I have a dynamic relationship with the Karate Monkey; one might call it a love-fear relationship. I love this bike because of our history, because of its blingy new parts, and because, for reasons that are mostly unknown to me, I really am a better rider on this bike. (My theories attribute the 29" wheels and the long history that increases comfort levels.) I fear it because it weighs more than a modern snow bike, retains a few old parts that have more miles on them than the average Prius, and has this frustrating singlespeed tendency to turn difficult climbs into pure pain.
Similar to my run two days ago, I arrived at the top of Black Mountain feeling physically spent. But as I launched into the singletrack, a strange sort of relief washed over me. My mind went blank, my fatigue subsided, and I simply flowed with the trail. I can understand why Beat enjoys singlespeed riding so much, and also why I both love and fear it — singlespeed mountain biking is similar to running. By removing the mechanical advantage of shifting, I find myself using my body more dynamically to respond to the terrain. Huge bursts of power on climbs give way to high-cadence "speed" movements on flatter ground, which give way to gravity relief on descents (however, singlespeed bikes actually coast, as opposed to runner coasting, which runners seem to enjoy but I haven't found it to be much like coasting at all.)
I became caught up in the moment, almost mindlessly moving with the landscape. When I came to the end of one trail, I crossed the road and linked into another, which then linked into another, and before I even realized it several hours had passed and I had connected a surprisingly large loop around Skyline ridge, almost entirely on trails. And if I hadn't run out of daylight, which is what finally chased me home, I could have expanded even farther. I ended with 37 miles and 5,286 feet of climbing. Just a short ride. Oops. (Map here)
But I have a feeling the Karate Monkey will be receiving much more love in the near future.