Thursday, August 7, 2014

Confessions of a Hardtail Rider

I started mountain biking in college over 20 years ago on a Trek Antelope.  I rode many miles of  U.S. Forest Service trails during my down time as a fire fighter in the Snowy Range of Wyoming.  A few years later and a few dollars more I upgraded  to a used GT Pantera with the original RockShox.  My riding was mainly on two-tracks and cattle trails in the high desert near Green River, Wyoming.

Two years ago I finally upgraded to a Specialized Stumpjumper Comp 29'er Hardtail.  I demo'd a lot of bikes and for the type of cross-country riding I do this bike made a lot of sense.  Plus I'm a minimalist and I like the simplicity of a hardtail.  It's light and fast and she climbs like a demon. She has also turned me into a fast woman on the flowy downhills.  My favorite riding has always been in the desert and we have some sweet single track just outside of town at Johnny Behind the Rocks.

I'm probably an outlier on this but I usually ride alone. Riding is my cherished time for solitude and there's only a few other people that I like to ride with. Luckily, for marital harmony, one of them is my husband.  Recently he started looking into buying a new bike.  In the past he didn't ride much and so only recently has considered a new bike. So -- I'm super excited that he wants to get on the trails with me.  He NEEDS a new bike -  he still has his Trek Antelope from his college days.  And, if he has a sweet new bike that means he'll want to ride more, promoting even more marital harmony, right?

A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to have Rocky Mountain Bikes in town with a bunch of demos. Being the supportive wife I tagged along (what better way to spend a summer day with your spouse?!)

We rode all afternoon.  It was hot out.  I was super tired from camping out the night before.  The first bike I rode was the Rocky Mountain Element which was the first full suspension bike I've ever ridden.  Holy cow!  It's like the first time you (...fill in the blank) and you think, "So, THIS is what it's all about." 

I rode the Element on a section of nasty trail that is pock-marked by horses and boulder-strewn.  It's a trail that I ride several times a week.  This year our local bike group, Lander Cycling Club, has been hard at work building trails in the foothills near our town and I've found myself really enjoying the technical terrain.  (And sort of getting back to my roots, pardon the pun!) Riding with FS was an eye-opener - the bike didn't care that I was tired and was picking a terrible line.  It just took me up and down the mountain like a dream.

The last bike I rode that day was the Rocky Mountain Altitude which was not only dreamy but it fit perfect - like my favorite little black dress.  It felt FANTASTIC, like I'd been riding it my whole life.  I felt invincible on this bike.  It was a complete and total joyride.  I could go through all of the specs that made it so but the fact is that I was in love.

So, the dilemma.  Do I abandon my hardtail purist stance and dive into the realm of full suspension?   I keep hearing about how riding a hardtail makes you a better rider, blah blah blah.  But the full suspension opens up a whole new level of riding fun.  And I do love my stumpy niner, but I'm kind of already feeling nostalgic for her - kind of when you look back to your very first love and realize that it wasn't quite as perfect as you thought. (Gosh, but I feel unfaithful!)

But even with a new bike, I will never be the fastest girl on the trail.  I always come in last in any event (who else stops to make snow angels during a fat bike race?).  But we only go around once and life is too short not to enjoy this ride to its fullest, and sometimes, newest ride...