Friday, April 2, 2010

First blood

Hobby park is a great single track ride. I've ridden it before on my regular hardtail, 26" (before it was stolen) and it is tough. Very rooty. Sudden drops followed by sharp turns. There are short steep climbs, flowing corners, rapid corners, rocks, trees and more roots. Your typical single track in these parts. However, I haven't done it in a while and certainly not on my new 29er Kona and today was a perfect day to go. It was sunny, 80F and leaves were starting to come out.

The ride started out nice enough. I'm making the turns. Noticing how the kona handles differently than a typical mountain bike. Slower and heavier. I'm trying different gearing to find the cruise sweet spot. I call this the part of the course the prologue.

The first proper section is very hilly and steep with very sharp corners and it was challenging to find a good line and still have speed to carry me up the next hill and over all the roots. It felt like I was fighting the bike the whole time. Forcing it to turn rather than driving it into the corners and letting physics work for me. The heart rate quickly rose into vein busting territory and the same hill that has defeated me in the past got me again. I got half way up and the roots stopped me cold and my HR was at it's max. No worries though. I expected this. Its a new bike and a technical course and I was happy just to be one the bike and getting familiar with how it handles.

The next section has more sharp drops and quick corners. I was better able to keep the heart rate in the right zone but screaming downhill only to have a 90 degree drop that lands you between two trees followed by a 90 degree corner did raise the old adrenaline levels.

Part three is less hair raising (if I had any) but requires more quick subtle handling. Lots of roots, climbs, navigating over root ramps, between trees, and around boulders. This is where the Mr 29er and I had our disagreement. I come around a corner with a bit of speed, and immediately had to make an unpleasant choice. Straight in front of me were two trees with a very narrow gap (Is it too narrow for my bars? Am I going to fast?) or a sharp right to go around (will I lose my traction and spear myself on that broken branch stub? Can I force the 29er that quickly around that sharp of a bend?). I lay on the rear brake. Now, I've not had disc brakes before and so far I've noticed they are extremely good at rapid stops and I have not yet mastered feathering. On the old bike with rim pads I could regulate the force quite well and even when I slammed them on it took a second to really take hold. Not so with disc brakes. These babies grip and want to sent you over the handlebars (it actually reminds me of riding a horse which decided to stop, lower its head and allow you to carry on forward over its withers if you don't pay attention. This I learned from part two).

I decide to head between the trees. I'm slowing, can I adjust the angle as I pass through? I'm going to try and get the right side through slightly before the right to decrease the apparent bike width even more. Left side through, yes! Hey! where did that rock come from??? My front wheel slides off the edge of this rock, forcing the wheel from it's current left pointing position to immediately straight and slides down the front side. My Left handlebar swings, slams into the tree trunk as I try and shift my body and talk rather harshly to Mr 29er about his lack of appropriate parentage. The bike and I are falling to the right. I can not get myself out of the clips. Oh well, time to prep for blood. The rock scrapes a very thin layer of skin off the entire length of my left shin. It looks white (Is it bone? No. Just skin). Oh, that's going to hurt. First blood on Mr. 29er. You never forget your first.

P.S. if you zoom into the tightest view on the route while in satellite mode, I think you can actually see the two trees and the GPS track between them. Very strange feeling.

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