It was one of those rides that kept me giggling for two days.
It wasn’t easy, and much of the “ride” was spent heaving my bike onto one shoulder while scrambling up roots with the free hand. “Flow” is not in the vocabulary for this experience. I left the woods with scratches, bruises, and my spare tube gone.
The long fire road climb was actually lovely, stopping frequently for the dogs to stay hydrated. The baby spring leaves painted the valley in bright patches of green. Pedal, pedal, pedal…giggle…pedal, pedal. “We LIVE here!” is what I kept giggling about. Might as well look at the positive when on a long climb. But once you come to terms that you’ll be cranking it for a while, you tend to sink on down into the raised saddle and think happy thoughts. Plus, I knew once that was over there would be tight singletrack to pick through up to the vista a couple miles up. The worst thing you can do is blow it up on the fire road and have nothing left for the fun part.
And then it began. The drop into the trail is a bit misleading, making it look like smooth, rolling downhill. It was all about working it until failure and unclipping milliseconds before tipping shoulder-first into a bed of rocks. This high, the trees are low and gnarled due to all things blustery. The rolling immediately turned to a handlebar-gripping, teeth-clenching journey of spent legs and scraped shins. Each new corner offered another series of rocks and waterbars to pick through. I peered up the seemingly endless opportunities to bleed and got excited at the possibility of making it further up this time. It was that lovely game of choosing the perfect line to heave the front wheel, hop the rear wheel, and then get the front wheel up again. I pushed off with wild abandon and after four waterbars silently swore to do hanging ab work this week. Or ride my bike more.
There were several vistas to gape over and snarf stale nutrition bars dug from the depths of the pack. This was a great way to prepare for the downhill, which was so rutted it required either long jumps or teeth-rattling bounces. The front wheel needed extra launching power to keep it out of the deepest holes. Stopping was out of the question unless it was to crash. My forearms were searing with muscle-burn trying to keep myself on the correct side of the handlebars while gripping the brakes. That’s about the time we met hikers. Although the trail was wide enough to share with onlookers, the line had to be chosen carefully enough to avoid falling on top of anybody should a problem arise. For me this entailed dropping the front wheel into a snug little babyhead, allowing my rear wheel to raise up far enough to make the hiker cry out in fear. I was NOT going down in front of an audience. Somehow I managed to hop sideways with my rear far enough over the back wheel to drop it into a “safe” place, looking for the next crisis to avoid. “Nice save,” were the words I was grateful to be hearing, rather than something like, “Oh shit!”
What made this ride so awesome is that not only would we get the taste of Pisgah rocks, but we would be ending the ride with fast rollers and big air, making us forget our previous pain. It was at the bottom of this that I was confused to be waiting for my riding buddy. He arrived with sticks and leaves poking from his helmet, a dusty shoulder and an innocent look on his face. He knew he had to come clean when I started laughing. But there is no shame when eating Pisgah. Especially when you’ve been so smart as to leave cold beers in the river at the trailhead.