In a fit of frustration and anger, I picked up a good sized rock and threw it as hard as I could at my bike. The rock bounced off the saddle. I’m surprised it didn’t bounce back and hit me in the head. That’s just the kind of day I was having.
All I wanted was a fun day mountain biking with my buddies Mark and Andy. I’d trashed my legs the day before and was looking forward to a relaxing ride with friends and a couple of beers afterwards. A nice recovery ride. Here I was at Elfin Forest Recreational Preserve, in completely over my head.
The ride starts out by climbing about 1,000 feet up a rocky hiking trail complete with steps, anti-erosion channels and 180 degree switchbacks. My bike handling skills are weak to say the least and this was double-black diamond territory as far as I was concerned. I was forced to clip-out on almost every switchback and anywhere it got too rocky or there were significant steps involved. I must have clipped out more than 100 times in the first mile. I quickly fell behind.
I was hoping the trail would be a bit better after we gained the ridgeline. But there would be no hope as we descended an almost identical trail. The descents terrified me. Large ruts, big boulders on narrow rocky trails, again with the switchbacks. Again with all the clipping out.
Then my pedals started to get tight – it became difficult to clip out or in. The pedals already needed a little lube and all the clipping was driving more grit into the mechanics which caused them to seize up. A little later on I crashed trying to clip out when my bike stopped on a boulder, gashing up my knee. That was really frustrating and I lost all confidence in my ability to clip out. Now every obstacle became a potential crashing point. I tried to ride as gingerly as possible – not easy on such difficult trails.
The trigger of the rock-throwing incident came a little later on. I was climbing a steep, rocky incline and stopped just short of the top. I got my left foot down and because the trail was so steep, I started to do a wheelie, the bike coming over backwards. No problem, I just have to jump off the back of the bike. The problem was that my right foot would not release. So there I was, one foot in the air with my bike coming over on top of me doing a little ballet on this nasty trail. I managed to twist the bike off my foot and am grateful that I didn’t tumble over backwards.
After throwing the rock I felt much better. It’s funny to note that my previous mountain bike had a big rock-shaped ding on the down tube from a very similar incident involving sticky pedals. I guess life really does repeat itself.
I calmed down a little and then just resigned myself to surviving the trail. I clipped out at every opportunity, well before obstacles and walked whenever I could get away with it. On the way back down to the car, I surprised hikers by clipping out and walking past them, chatting about the beautiful weather.
At least the beer was good and it was nice warming up in the sunshine with friends.