Thursday, November 27, 2014

Single Speed Mountain Biking: My New Favorite Thing

The Picture does not do the gradient of the climb any justice, however it was a beautiful autumn day here in Texas.

No shocks, no gears, no clipless pedals, no carbon. "What are you thinking..." some might say, bewildered that I would find such enjoyment out of this bike setup. As backwards and pain inflicting as it seems to want to ride a single speed mountain bike, it really isn't, my single speed has actually become one of my favorite bikes. Despite not having the benefit of granny gears and suspension, after a month of riding this way I honestly do not miss those perceived advantages. Today I did an 18 mile mountain bike ride and experienced no pain whatsoever afterwards. I chose Northshore Trail, located in Grapevine, Texas which is the hardest trail in my surrounding area. I wanted to see if a single speed bicycle could stack up to the most monstrous climbs and rock gardens that I could throw at it. Surprisingly, I did a lot less walking than I was planning on doing. This bike could climb straight up a rock face with enough inertia and was only impeded by the most impassible boulders on the trail. When my friend Levi warned me about the obstacle trail simply known as "the wall" and hoped that I could get up it, I was able to roll up and over the 8 foot plus precipice when I came across it (Levi did not make it up "the wall" as he later told me).

My friend Levi
I was a cold morning when we started out on our ride. When I got out of bed, the temperature read 35 degrees Fahrenheit on my phone and when we got to the trail it must have been just about 10 degrees warmer. Despite being conditioned to the cold through mountain biking during the week as I normally do,  we were both short of breath and had to stop for some breaks during the first few miles of the ride, until our bodies and lungs acclimated to the cold temperature.

The west side of the trail is notorious for having an expert level of difficulty with the last 3 miles being a one way track and basically a playground for trials riders. We were able to complete most of the loop with the exception of those 3 miles and our total came to about 18 miles for the ride. The eastward side of the trail is smooth, winding and sloping singletrack with creek crossings, bridges and small rock gardens scattered throughout. At the end of the trail going east is Rockledge Park, a once public park that has now become a campsite. It lines the shore of the lake and the view is fantastic. Out of all Dallas and Fort Worth area trails, this is the most beautiful trail as well as the most challenging. 

At the easternmost end of the trail, at the campsite known as Rockledge Park.

Will this be the only mountain bike that I ride? No, and I will still use my geared mountain bikes whenever I can. However, for my needs I foresee my single speed being my go to, main mountain bike that I will be doing most of my riding on. With the high maintenance my suspension bikes demand a single speed bike is a welcome change. I added a few videos of me riding my single speed mountain bike through this trail from Levi's Helmet cam. They're not the best quality and are only 30 second clips, so my apologies in advance. Check them out, and stay tuned for more adventurous riding!

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