I broke out the mountain bike again the other day. After a morning of yard work, I didn’t have much time left for a ride, and I figured a ride on the trails would fill the bill better than a road ride. But this time, I gave it a twist.
I put the bike in the back of the car and headed out to a metropolitan park about six miles away. I had run across a description of bike trails in the park, which I hadn’t realized were there. It looked to be a park where my almost non-existent abilities on a mountain bike would fit in well. My only concern was a network of trails that didn’t make any sense on paper, and I wondered if I would be able to follow them.
My first clue that I would be in for more than I bargained for came at the parking lot. I couldn’t figure out where the trail head was. I rode the bike around some picnic pavilions, sand volleyball courts, and a disc golf course, but couldn’t figure out where to get on the trails. Finally, I decided to head for the horse corral, which I had seen while driving in. The trail must start near there.
Not exactly, but I did stumble onto the trail start a few hundred yards farther on. The first part of the trail is the remains of a paved road. It’s pretty chopped up now, easy for a mountain bike. But I didn’t come out here to ride a sort of paved road. About a mile down, I saw some singletrack and jumped on.
Not too bad. The underbrush on either side could use some trimming, as branches slashed at my legs. But the track was hard-packed dirt, and — uh, oh. Now it was rocky, and heading up in stair step fashion. This is an area of riding where I need to improve, quickly. The problem I’m having with my shifters hasn’t been dealt with yet — I can’t shift below 4th gear in any chainring. That means I have to stop, dismount, and push the bike up some of the steeper rock shelves.
The trail did have its moments. At the south end of the park, it runs along Slaughter Creek, which really benefitted from some heavy rain we had earlier in the week. Several pullouts are along this stretch, and I took advantage of one to stop for a rest and some water.
Then, it was time to move on, and figure out which trails were for bikes, and which were for horses. That’s tough to do when none of the trails are marked. It was almost no time before I found myself back at the same bench overlooking the creek as before. I’d have to pay a little more attention to the trails I took.
After pushing up several more rocky stair steps, I came upon a different network of trails. These ran partly through the woods, and partly in open land. I got to pedal faster, and — all of a sudden, I was in a rock garden again, and this time it was going down instead of up. I hit the brakes, and almost did an endo, until I eased up on the front brake and used the rear to control my descent partway down the rocks. But I had a feeling of uncertainty, and stopped the bike to push it again, this time downhill.
By this time, it was after 4 p.m., and I had to get home. I found my way to the parking lot and loaded up the bike. Once I was home, showered, and in some clean clothes, I looked up the trails online. Whoever did the review of the park classified it as a beginner track. If those trails were for beginners, I must not even be able to call myself a mountain biker yet. I have a lot of work to do.
Well, I expect to keep at it. I’ll get the mountain bike out at least once a week over the summer, if not more often. I’ll replace the shifters, and consider getting clipless pedals. One thing I have learned in my short time on the mountain bike — it’s a great change of pace from the road bike, and changes of pace can keep the interest level up.