Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Downhill's the hard part

Date: Jan. 16
Mileage: 8.0
January mileage: 372.4
Temperature upon departure: 32

I did some trail riding today. Three inches of new power. Soft-packed stuff underneath. Snow coming down hard. Decent elevation gain. Lotsa walking. Eight miles in two hours. It's been a while since I've done such a physically demanding, technically challenging ride. My calves are still burning. Good stuff, those mountain snowmobile trails.

This one was dramatically rutted. Some of the moguls were taller than my wheels. Geoff explained to me how snowmobilers make these bumps - by intermittently gunning and then releasing their throttle rather than just giving it even gas like normal drivers. It seems a little selfish to me, especially on a multiuse trail - but what can you do? Interestingly, they were a little easier to ride up and over on moderate inclines than they were on flat stretches. I think forced momentum makes all the difference.

Eventually, the trail became too steep to ride at all uphill. Wearing only my winter boots and no snowshoes, I was postholing up to my shins with nearly every step. I believed there was no way Snaux Bike would be able to handle anything that soft. But when it came time to turn around, it seemed worth a try.

Snaux Bike not only handled it, it left me in its powder-blasted wake. We dipped and swerved down the slope, shooting off the trail here, placing a foot down there, never letting up the forward momentum. It was amazingly fun, and terrifying, and a little bit painful. I made one big mistake - after noticing a singletrack snowshoe trail out of the corner of my eye, I shot right off the main trail without even stopping to scout it. I made it about 50 yards down before planting my front wheel to its hubs in the soft snow. I lurched forward and tumbled over the handlebars, but not before taking a blunt blow of the stem right to the crotch. The pain was metallic, enough to send me into a fetal position on top of the trail before I even processed what had happened. I can't even imagine what that would feel like if I were male. I guess I'd probably still be on that trail, writhing in pain, mourning for the children I'd never have.

Despite a few setbacks, snowmobile biking is great and I recommend it highly to anyone who enjoys challenging, but not impossible, technical downhill. The consistency and depth of snow varies from inch to inch, making that kind of trailriding a lot like coasting down a muddy doubletrack littered with invisible rocks and roots. The joy is in getting the guesswork right. And the soft, snowy landings numb the pain of poor choices. Unless you get a little too intimate with your stem. Then I don't know what can save you.