The last day of November and I had some time to shoot out to The Pines for a couple of hours. I took the parts bin 29er out again, for shits and giggles and all, and rode a Green loop to warm up, followed by the Red loop with all the Black options.
Trails were a little slick where the sun was melting the frost. Most of the stuff in the shade was still frozen and easily rideable. The slick spots were very greasy, reminded me that tire selection is key on a non-fat bike. The Rocket Ron I had on the back is not a friendly mud tire thats for sure but my selection of 29er tires is limited to whats on this bike. I predict that with the temps in the plus digits this week things will get even greasier.
It didn't take much to go beyond the limits of traction with the crap-tastic tire on the back. Its great in dry conditions but sucks ass in the mud, maybe I should toss some decent rubber on this bike if I'm going to keep riding it as much as I have been, but then the list just keeps going on...... drivetrain, brakes, fork, yadda yadda. I wouldn't mind building up a sweet steel singletrack slaying machine tough...... hmmmmm.
A stressful few days at work and the onset of my usual winter time "meh" was really putting a damper on me heading out the door for a ride this afternoon. I looked out at the beauty day and gave my head a shake, knowing full well that days like this a fewer and further between this time of year. I decided that in order to get myself out of my current funk I needed to add something unique to today's ride. After months of riding nothing but fat bikes, I decided to grab the old well worn parts bin 29er hardtail.
I set out into the singletrack on the old girl, her steel frame wagging like a dog's tail as I stood on the pedals. The nearly worn out drivetrain skipped gears while I jabbed at the loose feeling shifter pods, looking for that next cog to keep the freight train rolling. I rode fast into corners and frantically squeezed the brake levers hoping that I would get slowed down enough to avoid catastrophe. The fork worked itself over the terrain, sloshing and clanging away as it neared the limits of its travel over obstacles that didn't seem all that big. In each corner I could hear the disc brake rotors squeaking against the pads as the frame and fork flexed under the axial load. The seatpost needed periodic adjustment to keep the saddle height in check as it would slip down slowly over the course of the ride. The 2" wide tires slid and struggled to maintain traction on the loamy soil.
Most people would call this bike a piece of shit. In all honesty I would have to agree most of the time, but today it gave my ride a little bit of spice that I had been missing for a while. It made me appreciate the luxuries that I've become accustomed to with the new crop of bikes. Don't get me wrong, the bike rides just fine and is quick to boot, just different. It has what I call character. The annoying little sounds, the limit of its capabilities, all give it a little something that brand new perfect bikes don't have. It also threw some fuel on the fading fire as I can't wait to take that hunk of junk out for a ride again. A good way to get your bike mojo going again. Some people won't understand what I mean, but those who do will also own a sad old neglected redheaded step child of a bike.
I thought of updating some parts and replacing the worn out drivetrain, but I feel it would lose something and be a "less complete" bike in my eyes. I'll ride it a couple more times before the novelty wears off then toss it back into the corner of the shop to collect dust until I get the ennui feeling again. It serves as a tool to remind me that no matter how "retro-grouch" I get, I can admit that new bikes are simultaneously awesome and soul-less. I feel like I'm pissing into the wind sometimes while holding onto my quick release axles and steel frames, but the wind in my hair and warm feeling over my body keeps me coming back..... if you know what I mean. With the current trend of whats-old-is-new-again my sad old steel hardtail should be new-school sexy in just a few years, so I think I'll keep it in that dark corner of the garage until then when I can be the cool kid on the block again.
I rolled into the parking area at the West end of Mole Rd just after 10:00. I woke up late and waited a while for the sun to warm things up before heading out today. It was damn chilly this morning. I began unloading my bike and gear and noticed that the truck I had parked beside was covered in snow. He must have came from an hour or so North of here, as we didn't get any snow that stuck around or accumulated but I know that London / KW got hit. Its true that people come from all over Southern Ontario to ride at Turkey Point when the weather is crappy and their home trails are wet, I'm pretty sure the days of TP being a "hidden gem" are long over as this place is a well known and highly renowned locale to ride.
My ride was a short one, I pretty much kept it within the confines of the Provincial Park. Its a chilly day and I've just finished getting over a lingering cold. I spotted and heard a few other riders but things were mostly quiet out there. Very peaceful this time of year. I rode the Nashbar as its my only mountain bike after selling the Fatboy. I had lots of thoughts during the ride.... should I use the cash from selling the Fatboy to upgrade the Nashbar? Leave the Nashbar and put my 29er back together? Buy that Norco Torrent 27.5x3.0 that I've been eyeballing? Either way, I've got lots of time as the snow will fly soon and the Nashbar will be getting lots of miles on again.
The trails gnomes of the TPMBC have been out in full force recently, the trails are in fantastic shape and super buff / clean. I'm hoping that next year will afford me some more free time and I can do some volunteer trail days with the club. This year has been chaotic for me with young children, changing jobs, and long hours at work but next year my son will be old enough that I can bring him along with a little rake to help on trail maintenance days.
If you are on the fence about taking the trip to TP for a ride, do it. Its fantastic down here right now and in just a few weeks the snow will be flying, which brings a new level of fun to those of us lucky enough to be "fat equipped".
Lately I've been feeling a little worn by all the new crap coming out in the bicycle industry. I think a part of it is that as I get older, I'm trying to hold onto the simplicity of my cycling youth. I think back sometimes about my old steel Barracuda A2R, a Tange steel frame with a Rock Shox Judy fork and Shimano XT components. There was something pure and innocent about that bike, not sure if it was how it rode or that everything on it was industry standard.
There is a term that gets tossed around way too much these days, Industry Standard. The truth is that we have a total lack of standards right now. With enough hub, bottom bracket, and headtube "standards" out there to make you puke its easy to get lost in the technical mumbo jumbo of these "innovations" that are supposed to make your ride better. All the marketing for the new stuff makes it seem like we all barely survived riding our 26" hardtails out in the rough cut backcountry trails of yesterday. You really don't need 140mm of suspension for that rock garden , we all used our old bone shakers to ride it years ago without much issue. Its a damn scam I tell ya.
Bottom brackets - Holy shit, the recent (read: 3-4 years ago) move from a standard bsa threaded bb shell to the press fit system is the biggest crock of shit I've ever seen. The old bsa bb was a standard on bicycles for many decades, all you really needed to know was 68 or 73mm shell and spindle width for chainline. The X-type (external bearing cup) bb was the best of the best, a system I still use on all my bikes (because it fucking works wonderfully). Then someone went and fixed what wasn't broken and came up with the "stiffer, lighter, stronger, cheaper" pressfit system. I've owned one bike with a pressfit bb and it creaked and moaned all day. I tried grease, torque, complete re-installation, all to no avail. Truth of the matter is that its cheaper for a bike manufacturer to ream a hole for a pressfit install than to thread a shell then chase it after welding. In the last few days the all new T47 system has been all the talk about how it will fix all the PF30 issues. Guess how? With threads in the bb shell. Holy fuck! Talk about coming full circle and fixing a problem that didn't exist in the first place. Maybe soon they will come out with an "all new" square taper crank interface! Imagine that!
Hubs - Once upon a time all mountain bikes had 100mm QR front hubs and 135mm QR rears (130 on old 7 speed mountain bikes). These days you can have your pick from the good old 135mm all the way to 197 through axle hubs. I understand that fat bikes need big hubs, but the recent "Boost 148" hub is a joke. We already have a 142mm thru-axle system but the new 148 claims to be stiffer, lighter, blah blah blah. The Boost 110mm front hub is super amazing and stiff too, but we already had 110mm thru-axle hubs that existed for decades in the form of 110mm x 20, which was obviously too heavy so they made it 110 x 15. Yeah, thats better. More of what is old is new again.
Headtubes and steerers - Use to be 1.125" was the go to size. Now its 1.5" tapered to 1.125", and Cannondale was ahead of the game with their 1" 9/16ths steerer on the Headshok product since the late '90s. These days you have to buy headsets in two parts, uppers and lowers. You use to be able to just choose a nice 1.125" headset and go, now you need to do NASA level math calculations to combo up a headset suitable for you current bike.
Maybe I'm just being an old retro-grouch (which is entirely possible) but I feel like the golden age of mountain bikes has passed us by and bikes are now built without soul like they once were. Bikes use to have kickass names like Avalanche, Pantera, Alien, Hammer, Blizzard, Attitude..... now its all boring shit like XXXwhateverXXX 7.5 and the XXXblah BlahXXX 9.3. Bikes also use to be made from steel tubing, not that plastic shit they are now, and had a lively feel unlike the dead feeling carbon bikes of today. I still like my 4130 Cro-mo frames, my plain jane threaded bottom bracket, my quick release skewers, and tubes in tires. Its impossible to buy a bike like that now, unless I go for a custom built frame.
I guess I'm just trying to hang onto the good old days, but as Bob Dylan says "The Times They Are A Changin'". So retro-grouch me up. And while I'm in a bitching mood, get the fuck off my lawn.
Nice ride at Turkey Point. Found that my new-to-me Garmin Edge 200 GPS is pretty inaccurate in twisty trails, might be better suited to staying on the CX bike for rail trail riding. It was 3 km shy of my actual ride distance - 10km vs 13km. Pretty big gap there I'd say. Also rode the Nashbar for the first time out on the trails since buying the Fatboy. Gosh darn, what a difference. The Fatboy rides like a Maserati while the Nashbar is more like a Kia. Guess everyone needs a winter beater though.
Anyways, this week is supposed to be fantastic weather so get out there and enjoy the fall leaves and golden sunsets before that bitch winter comes around. Today was great, going again after work this week, then again on the weekend. Fuckin' Eh!
I've always been a mountain biker. Mountain biking was my passion ever since riding my department store 15 speed along the trails of Big Creek in Delhi. Something about being out in the woods and alone, the peacefulness, time seemed to move slower out there. As I progressed as a cyclist I started riding more pavement, but it was always with an eye to the bushline looking for a trail entrance that could take me somewhere with dirt under my tires.
I've tried to do more road cycling, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I live with a bit of an irrational fear of inattentive assholes in cars that could mow me down at any given point. I tried cycling to work, doing big road rides, all with the same result - ending with my fear of being hit. I know that if I was run over by a car my family would suffer. I'm the income earner and an injury would be detrimental to us. I've never been much of a risk taker when mountain biking, but I've tamed down what crazy I had left to keep all my fingers and toes working.
I can remember my first taste of car-fear like it was yesterday. I was 14 years old and riding my old Diamondback Topanga with my brother across town. I had a crappy plastic Brass Eagle paintball gun in my backpack that my brother and I were on our way to Dick's Hill to go and shoot some trees with. We had just dropped off a video game rental at the Stop-N-See video store in town. I was riding the sidewalk on highway #3 and had a walk light that I was proceeding on (I was young and stupid riding against the direction of traffic, but on the sidewalk nonetheless). As I was riding through the crosswalk, a car made a right turn from highway #3 onto Church St and came directly at me. The driver saw me, we made eye contact right before he hit me. He didn't slow down either, just kept going and hit the back wheel / derailleur of my bike tossing me to the ground. I remember hitting the ground and my knee and wrist hurting right away. The driver just kept on going up Church St. My brother looked on, stunned.
I layed on the pavement for a few seconds still trying to understand how in the hell the driver looked right at me but just kept going right into me. There were a few people standing at the White Jug convenience store that witnessed it all, as well at the car behind the hit and run driver. I remember someone asking me if I was ok, which I was. My knee still hurt but I was luckily unscathed. I stood up and surveyed the damage to my bike. Back wheel bent enough to hit the chainstays while spinning and a rear derailleur that was stuck down in the last gear, bent all to hell. Damn. For a kid who cut grass once in a while to earn money, this was going to be a pricey fix.
All of a sudden a guy in his 30's looks over and yells to me "Hey! I think hes stopping up the road!" The hit and run guy was pulling into a laneway and getting out of his red Buick. I got mad. Really mad for a 14 year old kid. I hopped on my bike and sprinted up the street, stuck in one gear with the rear tire buzzing the chainstay. When I got to the house the driver had already left his car and made it into the house, he left the keys in the ignition, the car running. I reached into his car and blasted the horn for a loooooong time. It didn't take long for him to come out and the verbal ambush to start. I was a shy kid at 14 but I yelled every four letter word I could spell out to him. I remember telling him he hit me, he denied that he did. I showed him the damage to my bike while cussing him out. His response was that he didn't see me. I remember saying "Didn't see me? You looked right in my eyes you fucking idiot!"
I think he was quite embarrassed by the whole ordeal, by now the neighbours were looking out of their windows and the group of witnesses down the street watched as I reamed him out. He wrote down my number on a sheet of paper and said he would call me. He would not give me his number. He hopped back into his car and continued up Church St. Mother fucker, I thought to myself. I returned home and told my parents of what happened, my brother concurred my story with them. My dad sprang into action. We drove over to the house the driver had stopped at and after some questioning by my father we had the guys name.
My dad called the cops, I had to repeat my story to the female officer. There was nothing they could do about the damage to my bike. It was between him and I, I was told. Last I heard the driver was charged with something, I'm not sure what. I never did have to make another statement and I never pursued him for the damage to my bike. The verbal assault from a 14 year old kid and embarrassment that followed was probably punishment enough. I remember his name, but won't publish it here. He made a mistake and we both got off lucky. He died a few years after the incident, can't remember if it was old age or something else.
It was that experience that was my wake up call. I realized that I'm not immortal and I could have been seriously injured or worse if the timing was a bit different. I promised myself that I would be a good cyclist and follow the rules. Helmets, hand signals, lights, etc. I still do occasionally ride through the busy town of Simcoe or along a paved road, but usually out of necessity. I do not enjoy road riding, I fear the next inattentive driver who is busy with their phone or makeup. Most people don't know how to drive around a cyclist who takes the lane and uses hand signals that might as well be hieroglyphics because they don't know what any of it means. I might be overreacting, but I've got enough rail trails from my doorstep that I don't need to take the risk. It seems like that risk gets bigger everyday too, with new drivers that are accustomed to having that phone glued to their hand.
I don't tell this story alot, and its nice to get it out there. There are other factors that contribute to my lack of pavement riding but this was my first "holy shit" moment. It changed the way I looked at cycling and cars. Sorry to be a buzz-kill for all you roadies out there, but I prefer dirt under my tires. After all, the trees aren't going to run me over.
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.