Saturday, April 24, 2010

PHX Trail 100 on a 16 Year Old Burple Mountain Bike: No Springs Attached

Ready for the Shakedown

After working for a few hours on adjusting, recabling and lubing the 16 year old mountain bike I just picked up, it seemed like it was time for a shakedown ride, to see what it is made of. Or rather, since it is made of the sweet hand-welded triple-butted OX steel that I was looking for, would it live up to my expectations on the trail? Except for the tires (more about those in a sec), the new cables, and the grips, it's stock. It's name is "Singletrack". It's styled a "mountain bike". So, here was my thought process:

1) It's a mountain bike
2) I can see a mountain with trails all over it
3) Go ride

I know it wasn't thought out very carefully. But screw it, it's Saturday morning, I need some coffee, I have a mountain bike, there's the mountain, let's ride, was how it went. I stopped at Trailhead Bike cafe for some espresso, then, suitably fueled, went to the trail.

The Mountain in Question

I've ridden 100 a couple of times on bikes without suspension before. I rode Yasuko, without a rack, out here once, and it was pretty harsh without a suspension fork. She's got a nice steel frame, but it's not something I want to ride on trail 100 very often. These previous experiences lead me to have some misgivings about riding the Trek out here, but I've already explained by reasoning, above. So, how did it go?

Made for Mountains

It was a great ride. The frame and fork felt very forgiving and comfortable on the rocky portions, and I let my knees, thighs and arms absorb the larger bumps. I didn't take any big drops or anything (OK maybe one medium drop), because that's not really my thing, but wow it was fun. It was a good workout for my muscle-springs, to be sure, but riding to the trail at Dreamy Draw, then down to Tatum and home again, was a complete blast (JR Alpha ride-to-the ride rule in practice). Now to the tires: I think many people want the tires on their mountain bikes to look rugged, knobby, and traction-y. Kind of a corollary to people who believe that street bikes need crappy front suspension forks. The tires I put on this bike to replace the trashed stock Big Kahunas are WTB Nanoraptors, viewed with scorn by pretty much everyone, I suspect, since they aren't knobby enough to impress people impressed by knobs, and are too cheap and low-end for hardcore mountain goats. But they were perfect for me today, very sure-footed and hooked up through turns, but fast on the straight sections as well as the street. I've ridden much knobbier Continentals and WTB tires on these trails, but the low, plentiful knobs on these really surprised me with how well they performed in the dust and rocks. I was running them at about 50 psi, which was still a little harder than would have been comfortable, but it worked.

Singletrack Indeed

The last stretch just behind the photo above was the most challenging, and also the most fun, the downhill loose rocky run to Tatum. You ride it one way on a bike with suspension, and a different way when you have no springs. You seek out a different line, care a little more about where the wheels are about to go, and have to keep your hands and arms really loose to soak up the bumps. I need more practice at it, since I definitely caught myself tensing up, holding on too tight, self-defeating my control and flow by stiffening up and grabbing too much brake. But the good news is, she forgave me my shortcomings, and carried me home with a smile on my face. Wait, did someone say more practice would be required? Maybe I should fill up the water bottle and get back out there. Get up. Go ride.

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