The 13th Weekly Ride episode tells the story of the last ride on my green bike and it made me think how far my bikes have come. It inspired me to write about the different bikes i have had over the years and the progression of each one…
In 2004, I moved to Mammoth to put my full energy into skiing. I thought this the best thing because, at the time, skiing was the only action sport i thought i could perform completely solo. There was always road biking, but that was just a default when i needed exercise. It was never something i enjoyed as much as getting out in nature.
In moving to the mountains, I relished in surviving through the elements. I celebrated things like shoveling snow, de-icing my truck, building fires and cold walks with my dog. These types of things sure made the coffee and scotch taste better! What i did not anticipate is what happened in the summer…the mountain bike culture. People in the mountains ride mountain bikes when there is no snow to ski.
This is where mountain biking began for me. Now, its important to remember that i do not consider myself a mountain biker. I am a trail runner and this bike is how i get out on the trail, BUT if i am going to do it, might as well REALLY do it. Hence, the full face, pads and downhill riding. So, I’m a trail runner and equally a downhill rider, disciplines sitting on opposite ends of the spectrum. On one side is the glutton for punishment. How much can i make myself hurt? At the other end is the adrenaline junkie who feels a huge sense of accomplishment when he scares the shit out of himself and survives.
The desire for my first bike was born purely out a desire to walk my dog on the trail and get my surfboard across the sand…and that’s entirely what is was meant for. It had crazy granny gears and could climb anything. It was fully rigid and I quickly realized that it was not meant for riding the bike park at Mammoth, my back getting jarred with every rock drop. In all fairness, at that time, i was in my twenties and the adrenaline junkie side overrode the desire to work my heart and lungs.
Enter my second bike.
Now, a volunteer ski instructor and ski shop employee doesn’t really make the type of cash to afford a $5500 bike, but with the help of the Challenged Athletes Foundation and some good friends, i was able to get my first bike. I quickly sold that one and, with the cash, convinced a friend to sell me his full suspension downhill bike. Those bikes are rare so he was reluctant to sell, but i strategically pointed out to him that he could still use the bike, not have to transport it (because i lived in mammoth where he rode couple times per year) and also have the cash in his pocket. Salesman skills! He relinquished and i drove home to Mammoth, from his house in San Luis Obispo, with the bike hanging off the jenky hitch rack i bought for it.
This bike took me to new heights. Literally, i launched that thing. I rode the bike park every day i could. I surprised everyone and myself what i could take that thing through. Till this day, i will never ride as extreme or as hard as i did in those days, with that bike. She was broken a lot though and i spent months riding my rode bike while she sat in machine shops. My friends also had to push me a lot. She had no drivetrain, gravity driven only, and the desire to simply trail run came creeping back.
After I moved back to San Diego, I was researching off-road wheelchairs and came across something that looked simlar to my first bike, with a drivetrain, but also with full suspension. You mean i could have both? I could satisfy the trail runner and the downhill rider? One bike for all? Within a couple weeks I sold my downhill bike and wrote a check, emptying my bank account. This third bike was twice the price and i lived incredibly simply in order to afford it.
The eight week wait killed me, but when she finally arrived I quickly put her together and the adventures began. I cranked through ligament straining climbs. Then, turn around and jump off rocks, all in same day, on the same bike. I spent sleepless nights, geeking out on trails on Google Maps and getting friends to take me on cool rides. I went to places like Moab, Colorado and Boulder City and rode all over the Mammoth area. I got so much attention with this bike that the manufacturer asked me to help sell them.
Then, the next generation came out and i had to have it. Green bike enters scene. It was stronger, lighter, slightly smaller, had more clearance…AND…the big difference…had a power assist. Complete and absolute game changer. Rides with my previous bike were five to six miles and, in all honesty, i still had to get a lot of help. If i was on climb, whoever was riding with me might as well have been on foot. I was left in the dust. Now that was all different.
I can’t go on without giving thanks to Revolution Bike Shop, 2XU, my loving community of friends and everyone (even strangers) who donated to the Gofundme page for this bike. After selling the previous bike, i fell ill with an unexplained bone infection and had to have my lower spine replaced, the infection had eaten it away. When i was finally admitted, i was down to 119lbs and drove myself to the emergency room one night with a fever of 107. It was bad and i am lucky to be alive, but the hospital bills were payed with all the money i had, including what i had set aside for my next bike, so thank you everyone!
With Bike #4, my rides went from five or six miles to twelve, fifteen and further. My longest ride right now is 24.8 miles! Thanks to Spinergy, the bike could accommodate fat AND downhill wheels. Talk about one bike for all! Now i could “trail run”, ride the bike park AND ride out on the snow with the fat wheels. With the power assist, i was no longer left in the dust and felt more like a part of the pack rather than a burden on the pace.
I could navigate more terrain with the power to crawl up rock gardens and the ability to still propel myself while having both hands on the handlebar (off the hand crank). More of the world became open to me. The learning curve has been to still get “the pump” and find a way to satisfy the glutton for punishment by getting my heart rate as high. There is a fine balance of how much to let the motor help and i have discovered that cranking harder in a lower gear enables me to do more of the work. I am getting significantly into the red zone for duration on all my rides now and it feels good!
In order to have the ability to switch between fat and downhill wheel sets, the bike needs an external drive train, which means I can possibly get stuck. Without the luxury of being able to step off the bike and walk it over obstacles, if i find myself in too big of a gear, then i am stuck. In working as a dealer, i learned that there is a solution to this problem: The Rohloff Speed Hub. The Rohloff is a German internally geared hub (14 gears!), which goes into whatever gear you switch it into without moving. Did you hear that? WITHOUT MOVING! That is huge for an adaptive rider. This means that if i get stuck in too big of a gear, all i need to do is drop the gears all the way down and i am free to crawl.
Newest bike enters the scene.
I have lost the ability to switch wheel sets, but have gained an entirely new freedom with the Rohloff. I have learned so much over the years of riding these bikes that i have made many other upgrades to the parts as well. In my opinion, this is the best of these bikes in all existence and it is so exciting to be on the front lines of discovery. The evolution, itself, has been a fun ride!
It is also exciting to be using this bike for others. My days of self promotion and striving to be a professional athlete are over. Its not about me anymore. Its about making the bikes better. Its about helping people get these bikes AND teaching them how to take care of it, all while providing the information they need to ride safely.
Enter The UNPavement (www.theunpavement.com). It is my goal to set a platform in place that stays in motion long after I’m gone.
I’m excited for the next generation of these bikes and for a world that possesses trail information for them. In the meantime, i’m gonna keep feeding the beasts…both of them. Thanks for joining me on this ride. Its been fun!