Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Biiiiig wheeels

So I rode the bike, like off road, it was like F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S. Straight up, that's how it is. Bold claim you say? Well I don't lie, and there are plenty of reasons for its excellence. First of all, of course I like it, I designed it. The parts are of my choosing, and they make me look mega-fast. If they look mega-fast I will be mega-fast, right? Of course. Secondly, steel is real man! It's got a great feel, and combined with some smooth rolling gigantic wheels, it's a buttery smooth time. The other thing about the way that the bike looks is that it looks like it will eat your bike in one bite. Seriously, this thing is massive. Size large frame, and 29 inch wheels makes for a massive wheelbase, and the thing that makes a big bike look bigger are bigger wheels. I've put it down beside my buddy's small bike and it's pretty hilarious. And orange. Which is important.
The first ride that I went on was just inside Guelph, to feel out where I want to cut my steer tube. I slammed the stem all the way down and inverted it, that's where I like to ride, weight forward, steel bike, skinny bars, bar ends, oldschool. Yup.
I had the help of local bike legend Bayden Pritchard trimming my steer tube!

I snuck into some trails that were between a golf course and a river, knowing that it would be some simple doubletrack, but the mucky conditions would be pretty sweet to test the big wheelbase and higher centre of gravity. I left the house and flew down the road, not sure whether it was the big wheels making me fast, or me speeding subconsciously - but I rocketed down the road at 37 km/hr, it was pretty satisfying! When I got to the golf course I was speeding along the side nearest the river when I caught something out of the corner of my eye: I had to look again, it was too good to be true. Off camber singletrack?? NO WAY.
For those who aren't cyclists signletrack is the tighter trickier trails that speed can be more dependent on technical prowess on a bike than fitness. The perfect thing to test my new bike on. So I cut through the forest to the trail, and rode along down the trail. Off camber was the other descriptor I used, by that I mean a trail that is on the side of the hill, perpendicular to the slope. So you are under the constant threat of sliding sideways down the hill. This all on a day where the trail surface was of peanut butter consistency, and I was happy to ride back and forth on the same trail for an hour.
My little climb that I practiced, pretty challenging actually!

The next opportunity that I got to ride I snatched up quickly! My buddy Alex and I went out to a place called "Twin Lakes" (but known among the riders here as "Twin Ponds"). Twin ponds probably the best riding immediately around Guelph. It's about 13 km from my house (which sucks to ride on a mountain bike), but totally worth the trek. The amazing thing about Twin Ponds (TP) is that they have actually packed an ungodly amount of trail in a relatively small parcel of land. TP can be divided into two sections, some really fun trail which twist and turn - good fast riding. Then there's the back 40. That is where you really feel the effect of packing so many trails into a small space: a steep hill? No problem, build the trail up it, straight up it. They don't twist up the hills to give you relief, they just throttle you right up. And the same applies for going down the hills, most hills have a sharp turn at the top, and a steep drop. These were the highlight for me. Testing ground. I had my training wheels and tires on (which weigh almost 2lbs more than my race wheels and tires) and the weight alone makes things tougher. Lots of power was needed to get up those hills, and having the wrong tires on for the conditions made the ride more challenging.
But I'm greatful that I have 2 sets of wheels and some challenging tires to practice on, get used to the tough stuff and fly with my race stuff! Non cyclists are probably thinking 2lbs? Toughen up. The cyclists are thinking 2lbs? wow. I wish I could drop that weight off of my wheels. Cyclists obsess over the weight of their bikes, which is fun to do and all, but not terribly affordable. And if you try to do it affordably, by picking up the older used lightweight parts, you will break your bike. I like to think I'm in the middle ground somewhere. I want a lightweight bike, but I obviously don't worry too much about it (steel frame and alloy parts instead of the lighter more modern carbon fiber stuff).There is however one place I will not cheap out on with my bike. The wheels. Rotational weight has an influence that is exponentially proportional to the force required to move it. And with 29 inch wheels and tires as opposed to 26 inch, I am already packing on quite a bit of extra weight.
It took a while to get used to things on the new bike like how it turns, the "sweet spot" for climbing (the position you want your weight to be to maximize power transfer and grip), to be aware of where the rear wheel is, and to deal with the added momentum of the wheels. As I get better on this bike, I hope to learn to use momentum to my advantage, but that's going to take some practice.
Anyways, riding with Alex was a good time, that guy has grown up in Guelph and knows those trails, so he knew how to give me a good fazing. I fell. Lots. And he smiled. Lots. I'm proud to say however that I didn't back down from any bit of trail, and gave everything my best shot. The back section has lots of tough obstacles (did I mention it was raining too? Has been for like a week straight.) like rooty descents and 3 foot tall log piles. I am proud to say that I managed to conquer everything that didn't involve an uphill, uphills were just too slippery and steep for my tires and poor little muscles. I rose to the dares and challenges, and though I fell lots, that's all involved in the learning curve, I ride mountian bikes, not play badminton or golf. I do it because I love the speed, the rush, the rocks, and every aspect of the forest. It's awesome. I am now super bruised, but I'm having fun, and improving!
I've been training exclusively Subsequent rides have seen a faster, less of a JIT (junior in training) rider, and injuries have been kept down. One notable injury happened one day as I came home from the trail occurred not far from my house (luckily). I was cutting across a field and rode up a big steep berm in the landscape that is covered with trees and has a small trail (which is not maintained). As I descended the other side I kept my head low and was thankful of my glasses keeping all the overhanging branches out my my eyes, until I was suddenly wrenched back by something. Turns out it wasn't just branches hanging low, there was a vine too. This vine brought me to a halt, with my face, and tore me a new smile. I touched my face, and looked at my glove and it was covered in blood. Instantly I thought of the joker from batman. Why so serious? Because I like to eat food and don't want to lose it out of a hole in my cheeks, that's why.
I got back on my bike, and pinned it home, in pretty intense pain, and feeling liquid drip down my face. I jumped into the house and yellled for my house mate Mike to come save the day and assess the damage. We cleaned the blood away, and there was one deep cut, and a few minor ones, on both sides of my face. He inspected it when we cleaned it and pulled a couple of twigs out and said there's something in there deep, you're not going to like that. I decided to shower and then re assess the damage myself, hoping that the cut would clean itself out. Unfortunately it didn't and I saw the exact piece in question. I stared hard at it and splashed my face with water but that thing was comfortable deep into the cut. I tried to dig in with my fingers, but my hands are massive and no luck. Then I grabbed the closest thing I could (ironically another piece of vine or twig we pulled out before) and scraped the intruding bit of vine out. Good.
And now everybody says what a baby, doesn't look so bad. Everyone I talked to was like shouldn't you get uhh...stitches? Nope! I'm not Frankenstein, and I've been scientifically proven to heal fast (kind of like Wolverine, from x-men, but much less hairy). It looks like it will scar, but that's pretty badass right? Scars on faces? Chicks dig that stuff right? Happened almost a week ago and I'm still having people asking about it, it's not closing terribly fast, and the other cuts are much more apparent now too. Seeing my mom last weekend (I went home for the first time since Christmas, to surprise her) was nice, she hugged me for about five minutes and then looked at me, and was like "It's so great to see you! Your face is pretty overwelming though.." Not sure whether she likes this look or the super skinny emaciated look that I typically return from university with..

Anyways! Crazy weekend coming up! Gotta move to a new house, pack for a week of camping/field work, and race my first race back in Canada! Mansfield! I've been training exclusively on my mountain bike, trying to get a feel for it, which means by this point I have a feel for it on the technical stuff, and in the rain! But I'm also exhausted. Time to pull an all nighter packing my stuff from all around the house...Hope I pull this one off!

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