Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Mountain Bikes

As much as I'm coming to enjoy riding a road bike, I really have to say that some of the most gratifying moments of my life have occurred while riding mountain bikes. When I think back to the trails I've frequented, I think of certain sections of trails that make me smile on the inside. When I think back to those happy trail stretches, I'm always riding a certain one of the three mountain bikes I've owned on certain stretches.

My first mountain bike was an inexpensive bike. It was an entry level Diamond Back with a straight gauge chro-moly frame and low end components. As it was not really an exceptional bike, I can't say I feel much when I think about it. Nevertheless, the summer that I spent in Arizona following my graduation from college was filled with countless miles on that bike. The fast, straight hard packed desert trails are what I recall most fondly when I think of that bike. Eventually, I gave up on the effort it took to keep that bike functional in frequent off-road use.

My second bike was given to me by a good friend who received it from a college roommate in lieu or rent money. It was a late '80s Trek 950 "Singletrack" in a sad state of repair, and mostly unrideable. It was, however a lugged, butted chro-moly frame (yes, lugs on a mountain bike) with common seatpost and headset sizes, which meant it would be much less work to find parts for. It turned out to be a nice ride. While it was slightly too small for me, what really impressed me was how it put the torque to the ground. I get sentimental when I remember standing up and mashing the pedals as I climbed hills, seemingly aided by some unseen force. That was one stout goat of a frame. It loved to climb. It's a shame that it now lives in my basement, stripped of its components.

My current mountain bike was offered to me as a frame and fork by a former co-worker whose husband was about my size and wanted the money to put towards a motorcycle. The fork was an old, worn out Mag21 suspension fork, but the frame is a keeper. It's a double butted chro-moly Gary Fisher "Hoo Koo E Koo" and it fits me perfectly. The fork was quickly replaced by a nice plush and adjustable Manitou unit and I could only be happier if I had more time to ride it. Its defining trail sections are twisty and fast. The Fishy loves to dance over the roots, rocks and ruts. When riding these types of trails I feel connected to the trail, yet almost like I'm traveling just above the surface of it. I feel almost out of control as I cling to the machine, yet even my smallest corrections in direction and speed seem to somehow change my path just the intended amount. It feels quick and live like good steel bikes are often described. Not bad for an old beater.

It's almost spring. I need to get out. Bad.


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