Zach on my mountain bike several years ago...
A few weeks ago I had a couple studs over at the cabin for some intense riding. Hottie was there the first day but was overwhelmed by the testosterone and left us alone for most of the weekend. It was a chance for me to share some of the roads and trails I have come to know and love.
The gents and I were able to sneak in a mountain bike ride late Friday finishing just before sunset. We went on the classic Buck Mountain Loop. The ride was fun. It was one of those, “It doesn’t get any better than this” kind of rides. My love of gravel has taken me on many challenging roads but the thrill of riding single track on a mountain bike was rekindled. We spooked deer and rode through some idyllic scenes that just left us wondering what we did to deserve so much fun.
El Chefe' striking the hero's pose
My mountain bike isn’t quite a museum relic but in dog years it is over a hundred years old. My companions were on 29 inch machines that are both pretty young. Their great bikes in combination with their fitness and bike handling skills made keeping up a challenge. They were kind enough to wait for me on descents and some technical sections where my bike couldn’t keep up.
The ride just sucked !
I was pushing and found myself approaching the edge of the envelope where you go faster than feels safe. You can usually get away with what for a while but not too long I didn’t like getting gapped and my ego was pushing me to let off the brakes and let it fly. I could see those guys zipping back and forth on the downhill ahead of me and I tried to keep up. I was employing self-talk to convince myself that my old bike was just fine. My rear wheel also seemed to have some unexpected side-to-side play but I used my well honed powers of denial to chase that thought out of my head.
Honing my denial skills over coffee and lies..
The steely taste of adrenaline in my mouth and a corner or two where I barely made it prompted me to back off and let the gap grow. The guys stopped now and then and waited for me and didn’t utter a hint of complaint. These are great guys. As kind as they were I didn’t like being THAT guy.
The view from the back
Like many folks my childhood is peppered with memories of being on the outside looking in. I wanted Levi’s yet I went to school in pants from JC Penney. Those pants weren’t even real jeans. They were some poly blend with a denim pattern printed on them that never faded like jeans were supposed to. I hated them. All they lacked was the “Kick Me” sign pinned to the butt. Mom how could you?
Nice dress eh?
My friends had Schwinn Sting Rays and I had a purple bike from Montgomery Wards. Even as a child I outwardly shrugged it off and kept the brave face until I split the head tube landing off a jump. I carried my bike home in two parts. The only bright side was the crash finally ripped those damn JC Penney pants. I yanked the tear to make it even bigger. If my mom had patched those pants I would have run away and joined the circus.
French Bike, French Tires and French Pedals, all old.
In France which is also old.
Forgive me; I digress. Back to 2015.
About the middle of the ride I noticed my left brake lever seemed to have more play than the right brake lever. I stopped and saw the lever had lost its pivot bolt and was dangling. We still had a thousand feet of descending to do and I found that if I kept a finger on the lever at all times I could keep it from coming out and then I could kind of brake. “I’m good,” I lied to my companions.
I made it down intact and was grateful to have shared a wonderful ride. Back at the cabin I showed Hottie the dangling brake lever. She seemed concerned. Later that evening I shrugged off the events of the day as I searched the internet for a replacement lever. I put the bike away and turned my thoughts to gravel.
Over the next couple days I talked with my friends about what would be a good 29er bike for me. Hottie joined in on the discussion as well. She asked me about this and that continuing the conversation even after we returned to Casa de Evo on the west side of the state.
A doctor told me once the best way to have surgery is to start talking to a surgeon. I wanted to have a bike in mind but I knew I was somewhere between a season and a year away from getting a new mountain bike. I quit talking about it as I figured it would just make me want one and that wasn’t going to happen any time soon. My life is pretty sweet and I was content to count my blessings.
Two weeks later Hottie and I returned to the Cabin and brought my dear mother, a.k.a. “The Beast” for Mother’s day weekend. In the back of the War Wagon was a small plastic bag containing a replacement brake lever. Lucky for me cable brake levers are cheap!
Per the plan I had left work early and when we arrived we unloaded and I swapped out the old lever and put on the new one. Within thirty minutes of arriving Hottie and I were riding mountain bikes on the trails of the beautiful Methow Valley. I followed her as she rode her Santa Cruz Tallboy and the bike soaked up the bumps. I increased the volume of my self-talk telling myself what an awesome bike my old Fisher was.
As I watched her float over rocks I tried to sit on the same section of trail only to have my teeth rattled. I convinced myself that standing out of the saddle was great for my training. During our ride Hottie got a call from a friend of hers who lives in Omak but was in Winthrop on business. We stopped for three minutes while she made arrangements to hook up with her friend post ride. After the call we returned to riding and I thought nothing of it.
Not a lot of thinking going on inside here.......
After showers and dinner Hottie drove to town to meet her friend. The Beast was chilling outside and I was doing a few chores inside. I saw Hottie driving up the driveway and I rushed to finish hanging up our bike clothes which I had washed. I didn’t want to greet her friend with a pile of wet bike kit in my hands.
With my bibs hanging “business side out” to dry Hottie called me out to the front porch. She gave me a card with my name on it. I looked to my right and saw a big mountain bike leaned against the cabin. The bike was pointed at me so all I could tell was it was a mountain bike (flat bars and wide tires). I was sure I had put the bikes away after the ride. I remembered our conversations about mountain bikes and wondered if Hottie had bought me a new bike.
Despite Hottie’s history of excellent gift giving I still reverted to my childhood trauma and feared I might be looking at the 2015 version of the Montgomery Ward purple bike. The card bore the tried and true words, “Nothing says Love like Carbon Fiber.” I had hope.
Speechless, I walked over and stood in front of the bike. There in all its glory was a brand new full suspension Tallboy in my size. It was a better model than I had dreamed of. My head was struggling to understand what was happening. This was Mother’s Day weekend. Why was I getting a gift?
“Just because you’re a great guy and I love you” was Hottie’s answer.
I have the greatest wife EVER!
Say hello to my 29 inch friend...
My mom had contributed as well and I had no choice but to forgive my mother for all the dorky clothes she had made me wear as a child. Let the healing begin!
In a flash I put pedals on it and zipped up and down the driveway until it was too dark to ride anymore. I was like a kid on Chismus morning and was almost afraid to go to sleep for fear it was all a dream. Hottie’s “friend” was in fact Methow Cycle and Sport calling to tell her when the bike would be ready. I had been duped. I’m fine with that. The awesome team at Methow Cycle and Sport had gone above and beyond to get the bike in and build it up for me.
The Wizard of Coz and Methow Cycle Sport
The next day Hottie urged me to take it out solo for a “get to know you” ride. I rode it and it was predictably awesome. I tried to hold back but that didn’t last very long. What I realized was that while I was indeed faster, speed was only a byproduct of having more control and thus being significantly safer. The ride was also more comfortable, which despite my bravado and outward denial of being impacted by time, matters a lot.
In the days since I find myself reflecting on three things. First, it means a lot to me that people love me and care for me enough to sacrifice so I can have such an expensive gift. It makes me think maybe I’m not such a bad guy. Second, I do have some wonderful people in my life and that means more than any material thing.
Dos Tallboys Hottie's on the left
Finally, speaking of material things, that Tallboy is a freakin amazing bike.