Never Unclip!

4 years ago I was driving home after a mountain bike ride, with my “old” dependable Trek hard-tail (a bike with front shocks and no rear suspension) hanging off the bike rack, of my wife’s Suburban.

For some reason I decided to stop by my favorite store (Goodale’s Bike Shop) to see if they had anything I couldn’t live without…Perhaps new gear: something to make me go faster or look cooler on the trail 🙂

It didn’t take long before I was gandering at the bikes, just to see what the latest features and functions were. I spotted a Trek Rumblefish, Gary Fisher signature edition. Gary Fisher is the apparent “official” inventor of mountain biking. I’m not entirely sold on that (Gary being the inventor of mountain biking) because my friends and I were riding our modified 10-speeds in the woods back in the 70’s. So, perhaps WE invented the sport.

Anyways…

The Trek Rumblefish may not be the highest-end bike, but it is up there. It is a full-suspension beast with disc breaks (front and rear) and 29″ wheels. You REALLY notice the difference when riding rough terrain with 29″ wheels as it is much easier to traverse obstacles (rocks, logs, roots, etc.).

Here is a picture of the Rumblefish, after beating on it for the past 4 years…

IMG_3262

Pride and joy 🙂

The feature I initially struggled with was the clip-on pedals I was “sold”, along with a pair of accompanying clip-on biking shoes. The “science” is that with clip-ons you become more “at one” with the bike as you leverage both the upward and downward motion during pedaling vs. the typical downward-only motion with flat pedals.

All good…Until…

The challenge is that once you clip your feet into the pedals you must be VERY aware of when it is time to unclip!

For example…I’ve been biking for MANY years and haven’t really taken that many wipe-outs (vs. miles ridden). My first summer with the Rumblefish changed everything. My “wipe-outs” didn’t increase, but I did have numerous spills. These spills consistently occurred when I’d come to a sudden stop and needed to put my feet down. Not being used to the clip-ons, my feet frequently remained stuck on the pedals and I’d tip sideways. This happened in the woods (which isn’t bad, as it is typically a soft landing) and on the pavement (painful!). After a few weeks I wondered why my elbows were aching…

As a result I bought elbow pads. The sideways spills no longer hurt, other than my pride, when there were witnesses 🙂

After that first summer I was able to ditch the elbow pads and, while I still occasionally do the sideways fall (like on today’s ride with my son Aaron), they have become infrequent.

My brother Roger (also has a Rumblefish) and I have an ongoing competition, when we ride. That is, we always want to perform as good as, or better than, the other guy. We have put a lot of miles on our bikes together and are pretty evenly matched.

Last weekend we had a ride scheduled with our cousin-in-law (Pat), at Yudicky Farm, in Nashua. Click here for a map of the Northern portion of the trail system, even though many of the trails we hit were newly developed and not yet documented.

My brother and one of my sons were potentially going, until they determined they couldn’t, after-all. So, I arrived at the trailhead to meet Pat. After explaining it would be just he and I, he said he invited a friend to join us. Sounds good!

Shortly after, a truck pulled up with 2 guys Pat had ridden with in the past. They too had high-end, full-suspension bikes and all the gear: helmet, semi-clear sunglasses that protect the eyes but aren’t too dark so you can see in the woods, gloves, Camelbaks for water and misc. gear. In addition, they had “armor” which consisted of shin and arm-pads.

Uh-oh, I thought, these guys seem a little more serious than Pat and I (they have body armor). This is going to be an experience…

Off we went. Pat and one of the other guys brought dogs so they suggested they hang back so as not to slow down the other 2 of us. So, we start with me 2nd in line as we hit the singletracks (mountain bike trails that are only about a foot wide), enjoying the experience of flying through the woods. All good, until I was getting a bit winded…So I slowed down and everyone passed me. No worries, I can swallow my pride. At this point, I’m really missing my brother 🙂

That was pretty much my position for the remainder of the ride through some FANTASTIC mountain biking terrain, which included numerous switchbacks, man-made bridges, obstacles and jumps. I’m not afraid of much, and I traversed many (but not nearly enough) of these obstacles.

For example, something like this bridge, isn’t bad at all.

15_Steps_1

However, I skipped the bridge that looked “something like” the one below, although the one on our trail was quite a bit longer, with a couple of corners to navigate as well…

IMG_0083

Our 2 armor-bearing friends gave it a shot. The first made it with no trouble. The second, wasn’t so fortunate. As he was crossing the highest point (~4 feet above the ground) his front wheel came off the log and he went straight down, over the handlebars. After confirming he was ok, we continued down the trail.

I then asked the rider, who successfully crossed the bridge, if he “unclips” when traversing such obstacles. The reason (I would, at least) is that if you begin to fall you can at least attempt to land on your feet. Remaining clipped-in you simply don’t have that option (as observed by our friend taking his face-first plunge).

His response: “No [I never unclip]. It is like other things in life. You need to have belief that you are going to make it.

Zowy, a great life-lesson while on the trails.

Wow, I’m thinking, these guys are at an entirely different level than me.

It didn’t end there…We were now entering the area of the trail system with some pretty LARGE jumps. Our 2 extreme riders let Pat and I know when the jumps were coming up so we could go ahead and stand-by to watch them. After observing their successful and impressive jumps I realized I’d probably be ok doing “some” of these, but I was too spent by this time and decided to “live another day.”

After about 2-hours we completed our grueling, 10-mile ride. I was happy to get home, hose myself off, eat and lay down for a while.

As I shared this story with my Dad he said: “Well, you know, you ARE almost 51.” Hey, hey…Go pound sand 🙂

Roger and I shall hit those trails soon and we’re going to take some of those jumps.

In closing, like many things in life: Never unclip – have belief that you are going to make it.

See you on the trails!

3 thoughts on “Never Unclip!

  1. beaverfood says:

    Nice story! Happy Birthday! 🎉🎉🎉🎈

  2. Roger says:

    Nice! We’ll do it at our pace soon bro. I’ll do a few armorless jumps!

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