Mountain Bike Noob

Now, don’t freak out. I still consider myself mainly a road biker. But sometimes, it’s good to change things up.

Saturday morning, I decided it was a good change-up day. The night before, I had pulled the skinny tires off the mountain bike, and replaced them with the knobbies. Good thing I did, too — the old skinny tires, which I had taken from a cast off bike a neighbor had left at the curb several years ago — showed a major problem. As I ran my thumb along the sidewall, the rubber cracked and flaked away.

I think this tire has passed its expiration date. (Click to enlarge.)

I think this tire has passed its expiration date. (Click pictures to enlarge.)

How those tires got through my maiden mountain bike ride two weeks ago, banging over rocky trails, without blowing out, is beyond me.

With the new old tires in place, I though I’d head over to the Slaughter Creek Trail.  It’s perhaps two miles from my house. The trail was built several years ago on old ranch land that is now managed by the water quality district. When it was built, the only access was by driving to a poorly-marked entrance. Now, however, a track has been worn along two main roads that leads right to the entrance. I rode over there, pleased at the way the wider tires ate up the uneven path.

Slaughter Creek Trail is open to hikers, bikers, and horses, and I saw all of these. Cyclists take a clockwise route, while horses go the opposite way. That way, they meet on the trail, instead of cyclists catching horses from behind, and possibly spooking them.

An experienced-looking biker at the trail head pointed me in the right direction, and I set out. Most reviews of the trail describe it as a nice beginner track. For this mountain biking noob, it was a challenge. The roots weren’t a problem, but the rock gardens were. They were often coupled with sharp uphills, and I found my first real trouble spot. I need to replace the shifters on my bike. They’re Shimano eight-speed shifters, but will only go into gears 5-8. If I really need a lower gear to power up a steep section, I can’t get it, and I have to get off and push.

Luckily, there aren’t too many of those on this trail. Lots of rocky sections though. I suppose I should have been prepared for that, especially after my ride two weeks ago.

A typical spot on the trail.

A typical spot on the trail.

One of the nice features of the trail is a series of markers that explain the topography or the history of the area. One pointed out the encroachment of the urban environment on wilderness.

Rooftops of suburban-style homes peek over the line of trees at the end of the trail land. A piece of single track can be seen at left.

Rooftops of suburban-style homes peek over the line of trees at the end of the trail land. A piece of single track can be seen at left.

The trail is only about five miles long, but at the careful pace I chose, gingerly negotiating my way over obstacles, it took almost an hour to get around it. The few other bikers I saw along the way gave me something to shoot for, as they zoomed over the rough ground with little effort.

A biker bursts out of the woods at the end of his lap.

A biker bursts out of the woods at the end of his lap.

But I couldn’t stop at that short distance. I headed out for the road I took to reach the trail, figuring I’d retrace part of the route I rode two weeks ago through a metropolitan park close to my house. I didn’t do the entire distance as before, but doubled the mileage of the first trail.

The metropolitan park trail crosses Slaughter Creek with a short, steep, descent. It'll be awhile before I can ride it.

The metropolitan park trail crosses Slaughter Creek with a short, steep, descent. It’ll be awhile before I can ride it.

I have not equipped the mountain bike with its own computer, and probably won’t. Friday, my wife and I went shopping for new cellphones, and got a good deal, we thought. The iPhone I got is my first real smartphone. All my old phone could do was send and receive calls and messages, and take bad pictures. One of the first things I did with the new phone was download the Strava app, mainly to track how far my rides were on the trails. Yes, I have disparaged Strava several times before on this blog, but I must admit, it’s pretty cool. I don’t plan to share my rides, but I will be a regular Strava user from here on out.

 

 

 

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