Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tales From The Rigid- My Early days of Mountain Biking .

My brother and I on our Rigid Huffys, circa 1999 or 2000

I like to consider myself a road cyclist with the heart of a mountain biker. That's because mountain bikes are what got me into the world of cycling. Here's a few experiences from my early days of mountain biking.
 My first mountain bike was a rigid frame, an unknown gold colored Huffy from Sears with grip shifters and caliper brakes. It squealed like a lobster as it braked downhill, the little square brake pads holding on for dear life. Yet some of the trails I did with that bike I still haven't revisited with my modern day full suspension or hard tail bicycles. Because of fear perhaps? Maybe so, I will explain later in this article.

A  technical section of trail at Dinosaur Valley State Park similar to what I would do on my Huffy, without the full face helmet and pads. I think I really put the phrase "No Fear" into my Huffy. Unfortunately the bike met it's doom the second time across Knob Hills trail, a local trail near this one. Picture courtesy of Texas

This most accurately resembles the actual bike I used to have, minus the grip shifters and paint.

I got into riding bikes thanks in large part to my Dad. My dad would take my brother can I on long rides through the back roads between cities. For a 12 year old, I was already riding 5 or 6 miles in a ride with my dad, on hilly roads with a BMX bike. Around 13 or 14 years of age, I can't remember exactly, my parents bought me my first mountain bike from Sears, as already mentioned. Shortly afterwards I started riding on trails.

My mountain biking experience all started with a red-headed kid who lived down the street from me named Steve. Steve's parents had Steve much later in life. Steve's dad, who is now around 66 or 67 years old, is a lean but strong man with a long, reddish-white beard. He would remind you of one of the band members from ZZ Top if you saw him. He has been mountain biking since the 80's, and only up to a few years ago was riding only non-suspension rigid frames. Most of the bikes he ever rode were from department stores. To this day he is the fastest person I know, not just for his age, but in general, on singletrack. He has passed many a racer going uphill while smoking his cigar, I have witnessed it personally. His son, taking after his eccentric dad, is no different. Steve would punish my Huffy and I all over the trails, zip-lining through trees as I smashed into them. On one such experience, my Huffy was pretzeled among rocks and I found myself staring into the eyes of a Spanish bull, dead in the middle of the trail.

That is where the fear comes from, I guess. Steve moved to Idaho and bought himself a Brodie mountain bike as soon as he started working over there. During my few years of cycling hiatus he would call me up whenever he came into town to see if I was up for riding. I never would join him for fear of the wrath and punishment he would inflict to me on the trail. I have been cycling steadily for 4 years now, both on the road and on the mountain. I can say because of my road biking my mountain biking has improved a ten-fold since those early days. It also helps to have a suspension bike with brakes that will stop you, not having to rely on trees so much. 

Since then Steve and I have lost touch. As we all get older our friends from childhood start to disappear. Yet every time I ride a technical section of the trail or blow pass other bikers on their expensive machines, I ask myself, "What's steve up to?". Steve, if you're reading this, call me up. I promise, I'll make it worth your while.

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