straight to the ground.  I cut open my elbow and scrapped my shin pretty good, but mostly it was my pride that was bruised.  I did my best to pedal through the pain in my shin and lower leg, which within a few minutes of the crash had seemed to feel worse than it should.  Eventually I was able to get my momentum back and started feeling good on the bike again.  I led the charge up some of the hills and was feeling pretty good as we got near the down hill single track that makes riding at the Dog so much fun.  Then I went and messed it all up again.  Literally minutes after pointing out poison oak to some others on the ride, I brushed my forearm right against a huge branch of it.  What a putz!  I had already scraped up my arm running in to various other forms of flora along the ride so I knew my arm had exposed areas that would possibly lead to a nice reaction to the P.O.  I got over it though and kept riding.  As we neared the end of the ride we were heading towards my favorite trail, Rambler to Lower Creek.  It's a great stretch of single track that when clear can be ridden fast, with tons of lips to pump or hop, and plenty of tight corners to really test your skill and nerve.  I blasted through the first half only to come to a screeching halt against a tree when I missed the transition onto a skinny section of boards.  The tree knock my stem and bars out of alignment and launched my Garmin GPS right of it's bar mount.  I rode back to the lot with the bars out of sorts before realizing that I had to go back to hunt down the Garmin.  Finally finished with getting the bike sorted, and mounting my lights for the ride back to the shop, I was alone for my ride back.  It was a pretty depressing two mile ride, but I tried to make the best of it by putting the hammer down and trying to make up some time.  I never caught back up with the group, but they were all waiting for me when I finally arrived at the shop.  The ride had left me in a pretty sour mood, and I didn't really feel much like hanging out for a beer so I left.  Hopefully the next ride will lift my spirits and get me back in the mood.  After all I have Tahoe to look forward to.

Remember the next time you have an off day.  It happens.  All you can do is just move on to your next adventure and hope it turns out better.  After all mountain biking is too awesome to just get discouraged from one bad day in the saddle.  So get out and ride again.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Where the rubber meets the trail.

For the past few weeks I've been talking about needing new tires for my main ride, the Trek Fuel, but it's becoming a real pain in the rear to find straight answers on what's best for our trails.  Walk into ten different shops and you'll likely come out with ten different answers.  Of course what do you expect with such a subjective question like "what tires do you suggest?"  You're bound to get every possible tire around suggested to you, with that sort of question.  So what's the fix?  I'm not sure entirely, as I still haven't made a final decision.

The first thing I need to do, I suppose, is figure out what kind of rider I am.  Do I enjoy faster XC style riding with less technical terrain and some gut busting hills?  On occasion, yes.  Do I want to just haul butt down the hill and try my best to make it down in one piece?  That's another yes.  So looks like I need a tire that rolls fast on hard trails and grips everything from the loose stuff on hard packed trails to the loam in the deep forest.  Great!  So I just need a magic do everything tire.  Where am I supposed to find that?

I asked the guys at the last shop I went into and got three different answers on great "all around tires" but all three of the guys were riders that spent most of their time riding down hill technical terrain in the forest.  I ride more varied terrain than that so those tires may be overkill.  Looking around at the fast guys at the races is even more confusing.  It seems that racers tend to find a tire that works for them and then stick with it, no matter if there's something newer or better out there.  So if I'm a jack of all trades sort of rider, like most of us, I suspect, are what am I supposed to do?  Well thankfully there is a tire called just that.  Well it's actually called the Hans Dampf (supposedly German for Jack of all trades), from Schwalbe.  The only problem is that despite it being called a do everything tire, it's massive and very aggressive looking.  Hardly a fast looking tire, it looks more like the thing you're going to see on some 6 inch travel trail devouring beast not a 4.7 inch trail bike.  Then there's the price tag of $90.00 per tire.  That's a lot of dough to throw down on tires that may be too aggressive for what I do.  They may be great but at $180 for the set it's hard to justify a maybe.  There is the option of just sticking with what I know... the Kenda Nevegal.  The only problem with that is I feel as though I'm selling the bikes potential short.  Sure plenty of people will tell you it's not about the bike (or the tires) but I'll bet that all things equal, tires could easily make the difference between a great ride and one in which you're chewing dirt.

The next problem I face when it comes to this dilemma is that I'm a cheap skate. When it comes to spending money on things for me I make excuses for why I don't do it.  Sure I'll take my wife out, or buy her nice things.  But when it comes to spending money on me it's a whole different story.  I sit and research until I'm blue in the face then when I think I've got it all sorted out I stall and research some more.  It becomes this endless cycle, that lands me in exactly this position right here... Blogging about tires for my bicycle on the internet.  Sure I enjoy sharing my random thoughts with those of you that will listen, but is it really helping me make a decision?  Maybe what I need to do is just go for it.  Stop thinking about the possible outcomes and throw caution to the wind.  Throw down the cash and just ride.  Maybe I buy the best tires I've ever tried and maybe I don't.  Does it really matter?  In a couple months I'll have worn them out and need to start the whole process again.  The end result is still the same I'm still getting out and riding my bike.  Perhaps this concept could spread to other parts of my riding and life.  Instead of sitting and thinking about what to do or what to buy maybe I'm better off just rolling the dice from time to time.

What are you waiting for?