Monday, August 30, 2010

And now for something COMPLETELY different! Mountain biking!

That's right, after 20 some years of road biking, it was time to try something different.  Ever since I started working at Century Cycles, I discovered that many of the guys prefer the thrills of dirt and off-road cycling over the paved roads.  For weeks, they tried to convince me I should give it a shot.  Well, not to seem like a complete cycling loser, I decided to finally take them up on the offer.  I mean, how hard could it be, right? Ouch.

I showed up at the Medina store on Sunday morning around 8:30 am to pick a good mountain bike to ride.  The only thing available that was even remotely my size was a Giant 29er in medium.  29 inch wheels versus the standard 26 inch wheel of a typical mountain bike.  Would this be a benefit for me?  The dirt would decide.  Three other gents that would be riding off-road with me were Tom and Russ from the shop, and Tom's friend Brian.  Tom and Brian were veterans at mountain biking, having done it for over 20 years, and even raced professionally.  Russ and I...were virgins.

Me, Russ, Tom and Brian, post-dirt!
We set out for Reagan Park, in Medina, just a few miles from the store.  The plan was to tackle Huffman Trail, which is considered to be the easy course. (In hindsight, I would like to see the definition of 'easy'.)  As we started through the trail, I was immediately struck by how narrow the path was. At points, 12 inches, maybe.  At its widest, 3 feet tops.  Keeping it on this narrow path might not have been so bad if it weren't for the quick hairpin turns, sudden drops, steep climbs, trees, roots, rocks, more roots, did I mention trees...all deliberately placed conveniently in your way.  Several parts of the trail passed in between trees that were spaced barely wider than the handlebars of my bike!  You had to think quick, stay focused, and keep pedalling.  Thank God we had a pro like Tom guiding us through this living hell, otherwise I would surely have ended up a tangled mess of body and bike at the bottom of some revine.  It was clear that the skills I had at road biking were of little use here in the woods.  A new set of skills were now required.

The Huffman course is about 2 1/2 miles long, but to a rookie like myself, it felt like 10.  Yes, I took some spills and yes, I walked some of those steeper drop-offs, but at the end, I was ready to tackle it again.  We went  through the course a second time and I felt the improvement.  The fact is, ya gotta learn it quick.  I still had trouble at certain parts of the course, but received some praise from Tom on my handling of others.  The third time through was actually fun, but also exhausting. 

When we finished riding, I was truly spent, and carrying a few more bumps and bruises with me then when I started.  But it was a blast.  I have a newfound respect for the dirt part of cycling and anyone crazy enough to try it.  Will I do it again? Oh, you can count on it!!

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