Recently I was thinking about all the mountain bikes I have owned. While many memories stand out, I realized that the first and last rides on each bike are the easiest to recall, and it made me a little nostalgic.
Back in Maine I had inherited my brother-in-law’s department store mountain bike and my wife and I used to ride around our home town. One day, just for fun, I headed down a short section of singletrack on the bike. It wasn’t even a trail really, just a shortcut worn in by local high school kids. The path was maybe a quarter mile, but as I rolled over the crunchy gravel and stopped for a fallen tree, the seed was planted. This was my first and last off-road adventure on that bike and soon after I gave it to my brother, packed up the family, and headed to Colorado for a new job.
Our new house was right next to a paved bike trail system, so I decided to get a bike to ride. I’ve never really liked road bikes, so I decided a mountain bike was the way to go. With limited knowledge and funds I hit the interwebs and soon found a one-year-old Specialized Rockhopper for $150. A week or so later a friend suggested I take my new mountain bike, you know, mountain biking. With him as a guide, I embarked on my first real off-road ride on my Rockhopper.
We rode Matthews Winters Trail, including Morrison Slide. I had never really mountain biked before, and I was out shape, but I was hooked! I broke one of the toe clips clean off trying to navigate a switchback with a water bar in the middle of it. (I still can’t ride that switchback.) Since I had not yet had The Great Crash of the Broken Clavicle, I was dropping the ledges, bouncing over the baby heads, and catching air off the berms with reckless abandon. I’m pretty sure I even giggled a little.
First MTB ride – Matthews Winters
Over the next three years my trusty Rockhopper would take me all over the Colorado Front Range and even to cool places like Moab and Monarch Crest, and it was on this bike that I eventually had The Great Crash of the Broken Clavicle, which changed my riding style forever.
In the fall of 2008 I took the Rockhopper to Kenosha Pass for its last ride as a knobby-tire, off-road bike. This epic trail with its roots and rocks convinced me that it was time to graduate to full suspension. The Rockhopper lives on as my work commuter.
Last ride: Kenosha Pass to Georgia Pass
Once again I hit the interwebs to find a new ride, but this time with a bigger budget and a lot more knowledge since I had discovered Singletracks and MTBR. I scored a Giant Trance frame, with rear shock, for $325 on eBay, and the seller was local so I even saved on the shipping! When I proudly brought my purchase home, my wife commented, “I thought you were buying a bike, what’s that?!”
I spent the winter tracking down components for my build and by spring I had a working full suspension bike with hydraulic disc brakes, and it even fit me correctly. A shakedown ride on Ridgeline Trail was awesome, but by the end of it the rear swingarm was hitting the front derailleur every time the suspension cycled. Filled with doubt about my assembly skills and parts choices, I took the bike to my mechanic friend. Thankfully all I needed was a seal kit in the rear shock and a couple of days later I was at White Ranch for the first club ride of the season. On the Trance the trail flowed under my tires. Rocks and roots were absorbed effortlessly by the suspension. Surely mountain biking could not get any better than this!
24 hours of Moab
My Trance and I went all over Colorado and to Moab. Slickrock Trail, which had taken me 5 1/2 hours as a noobie on the Rockhopper now took 2 hours and 40 minutes, even with the practice loop thrown in for good measure. Monarch Crest and Kenosha Pass were enjoyed at a whole new level.
The Trance was still my bike when I applied to be a writer here at Singletracks. With a long-term demo bike on the way, my daughter and I headed to Dawson’s Butte for a ride. The Trance and I were old friends by now and I had recently put the bike on a diet, shedding 5 lbs of fork, wheel and tire, bringing it to a respectable 27 lbs. My daughter was struggling on her Specialized Hotrock. The bike was way too small for her and yet still somehow weighed 32 lbs. When we got home, I dug out the seatpost I had cut down for the Rockhopper and installed it on the Trance. To my surprise, it was a good fit and she was able to handle the bigger wheels with ease. I ordered a shorter stem, dropped the pressure in the suspension; and I never rode the Trance again…
Next up was the Focus Black Forest 29er hardtail I received as a long-term test for Singletracks. Yes, I was back on a hardtail. With 29ers becoming all the rage, I was curious to see how the big wheels on a hardtail would perform in comparison to the full suspension I had become so accustomed to. With me on the Focus and my daughter on the Trance, we headed back out to Dawson’s Butte. I reveled in how fast and efficiently the hardtail pedaled, while my daughter got going too fast on her new ride and slid out of a turn. It was an educational ride for both of us.
After spending several interesting months on the Focus, I was on a late fall ride at White Ranch. A split second of inattention combined with a small pebble added up to a fall and a dislocated middle finger. This effectively ended my riding season, and with my remaining good hand I packed the bike back into its crate for return to Focus.
Kenosha Pass again
With the Focus gone, and the Trance permanently in my daughter’s possession, it was time to find a new ride. I had really liked the full suspension of the Trance, but I had also felt the benefit of the big wheels. So of course I got a full suspension 29er!
I scored a great deal on a 2011 Giant Anthem X 29er and put it on lay-a-way over the winter. Ultimately I sold my car to finish paying it off, and after a couple of shakedown rides in Cherry Creek State Park, it was off to Green Mountain for the local club’s season opener ride. The Anthem is almost as efficient as the Focus, and almost as nimble as the Trance; definitely a good compromise overall. I’ve not yet had my last ride on this bike, and I hope I don’t any time soon!
The bottom line is this: If you enjoy each ride like it’s your first, and savor it like it’s your last, then every ride will be the best it can be!