Friday, June 1, 2007

Mountain Biking Envy

As many of you know, I am an avid hiker. Yep, I am one of THOSE guys zipping along with two walking sticks, backpack, wrist-mounted GPS, trail running shoes, and camouflage shorts (note: I do wear a shirt, socks, and underwear also). I pride myself that I pass everyone on the trail, and NO one passes me ... well, except occasionally, mountain bikers zip right past me. I always envied this elite group as I imagined that they could go so-much-further in so-much-less-time and see things that I did not get to see (so not fair!). Being a bicyclist myself (on the city streets of Los Angeles commuting back and forth to work), I was CERTAIN I could easily make the transition off-road. I too, could become a MOUNTAIN BIKER. Woo hoo!

I wanted a mountain bike that I would ride mostly on fire roads; no extreme off-road biking for me! I figure I risk my life enough dodging traffic on LA’s streets, hence there is no reason to decrease my odds of a long life by engaging in extreme OFF-ROAD biking.

As with all major purchases, being the fiscally conservative, smart consumer that I am, I spent many hours on the Internet researching mountain bikes (hard tails vs. full suspension, types of brakes and shifters, brands, price, etc.). With my newly found knowledge, I decided it was best to try out a couple of different types of bikes. So, I called my buddy, Nate, and went riding with him at the top of Reseda Blvd. Nate had two bikes: a $200-$300 hard tail (weight = heavy) and a very expensive, full suspension bike that weighed about as much as a roll of quarters. I rode both bikes that day. Nate was kind enough to let me ride the expensive bike up the steep incline, and I was able to muscle up the incline with little problem. Oh yeah! I was a man! I was invincible! I could mountain bike! Finally, I was part of that elite group! Woo hoo!

At the top, we switched bikes, and I rode the less-expensive bike up and down some small hills with no problem. When I came down Reseda, it was a straight shot, no curves what-so-ever. Oh the joy, the exhilaration, of flying down the mountain!

Nate, being the generous guy that he is, let me borrow the less-expensive bike for a few days so I could try it out on different types of trails. Being the macho mountain biking dude I now envisioned myself to be, I immediately took it to one of my favorite hikes; a very very steep elevation gain with lots of curves (Rocky Peak for those in the know). I started up the first hill and made it about 100 feet before I had to stop to catch my breath and begin pushing the bike up up up the hill. The rest of the two-mile ascent was a mix of me pushing the bike up the steep inclines and briefly pedaling on the flat areas. As I was going up the hill, I kept looking back and there was gentleman in his late 60s or early 70s who kept pace with me the whole way. Each time I would look back at him, he would just grin and nod his head in greeting. Argh! I was supposed to be going faster and further on the bike.

At one point during my ascent, a large herd of brightly outfitted, elderly mountain bikers zipped past me. Thankfully, my pride was somewhat salvaged since they passed me right as I stopped to eat a snack and drink some water. I gave them the thumbs up as if I too were enjoying the experience. Yeah right!

Since I knew that I was not making good time going uphill, I kept telling myself, “It is okay, you will make up for it when you are going downhill.” FINALLY, I made it to the top and began my descent on the curvy steep trail. It was soooo scary and precarious. Since I am not an adrenaline junky, I had my brakes cranked down the whole time. About halfway down, a jogger flew past me like I was standing still. How humiliating; especially since no one passes me when I am hiking. Well, I finally made it down in one piece, my pride left on the trail somewhere between the older smiling hiker, the herd of elderly mountain bikers, and the jogger.

As I reflect on this experience, I realize that maybe I like hiking better anyway. Plus, I really don’t like those mountain bikers’ outfits. Plus, the mountain bikers are always endangering us hikers with their antics, not to mention, all those mountain bikers are probably on steroids anyway. And, as a hiker, I can stop and take pictures easier. And and and and ... Okay, okay, so I am obviously just an envious, old bitter hiker. Hoo...rah!

In true reflection, I realized that I really learned a lot about why I love to hike. I get my thrill from the burn as I plow ahead, but I also love to photograph the wildlife and amazing views I see when hiking. While many of those bikers do it because they love the adrenaline associated with the fast descent. Plus, they love the burn as they power up the hills. Obviously different strokes for different folks - isn't that what makes it a beautiful world? Enjoy life!

1 comment:

Roxie said...

Great Story, Scott!