Fun can be, well, painful at times. I went mountain biking with my friend Bill yesterday. Boy am I sore today. My neck is sore, my shoulders ache, my quads feel funny and my butt, well, you go and sit on a narrow saddle for three hours straight and then tell me how it feels! These days to get a fifty-seven year old on a stationary bike is no mean feat. To hop on a mountain bike and go flying down a rock-strewn trail is, well, extraordinary.
I’ve been mountain biking for years. I picked up a fairly nice GT bike about ten years ago and blinged it out. I am a hobby junkie and my favorite hobbies are those with lots of tchotchkes (Yiddish for knickknacks, trinkets or in my case shiny bits!). New brakes, derailleurs, pedals, and the most gorgeous AVID adjustable brake levers. That’s just a start. It’s a great bike with a nice whippy steel frame and great handling.
One of my favorite places to go mountain biking is the MDC Reservoir in West Hartford. I go hiking, snowshoeing and biking there. Its three thousand acres contain an amazing variety of trails; from easy fire roads to tricky singletrack. Effortless climbs to having to dismount and walk the bike up the hill. It really is a fantastic playground.
Back in 2002, some idiot put the whole thing in jeopardy. Maribeth Blonski, a so called experienced mountain biker, who by her own admission was heading the wrong way down a clearly marked trail and with her head DOWN smashed into a big, brightly colored fence, that is always closed and has been for thirty years and injured herself. She sued and won a rather large settlement. Thankfully, The MDC voted not to close its gates to the public.
We get there a little before eleven and gear up. Helmet, shoes, gloves and CamelBak. A guy is giving his absolutely stunning girlfriend some pointers on biking. We will end up bumping into them all day long. We have a favorite trail that we like to go on. It is very rocky and for me a steep climb. I do dismount and hump the bike in the steepest sections. At the top it leads to a few more trails and some great cliffs that overlook Farmington and West Hartford. When we get to the top, we rest, drink, eat a PowerBar and trade insults. A good day so far. As we are leaving the guy with the gorgeous girlfriend shows up. We tell them the good trails to take, where the overlook is and what trails to avoid.
Going down this hill is what I love. Start pedaling and shift into to high gear for maximum speed. The rock-strewn trail twists and turns. For complete control you get off the seat, hang your butt over the rear tire, and feather the front brake. Normally, if you hit the front brakes of a bike you will usually do a gentle pirouette or perhaps a one and a half gainer with a full twist over the handlebars and smack yourself on the ground. That hurts. If you hit the rear brakes during a fast run, you run the risk of locking the rear wheel and throwing you into a skid. That hurts too, especially when you and your bike lose intimate contact. You go one way, the bike goes the other. Results? Something that either gets scraped or broken. Or both. Ouch! But, shifting the weight over the rear wheels changes the center of gravity and gives you maximum control. Something you definitely want when flying down a hill. I’m pedaling fast, picking my line, and praying I’m right. When you are going fast through very rocky terrain, you have to pick the proper line or direction. You look far enough ahead of you to steer, make any course correction and fly. A lovely “S” turn comes up and I squeeze the brake ever so slightly to slow down, choose my line, and accelerate out of the turns. My friend rags on me for coming in second, but I take the ribbing all in good fun. After all, I let him win.
The next part is a really tricky trail that is muddy, rocky and strewn with tree trunks laying on the trail. It is one of my favorite parts of the trail. We approach it on the top of a man-made berm. Enter the tree shrouded trail and begin to slowly negotiate each twist and turn. There are many small streams running through this part and I happily run through each one getting spattered with water and mud. Here comes a thick branch. Now I have to make a decision. Dismount and walk over the branch or jump it. I’m going to jump this one. Fast approach, judge when you will make contact, hit the branch, pull up on the handlebars, tense your leg muscles, pull up on the pedals, say a short prayer, rear wheel clears it... and bam you are over. Continue on the trail and go through a couple streams, decide to walk over a tree that is about a foot in diameter, and then sunlight. We follow the trail until we get to Route 44 in Avon. A quick rest and head for home. We ride back to the parking lot, change, dry off and put the bikes on the car rack. The guy with his gorgeous girlfriend comes in, just as we are about to leave. She gets into a VW Beetle (what else) and proceeds to nearly back into three cars. The third one being us.
When we get back to my house we break out the beer and fire up the grill for some burgers. I’m aching all over but the beer has a nice anesthetizing quality to it. It is only in the morning when I attempt to get out bed do I feel sore. Arms, legs, shoulders, back and butt. A couple of cups of coffee and few aspirins do the trick. Think back to yesterday and replay it in my head. Can’t wait to do it again.