The Joy of Calvinism

After Sunday-Funday at Nassahegan, the Preserves fit my mood. It’s a hard ride. Where rock gardens don’t grow, it’s steep. The climb ratio is between 150 feet and 200 feet per mile. The trails are narrow and often overhung with mountain laurel and hemlocks. Not much about it flows except for the streams at the four crossings. It’s old-school mtbing. I have never cleaned it, but it’s not so hard as to prevent me from thinking that I might.

I sessioned some harder stuff. I cleaned a couple of sections for the first time, and came damn close on others. The results were a combination of frustration and satisfaction. The satisfaction is obvious – You get up something and you feel good. The frustration runs deeper. It’s all me. I know how to get up that. But I don’t put everything into the pedals, or I’m geared too low to maintain momentum, or I’m geared too high and can’t get the pedal over, or I glance away from the line and the bike follows my eyes off the trail, or I don’t get far enough over the bars and the front wheel comes up or I get too far over the bars and the back wheel spins out. But it’s a process, and in that process is satisfaction also, in that I’m beginning to understand the why of not cleaning trails.

I won some and lost some. It was hot and it was feeding time for the deer flies and mosquitoes. When I rode out of the woods, sweat slimed my body everywhere except for where the dust on my shins had absorbed it. Bug bites itched in a dozen places. My quads burned. Oddly, I wasn’t bleeding anywhere.

Good enough though. Despite the non-sanguinary nature of the ride, my Calvinist soul was sanguine enough to justify a dip in the Shepaug. If you’ve never finished a hot ride with a swim in free-flowing water, you haven’t really lived.



About swampyankeecyclist

I'm Andy Engel, just a middle-aged, middle-class guy from Roxbury, Connecticut. I've been married to my best friend since 1988, and we have two grown sons. I like riding bikes, and my biggest accomplishment is the 180K D2R2. I own 5 bikes but my go-to rides are a 2016 GT Grade gravel and commuter bike and a 2016 Specialized 650b hardtail mountain bike. Additionally, I have a 2000-something carbon-fiber Orbea road bike, a 1990-something Specialized Sirrus that's my old dirt and commuter bike and which now serves as a spare and a trainer bike, and a 1985 Ross Mount Hood MTB. All but the 650b have Brooks saddles. I work from home now, but used to commute 32 miles round trip to work by bike year round. I was a carpenter and still love building things, but regular paychecks, insurance, and vacation time lured me into journalism. I've written a couple of books on carpentry, and I've been an editor at Fine Homebuilding, Fine Woodworking, and Professional Deck Builder magazines. Currently, I manage construction events at the JLC Live and Remodeling Show trade shows. Additionally, my wife and I run Transylvania Guest House, an Airbnb. Find us on Instagram. Come stay with us and I'll show you some great cycling.
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