Monday, December 04, 2006

Mountain biking

I haven't done a cycling post in a while, not because I haven't been riding but because the riding hasn't been all that terribly exciting. But yesterday I did something I haven't done in quite a while: rode on my mountain bike. I've had one for 3 or 4 years, but it generally sits out in the shed; I don't think I'd been on it for almost 2 years. But the Hobgoblin got them out on Saturday and cleaned and repaired them, so yesterday we took them out to a local park and rode for an hour or so.

I'm not a very good mountain biker, but I shouldn't be surprised or upset at this, as I have done maybe a dozen off-road rides in my life. But I'm always surprised at how different road and mountain bike riding are; they feel like two completely different sports. Mountain biking is much more intense, I think; I'm worn out after an hour, whereas on the road, an hour is about the shortest time possible to make the ride worthwhile. That the mountain bike is much heavier than the road bike is part of the reason, but also the hills tend to be steeper, and you have to guide yourself over rocks and roots, which takes extra power. A short hill that takes less than a minute to climb can leave me completely out of breath with my heartrate sky-rocketing.

Yesterday was a beautiful day, although cold -- cold compared to what I'm used to at least; the last week has been in the 50s and 60s, but yesterday it was barely 40 when we left home. We drove to a park about 5 miles a way, one that is well known among local mountain bikers for having excellent trails. I like the park because it's got a variety of trails -- lots of carriage roads for the unskilled like me, and even more single-track trails for the experts.

As I got on the bike for the first time, I realized that I'd forgotten how, exactly, to fit my shoes into the pedals, and once I'd figured that out, I saw I was heading down a hill steep enough to make me ride the brakes the whole way down. It took me a long time to get back in the groove of mountain bike riding; that hill was actually insignificant, but I forget so easily what I'm capable of and what the bike is capable of, and so I spent quite a while riding around the easiest trails getting the hang of it again.

By the end of the ride, though, I felt skilled enough to try a short bit of single-track. Here things got a lot more interesting, as all the sudden I had to maneuver my way between trees terrifyingly close together and over jagged rock gardens that took up the entire space of the trail and up little hills where I felt my front wheel was in danger of lifting off the ground.

No, I'm not a very good mountain biker. I didn't crash, but that's because I got off the bike and walked it over anything too dangerous. Good mountain bikers crash now and then because they try risky things. I even walked my bike around a few menacing puddles and mud patches because I didn't want to get wet and dirty, which is totally not in the mountain biking spirit.

But I did get an excellent workout. I'm hoping if I keep mountain biking now and then over the winter, I will build up some power that will help me out with racing in the spring. At any rate, it's nice to do something a little bit different. Okay, it's not all that different; I was still on a bike after all, but different enough for me.