Rob's Blog Archive

July 7, 2013

New Wheels










A week before I took a group from TKD summer camp on a mountain bike ride, I scouted the trail I hoped to use.  The scouting trip had three results: I had no problem showing my guests where the trail was when we rode it, I took my first real spill in years---I’m still taking ibuprofen to deal with the pain in my right hand, and I decided that I liked trail riding.  I had done lots of riding on dirt roads, but a trail like this, even though it didn’t have anything vaguely technical, was different from everything I had done before.  

I tolerate running on a treadmill, am happy running on roads, and enjoy running trails.  With my ride, I realized that my preferences are even more pronounced for bicycling----I barely tolerate sitting on a stationary bike, am happy biking roads, and am excited about riding trails, at least so far.

The fact is that the ride made me conscious of something I already knew.  I didn’t do a lot of bicycling while in the Bay area because, in general, good biking of any kind was difficult to get to.  Since moving to Montana, access is no longer an issue at all.  I can start great mountain bike rides from my driveway.  I should have been riding a lot since I got here.

Unfortunately, a hip injury kept me off of my bike my first four years in Seeley Lake.  I could ride fine, but mounting and dismounting my bike were nearly impossible without falling.  These years set my pattern.  After my hip replacement, I kept on telling myself that I should put more time into mountain biking, but I never did more than a few rides each season—that is until now.  A confluence of events has occurred that have changed my course. 

First, skijoring the Iditarod Trail next season, I’m going to be what limits how far we go each day, not my dogs.  Because of this, my summer conditioning program is focused on me much more than my dogs.

Second, I did do that first trail ride.   I could have told anybody that, once I tried it, I was going to enjoy biking through forests, along ridges, and next to streams.  Moreover, there are quite a few old abandoned roads behind my house that make for great adventures.  Doing that first ride opened my eyes to this.

Finally, the opening of Mike’s mountain bike shop, Rocky Mountain Adventure Gear, has made a big difference.  Good advice from somebody who has both been around and approaches outdoor sports a lot like I do has meshed well enough with reasonably priced gear to have me visiting his shop a lot more than I would have ever expected.  I’m what you call a regular.

And with all of this, I started thinking about getting a nicer mountain bike.  I’ve liked my old monster, but it’s heavy, has no front shock, and only side-pull brakes.  A good front shock might well have let me avoid the spill I took.  Disk brakes, too, probably would have helped.  And, if I could get a lighter frame, say aluminum, that would make my life a ton easier. 

Initially, I figured I’d use my current bike and purchase a new or rental bike during the inevitable fall inventory clearance sale.  However, a combination of impatience and a total sticker price of only $450 for what I liked resulted in my rationalizing that waiting for fall would save me no more than $100 and the additional fun I’d have during the summer with the better bike would be worth it. 

And so, fifteen minutes before RMAG closed on the Sunday immediately after TKD camp ended----it was the fourth time I had visited the shop during the previous 36 hours AND I had made several phone calls trying to learn as much as I could about mountain bikes AND while it’s been a while since I have looked into bikes, I do have good basic knowledge of what’s going on----I handed over my Visa card then walked out the door with a brand new bike.

In way of what it is and has, the main items that attracted me were an aluminum frame with a formed top tube, dual disk brakes, and a decent front shock absorber.  The model is the 2013 KHS Alite 100.  Since making the purchase, I haven’t found a different bike with all three of these for less than $600.  From my view, and I’m thinking Mike’s too, KHS did a great job of putting a nice bike together at a reasonable price. 

A mountain bike is definitely too big for me to sleep with it under my pillow, but I’ve ridden it on seven of the first fourteen days I’ve owned it and these two weeks included three off days by virtue of climbing Holland Peak and being too sore to do any real biking.  I was also able to tear myself away from the bike, albeit with difficulty, to do the patterns workout I needed.  My new toy is getting a lot of use.

All that remains is to give the bike a name.  I’m leaning toward Silver.  This matches the color and, excepting details like I have no sidekick, I like the Lone Ranger metaphor.  Besides, while I do like yelling, “Cowbunga” when I finish any interesting section of riding, I think, “Hi Yo Silver,” might work even better.  All I need now is a CD of the William Tell Overture so I can accurately hum the whole thing as I ride off into the sunset.   

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