Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mountain Bike Magazine - Winter Riding

I just found this essay written about the same experience I had yesterday at Bethpage State Park, with the muddy trails and all the falls I took -

Monday, January 19, 2015

Bethpage State Park - Mountain Bike Day

Bethpage State Park - Mountain Bike Day

Yesterday, Sunday, January 18th, 2015, I participated in a 5 kilometer race held at the Robert Moses State Park. The cold, gray and drizzly day didn’t lend itself to be one for a meet, but people showed up. The race started on time, as scheduled, at 11:00 a.m. I finished the race under 27 minutes, which put my time in the midrange of the age group and gender. Not bad for a 51 year old body carrying over 200 pounds.

Today Monday, the sun called me outside. A few days ago, I had anticipated a day like this by inflating the tires of the Mongoose IBOC mountain bike. I have had this bike over 25 years, and the bike has gone through a few parts replaced due to usage. I had all the necessary gear for a muddy ride after yesterday’s continuous rain.

I arrived at Bethpage State Park a little after 11:00 a.m. There was a group of runners sprinting on the paved portion of the bike trail. Today was not a running day for me, even though their presence challenged me.

Last week I had purchased a brand new pair of Shimano mountain bike shoes, which today they would be baptized with mud. Everything else was old - my old body and my old bike. But here we were.

The old Mongoose mountain bike was no longer reliable. Like an old man with missing teeth, I only had two gears to work with. This problem would be an issue every time I had to climb a hill, jump a stump, or avoid getting stuck in the mud. I fell down too many times to admit with my new Shimano shoes clipped to the pedals. I fell down in the same fashion that a tree falls, sideways, that each time I was saying to myself - timber. Not fun to fall down, a sign of lack of control. Not fun to fall down to watch the bike above me with my feet still anchored to the pedals.

There were sand and mud traps, where the front tire would get stuck and I lost balance, and not be able to recover or pull up from the trap.

This never used to happened when I mountain biked years ago. If anything, I would get so bored of riding that I wondered what else there was to discover. I never fell down, and I never ran out of breath. How could I run out of breath, when after all I still run and should be in shape?

Obviously, my riding skills were rusty, but it didn’t help that I only had two gears to work with. Two gears that didn’t help with climbing or accelerating. Towards the end of today’s ride, I kept riding in this labyrinth, which I circled a few times after recognizing my previous tire marks on the trail. I was getting impatient, looking for a way out of the labyrinth, only to get a little exasperated.

Today was a humbling experience, a wake up call, a challenge to revisit the trails that I had grown bored with. Now I had to figure out how to get rid of the mud on the bike frame and chain rings. Since it’s winter, I’ll wait for the mud to dry up, and then clean it off.

Thank you Bethpage State Park, for not changing since last time. I have changed, and I must adapt to the new conditions.