I recently went for a mountain bike ride in Arizona when visiting my Aunt Lynn. As soon as I started riding my bike on the mountainous trails, I realized that my brakes were useless. They were not stopping me at all. In fact, it was so bad that I had to modify my ride so as to not jeopardize others on the trail and myself as the trail took its twists and turns.
It was very unsafe. While there is something I enjoyed about that, I did not enjoy having to modify my riding style.
Finally, I took my bike to the local shop yesterday and gave it a tune up, which included new brake pads. The photo on the left below shows the old brake pad. It had no resemblance to rubber. It actually felt like metal. You can actually seek specks of metal embedded into the rubber because the pads were actually scraping metal off of the rims instead of stopping them from turning. The photo on the right shows the newly installed pad.
After getting it back from the shop, I started thinking about how long I have owned this bike. To the best of my recollection, I bought in Garland, TX circa 1993. It may have been 1992. It is over 23 years old.
As I was riding down memory lane, I recalled all the things my bike has been through. Perhaps the most memorable moment was the ride down the double black diamond slopes at Attitash Mountain in New Hampshire. A friend of mine and I took our bikes up on the chair lift. When we reached the top and looked down, we had second thoughts. Neither of us had ever ridden down a slope before.
Of course, male ego kicked in and we did it. He led and I followed. The ride down was absolutely insane. We were weaving back and forth, found a few trails and then about midway down, it was wide open and had tons of jagged rocks.
Just like when I was riding recently in AZ, my brakes had no impact. I was squeezing the brakes and it was having zero impact on my speed because the slope was so steep. Unlike the AZ ride, the brake pads were perfectly fine. Gravity was just too strong with the combo of my weight and the grade of the hill.
It was at this midway point that my friend decided to stop and take a break. Because he didn’t tell me he was stopping, I had to try to avoid hitting him. When I did I turned my bike so fast that I TOTALLY WIPED OUT. I flew off the bike on the downhill side and I believe I slid on my left side, over the jagged rocks and other debris, for at least 100 feet.
It hurt real bad.
The entire left side of my cycling gear including my shorts, jersey, and left glove where torn to shreds. Correspondingly, the skin in those same areas was chewed up, bleeding, and burning like a roaring fire. My bike was about 50 feet up the side of the mountain. When I finally got up and started to climb up to my bike, I noticed that my wedding ring (yes, I was married at that time) had also come off in the spill. I never found it.
I was sore for a week and the scars on my left side took over a year to totally go away.
Needless to say, my bike and I have been through some tough times. You will see evidence of that in the photos below.
One of my other favorite memories on the bike was when I was river raft guiding in Nantahala, NC. On one of my days off, I went for a ride with a fellow female guide on the Tsali trails that were a few miles away. I was an intermediate rider. She was an advanced rider. Very advanced.
Tsali trail in NC
I had to work like crazy to keep up with her pace. What was crazier than her pace going up and down the mountain trails, was her skill level navigating some of the treacherous parts of the ride. Tree stumps, creeks, and rocks seemed like they were non-existent to her because she rode so smoothly over, through and around them. We caught a ton of air on some of the intense downhills. I felt like I was a bird flying through the air!
The most impressive part of the ride was on the sections of the trail that were about 4 inches wide. On the right hand side of the narrow trail was about a 50-70 foot drop into Lake Fontana. It was freaky enough just being up that high on a narrow trail. When adding in the crazy speeds, the freakiness got magnified 100 fold.
I was so happy when the ride was over! I told her she was a beast and she smirked. I think she knew what she was doing…and what it was doing to me. It was an absolute thrill.
My bike has been to both coasts and many places in between. While it is not a newer high-tech bike, it is my friend when I want some rough riding. In fact, as I sit here writing about it, the sun is shining outside, clouds are floating by, a mild breeze is rustling the leaves in the trees, it is 67 degrees and I can see the mountains off in the distance. They are calling me.
And I am going to answer…wait, we are BOTH going to answer the call.