Out on the trails


I found myself out on the trails of the Hawes network again today. This is what I used to do, and still do, 15 years later. The trails have never lost their appeal for me. There are so many of them and most of them interconnect, so there are myriad ways to link them together to make a ride. In contrast to last week’s freezing temperatures, it was sunny and 75° F. today, perfect weather for mountain biking.

I went into the network where I usually do, and as I’d thought, there were plenty of people out seeking the trails. A group of three slightly overweight guys went in right in front of me. Amazingly, they rode the tricky little wash that is at the beginning, but I could see them lumbering along as they got past it. I never ride that wash, I am not warmed up enough to do it. I never even try, I just don’t feel like it. Today I used that as an excuse to take my time and wait for them to get far enough ahead of me so I could ride in peace. Once I got on the bike, there was no holding it back. I know I’ve said it before, but it always takes off like a rocket.

Soon, there they were, the heavy horses, and they were puffing along at a good pace, but I was going faster. Again, I pulled over and hesitated, waiting for an oncoming rider to come through, and hoped the big guys would get going. But I caught them again, and was right behind them in the first trick, going into a steep, short wash, then up the other side. I came up so fast behind the last guy as I climbed that I was afraid I was going to nudge him with my front wheel. Dude! I yelled inside my head, get going!! Fortunately, the whole group stopped at the first “Y” in the trail, and I was able to get by. I never saw them again. That’s the beauty of these trails, they are so big and widespread that no matter how many people seem to be out there, it is easy to drop other riders.

I swooped and rolled through the next section, and then climbed up to the saddle as I did the last two weeks. But today I had decided to go down the switchbacks. They are steep, and I hadn’t been on them in a while, so I didn’t know if or how they had changed. I also had not ridden them with the S-Works for at least 10 years, so I was wondering if I’d remember how to do it. I love everything about this bike, but since I have been riding the big full boingers with the long travel forks, it’s a little more scary to do the ledges and big rock drops with only a small amount of travel on the front fork.

I needn’t have worried. The farther down I got, the wider my smile was. It was like I’d never left. Plus, going up the steep climb on the other side was a piece of cake. The bike twisted and rolled some more as I climbed toward the “T” in the trail that either leads back down to the bottom, or goes up to the mine. I thought I would try the steep climb toward the mine, not all the way up, but just enough see how I did. This trail is about an 8-10% grade through rocks and slide-y gravel. I felt really strong, but my rear wheel slid three times. I had to get off, find a somewhat flat area so I could get started again. I suppose I ought to replace that rear tire since it has little tread left on it. No wonder, I think it’s been back there since around 2002 or so. If I put more weight on the back to keep it from losing traction, then the front end gets too light. If I put more weight on the front, the back tire completely breaks away. So, okay, big hint. Get a new rear tire reasonably soon.

The fun part, though, was that I got to ride the climb in the opposite direction, which meant downhilling for a little while. Actual racing downhill ruined me for climbing for a long time (“why should I ride when there are ski lifts to take me to the top?”), and I love flying downhill. I whooshed through the “T” in the trail, then headed toward The Wall. I saw that the drop into the wash was very eroded, and there wasn’t much room for error. I plunged into the wash, then I thought I was going too slowly to conquer The Wall as I came up out of it. But I popped right up, and amazingly, wasn’t even breathing hard. I had an incredulous look on my face, and my mouth was open in the shape of an “o.”

I carved quickly through the desert, negotiated some hairpin turns, in and out of a couple more washes, and then wound along back to the split in the trail where I’d started. Then there was the cooldown run back to the road, and I found myself doing 18.3 mph at one point! What?? Wow. I said it before, the bike’s like a rocket! Wheeeee! The sun was shining, it was a brilliant day, and I savored the moment of perfection on the bike.

Too soon, I was back at the truck, and later, I sat with my Dad at his house and told him about my ride. “Are you sure you’re our kid??” he asked, half laughing, half serious. I was glad I’d made him relax and laugh. “After all, you’re not 20 years old anymore!” he said. So what? I thought. This is what keeps me young. I will do it for-eh-verrr.

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