Monday, May 05, 2008

Yeah dirt

Date: May 5
Mileage: 35.5
May mileage: 168.2
Temperature: 45

I wasn’t expecting the trail to be clear. But there it was, no slush in sight, cutting up a steep embankment and into the woods. I slowed mid-interval and veered off the road.

I was immediately thrown into a minefield of rocks and wet roots. The front wheel jolted like a jackhammer and nearly bounced me off my bike. I stopped at the side of the trail, my heart still racing from my road sprint. As I waited for the woods to stop spinning, my clearing vision rested on a narrow strip of dirt - still clear, still dry as it disappeared into the trees. This was not the time or place for road intervals. I unlocked the shock, took a deep breath, and rolled forward.

And just like that I was mountain biking, for real this time - no snow, no slush, no wide gravel roads. It was time for my Karate Monkey - which I have already ridden a few hundred miles - and I to finally get acquainted.

The singletrack weaved erratically through a jungle of wet roots and spiderwebs, and I was rusty, rusty, rusty. I shoulder-checked a couple of trees. I slid sideways off a root or two. My last mountain bike was a full suspension, and I realized that I actually do miss the bouncy on back. That rear shock sure took the edge off the downhills. There also is something dubious about 29” wheels on a small frame. I get some toe overlap with my Pugsley, but it is one thing to occasionally scrape the front tire when you are puttering through snow. It is another thing to have that happen when you are banking a sharp right on rocks at high speed. Gotta learn to pull those feet in.

The moss-lined thread of a trail cut out of the woods and onto the glacial moraine, snaking through a series of rolling gravel hills. I amped up my speed and crested the high banks of every curve. I had found my flow, my perfect flow, and in those moments I remembered what it felt like to be 8 years old and clutching the handlebars of my dad’s motorcycle as we rode the waves of sandhills just beyond our house. The area was little more than an undeveloped suburban tract, the earth moved by bulldozers and front-end loaders, the trails carved by dirtbikers out for a quick thrill. But that didn’t matter to me then, with the wind whipping through my hair and my dad’s powerful arms guiding the motorcycle over a rollercoaster of sand. It was the epitome of adventure, and to experience again what that was like, what that actually felt like, is exactly why I ride a mountain bike.

The soft blue light on the Mendenhall Glacier, the reflection of Thunder Mountain in a rippling beaver pond, the soft moss carpeting the forest floor ... these are my suburbs. They were beautiful then, and they’re beautiful now.