Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Around the bend, and back again

Lately, newspaper mentioned cheap airfare.
I've got to fly to Saint Somewhere.

I'm close to bodily harm. ...

This morning I shot six holes in my freezer.
I think I've got cabin fever.
omebody sound the alarm.
—"Boat Drinks", by Jimmy Buffett

April 15. Is there any day more loathed by the average American? Yesterday I had to mail Uncle Sam a check that could have paid for a couple of really nice new bikes. Instead, Dubya gets to piss my money down a bottomless hole.

But I'm not bitter because it's April 15.

I'm bitter because it's April 15 and it's snowing. Again.

Mother Nature—that bitch—has pushed the "pause" button on my bike life. I'm spinning on the trainer while working my way through the latest cheesy remake of King Kong (hey, I'm desperate and, besides, I'll try almost any flick that has Jack Black in it), and reading bike forums online.

One of the things I've noticed about Alaska-specific bike forums is that people from other states like to post questions and pick the brains of people who ride in a lot of cold, snowy weather—and I mean a lot of cold, snowy weather. Like the kind that lasts until April Freaking 15th. But I digress.

Anyway, these people want tips on clothing, footwear, studded tires, cold-weather lubes, etc. This time of year, those who are planning to visit this summer want advice on where to ride and which shops to use. And that's all fine. Happy to help.

But occasionally, we get questions like, "Dude, I'm comin' up to AK this summer! Any downhill/freeride parks up there?"

I always want to respond, "Dude! No! Thank god!"

I don't, of course. Not because doing so would be rude, but because I'm an athiest and it would be sort of hypocritical to thank a god. I'm also a middle-aged guy who has no business using words like "Dude!"

My point? Yeah, I have one, damn it, but I'm taking my time. Why not? It's snowing! What else have I got to do? My point is ... shit, what was it?

Oh, yeah. My point is that I don't understand the whole downhill/freeride thing. See a few years back, a bunch of guys (screw what Gary Fisher says, it was a bunch of guys) figured out how to build these wonderful, multi-geared bikes that would go up and down all sorts of fun terrain. And it was fun.

I think mountain biking is about sweat, dirt, pretty scenery, tight singletrack, quiet forests, shootin' the shit with your friends, covering lots of ground and seeing lots of country without having to blister your feet during days of beer-free backpacking.

Downhillers seem to think mountain biking is about obese bikes, body armor, unnatural trail features, scarred hillsides and rides on chairlifts. I don't see the appeal.

I once tried an afternoon of riding at a ski area when they first opened their chairlifts to mountain bikers, and it made me feel lazy. It felt wrong. The only real exercise I got was squeezing the brake levers to avoid killing the newbies in Nikes and cotton T-shirts who thought it was OK to stop and chat in the middle of the trail on high-speed corners.

I guess it's a good thing that downhillers are on bikes instead of motorcycles but, except for the noise, it's sometimes hard to see much difference at first glance.

Maybe I'll be less cranky when the snow finally stops.

But I doubt it.


Anonymous said...

Some of my best freinds do this stuff, including flinging themselves in the air, flipping, etc. They seem to enjoy it. I'm with you, though - it's not real riding. It's not human powered, and it's far too artificial. I'll stick to going places. Val

Jill Homer said...

I agree with you, too, although I would kill for those skillz. (I'm also probably too close to middle age to use a word like skillz.)

Pugsley could make a really good downhill bike, if only they made Endomorphs with really agressive tread. Maybe even studs. Get a big 29er 100mm fork. Someday you'll see people riding those down the corduroy alongside the snowboarders and skiers. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to join them. My justification would be walking up the mountain first.

Tim said...

I don't know about Endomorphs for high-speed downhills. Catch big air, and you might bounce like a ball when you try to land!

rambn said...

dude! I completely agree.

The Old Bag said...

We're finally getting some 50s around here....it's been a looong, dreary, rainy/slushy spring (?) here in MN. I feel for you.

Groover said...

So global warming is obviously not affecting your part of the world?

Dano said...

I think I could have fun blasting down a hill on 10 inches of travel.

But it would not take the place of my xc riding.

Anonymous said...

I would hate to know how downhill skiing makes you feel. Talk about a scarred hillside! sc

Jeff Moser said...

Where I live in Nevada, I'm about the same distance from Northstar (a free ride park) and the legal brothels. Both promise instant gratification without all the work, and both are equally unappealing to me. To me, a fun downhill is the payoff for a challenging climb. Additionally, the slow climb gives you a chance to look around and notice the natural world around you. It feels like you are climbing away from all the troubles behind you, whereas you speed back towards them on the downhill.

We have some freeride kids in the area that build stunts with no thought for aesthetics, the environment, or other trail users. One pro rider even drives his Cadillac Escalade up the mountain to his jumps. Seems like blasphemy to me!

I think there is a place for the sport, but the car culture is integral to it. Not for me...