Sunday, November 6, 2011

Learning curve pt. IV: first off-road group ride, first OTB

Scotty relaxing after the mud bath and a good wash.
Today I finally lost my OTB virginity. I managed to go along on a ride with a couple of big boys (i.e. mountain biking connoisseurs) in Nuuksio, Espoo (excellent trails!). On the first kilometer, I succeeded in submerging my front wheel completely in a deep mud hole, and went over the bars. The bike was left standing leaning against a tree, rear wheel in the air, in quite a stylish way, while I was lying face down in the mud. I wish there'd been someone filming.

(Come to think of it, I think I've gone OTB before. When I was about 8, we dug a hole in the ground, about 1m deep. I thought that it would be cool to ride a bike in it. Of course, I landed on my chest, and it hurt like hell. Well, thankfully I did that at 8, it would have been miserable to lose one's virginity at near 40.)  

It was pretty clear that I was a complete newbie in the group. The other guys had to wait for me at each crossing of trails. I'd had no idea that the mountain bikers who know what they're doing go that fast. I'd even had no idea that it is possible to ride that fast on trails full of rocks, roots and mud. I've got a lot of practicing to do.

Being a (former) roadie, naturally I have no muscles whatsoever in my upper body. Instead I've got huge thighs. Well, not exactly. Actually, my physique is more of the Andy Schleck-esque variety, than of the track cyclist, monster-thigh kind. But anyway, now that I've taken up mountain biking, I've noticed, for the first time in my life, that some muscles in the upper torso are required as well.

Andy's physique
At the moment I'm unable to open any bottles with screw tops because my hands and arms have taken a serious beating. Luckily, beer comes in cans that I'm still able to open, so I'll drink those instead. I and Andy know that beer is an excellent recovery drink (see the picture).

Some other things I learned today:
  • 100 mm of travel in the front suspension is nothing these days. You've got to have 150 mm. Well, I'm glad to hear that, because that at least partially explains my slowness today when compared to the other guys. Now, it seems, I've got to slowly start warming up the wife for the inevitable oncoming upgrade of my mountain biking equipment (a new bike). The steering angle in my old Scott is different from the bikes of today, I hear, so putting on a fork with 150 mm of travel is not an option. 
  • You've got to have a CamelBak. Mountain bikers don't drink out of bidons. You get left behind at stops, fumbling to get the bidon out of the holder and back in it. Besides, bidons get very muddy on the bike frame, and mud tastes no good. Well, most sports drinks that I've tried taste no good as well, so I guess that's not so bad.
  • Remember to let some air out of the tyres before going on a ride on trails. I usually fill up the tyres to about 2 bars when I commute on the mountain bike, because that makes me faster. On the trails that is too much pressure. 
  • A Garmin Forerunner sports watch gets a GPS signal just fine in the back pocket of a bicycling jacket. The band of my Garmin broke a few days ago, so I tried duct taping it to my arm. The tape didn't hold, so in the middle of the ride, I put the device in my back pocket. To my surprise, it continued to record just as well there. 
  • A carbon seat post doesn't impress mountain bikers anymore. You've got to have an adjustable-height seat post these days. Unfortunately, said seat posts cost some 300 €, and I'm the Budget Cyclist, and therefore can't afford one. At the moment. Perhaps, in the future, if I manage warm up the wife real good... or sell one of my livers. Or sumt'n. 
Roadies: I have to inform you that, we, the mountain biking dudes, know something you don't. That something is a wonderful thing. I'm sorry I can't tell what it is though. It's not that I don't want to, but it's just not physically possible. In order to find it out, you've got to get off-road. 

No comments: