Wednesday, June 07, 2006

North Fork

Date: 6-6-6
Combined mileage: 65.4 (inc. June 5)
June mileage: 170.2
Temperature upon departure: 57

A loop ride is always a bigger commitment to make than an out-and-back ... Especially when you don't quite remember the mileage, and it's a Tuesday evening, and you think you're embarking on a sort-of "before dinner" ride. As it turned out, 40 miles on the mountain bike was a little more than I bargained for.

But, really, what's the harm in a 10 p.m. dinner and a few quiet grumblings about the four long months in which I lazily neglected to re-install Sugar's pedal cages and water-bottle holder? Small price to pay for three hours of free-rolling by fireweed blooms, coasting an uphill tailwind and cresting near the point where a local man was mauled by a grizzly last weekend. That's the kind of eyes-wide-open excitement that money can't buy and ski lift-served downhill rides can't replace. Never mind that downhill was almost slower, what with the headwind and my lamentable habit of white-knuckling the brakes on the narrower trails.

I've been thinking more about downhill since summer threw me back into this technical groove. What I thought was a great winter of skill-building snow riding turns out to not be sufficient experience for mud, streams and root-studded trails. What's the secret to downhill? (I mean, besides "Better Off Dead" sage advice of "Go that way ... Really fast ... If something gets in your way ... Turn.") Do I practice my bunny hops? Hold my butt over the back wheel and hope for the best? Buy a BMX helmet? Honestly, I'm new enough to this that I still get a big kick out of surmounting a crazy steep climb without putting my foot down. But often I dread the descent. I think it started with the endo I did on a tiny 20-foot-high roller that left me essentially crippled with blood clotting for six weeks. Gravity and I have never gotten along all that great, and adding wheels just seems to aggravate the tension. Has anyone else dealt with downhill-phobia? What did you do about it?