Know Your Limitations
I always strongly consider observations from anyone willing to wave a 44 Magnum in people’s faces. As such, I’ve always appreciated Dirty Harry‘s recommendation that a man know his limitations. For example, I can appreciate that I am not an elegant creature and it is best if I avoid sports involving hand-eye coordination. I’ve also noted that things go more smoothly when I keep my feet affixed to the ground, to say nothing of keeping my wheels or skis out of the air. I’m also not great with imaginary numbers, like eleventeen or thirtytwelve.
I am, however, pretty good at riding bikes. That said, I am prone to overconfidence when it comes to cornering. My father, a devoted BMW motorcycle loyalist, bought a mid-Eighties BMW R100 RS to give to me for my 16th birthday. In the meantime, however, I picked up bike racing. He sold the R100 before I got a chance to ride it, citing my proclivity to overshoot turns on bicycles and observing that I didn’t also need a motor helping me crash at higher speeds and with greater consequence.
A self-professed Roadie, I do wander off-road occasionally, and generally do so aboard my beloved MB-Zip. I went for a ride on Saturday with some friends who were riding bikes built in this century, and was struck by the advances in technology involved. While my bike utilizes flexy stems and elastomers, they were aboard 29ers (which is Mountain Bike speak for “bike built on 700c wheels”) with full-suspension.
I could easily match the climbing portion of the ride, but as soon as we pointed downhill, I was left in their dust, to borrow their vernacular. Obviously, it wasn’t my descending skills – it had to be the gear. I promptly rented a top-end 29er full suspention rig and agreed to join my mates for a longer ride out east of the Cascades on Sunday.
I’ll let you in on a secret: the advances in Mountain Biking since 1992 have not been made in the name of climbing. That’s not to say the 29er didn’t feel great on all the other terrain, but climbing felt more akin to sitting on a balance ball than riding a bike. Descending, on the other hand, I felt like a different rider. I was rippin’ gnar with my bra’s (that’s Mountain Bike speak “descending quite well and managing to keep up with my friends”) and at a certain point made the observation that perhaps I was over-confident, given my unfamiliarity with the bike in particular and with the notion of riding a full suspension bike in general.
About halfway along the descent, I started noticing a peculiarity in the bike’s handling: while cornering, the front wheel was tending to wash out. All the washouts were controllable, and I continued on my way. A few turns from the bottom of the descent, however, I failed in righting a washout in a particularly nasty corner and found myself in a tangle on the ground, bike bopping me in the face, and scattering a variety of equipment in a blast-pattern around the ground-zero of my crash. The bike literally creaked with pain as it lay in the dust.
I was mostly unhurt, but I did taco the front wheel. Limitation noted: don’t attempt to keep up with more experienced riders on a highly technical descent aboard a bike you are not familiar with.