Cyclists are a diverse crowd of people usually from many different walks of life but brought together by the perfect creation known as the bicycle. While out on the trail or road you will run into many unique characters who can usually fit into a specific cycling sub-culture. At the risk of stereotyping and being boarder line racist, I bring you "The Eight Mountain Bikers You Will Meet". Remember, its just for fun.
Usually when you come across this cyclist its a middle aged white male sporting a full on lycra race team kit who dosen't have the time or courtesy to say hello as he passes you. It seems he always has a serious or nearly pissed off look on his face as his rides are always spent "training" and most likely rides a carbon 29er with 2.1" tires. His GPS and power meter are beeping as he passes by, and when he gets home he has to enter all his ride details into a complex spreadsheet. He spends alot of time searching for the lightest carbon bits for his bike and categorizes meals as good or bad carbs. The Racer's main concern is getting on the podium at the local weeknight race series, and talking shit with all the other racer types on the regional cycling forum.
The Retro Grouch
You've seen this rider. He blasts by you riding a mid 90's hardtail, bouncing down the trail on the edge of control with equipment like cantilever brakes, 8 speed drivetrain, vintage Panaracer tires, and a Rock Shox Judy fork to boot. His equipment is well worn but dialled in and he scoffs at the idea of buying a new bike from this century. He will argue that his clapped out bike with 120mm stem and 400mm bars is the pinnacle of bike technology and all subsequent bike related inventions are redundant. He rarely visits a bike shop as he buys all his replacement parts used from eBay. When he does visit a bike shop you can usually see him bitching about why cables cost so much and why can't he buy a new Panaracer Smoke tire?
The Bro Rider
Easily summed up as the douchebag of cycling, this early 20's adrenaline seeker is kitted out with a long travel suspension bike bought with his parent's money and a full kit of Troy-Lee Designs gear. He's always looking to "shred the gnar" and ride the "sickest" lines. He is always the guy who laughs at other riders when they go down and offers no assistance. He never brings any spares and can be seen walking his bike out of the woods every once in a while because of it. If you don't give him your spare tube when he flats you are usually "harshing the buzz" of the ride in his eyes. Sometimes the Bro Rider can be of benefit to everyone else because they usually give up on mountain biking after two seasons and move onto something like cliff diving or parkour while selling their top shelf enduro bike for peanuts to free up space for their new juicer.
The Wheel Size Guy
This rider loves their 29er/650b/fat/plus/whatever bike and won't shut the hell up about it. They usually are of the opinion that their chosen wheel size is best and you are inferior for riding anything else than what they deem proper. They can usually be seen handing out unsolicited advice about how you could benefit from riding a 29er/650b/etc like they do and that they are the best thing since sliced bread. These guys are usually good for some entertainment value, its great to tell them that you don't think you would need an XXer to ride a particular trail feature and watch their head explode.
The Naturally Skilled Rider
This rider usually has no idea about anything to do with cycling but can ride like a son of a bitch. Nearly always on a department store bike or an entry level Specialized he got from a garage sale, he will ride past you like you are standing still. You can usually hear them coming because their derailleur is so far out of adjustment that the squeaky dry chain is clanging and trying to shift gears while he rides along. This rider could benefit from a solid bike and some knowledge in the area of chainging gears and fixing flat tires but will argue that they are perfectly happy with what they have. Riding with this guy will frustrate the hell out of you as he will pass you on your carbon 29er at the base of the climb and leave you in the dust while mashing the pedals on his 60 pound department store special.
The Trail Guru
This guy always seems to be out in a particular trail when you are. He can always be seen helping other riders who are lost or need some recommendations on what trails to ride. He knows the name of every trail in the system and always seems to know what the conditions are like at any given time. He also knows about each and every downed tree or debris blocking a trail and will give you a heads up. He will offer his spare tube or chain link to help a stuck rider and accept nothing in return. He is always smiling and makes time to stop and chat with anyone that feels the urge. He is usually an older gent with a beard who you would swear must live out in these woods somewhere. He is a wealth of knowledge and usually well respected by the local riders.
Top of the Line Guy
This rider is easily spotted by their shiny new bikes with all the flashy bits you could ever imagine bolted to it. This is a money-is-no-object type of person who has no issue in slamming down $7000 every year on a new bike with full XTR and carbon everything. Their bike and gear is always so new that you wonder if they even ride much. Every trailside water break with them turns into a discussion about why their gold plated chain works so much better than your good old half worn out nickel plated chain at twenty times the cost. Their garage is usually full of top of the line "spares" as they spend all their free time and money shopping online for the latest and greatest in bike parts. No matter what cool new piece of gear you get, they have something better and aren't afriad to tell you about it. This rider is not humble by any means and is the one-upper of the bike world.
This is an odd one. The Stravasshole is usually a sub-category of The Racer, taking his need for data collection and training even further while giving up on the racing part. They chase things called KOM's in a virtual online time trail against other Stravassholes, all while giving kudos to eachother in an online circle jerk. They spend alot of time checking their performance on the Strava website and looking at flyby and heatmap info, looking for the perfect segment to score their next KOM. They usually cry like little bitches when they lose their hard earned KOM to someone faster. The Stravasshole is a serious beast, always having their game face on and ready to cuss you out if you get in their way, costing them valuable seconds in their KOM attempts. This rider can usually be seen only riding on days when conditions are best (to increase their odds of going faster) and usually cutting corners and technical features to gain precious milliseconds. During the winter months, the Stravasshole goes into hibernation and transforms beautifully, just like a butterfly, into a Zwiftard until the next spring. If I ever hear someone come up behind me yelling "Strava" they are going to get my four inch wide tire shoved right up their ass.
I ruin a lot of bottom brackets and figured I would make a poem as an Ode to the BB!
Your bearings started off greased and clean,
Your threaded cups torqued tightly;
But now you look back on the days that have been,
And remember when you wore in slightly;
You kept the cranks held fast,
And didn't make a sound;
You thought you'd outlast,
Your durability would astound;
The grit took its toll,
And your bearings are shot;
You feel crunchy when you roll,
A new unit will take your spot;
Many have come before,
And more will come after;
Your dust seals are tore,
You've done your job as built by your crafter;
You are the unsung hero of cranksets everywhere,
Your cups hidden from view;
When you finally die most people swear,
But my dearest bottom bracket I salute you!
Just imagine... you're having a great ride deep in the backwoods with nothing but yourself and the sounds of your tires on dirt and birds chirping, miles away from civilization. Just as you're enjoying the ride, the urge strikes and nothing is going to hold it back. Maybe you had a few too many tacos the night before or forgot to take the pre-ride dump, either way you need to get yourself out of the woods without toasting your riding shorts. If you're a rugged bushman you won't be a stranger to the bush dump, but some people are shy about having a crap in the woods and need some inspiration. Here are a few good tips for the "Bush Dump" that I've learned on my own, and with some guidance from dad in my younger years (he is the bush dump master).
Location, Location, Location
You need to scout out some good terrain for your bush crap. The best areas are flat and open with soil that can be easily dug. Keep away from the trail and any water source by at least a few hundred feet. Make sure the area is clear of nasty things like poison ivy. Watch out for signs that others have used the same spot for their bush dumps, they are usually marked by a stick pointing out of the ground or a set of sticks in a cross, this is common bush etiquette.
Dig it out
Time to dig your hole. Luckily the typical stiff soles of cycling shoes make digging a hole nice and easy. Dig down about six inches and large enough for your deposit. You're not digging to China here, just taking a dump.
I'm a fan of the good old fashioned squat. Some people will hang onto a tree or sit over a log, even hold hands with a dump buddy (if thats your thing), but the squat can't be beat. Every other animal out in the bush does the squat, you should too.
Keep it Clean
Good thing you're like me and packed a flattened out roll of toilet paper in your hydration pack. If you're a racer type and skip the TP in the name of weight savings, you're going to have a bad day. Look for an inviting leaf or pinecone, even birtch bark will work in a pinch (haha, pun) and get you feeling closer to nature. If you have a sensitive posterior like some of the lycra-clad XC geeks, you are going to be riding out with one sock. Refill your hole and burn the TP (be careful, only you can prevent forest fires). No lighter? Start rubbing sticks together or stuff your pockets, don't leave your TP out there to float in the breeze. Mark your hole with sticks as mentioned earlier.
There you have it. Now you hold the knowledge and can escape a back country bush dump without making your favourite riding outfit look like a 9-month-old's onesie after eating three servings of beans. Follow these simple rules and leave no trace, don't be the asshole that shits in the woods and leaves it like a dick for someone else to stumble into.
When you gotta go you gotta go.
Crisp cool mornings, warm sunny afternoons, glowing orange landscapes, and the sound of leaves crunching under your tires... that's autumn riding at it best. If I had to pick, I'd say autumn is my favourite season to ride. To me, its everything from cold night rides where your foggy breath puffs out like a locomotive's steam, to sweaty afternoons shedding layers to stay cool.
I've been very fortunate this fall so far, I've had the chance to spend some amazing days in the backcountry of Turkey Point, as well as some riding in places like Muskoka and the Ontario Escarpment. I keep thinking to myself "this must be the last day of the warm weather" but this November keeps on delivering. I was able to spend a few fall hours out in Turkey Point recently and the views are just stunning, the forest has a vibrant almost-neon glow to it and the gentle breeze brings down the brightly coloured leaves at a steady pace. Being in the woods right now makes you realize that just like the squirrels foraging for a winter's worth of food, the forest is also going into hibernation.
Moving further along into the pine forest and the leaves are replaced with a blanket of pine needles covering the sandy soil. Every once in a while you can catch a wiff of the fresh pine needles baking on the warm sunny sand, the best smell in the world (followed closely by fresh cut lumber and weathered leather).
With each passing day of awesomeness, the cold of winter lurches closer and soon enough we will be covered in snow and the fat bike will be pulling extra duty. This is the time that my riding addiction goes into overdrive and I have to ride every drop out of this autumn weather. Be it on singletrack or a rail trail, I'm riding out this fall to all its potential and embracing the change of the seasons.
Ride on! See you out there!
Many years ago I had an idea. It seemed like a great idea but looking back on it, I can't figure out if it was an idea forged from bravery or youthful stupidity. My friend Adam and I had decided to do a river run down Big Creek in my dad's Coleman canoe. We would leave from town and float our way down to the High Bridge. We had originally thought of canoeing to Lyndoch but figured that the High Bridge was just around the corner and would make for a nice extra hour or so of paddling. We dropped my car at the planned take out point and headed back into Delhi to start at Quance's Dam.
It was mid morning and the Coleman was in the water. I was doing steering duty in the back while Adam the greenhorn was the stroker out front. The ride from Quance's to the "Swimming Hole" was faster moving water and went by pretty quickly, all the while I was giving Adam tips and guidance so we would both survive the trip. Our first portage was just after the "Swimming Hole" and was an easy up and over type of log jam. I instructed Adam how to exit and pull the boat over, then watched a hillarious scene unfold.
Adam stood up in the front of the boat and reached his leg out to step in the massive log. He must have been a bit nervous because instead of standing on the huge tree in the river, he stepped onto a floating log about 12" long. He disappeared out of the front of the boat and beneath the water. A few seconds later his head popped out, arms frantically waving, and green floaty river scum stuck to his face and hair. It was one of those "America's Funniest Home Videos" moments.
After getting sorted out and over the log we carried on. The paddled through the beautiful Big Creek valley, through the old ruins of the Croton power dam, and into the Lyndoch stretch of river. This is where the fun began. We had numerous portages and where doing quite well at them. Just before the Lyndoch bridge we got a little too far sideways and collided with a tree, which rolled the boat under on the low side. Water started rushing in and we were sinking. The current sucked us and the canoe right under the fallen tree and spit us out the other side. We were lucky enough to have not gotten stuck in the log jam and drown, and the boat didn't get folded like a pretzel from the force of the water. Our new predicament found us both treading water, the Coleman was mostly submerged, and all our gear was floating to a little island about 150 feet down the river.
"What do we do?" Adam asked with a look of panic. I knew that we would not be able to lift the Coleman overhead to get the water out, as Adam had never done a wet entry in a canoe. We had no choice but to somehow get to that island to get ourselves right again, the river banks were steep and muddy.
"Get back in the boat and paddle to that island". I commanded him. He gave me a confused look, as the only part of the boat visible where the two ends sticking out of the water. We both did our best to get back in and paddle to the island. It must have looked hillarious. Two men up to their chests in water with paddles in hand trying to get their submarine to an island. I still laugh out loud when I think of it. Once at the island we got the boat sorted out and retrieved our gear.
"Shit, are you okay?" Adam asked looking down at me. A quick scan of myself and I realized that the top of my left hand had been cut open. I tugged the wound open an bit. It was deep. I wrapped my hand up in a sock and we carried on for the 'extra hour' segment of our trip. I still have that scar of the top of my hand, looking back at it, maybe I should have gotten stitches.
The extra bit of our trip turned into an excruciating 5 hours of portaging every 50 feet or so. By time we reached the High Bridge we could barely walk. It was getting late and we made it out just in time as the bush was just starting to get dark. Unbeknownst to me, the police had spotted my car sitting on the side of the road near the bridge and after noticing that it had been there for 7 hours or so, called my dad. He put the pieces together quickly..... missing canoe, car parked at the High Bridge...... he knew where we had gone and the terrain we would be in. He walked the bush as far as he could from the High Bridge up river yelling for us, but no luck.
I think dad was relieved to see us pull in with the canoe in the back of Adam's truck just as the evening sun was setting. I remember alot of "Are you guys stupid" and could see he had been a little on edge and worried about us being stuck out there overnight. We cleaned up the boat, had a few laughs, and I tended to my hand. Adam and I both vowed to never run the stretch of river from Lyndoch to the High Bridge again. Once in a lifetime was enough for us.
I was out the door by 6:30. I planned on a ride to Dover and back with some breakfast at the pier but shortly after leaving town on the LVT the forecasted rain started. I hoped I would beat it but luck was not in my favour. I decided to cut it short and bail on my plans, hitting the road at the next crossing. I headed back towards Simcoe along some back roads and came into town through some of the old industrial area. The rain had let up some and I was plodding along slowly taking in the scenery of the derelict buildings when I came across one particular gem that caught my eye.
I took a walk around the outside of the building, looking for anything interesting to photograph when I came across an exterior door that was just ever so slightly opened. I approached the door, hidden by dense bush but with a "deer path" through the vegetation up to it, and pulled it open slowly.
It was pitch black inside and the only things I could see were building debris illuminated by the sliver of sunlight that the door granted passage. I had no flashlight with me to explore any deeper so I decided that the best I could do was step into the dark and use my camera flash to see inside, seemed smart at the time but looking back it seemed more like one of those stupid mistakes that the person about to die in a horror film makes. Two steps in the door and I took a photo in the blackness with the camera flash bursting a moment of light into the black. I looked down at my camera screen to see what I had caught when I heard a sound.
I froze in my tracks as I heard a faint whistle, the kind you use to try and get someones attention. I was standing in the pure black darkness, crippled in fear by the whistle when the muffled voices started, followed by footsteps. I panicked and turned around running out the door and through the bushes to my bike. I stood there, twenty feet or so from the open door, waiting for someone to come out of the abyss inside. It felt like an eternity I stood there waiting. No one ever came out but I had the feeling of being watched from within the darkness. I jumped on my bike and began riding away through the abandoned area, looking back expecting to see someone, but only felt eyes on me. What person or dark force had I disturbed? The feeling of dread was lifted from my shoulders as soon as I had left sight of the door.
I rode back through town to home, reliving the experience in my mind over and over. In all likely hood I only disturbed a vagrant or another would-be explorer, but I don't care to ever go back in that door again.
It was back in 2003 or so, I had my new GT Avalanche and my friend Pete had his new Rockhopper. We were getting tired of riding the same old trails in town and wanted to venture out a bit so headed to the trails of "Barker's Bush" in Paris. It was a small area with lots of winding interconnected trails that where looked after by the long since defunct Brantford Cyclepath Bicycle Club, who also hosted an annual 8 hour endurance race there.
We arrived in the early evening and set out into the trails. Our pace was quick as we wanted to jam in as many kilometers as possible before dark and we weaved beautifully through the twisty overgrown singletrack. It wasn't long before we reached the far end of the trails and made a steep decent to the Nith River that had our early model disc brakes working hard a squealing loudly. I swear that I could hear water hiss and boil off my rotors in the little stream crossing near the end.
After a short break we decided to begin our ride back, the sun was setting and the forest was already starting to get dark. Along our way back we spotted a section of trail we missed the first time through and decided we had enough time to squeeze it in. I went in first, Pete was right on my rear wheel. After a few minutes of twisting and turning I realized that Pete has vanished. I had likely went through an intersection and he took an alternate route, not able to see me too well in the darkness that was setting in.
"Damn" I though to myself, "I'd better turn back and find him". I didn't want him or I lost in the woods at night. We had no lights or any sort and it would make for tough route finding back to the car. I headed back in the direction I came from, moving fast as to catch up with him.
Everything was going smoothly until 'it' happened. I rounded a corner and in a split second was able to make out a figure of a rider on a bike headed right for me in the dark. I slammed the brakes and turned to the right trying to avoid disaster. The bike stopped quickly but the mass of my body wanted to keep going and sent me over the bars and into the bushes, just narrowly escaping a collision with the other rider. I jumped back up to my feet and checked myself for injuries. I was ok.
"Are you alright?" Pete asked.
"Yeah I'm good." I replied. At least I had found Pete.
"Oh shit..... your bike." Pete's eyes lit up with half concern, half comedy.
"Faaaaaaaawk!" I picked my bike up off the ground. The front wheel was folded over and looked like something that had been driven over by a car. I started walking out, bike on my shoulder, back to the parking lot. The darkness had set in so Pete walked along with me.
Back at the car we had a good laugh over my misfortune. I had never destroyed a wheel so completely in one shot. It was a new record of sorts for me. I posed for a photo op with one of those old disposable cameras so I could document the moment. I felt like a hunter having a picture taken while standing over his prey. A few more laughs and we loaded the car for home.
The next day I headed into Brantford Cyclepath for a new wheel. I brought along the old one just to show the guys in the shop. I walked in the door, holding my kill in my hand with a smile on my face when Stu said something that I've heard many times since.
"There's no fixing that........ You break the most unusual stuff".
It was a good laugh, and I've broken tons of shit since.
A Story from my teenage years.
It was a hot and humid evening in August. The sky was black with the storm clouds that were slowly creeping in on town. My friend and I had decided that even though the skies looked like certain doom, we would ride to the outskirts of town and into one of our favourite trails along Big Creek. We finished our shift stocking shelves and bagging groceries at the local Valu-Mart and grabbed our bikes, ignoring the 90% chance of rain the in the immediate forecast. If I remember correctly, there was even a rainfall warning in effect.
As we rode out of town it began to lightly rain. It was only a few minutes before it stopped, just enough rain to make the ground damp and fill the air with that summertime rain smell. We celebrated and laughed, thinking that we had beaten the chances and would be in the clear for our ride. We continued out of town until reaching the railroad tracks, which we followed briefly before dropping down into the valley on a trail we had dubbed "Devil's Spine".
It was a old ATV trail that rode North along Big Creek, eventually crossing the river into "Dick's Hill". Even though it was a 2-track trail, it was the best riding we had near town and we frequented it whenever we had the chance. We worked our way along the track, slowly descending the valley on this winding brown ribbon of dirt through the woods.
The black clouds above us grew thicker, the forest now getting so dark it was hard to see. We continued on, full steam ahead, as the first of the thunder and lightning started to strike around us. It was so close and powerful it shook my chest and arms as the deafening crackles filled the forest. The rain came down fast and hard, the trail became a flowing river of water in a matter of minutes. The heavy rain and darkness made it nearly impossible to see further than just a couple of feet ahead. I'm not sure if it was toughness or teenage stupidity, but we carried on riding, using the flashes of light from the lightning strikes to guide our way.
The rain came down so hard it hurt but we pushed on. My eyes stung from the rain washing my own sweat into them. Our old rim brakes squealed like banshees as we approached each corner, barely slowing our bikes. Our chains made horrible noises as the dirt and water acted like a grinder on our drivetrains. My poor bike must have felt like it aged a year in just over an hour as we kept going in the rain and lightning.
We reached the river crossing, soaked to the bone. Big Creek was already running fast and muddy. It made it difficult to carefully place my steps around the large rocks in the bottom of the river and one misplaced step later I was in the water. Having already been drenched, the water didn't shock me. I picked myself back up and got a good footing. I looked up at my riding partner and we both started to laugh. The combination of the pouring rain, the river, the thunder and lightning, it nearly broke us and all we could do was laugh in the face of it. Two teenage kids clutching their bikes, standing in the river while the rain poured on us and thunder shook our bones, looking at each other and laughing.
"What the hell are we doing out here?" My friend asked as we stood there.
"Having fun, right?" I answered with a smile.
We got out of the river and pushed our bikes up the steep hill on the opposite side. We got back on and rode towards the dead end road that would take us out of here. Just as we got onto the pavement the rain began to stop. Within a minute it was over, the black clouds moving away from us as we plodded along the road back into town. The water was dripping off of us, my shoes made a squishing noise with every push of the pedals. The sound of the rain drops falling out of the trees and hitting leaves on the way down was the music for the end of our ride.
We turned our heads and looked at each other again and laughed. My friend shook his head in disbelief as to what we had just been through.
"That was stupid" He said to me.
I grinned as I replied "At least it's one of those rides we will never forget".
I've realized (after a few emails) that some of you might have noticed that I'm posting less on the blog. Fear not, as I'm still in the game and have a few things coming down the pipe soon. My free time has been limited as of late and I've spent what time I have riding rather than writing. I'm about to have a bit of a schedule shift in life and should have some more free time in the evenings after the kids go to bed, which will let me blog on the couch beside Mrs. Bric while she watches her shows.
I'm also going to focus more on quality articles and stories rather than ride reports consisting of photos and "It was a great ride" kind of thing, it gets boring after a while. The great photos will keep coming though. I'm also planning on doing some more "away" rides this year and more riding with groups which will undoubtedly spur some interesting stories. I'm also reliving my youth and writing about adventures of years gone by that will be slowly published over the next year.
Stay tuned everyone! Thanks for reading!
I woke up at 3:30. I was wide awake and staring at the bedroom ceiling, excited about my ride today but also dreading having my soul crushed. The steady rain for the last two days have made everything a soaking wet mess, and the cold is just going to make it tougher. I'm diving in head first, knowing full well that this will be one of those rides where throwing in the towel will cross my mind several times. I won't want to even look at a bike for the next week. I eat my breakfast and pack my bag, checking out the window every few minutes to see if everything had miraculously dried up. The cold window fogs as I breathe on it, looking at the wet road in front of my house. The weather forecast is -1 degree all morning, feeling like -8. I had better pack my cold weather gear today, and as much waterproof stuff as I own. And wool..... lots of wool.
I step out into the cold and dark morning with my bag in hand, its chilly out here. The truck warms up as I strap down my bike and throw my gear in the back seat. A little bit of windshield de-icing and I'm off, heading towards Indigo Lounge in Tillsonburg for the start. I'm there early, only three other people so far. It gives me a chance to chat with the mastermind of the TillsonBurn, Jeff Ward. He has put alot of work into planning this ride and it shows. The route map has thoughtfully put together loops that will get the most out of the local gravel roads and hills, lots of hills.
Everyone is rolling in now. I put on my gear and wait for the riders meeting, all while shaking like a leaf in the cold morning. I'm eager to get started and warm myself up, its just too cold to stand still. Before long we are organized into a group, arranged by speed / skill level. I keep near the back, knowing that I'll be stopping for photos and going my usual slow and steady pace.
We set out. Its a one hundred(ish) bike parade through town and out to the Participark. Its not long before we get into our first bit of real mud near highway #3. Its slippery goo and my CX bike is having trouble maintaining traction along this stretch of beat up ATV trail. I start to wonder if a mountain bike might have been a better idea but there is no going back now. I slog through it, using what grip I could get from the 42c tires, and eventually make it to the gravel roads. "At last" I think to myself but little did I know that my struggles were just beginning. Not long into the gravel and the hills started.
Once into the climbs, the mass group starts to split up into smaller groups of similarly skilled riders. I'm suffering on the climbs but a quick glance behind me and I can see the same on everyone else's face. At least I'm not alone. Chit chat along the route with my old friend Donny, and new friend Don, and they assure me that there are no more tough hills and that there are only a few more km to go. I know better and laugh it off.
With each passing climb the group breaks up more and more. Before long I find myself flying solo. I keep my head down and grind out the miles along the country roads, following the orange arrows and hoping like hell I don't miss one. I pass the odd rider and am passed by other in return. One thing I notice is how diverse the group of riders is today. There is everything from full on racing minded guys, to fat bikes, there is even some vintage iron out here today. Some riders are experienced veterans, some are brand new to riding and just trying to slog it out. One thing we all have in common is that we are having fun. And suffering..... lots of suffering.
Miles in and we drop in off the road into a field. Its a hard go in the soft muck but I'm doing the best I can to keep on top of it and moving forward. We enter the first real trail section of the day and the mayhem really begins. I go in following a fat bike, which has no problem riding the soft wet trail, who quickly drops me as I fight the bike to stay upright. I mash on the pedals frantically, trying to keep my lowest gear moving me forward as I'm bogging down in the muck. The Norco is great on mixed surfaces but has a really tough time with full on mountain bike type trails. Its slow in these trails but makes up for it everywhere else.
A little ways through the singletrack and I come across a rather tough looking downhill. Its steep and straight down, with a sharp corner at the bottom. The surface is battered and slippery. I have my first "fuck it" moment and get off the bike to walk down. I'm frustrated that I didn't ride the downhill out but the penalty for failure could mean that I don't finish the ride. I'd rather do the walk of shame then have to ride out in an ambulance.
Back out onto pavement and my legs are screaming at me. I'm doing what I can to spin them up and work the knots out, but the mental games are beginning. I'm working hard at mind over matter right now. I can't feel most of my toes in my left foot and I can't feel my right foot at all. My hands are killing me from being smashed by drop bars in the singletrack. The next road section of soft sand has my legs burning and my arms numb as I try to pick a line through the wet sinkholes along the way. My first thought of quitting crosses my mind. I'm near 40km in and just keep telling myself "only 10 more to go" even though I know its going to be over 60km by the end. I think of the shame I'd have if I quit now. I've got to keep moving on, I don't want to have to show up in Tillsonburg in the orange van of shame, the "quitter-mobile" I call it in my head.
I block out the noise in my own head and all of my self doubt. I know I can finish this. I am able to hype myself up enough to get a second wind of sorts and hammer on. More miles grind out and I eventually arrive at the rest stop area. I enjoy a banana and some gatorade mix and get a chance to warm up my feet at the fire. Its only a short while before I can finally feel my feet again, its seems that my double wool socks and winter SPD boots are no match for some of the chilling winds out there on the open road sections. I'm back on the bike and into another trail section after the rest stop. I get through the singletrack and onto an old roadway that has been long forgotten and nearly taken back by mother nature. I stall out and walk the long gentle climb to Bell Mill Side Road. Some of the fastest guys running the 100km route are passing me now, they go by me like I'm standing still, which makes me up my mental game to keep from giving up out of frustration.
I emerge from the last trail section, knowing that there isn't far to go now. I pedal into the headwind back into Tillsonburg, the thought that the ride will be over soon it the carrot on the stick for me right now. My legs are shot, I've been running on empty for a while now. I feel like laying down on the side of the road and crying myself to sleep. I eventually cross over Highway#3 again and am in the town limits of Tillsonburg. As I ride down Simcoe St I get a renewed sense of vigor and attack the climb up Tillson Ave. I make it most of the way before completely bonking out and granny gearing it the next few blocks.
Pulling into Indigo Lounge, I am broken but smiling. I can barely stand, I'm out of energy and running on adrenaline only at this point. The endorphins and adrenaline, coupled with the sense of accomplishment, have me feeling a little euphoric.
I did it, I beat the TillsonBurn. According to my GPS the "50km" route was 63km. I've never done such a tough / long ride so early in the year. I guess all that winter fat biking paid off and kept me in somewhat decent enough shape to ride this out. I'm quite happy with myself as I've checked off the first box on a list of achieved personal accomplishments that I hope to fulfill this year. On the flip side, I'm so worn out and hurting that I don't want to even look at a bike for the next week. Its going to take a few days for my cement legs to loosen up anyways. The gravel roads, trails, and climbs have worn me down.
I'd like to extend my personal thanks to Jeff and all the other volunteers for the countless hours spent organizing such a great ride. His commitment to 'The Burn' and his fellow riders was easy to see today and he was happy just having people come out for the ride. His vision brought together a very diverse family of riders, making memories and stories for them that will be remembered for years to come. The ride was completely free of charge, but any donations made were going towards the purchase of a bicycle(s) for disadvantaged children. These selfless acts make him a champion of the local cycling community and I hope that he continues to put on this ride for years to come, I'll be there each time. Thank you Jeff!
I can't wait to bring on the pain again for TillsonBURN 2017!
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.