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. Now, a volunteer ski instructor and ski shop employee does not really make the type of cash to afford a $6000 bike, but with the help of the Challenged Athletes Foundation and some good friends, i was able to get this first bike and get out on the trail!
This thing had crazy granny gears and could climb anything. It was fully rigid though, no suspension, 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.
The life of my first bike was short lived and i put her on the market after only a few months, knowing that i needed something different.
Enter my second bike, a full suspension beast of a downhill land spider. It took some serious smooth talking, all the cash from the sale of my first bike and then some, plus all the lint in my pockets and i drove home, proudly, with the bike hanging off the back of my car.
This bike took me to new heights. Literally, i launched that thing. I rode the bike park every day and surprised 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 around. She had no drivetrain, gravity driven only, and the Glutton for Punishment, the desire to simply trail run, came creeping back.
One random day, I was researching off-road wheelchairs and came across something that looked similar to my first bike, with a drivetrain, but also with full suspension, like my downhill bike. 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, turned around and jumped off rocks, all in the 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, NV 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, had more clearance…AND…the big difference…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.
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!
The down side: In order to have the ability to switch between fat and downhill wheel sets, the bike needs an external drive train. 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 with the external drivetrain, then i am stuck. There is a solution to this problem: The Rohloff Speed Hub. This is a German engineered 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 scene.
Without the external drivetrain, I have lost the ability to switch wheel sets, but have gained an entirely new freedom with the Rohloff. it switched gears like butter! I have learned so much over the years of riding these bikes that have made many other upgrades to the parts as well. In my opinion, because of those upgrades, 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!