Posted August 15, 2005
That epic feeling
I've been so focused on learning and teaching how to ride fast that I've lost touch with riding for its own sake -- or at least covering miles just for the sake of covering miles. Never mind line choice and exit speed -- just turn the cranks and enjoy the scenery.
With my thumb still healing from the ligament incident and the Park City Endurance 100 only a few weeks away, downhill riding is out and cross country riding is in. To celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (10 years!) My Smootchie and I spent last weekend at a friend's ranch near Telluride, CO. This is immense country -- rivers running through meadows running through mountains -- and our hosts own 470 acres of it.
From the guest house at 9,600 feet, I cranked up a steep dirt road toward the Continental Divide -- the series of mountains that extends from Alaska to Mexico. Pee on one side and you pee into the Gulf of Mexico; pee on the other side and you pee into the Sea of Cortez. After the initial grunt the road mellowed to a nice 22tx30t 150-beat-per-minute spin. Trees passed, and I slipped into a trance with the iPod on shuffle and the gods playing DJ. When "Enter Sandman" segues into "Frosty the Snowman," you know a higher power is at work.
The path's worn dirt degraded into trampled grass. There were no bike tracks or even smooth sections: just raw dirt, rocks, roots and puddles. This seemed more and more like a non-trail, but it was on the map, so I settled into expedition mode: climbing slowly but carefully to conserve energy; descending smoothly to avoid crashing. An injury here could be your last. I passed a dilapidated shack and an old mine entrance, and as I looked back I couldn't see where I'd ridden. My stomach sank, and my hairs stood up. It was "that epic feeling." That feeling where you're alone and far from home, and you don't know exactly where you are, and you're not sure you'll make it back. It's a feeling I try to avoid, but one that I relish.
The descent was long, burly and instinctive. Years of dedicated practice receded into the background, and I ripped down the trail like a champ: sticking loose turns, pumping little rises, jumping rock outcroppings. It felt great to ride well; not because a timer was running, but because riding well was the quickest and safest way to cover the miles and get back to my Smootchie.
Fork: Fox Talas RLC. Dial in the travel to 3 inches for steep climbing. Slack it out to 5 inches for the descents. Perfect, especially with sweet damping and rock-solid reliability.
Tires: A pair of 2006 Specialized Pinn'er 2.3s with 60A compound and 60 tpi sidewalls. These brand-new downhill tires don't roll as fast as light XC treads, but they provide tons of traction on every surface I encountered, and they all but eliminate flats at expedition speeds. I'll post a full writeup on Specialized's new line of DH tires as soon as I wring them all out.
Thanks to Christy, Jay and the rest of the gang for their hospitality and fellowship.
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