Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Vintage Mountain Bike Racing

Links to this post
Tales of the rigid mountain bike
The vintage mountain bike race

Vintage Mountain Bike Race on my 1990 GT Karakoram

Mountain bikes have been around since the late 70's and mass produced since the mid 80's. Therefore, it's fair to say that some of those early mountain bikes can now be considered classics. Lately, people are reminiscing about all things 90's. Even mom jeans tried to make a short lived comeback. What's next, acid washed jeans, neon and the like? One cool trend that I have been noticing, at least in the world of mountain biking, is an appreciation for old school mountain bikes, like the ones I grew up riding as a kid.

It was probably 1997 or 1998 when I first got my Huffy rigid mountain bike, with grip shifters and cheap brakes that imitated a much earlier but more functional U-brake design. It was about 98' or 99' when that bike hit dirt for the first time at a flat trail then known to the locals as California Crossing. By then, good suspension systems were just being developed and we dreamed about doing the things that we can do today on our modern suspension 29ers. We lacked the skill and the equipment to be good at mountain biking, but the motivation was definitely there. 

Mountain biking was on experimental territory back then and so were mountain bikers. It wasn't unusual to see people riding in cut off jeans, flannel shirts and gardening gloves. Lycra as common as it now is wasn't the norm back in those days. Sure, some people wore Lycra in mountain bike racing. Most people however didn't buy their clothes from a bike shop and wore whatever exercise clothing they could find or make themselves. That's right, even exercise clothing had to some extent, be made because no one really wore exercise specific clothing aside from Richard Simmons and a bunch of suburban Mom's doing aerobic workout routines in front of a TV.   

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to relive that old 90's feeling to a certain extent. The local mountain bike racing association decided to host an exibition vintage mountain bike race, only accepting bikes that were made before 1999 with no modern modifications. I had found this 1990 GT Karakoram on Craigslist that I'm sure I only paid 20 bucks for. The bike needed to be stripped down to the frame, cleaned, re-greased and needed a couple of new parts. All in all I think I added around $100 to that original $20 purchase price. I lined up against guys with some pretty iconic 90's bikes that where real contenders in their day. The winner of the race had a Schwinn Homegrown with a Rockshox SID fork and lightweight Mavic Crossmax wheels. The guy with the Schwinn posted a lap time that could have easily put him in a top ten position in the regular races. The guy in second place had a titanium Merlin mountain bike that probably weighed nothing, as he ended up modifying it with carbon cranks ( I seriously don't know how he didn't get DQ'ed from a 90's themed mountain bike race).  I came in fourth, with my friend Nathan taking third on his 90's Ironhorse with Rockshox Quadra forks that he engineered to turn them into rigid forks. There were other cool bikes that were way lighter and more responsive than mine, so 4th place out of 11th was a good ride for me. I received a cool participation award for most vintage bike, and a lot of kudos from other riders for having the guts to show up and narrowly miss the podium on a nearly 30 year old, rigid bike with a front shifter that dropped the chain. I did, in fact have a mechanical which caused me to fall 3 places back and I had to overtake 3 guys to get back in 4th position.

Here's a couple of more pictures of the vintage mountain bike race...

Nathan on his Ironhorse with modified shocks.

The only other rider who had a bike older than mine

I hope to see more races like these as time goes on. I appreciate the nod DORBA gave to us former 90's kids and mountain bikers. In a world that is ever more serious and focused on tech, nutrition and other nuances, it's nice to get back to our lighthearted roots and more innocent times. I will still continue to ride my modern mountain bikes because I'm not a curmudgeon or a retro grouch. I will nevertheless look forward to the next event like this and hopefully this one won't be the last!

Possibly to come on my blog; I will try if time allows to showcase some of my recent vintage mountain bike findings, write more point of view articles and try to revive this blog a little bit. My goal is to go from a roadie to a mountain biker and come full circle with myself. Let's see if changing the format up a little bit will bring life into a bike blog that is nearly a decade old.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Are Cyclists Selfish?

Links to this post
Taking The "Me" Out of Cycling:
A Look at how to be a cyclist without making it all about us

Self-centered people are often the ones making onlookers and would-be cyclists refer to all cyclists as "douchebags". Of course, selfish people and self-centered people are not limited to the confines of the bicycle riding, Lycra wearing types. Someone who exhibits these traits doesn't just have to be a cyclist. In fact, these attitudes in cycling are just a symptom of the bigger problem of where we have come to as a society. Smart phones, selfie sticks, status updates, targeted advertising; everything is geared to put our own interests ahead of everything else. We come to see ourselves not as contributors to society. Rather, we at many times expect the rest of the world to wait on us and attend to our needs. The more I pay attention to this, the more obvious it becomes. 

I'm going to preface this by saying that this is my first blog post in well over a year. I have been busy with life since my last blog post. If  I'm honest I have also lost interest in trying to write about the same cycling topics that have been already extensively discussed in online forums and around the cycling inter-webs. I don't want the articles that I write about to be aimless content filler that just gets lost in the void of useless information. Since I have very little time to write anymore, I want my content to matter somewhat and to make a positive impact. Having said that I'm writing this article with the intent of looking inward and becoming better cyclists from the inside out, not relying on the latest gadget or the newest bicycle to do it for us. 

Like all bad habits, a selfish attitude is a bad habit that goes from being a mere tendency to a lifestyle once it is left unchecked. Cycling is a sport which can be as expensive or as inexpensive as we want it to be. Most of the time, the guys and gals you see participating in clubs where there is organized riding or racing have opted to make it as expensive as they can make it for themselves. On that side of the spectrum, the industry that retails the sport is one that highly discourages contentment. The aim of the game is no longer about fitness, recreation or the personal enjoyment of being in the outdoors. The motivation for spending is not getting "dropped". That is why bikes these days are marketed as lighter and faster. That is why people often times end up spending ten times the amount for a delicate carbon fiber paper bike rather than a durable, steel touring bike that can last a lifetime. And let's face it, once we are no longer happy with the current bike we own we see buying another bike as the solution. It doesn't help that most cyclists have a morbid fear of getting dropped. Well, someone who is always buying without regard to price and can never be satisfied with what they own is already making it about themselves. So in that regard cyclists can be selfish, to the point of narcissism even.

So how can you be a cyclist without becoming selfish? You have to look at the greater picture. Getting dropped is a part of life, and every ride is a learning and training opportunity that will make us stronger so that eventually we will no longer get dropped. No bike no matter how expensive is going to teach that lesson for us, only lots of humbling experiences will. You might find after a while that group riding really isn't your thing. That's okay, you don't need to ride at race pace to enjoy cycling. Maybe you are more suited to riding by yourself, adventure riding, mountain biking or simply riding with a different social group of people who are not interested in racing. You can still become a very fit individual doing it this way if that is what you are aiming for. 

My Mom once told me that 99% of the things that happen to us are as a result of our attitude. So if we have an "attitude of gratitude", that can go a long way. I have seen ungrateful people in all levels of society so this is not really based on our upbringing or where we are from. We can have a humble beginning only to get spoiled later in life. We could also have everything given to us but still have humility and accept things that might be a little lower than the standards set for us. Being grateful will also allow us to get out of the rat race, live within our means and have more time for riding. It will also prevent us from getting "upgraditis" and replace our bikes every few years. Buying an expensive bike doesn't make us a contributing member to society as some would portray it,  on the contrary that's just being a wasteful consumer and in some cases, a hoarder.

There is another aspect of cycling where most people act really selfishly towards one another. In a group ride setting, it's common courtesy to wait for an individual that has a mechanical, call out gaps in the pack and start and finish rides as a group. More and more even on social, non-competitive rides these kind gestures are disappearing as people become more selfish. More and more group rides in my area are becoming "drop" rides, meaning the group doesn't wait up, on purpose. Blowing through traffic lights and not calling out to pedestrians is another selfish way for cyclists to behave on the roads, since they are posing a danger to themselves and others. Reckless cycling is just as bad as reckless driving and it's inconsiderate to the family members of those cyclists who already worry about them being on the roads.  

After many years of riding to be one of the fastest, riding not to get dropped and paying attention to all of the market trends, I'm just about done with it. It has become the ultimate game of chasing the rabbit for me. That still doesn't mean that don't love riding my bike. The difference now is that I'm going to forgo my pride and there will be times where I will get dropped. There will also be times where I'm slower. That's okay, I've earned it. I'm no stranger to the fast guys in my area. They know who I am and who I can be with the right amount of time and training. It's time I put things in their proper place. My rides from here on out will be done between family obligations or with my family and for my personal enjoyment and well-being. I don't see myself going to the bike shop and shelling out a few grand on a new bike anymore. The bikes that I currently have are just going to have to last for the long haul. Besides, there are other things and people in life that are more important.