Before I got a job about a week ago (lamers), my ass and the smooth black vinyl of my WTB saddle were spending a lot of time dancing cheek to cheek. It was very romantic. Everything was aligned: I have the urge to bike constantly, I had nothing better going on and, cherry on top, the SF bay area’s thermostat must have been busted or something. The result was about 2 weeks of the type of weather that makes one’s soul distill liquid joy: clear and hovering around 70 lovely degrees. Yeah, it was a good time. The only real drawback of the situation—other than not having income beyond the bone the EDD was tossing me—was that I was recovering (and still am a bit) from an elbow jacking that I suffered from going over my Monkey Bars and straight-arming planet Earth. Unfortunately this kept me from taking on the type of single track terrain I usually crave. But luckily my legs were still fully operational, so I wasn’t going to let my fragile elbow keep me sidelined for long. Once the pain and popping in the ole arm hinge subsided to tolerable levels, I took to the fire roads of Sweeney Ridge between San Bruno (where I live) and Pacifica. It’s a very conveniently located preserve, in that I can ride to from my doorstep in about ten minutes. The views are really beautiful up there—especially the mighty Pacific Ocean to the west—and there’s plenty of hard work to be found. It’s perfect for keeping an unemployed writer in tip top climbing shape and in high spirits. There are a couple of climbs in particular on the west side of the park that are barely fit for human consumption. But I have a masochistic thing going with Mistress Uphill, so I embraced these grades of pure evil and made sure that I included one of these climbs up Point Punishment every time I rode Sweeney.
But eventually I got a bit bored of Sweeney Ridge. After an ill-fated attempt to get into road riding, I jumped on the web and did what this single track lover never thought he’d be doing: looked for some fire road to ride. I needed something that would be beautiful (which in my coastal neck of the woods is never hard to find), includes challenging climbs (also a piece of forest green cake), yet was smooth enough to not rattle around my elbow.
The area I found was McNee Ranch State park, which features plenty of altitudiness (I made that word up) in the form of beautiful Montara Mountain. The park runs between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay (part of it over the world famous Devil’s Slide on the universe-famous Pacific Coast Highway). And to top it off, the park has miles and miles of fire road trail (a lot of it crazy-steep). There are multiple trailheads, all of which start at sea level and ascend all the way up to the peak of Montara, 1898 feet above the crashing waves. Was it ever a good climb. Hooray!
But what was more interesting was the insanity that branches off the main drag through the park, San Pedro Mountain Road trail. The locals have built the kind of trail for which beefy, half-foot-of-travel, all mountain and downhill steeds were made. Great stuff for some, but probably a bit too crazy for my “small” Blur LT (and even smaller balls). There’s an area called Boy Scout that has one huge jump after the next. The locals have moved tons of earth, sans machinery, to create a playground that’s exciting just to ride through and look at, let alone play around in. Then there’s triple XXX, the Crack and the Mile. All the type of stuff that would drive an IMBA trail building expert batty. These social trails were built by guys who give many fucks about bombing down a steep trail at high speeds, but not a single fuck about sustainability or erosion. We’re talking big ass drops and jumps and all kinds of YouTube-video-inspiring stuff (search for Pacifica mountain biking on youtube. You’ll see what I mean). Man, I wish I had a bigger bike, and more important, a smaller concern for my personal safety.
Now I’m actually not as big a pussy as I make myself out to be. I’m actually fairly good at taking on technical stuff on a cross country trail. I cleaned all kinds of stuff in Moab that I was pretty proud of. And I’m not saying I’m never going to even try to go down these ballistic trails in Pacifica. It certainly won’t be at top speed, and I’m sure I’ll have to walk sections, but I’m sure I can ring some fun out of the attempt. But the whole exposure to that kind of riding makes me wonder: how did I become the type of rider I am while the plush tank-bike riding guys and gals I talked to at the trailhead became the type of riders they are? Not that I love climbing, but I take pride in climbing faster than any of the guys in my crew, and I work hard to maintain my king of the mountain status, while downhillers see climbing as a nuisance that they need to tolerate before the riding starts (often literally since a lot of pushing happens on the way up the mountain). I’ll catch air when an opportunity like a high spot in the trail presents itself, but am not about to take on a gap that I see as having the potential for my front tire smashing into the other side of it, forcing me to stand at the mercy of physics while rolling the injury dice. “Ohhhhh. Broken collar bone. Sorry, sir. Hey, better luck next crash.” But for my fully padded and platform pedaled cousins? Have gap will travel. Six foot drop? Bombs away. Steep trail covered in lose decomposed granite shooting straight down the fall line? Just don’t use your brakes. You won’t slide! I admit it. I’m jealous. It sounds sooooo fun. But like I say, I just don’t have it in me. But why not, for fuck’s sake? Is it genetics? I guess it is. My parents never discouraged me from doing anything growing up. And now that I think back, it fits with how I’ve always been. I’d take risks as a tyke, but I usually ranked about middle of the pack on the crazy kid in the group ranking, if not bottom third. And that pattern continued. In college I’d take one hit of acid while my roommate Tom would say, fuckit, open mouth and stick six hits to his tongue.
And there was other crazy stuff, usually involving trespassing or fucking with someone, that I just didn’t feel right partaking in. My roomies would drive around our neighborhood and shoot weapons-grade bottle rockets smuggled in from New Mexico into people’s front doors, but I’d usually restrict myself to laughing at the story when they got back.
And now? Well, I don’t hurl myself off five-foot jumps built up through the crotch of an oak tree.
Oh well. I guess it’s just one of those, “Deal with the hand you were dealt and enjoy the gifts you were given” things. I really should stop being such a bitch about it. I have an amazing relationship with mountain biking that deserves no scrutiny. It’s the only hobby I’ve ever had that’s turned into a passion. It’s allowed me to enjoy breathtaking scenery, meet and have some great times with amazing people and has kept me in phenomenal shape while most of the guys from the Amador High School Class of ’91 are looking pretty puffy in their Facebook profile photos.
So I’ll never have the stones to launch over a ten-foot gap. I can do things on a bike that the vast majority of guys my age no longer even dream about.