A Good Ride

It was a long and uncertain week at work. There was no time for a Wednesday ride. I was getting through 12 hour days with 5 hours of sleep and 5 cups of coffee. On Friday, the situation seemed under control and I committed to riding Waldo on Saturday.

There’d been a lot of rain and while the surface leaves on the trail were dry, those underlying were wet. I rode a little cautiously, a decision justified by the mud and leaf mold on Mark’s leg after his rear wheel washed out on a turn within the first mile.

Again, I kept the rubber side down, and mostly kept up with Mark and Chris. The log-overs on Red still sketch me out, particularly when the wood is the slightest bit wet, so I skipped them. The trouble is that the trail intersects them at an angle. Laying in bed this morning, I thought about rebuilding them so they turned and banked a little. Not sure if that’s a good idea or not.

What made me happiest yesterday was cleaning several sections I’ve struggled on for years. When I was peaking two years ago, I got these sections regularly. All they take is looking ahead, keeping the front wheel light, and spinning the pedals. The climb up Red to the powerlines crosses a stone wall and then goes through a jagged rock garden that continues between two trees. The trail flattens for 50 feet, then passes between two more tightly spaced trees. At this passage, there’s a large root followed by a pair of rocks, all of which must be threaded in the space of three feet.

The other tough section is the rock garden at the top of Purple. I’ve been avoiding it since getting back on the MTB until two weeks ago. On that ride, I got about halfway through. Yesterday, I got it all. It helped to be watching Chris ride in front of me. It wasn’t so much that he was showing me the line – Hell, I know the line – but that his riding it gave me confidence that my own tires would stick to the rocks if I just kept pedaling.

And that’s the crux of why getting back on the MTB has often been frustrating. Two years ago, I had a better idea of what the bike can do than I do now. I had just about gained the confidence that would have leveled me up in a video game or a dojo. Now I’m relearning lessons I had mastered. The crash that took my knee out didn’t happen because of these how I ride routinely. It happened because I made a decision that was out of character for me.

There’s a lesson there.

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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