Thursday night I met some of my old crew at Waldo, then rode into the woods for the first time in 11 months. The last time I rode there, I crashed, burned, and tore my left ACL. The doc installed a used one (a big thanks to the donor and their family) 4 months to the day after my crash. Now, 7 months post surgery, not only was I on my new-to-me ACL , I was in Waldo, where I did the damage, on my new-to-me bike, Don and then Jeff’s Niner with the Chris King hubs (I love that the bike has a pedigree in local mtb circles – I feel like part of a continuum).
Maybe the combination wasn’t the wisest, but it wasn’t a big deal either. It’s going to take some time to learn the Niner’s capabilities, and it gave me a reason to take it easy. As if the debts I owe my ligament donor and my wife Pat for nursing me through and not giving me undue shit weren’t enough…
The Niner’s suspension was slack – too slack. It had hung in my garage since Jeff sold it to me right after my surgery; unattended if not unloved. A novice to full-sus, I had no idea how much air should be in the shocks. I bottomed them out a couple of times, once burping the front tire crossing a stone wall. Jeff came by this morning and dialed in the suspension for me. The next ride should give a far better idea of the Niner’s capabilities.
At the start, fear took the place of the joy I normally feel. Even the little bumps I cleaned four years ago on my rigid 26er looked scary. I walked around the first rock on Red, the one I don’t always clean but should, because I didn’t want to put my left foot down if I didn’t clean it. But then I rolled over some logs and cleaned the first three rock gardens. By the time we got to the Schralpin’ Turns, I was having fun. My thoughts turned from my knee to how the bike handled and shifted. As I negotiate the Niner’s learning curve, it’s going to begin to feel natural again.
Riding Waldo was the right move. It’s my home park. It’s where Chris took me out for my first mtb ride four or five years ago. It’s where I spent weeks clearing trees after the storm in May 2018, and where I’ve kept the trails clear when I could only Jones about riding them. It’s where I shepherded in a new boardwalk with NEMBA a month before my surgery, the one I finally rode Thursday.
And my friends? Chris, Korey, and Ben? They’re mensches. They rode slow. They watched out for me and waited for me. They didn’t tempt me to do anything stupid. They told me they’d missed me, and after the ride, they gave me beer. While I missed riding, what I missed more was them, them and my other riding buddies who weren’t there.
It’s good to be back.