Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The mountain biking NOOB = Me

Yep, that's me. I'm a noob. You'd think with having 15ish years of regular cycling under my belt and 5+ years of more serious cycling I'd at least be able to hack my way around an off-road trail.

But no.

You see, I lack this natural thing that some people have called agility. And, I've never dedicated any time or effort to overcome my shortcomings.

I did have a Mountain Bike Shaped Object in high school. I would ride it around town and occasionally to school. On the weekends I might venture out on the local levy trails. If I felt REALLY daring, I might ride up or down the side of the levy on a makeshift dirt path instead of the real entry ramp. Wow!

In college, I moved to SF. The first week there, my MBSO died as a result of a broken rear axle. My boyfriend at the time bought me a 1993 Specialized Rock Hopper in purple with yellow decals. Other than the pink Schwinn Stingray with sparkly banana seat I had when I was 9, this was the first non department-store-bike I'd owned. It was like butter. I rode it hard all over town. I eventually managed to make it up the hill where I lived, which was about 20% for a long city block. So, I rode on the road, primarily.

Once in a while, I'd drive up to the headlands and attempt to ride off road. These trips usually resulted in my hiking most of the trails while pushing my bike. I didn't have anyone to teach me how to ride the thing. I remember roaring downhill and having my arms itch like crazy from the vibration. A guy I knew took me on a ride around Lake Chabot. I rode a little more on that ride, because it was mostly fire road. Other than those few rides, I pretty much just rode for transportation.

In Y2K, I entered my first triathlon. I rode my Rock Hopper. I smoked a lot of people that day - even with my knobbies on. And, so began my love affair with the road bike. I got my first roadie and completely abandoned my old friend.

It eventually was turned into a hybrid for my mom to try road cycling and retired from my collection. She named it Gertrude.

A few years ago, I bought a used MTB on eBay. It's actually a pretty nice bike. And, it was only $600. And, did I mention it's carbon hardtail with XT components? Not bad, right? I was determined to conquer my off-road demons.

Cyclistrick took me on a couple off-road rides. First we tried Fremont Older. It had lots of switchbacks and was just one big up and one big down. That didn't seem so fun. So, we went to Wilder Ranch one day. I had a little more fun there, but still wasn't "getting it". Cyclistrick could hack his own way, but couldn't really explain the techniques for me.

Cyclistrick sold his MTB to make room for another road bike. So, my MTB went back into retirement....

Until last night.

There's nothing like the peer pressure of 13 other women in an off-road paceline to force the issue of learning to ride the dang thing. I soon realized that my fitness was good enough to move me to the middle of the line instead of the back. I would fall back on the descents and then catch back on on the uphill sections. I only inadvertently fell off my bike twice, and landed on my feet both times. I chose to jump off a couple more times. Janet was awesome and walked me through some techniques. I was originally going to work with Elizabeth, but somehow got sucked into the vortex of the 'A' group. I was glad Janet was around to help me out. I was even complimented at the end on how 'fast' I was (which seemed strange, because we'd ridden like 7 miles in an hour). I was told to ignore the odometer.

So, I'm happy to report that I can at least hack my way around a mountain bike ride now. I have a long way to go to be 'competent', but that will come with time. I look forward to being a Dirty Velo Girl again in the future! Thanks, ladies - that was fun!


CyclistRick said...

Actually, I gave away my old hard-tail MTB rather than sold. And the reason was more that I was not riding it, partly because you were not comfy on the trails, but more because my hands and arms never re-adapted to the straight bars after the accident in 2002.

I am glad you will finally find use in that bike, rather than let it sit idly. And it does have those hardly used replacement wheels :-) Have fun playing with the Dirty Girls!

Chris said...

Yay! I used to love mtb even better than road. Problem is there isn't time to be good at everything.

cyclistmom said...

That's my girl! Have fun.

velogirl said...

be careful....it's addictive!

Jeff said...

I find that if I don't practice my offroad skills regularly, I lose them quick. Even just a few days off the trails can make a difference.

chatterbox said...

hi cyclistmom, vg and chris! welcome, jeff.

yeah, it seems addictive. I already think I'm going again next week. And, I found out where to get a MTB map for the Canadian Rockies and a place to rent a bike on the upcoming vacation....

jeff, I don't know if I'll practice a lot, but it does seem like a good thing to freshen up the agility and core strength for the road races.

lauren said...

come to the dark side!