Monday, August 4, 2014

Riding with the Big Boys

A was off to 6 Flags the other day so N and I hit the big hill in Killington to do some mountain biking. I contacted IC to let him know because he used to be a racer and his son is buddies with N. IC also works at the hill and I secretly was hoping he'd score us some free passes, but this was not to be. He did make it, however, and we had a great time, nonetheless, especially since he knows the hill like the back of his hand. The guy is such a rock star, everyone there knows him.

Killington also has a disc golf course, so the plan was to head over the hill in the late morning, do some disc-golfing, and then ride our bikes. I packed some sandwiches for myself, and I was going to get N a burger or something along those lines. The golfing was fun, though the course is not free, which I think is lame. Since it's a ski hill, the terrain is hilly and we did a fair amount of climbing. There are 18 holes but we only managed to do half because by the time we got to hole 9, it was time to do some riding.

This worked out nicely because just as we were heading to get our lift tickets, IC showed up with OC. Now N had someone to ride with, and as I mentioned, I was hoping we could get free lift tickets. How do you ask for such a thing? It never came up, so I figured it wasn't an option and just paid up. Since IC works there, he gets everything free, so he and OC got to use the rental bikes, which are top of the line pieces of equipment. They have front and rear suspensions, fat tires, and heavy frames. Interestingly, they are designed for one thing and one thing alone: going down hills. They only have 6-7 speeds, and the suspensions are really soft, so you can't really ride uphill with them. Again, they are like yuppie toys, only good for taking the chair lift up and riding down. No pedaling necessary. IC was telling me that's how the sport has evolved. Nobody races anymore, everyone just wants to rocket down the hill on the best bikes that money can buy. The ones they rent at Killington run over $1600 each. Is that crazy, or what?

Naturally N was drooling when he saw them and wanted to ride one, but I told him he should get used to riding his own bike. That's why we were there, and riding chairlifts was not something we were going to do on a regular basis, at least not yet. I'm trying not to encourage an obsession with high-priced toys that are cool but not very practical. That seems to be the way of the high-tech generation, which he falls into, but I'm old fashioned and will cling to my boring old ways. We will pedal our bikes and work a little at it.

Either way, I could see some value in a more modern bike from the minute we hit the trail. N's bike is fairly new and has a front suspension but no back. Again, the bikes with dual suspensions are too bouncy and soft and not really designed to do heavy pedaling. They are, however, ideal for riding down hills, something I learned the hard way on my 20 year old dinosaur of a bike that has no suspension. I've had this thing forever, and it's served me well for riding to and from wherever I needed to go. When I bought it, was moderately high-tech, not the best, but definitely not the worst. They didn't even have shock absorbers at the time. Gradually over time, bikes have become very sophisticated, but I've never really paid attention because I didn't need all the bells and whistles. Riding my old clunker at Killington, I really took a beating. Every rock, bump, and tree root translated into shockwaves through my body. It also made handling it more challenging because the ride was so incredibly bumpy, I had trouble controlling the darn thing.

N had a blast, and I have to say, he's a natural on the bike. He took the trails and curves and bumps in stride. I don't think he crashed once, unlike me, who ended up on my bottom on a number of occasions. My whole body got rocked and bruised, but such is the life of an old man trying to wear a young man's shoes. It was fun, but I think I'd like to try it at least once with a bike made in this century. The guys working the gondola were even ribbing me by asking why I was torturing myself like that. With mountain biking, there's no dignity to being retro.

The most important thing is that N had fun, and he did a great job out there. I'll take a few knocks for that.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to John Shafer for the pic.

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