Mountain biking no matter what

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Todd Gilchrist posted a good article on his blog titled ‘Lessons from Mountain Biking’ that got me to thinking about the times I’ve foolishly decided to ride when my equipment wasn’t really ready to go. For Todd this meant sticking out his ride despite a bent low-gear sprocket just 10 minutes into the ride – a real dilemma if something like this has never happened to you.

For most of us going for a mountain bike ride is a bit of a production. First of all, there’s all the gear you gotta pack up: bike, helmet, shoes, gloves, shorts, jersey, water, extra tubes, tools, pump, Clif bars, GPS, camera, etc. After getting all this in the car most of us drive to the local trailhead where we reassemble said gear before finally getting on the trail. For me, this whole routine can easily take over an hour just to get to the closest dirt which makes a ride feel more like an investment.

So, like Todd, one day I found myself at the start of a ride with a problem: I forgot to pack the shoes that fit my clipless pedals. I was planning on riding up High Drive in Colorado Springs which, though not singletrack, is a serious climb that rewards those with the ability to utilize a full pedalstroke. Needless to say I was ready to ride so I took off in my street shoes, cursing myself for the first five minutes. But then, something miraculous happened: I stopped caring. The shoes ended up working just fine despite the tiny clipless pedal platform and now I wear my street shoes whenever I take my mountain bike on errands in town.

If you’re a regular reader you may remember these next two stories. Once on a late summer evening ride on Tsali’s Left Loop my derailleur exploded. Cage plates off, pulleys scattered, and bolts and bushings gone – all just 3 miles into the 12 mile loop. Mudhunny and I both really wanted to finish the ride so we looked for what seemed like hours for the parts so we could reassemble the derailleur. Once found, we weren’t able to properly tighten the bolts since we had no tool. But despite the risk of another derailleur explosion caused by undertightened bolts, we decided to throw caution to the wind and ride out the long way. It ended up being a fun, albeit tense, ride at Tsali.

On another occasion I lost both of my pedals during a ride. We were able to find one of them but the question was this: should Mudhunny ride down the dirt road to get the car and come pick me up? The answer by now should be obvious: No sir – I wanted to enjoy the downhill even if I only had one pedal! Riding with one pedal actually isn’t difficult at all, especially when you can clip your foot into the pedal.

Yep, it’s tough to bail out of a mountain bike ride when you’re having fun, especially for a silly mechanical problem like a busted sprocket or missing pedal. In-ride improv actually makes a trail more memorable and definitely adds a new dimension to a familiar ride.

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