Thursday, September 1, 2011

My first real "mountain biker" friends.

Anyway, I rode that first fat tired bike for a long time and started working for a company where I met my first real mountain biking friends. I was sitting in the cafeteria reading through the latest Performance bike and Nashbar catalogs when my boss’s secretary noticed my choice of magazines. “Hey do you ride?”, she asked. "Why yes I did", I proudly told her. And I had a “mountain bike”. "Great!", she said, "my husband and I mountain bike every weekend. You should come with us." I happily agreed. So a few weeks later, I drove over to their home and they loaded my bike into their car. My mountain bike didn’t look anything like theirs did though. They had no reflectors and no kickstand. How did the keep their bikes upright when not in use I’d wondered? Their handlebars also had these extender bar thingies which I soon learned are called bar ends which are for climbing steep sections. So the questions began. What are those for? Why does your bike have them? Where do you use them? They explained to me their use and schooled me on  other mountain bike things I never knew. We finally arrived to a dirt lot, and we headed into the trail. I soon learned that what I was doing, was not actually mountain biking. Apparently, if you happen to have fat tires and ride it on a paved bike path,  this does not automatically make you a "mountain biker". After a couple of rides with them on my green beauty, I quickly learned that this bike was not going to hold up to the rigors of off road use. So my newfound friends took me to their "real" bike shop and I picked out a serious Mountain Bike . Not just any mountain bike. This one not only had those fancy bar ends, but it even had front suspension…a Red Trek 930 with a Rockshox Quadra 10 fork. Only one of their bikes has front suspension. I was one of the cool kids now and they were impressed with MY bike. I was one of them. When I brought it home, I couldn't even tell my Dad how much I actually paid for it. He would never understand paying so much for a "toy", so I made up a number. Some ridiculous amount that you could only find if you bought your bike at Walmart. He seemed satisfied with that answer. Everyone was happy.

I rode that bike into the ground and cut my mountain biking teeth on that lovely steed. I didn’t realize at the time that it was a “tank” and not knowing any better  thought it was the bomb since it was far cooler than my first ride. I mean, this one didn’t even come stock with a kickstand.
I recall one really frigid Thanksgiving morning going out for a ride on it, and the elastomers in the front shock actually froze solid causing the shock to stop all movement and turn it into a rigid. I learned a little more that day. Basically, elastomer is a fancy word for rubber inserts. And rubber doesn't like extreme cold. I think I  may have inadvertently invented the "lockout" technology for forks that day. No one has ever given me credit for it, but I have to assume that my R&D in extreme temps was taken under advisement and the results sent to Rock Shox for further review. Hey, you don't know!

I eventually found my own personal bike shop and sought out others to fuel my addiction with me. I was in search of the elusive group mountain bike ride and rumor had it that this particular bike shop in town hosted some of the best ones. There were lots of bikes outside leaned up against each other with helmets strewn carelessly all about.  I bravely walked in there to ask for information. This shop was like no other bike shop I’d ever seen let alone been inside. This one was different.  When I walked inside, there were lots of customers.  But, these customers were all wearing their cycling clothes and sitting on the floor eating lunch and talking about the ride they just came back from. How cool.  I soon realized that the shop owners were among some of those seated on the floor involved in the conversation.  They were super cordial and invited me to join their next ride and gave me all the details. I would be back. Little did I know that this place was going to be a second home to me.  I became very close with the owners, Doug and Linda, who were a great couple. They started their original shop from the back of their truck selling parts at the trail heads and then opened this brick and mortar shop just a few years ago. Everyone who met them loved them. This probably had a lot to do with the fact that they were a rare breed that could sit on the floor with their customers after a ride eating lunch and talking bikes. Just a hunch.
I joined many group rides with them and even got my first taste of night riding because they also hosted a couple of group night rides each week. I went out and found the least expensive light I could find and I showed up for the ride. There was a really big group, all guys except for me and Linda. I was ready. Not 30 minutes into the ride, my light started to dim. And that's when my anxiety started to increase. Ten fold. I was riding in the woods now with a fast group and I really could not see. Linda had done many night rides before and knew these trails very well. She offered to give me her light for the rest of the ride and I can’t tell you how indebted to her I was then and still am to this day for her generosity.

Those Canadians know how to build 'em Eh?
Not long after that, I decided I wanted to purchase a new bike. I told Doug, the owner, that I knew I wanted a new bike, but didn’t know exactly *what* I wanted. What I did know was that I did NOT want grip shift for my shifters.  It’s good to be an informed purchaser I always say. So with that limited list of requirements, I sent him on a mission to find me something.  I completely trusted Doug’s advice and I knew he would find me the perfect next bike.  He advised that since I really didn’t know what I wanted, that I should take his personal bike out for a spin on the trails to see what I thought about that. I couldn’t believe he was offering to let me ride his personal bike. It was a Rocky Mountain blizzard and it was awesome, top of the line as most bike shop owners bikes tend to be. It even had those odd grip shifters that I KNEW I didn’t want, but after some persuasion, I agreed to take it out on the group ride. I mean, really, it was the least I could do. Well you can imagine what  happened next. I was keeping up with the guys and flying in and out of singletrack like I had wings. I returned to the shop with a huge grin on my face and my credit card in hand. I’ll have what he’s riding! And so, a few weeks later,  I ended up with a new red Rocky Mountain blizzard with a yellow Rock Shox Judy fork, custom built very similar to his own build specs. Grip shifters and all.  Best bike ever! Well that is until I discovered full suspension had been invented. 

About this time, I realized that I wanted to become a true cyclist. Spending late nights at the clubs dancing all night was fun, but it didn’t give me the same satisfaction as finishing a trail or clearing a climb did. Plus, it was cutting into my quality ride time from staying up all night.
This is the ticket! The "last" one.
Two Rocky Mountain bikes and a harsh aluminum Cannondale road bike later for a dabble into the road scene and came the day when I finally was able to afford the top of the line Rocky Mountain ETSX90 cross country bike, custom built to my specs with lots of carbon upgrades, disc brakes and my first ever foray into tubeless tires.  I too thought this was the best bike ever and the last one I'd ever have to buy. Little did I know.

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