The human heart gets an average of 2.5 billion beats in a lifetime...... how will you spend yours?
I'm sure at some point many of us cyclists have been asked "Why ride?". The knee-jerk answer is "Its fun" but looking deeper into the psyche of a cyclist will undoubtedly result in a much more complex answer. Some ride out of necessity, some for fun, and some fall in the middle ground between the two. Each cyclist has their own reasons. So I sat down and looked in the mirror, asking myself "Why ride?".
For me, cycling isn't a hobby or a pass time. It has been a way of life for me since I was very young and found the first spark of love for cycling by pedaling along deer paths in the woods. It was an escape for me, to be outdoors surrounded by nature, the sights and sounds of everything simple and pure. As I aged I became more and more aware of my own mortality and the fact that I wouldn't live forever, I wanted to get as much fun and personal happiness as I could in this life. I want to traverse the path less traveled, take the alternate route and stop to smell the roses. I want to find things hidden in plain sight that most people scurry by in their busy lives. I realized that sometimes to get the most out of life, you need to slow it down. Quantity does not equal quality and packing more into your day will not make lasting memories if you have to stay on schedule and can't stop to daydream or laugh a bit.
I've battled my own demons and used cycling as the cure. I've never spoken about it but I've suffered with depression and did a great job of hiding it from almost everyone I know. I've crashed head first into the dark tunnel and found the light at the other end, just to stumble into the darkness again. I've had the talks, taken the medications, but with the support and love of my wife and kids I've beaten the disease. I ride as often as I can because I know that I could slip into the darkness again. I'm a big guy and not scared of much but being trapped in your own head is tough sometimes when you can't help but think you are worthless. When I feel the cold damp fingers of depression reaching out again, a quick spin on the bike does wonders for my mind. I am committed to staying on top of it and using my life-long passion to battle it is a bonus. I was ashamed of myself but realize now that depression is a disease, and I can only hope that my coming out of the shadows will help lift the stigma surrounding it, or help someone else push on, to know that better days are ahead. I realized that on my darkest day, in my darkest hour, there is a light at the end and better days will come. Cycling has a way of melting away all your worries, fears, and poisonous thoughts. I've gone from thinking "I can't" to saying "I can" even if the odds are against me. Bicycles, for me, are the cure and the prevention.
I cannot just exist. Everyone needs some sort of driving force in their life that keeps their heart ticking, whether it be cycling, baseball, cars, etc. To have to just go to work and pay the bills, just doing enough to exist, would drive me back into that dark tunnel. Being outside and interacting with nature, whether by riding or camping or gently floating down the river in a canoe, gives me a sense of how small and insignificant a human life can be, or how wonderful and filled with joy and accomplishment it could be. To be out there and smell the pine needles, sit in the dirt, and gently drag your fingers across the bark of a hundred year old tree, gives meaning to our place in the world. Being outdoors in the forest isn't just existing, its living.
When I die I don't want to be filled with regrets. Regrets are made of unfulfilled dreams and expectations that where not met. I'm not concerned about being a person of great importance or remembered by many, I'm only concerned with being the best husband and father I can be and to do the things in life that bring me joy, even if faced with failure. I would rather try something and fail than to not try at all and be filled with regret when I've run out of time to live. I'm going to love my wife and kids with every ounce of my soul, I'm going to ride the trail I've never been on, take that road trip to a trail far away, spend the money on a new bike, all because when I've had my last breath I don't want to be wishing "I had" when right now, in this moment "I can". Too many people trade their time for money to buy things that won't matter in the end, because when you are at the edge of death the only thing that will matter are your memories and the ones that you've made with your loved ones and friends that they will carry on in their hearts.
So, in the end, my answer to "Why ride?" is simple.... to live. To keep my glass full and squeeze every drop that this short life has to offer. To look up at the stars knowing just how small and fleeting we all are in this vast universe, but to be satisfied with who I am. To know that in the end, I've done everything I could to make the best out of my time.
To many miles of dirt under your tires, and memories made along the way.
I'm not going to lie. I've been a long time gear head (ever since my first shitty car) and have loved anything with an engine since. Growing up I was always interested in how things worked and figuring them out on my own. Once in High School, I signed up for every auto shop class I possibly could while working at a local grocery store trying to save enough money for my first car. Once I had that first car at seventeen (and a Haynes manual in hand) I had to keep it on the road and was working on my $700 heap of crap every weekend. I learned alot in a hurry and my interest in motorized things was going from a bubble to a roaring boil.
A car just wasn't enough to keep me satisfied and after some time spent with ATV's and dirtbikes, I decided to get my motorcycle license on a whim one day. I woke up, drove to the drive-test center and wrote my M1 license test. I passed with flying colours. I got home an told my parents the good news, both of them looking at me very surprised as they didn't know I was going for my license (and in all honesty neither did I until that morning). My mom and dad were supportive, being motorcyclists themselves, and my mom offered up her bike for my maiden voyage. I quickly tossed on some jeans, a hoodie, and an old snowmobile helmet and roared out of the laneway on her 1986 Suzuki GR 650 Tempter. I muddled about the back roads near Delhi getting comfortable with the handling of the bike, the little parallel twin sewing machine humming away underneath me.
It was my first taste of motorized two wheel freedom (on pavement) and I knew I needed more. I returned mom's bike home with a full tank of fuel, smiling ear to ear. I pulled a copy of "Boat Bike & RV Trader" from the saddlebag that I picked up at the gas station and began studying each page. In the days before Kijiji we had to wait a week for each new issue, hoping to score that deal of a lifetime. My dad and I looked it over, lots of me pointing to a bike excitedly and him doing his best humm and haw. Finally we came to agreement on a good looking Yamaha in Woodstock. A phone call later and we were on the road.
It was a 1982 Yamaha Seca 550. The bike was mint and I put down my $1400 and loaded it on my trailer. This bike was so clean you could eat off it. My first motorcycle might have been plain Jane to everyone else, but to me it became an icon of freedom and speed. I still get starry eyed whenever I see one out in the wild. My vintage rocket, 550cc's of engine spread out over four cylinders, front disc brake and rear drum, chain drive, and pure fucking black with a red stripe that said "I'm sexy".
In all honesty the bike was a little slow, but it didn't matter to me. It would reach 140 km/h on a long flat stretch and the brakes were weak to say the least. In two years I put over 60,000km on it, commuting to work, pleasure cruising, and even some iron butt 500km+ days. That bike took me places, from lake shore vistas to the stop and go of city traffic, onto roads and places I didn't even know existed. We had some close calls too, nearly being run into a few times by distracted drivers. I had to learn quickly to ride like no one could see me and always assume that the guy at the stop sign is going to pull out in front of you.
One of my favourite rides was to head south out of Delhi to Turkey Point and head east along the lake shore passing through Port Dover, Nanticoke, Peacock Point, and eventually way down the lake shore to Fort Erie. I'd head north and grab some lunch at a retro looking diner in Niagara Falls (I don't even think the diner is open anymore, I can't remember the name) and either head home via Dunnville and Highway #3 or West on the QEW and over the Burlington skyway, around the north side of Hamilton and eventually south from Brantford on Cockshutt Road. I also did quite a few late night runs to Brantford to eat the huge hamburgers at Admiral Submarine and watch the drunks walk the streets after being kicked out of the bars.
I ended up selling that bike, which I still regret to this day. I did own another Seca 550 a few years later but it was a heap of shit to be honest and having a toddler and a baby made the insurance hard to pay for. I'm bike-less now but I know that my motorcycle days are far from over. I can feel the itch every now and again. I keep teasing myself by dropping in at the local toy store and drooling over machines like the FZ-09, the V-Strom, even the Harley Davidson Iron 883. I dream of bikes I will never afford from the likes of Triumph and Ducati. I spend time looking at 2-3 day routes around Ontario or the Great Lakes, imagining putting on big miles over a few long days. A new bike might not happen today, or tomorrow, but I can see one far off in the future. Besides, my midlife crisis is only 8 years away and I'm guaranteed a new motorcycle then..... or a sports car...... nope, fuck that, it will be a motorcycle.
As my recovery comes along and I get closer to getting life back to normal, I've felt the urge to mountain bike again. I've been out on some easy going rides this year while out camping and with the kids around town, but have not had a good hard ride since the TPMBC Spring Kicker (and the Tillsonburn4 a week prior). I sold my awesome RSD Sergeant to help pay some bills while injured and am left without a mountain bike.
As my body has been healing I've realized that maybe I gave up on the old fatbike too soon. I was empathetic to it. I felt as if I should have helped it recover from its own broken frame just as all the doctors and physiotherapists have been helping me recover from my fractured spine. I spent a good evening out in the shop staring at the dust and cobweb covered frame, reminiscing of all the good times we shared, before finally arriving at the conclusion that I should give it another chance.
I got to work stripping the pain from the frame and fork and fashioned a gusset from some plate steel. It wasn't long after that I fired up the torches and got to work brazing the frame. I felt right at home with the brazing torch in my hand while carefully doing the dance of heat and bronze. The smell of sizzling flux filled the shop while the gentle hiss of the torch played its melody in my ears. Fillet brazing is a bit of a lost art that I got good with years ago, but its just like riding a bike.... you never forget.
I added brass as I needed, carefully wetting out the puddle for maximum penetration. I didn't want to have this joint crack again and the plate I made is very heavy duty.
Brazing is a gentle process. You have to run the torch at low pressure to avoid blowing out the base material from too fast of a flame. The slow flame and quick wrist are what makes a good welder here. You need to be able to adjust on the fly and use your gut to know when to wick the torch away and prevent cooking the joint, and when to pour on the heat and lay in the brass. Experience is the greatest teacher when it comes to this type of welding, and you need to think one step ahead of where you are. There is nothing quite like it and it brings me a slice of inner peace during my rough injury recovery.
I finished off my joint rebuild and shut down the torches. I let the joint cool for 10 minutes before putting the joint into the dunk tank. The dunk tank is just warm water and will dissolve the glassy flux off of the steel. Without the dunk tank, the hardened flux is nearly impossible to chip off but will disappear overnight in water. Science Bitch!
Check back for Part 2 soon. This baby is going to need some paint and lots of parts!
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.
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.