This spring exploded out of the door just 2 days after snowcover welcomed snowshoes and skis in early March. Pow! It arrived. Sure, we had a few stubborn snows after that, but in truth, we knew spring was winning the good fight. As such, any open mountain bike trail in the state is going gang busters and Levis Mound, (www.levismound.com) one of the first, has had 3 weekends of packed parking lots. Not that it matters, with 25 miles of singletrack, riders spread out quickly.
It seems that early season also brings out mountain bike enthusiasts of all types, shapes and sizes. Some maybe with shiny new rides, others with solely a resolution to just ride more often and this is their start. It makes for interesting people watching post ride outside the chalet. My little gang of trail building friends are no different. Some of them like the latest greatest full suspension rig- sporting gram saving carbon and Ti doo-dads, and others just clip into last years dirt caked mongrel steel steed.
Relaxing in old camp chairs, we sip our beverages and conversation moves back and forth between the next new wheel size (“28.2” wheels-they'll be awesome and I'll be killin it!”) and lamenting the poor souls lifting old school 26” bikes from their racks. “Those look so tiny” -commenting on the bikes that were perfectly fine for all of us a few short years ago. Yeah, they still do work you know.
My friend Dan is on the old school-steel-is-real end of the spectrum. He's built up a rare “69er” which you'd be hard pressed to see at any trail head, rides a single speed 29+ Krampus and a fatbike. He loves to give people grief anytime the weight weeny conversation gets too serious. I like that. He'll tirelessly needle folks anytime the chatter is more about the bike than the ride. Sure-we all like the hardware, but it shouldn't come at the cost of why we're out there in the first place. Sometimes we need reminders of that.
I like riding with Dan- he's fit and can hammer with the fast dudes who power up and down the Levis trails, but he keeps it all in perspective and I'll join him for a no-drop-just-ride-along as well. I'm not in the jet set racer mode mentality any longer, so I appreciate going my own pace and riding within my ability-fitness or skill wise. I can use the excuse that I want to enjoy the time outdoors “just riding” (and that is true) but to be honest, I wish I still had the horsepower to keep up. It is what it is. “Next month I'll be in better shape.” Dan's favorite prevailing philosophy may be “Just ride and shut up.” That, and don't take yourself too seriously- “pass the flask dude.”
The conglomeration of bikes continued to stream past us in the parking lot. An old Klein Mantra, a brown 26” Schwinn High Sierra, four bar linkage suspension bikes, a 750B and enough single speeders to keep my quads quivering. Strutting riders in their flashy new 2015 kits walk by all serious, others in tattered shorts and t-shirts with shin guards not so much. Some pay their trail fee others sadly “forget.” The no helmet people are the most worrisome-they, if anyone, need the protection the most. They all continue to parade by, click in and head out the trailhead entrance. It's all good.
It's dirt on your legs that is more important than the latest greatest gizmo and what bike you're on seems to disappear once the pedals are spinning. While Dan loves his steel, I'm not a frame material zealot-I've had them all and am on a bamboo bike at the moment for gods sake! They all worked and got me out the door pedaling. Earlier in the day, my little group sported a fatbike, a couple single speeds, a pair of 29+, a full zoot FS and a lightweight 29er hardtail. Quite an array. We stopped every once and a while, waited, chatted it up, viewed the scenery and kept the Strava feeds mostly at bay. That's riding in my book.
“The best bikes aren’t at the extreme ends of the functionality spectrum, so specialized that they’re a bike-length away from dysfunctionality. The best ones are boring jacks-of-many-trades, and you stretch them to their limits with skill and experience.” ― Grant Petersen
I'll admit-back in the race days there was a new bike in the garage every year and any new shiny thing had to be hung on it. I followed the sport and it's iterations constantly. Cost was almost no object and I figured I needed all of that to make me a better cyclist. Those folks, like my old self, will always be there, and I was knee deep in it. Nothing wrong with all that per se, but in hind sight, it didn't make the ride any better.
It seems, as really has always been the case, the best rides are ones with no agenda, no attitude and they unfold with no regard to the clock or a distance travelled. Legs can burn or not, wheels can roll solo or with others, and training logs are forgotten or not even considered. Maybe it's my age, my wisdom (ha) or maybe it's just an appreciation of how lucky I am to be doing this at all. Just ride.