Monday, August 16, 2010

Old Skool 4

The idea for this post is has been on my mind for awhile, and quite frankly it seems too much like a memoir. Which means that with my limited writing skills, I will do it no justice. So, I decided to drink a half bottle of wine and let my fingers fly across the keyboard instead of giving this a lot of genuine effort. Nevertheless, this post feels like it's a bit too personal. But who reads this damn thing anyways? And hell, on some level, it's still about bikes.
I moved to the ol' FC in the winter of 2000 right out of tech college with a good job opportunity. I was 20 years old and until that time I had never even seen a mountain in person. I still find this fact almost absurd. I must also note that at the time I hated country music. If you know me at all this is a fact that is no less than unfathomable.

Being a "normal" product of my rural Nebraska upbringing, I was no stranger to alcohol, tobacco, weed, nirvana, drunk driving, west coast rap, and all myriad of other vices. In fact, as many of my peers were prone to do, I prided myself on mass consumption of these vices. I was an alcoholic chain smoker with a 40 cigarette a day habit and a passion for booze that still runs deep to this day (although at that time it was quite a bit more habitual). Back in those days I also hit a high mark of 210 lbs. It seems hard to believe, but I couldn't find any photos of the "fat" me. Maybe I was camera shy. In a poetic sense I might have been nothing more than a sop with stained brown fingertips still listening to grunge and punk. Luckily, I have a few photos left from that wonderful time of disc golf and Red Dog. Here's one that seemed to capture my essence.

In this photo, it is plain to see that going on a steady diet of Camel Lights and Red Dog brought me down from a portly 210lbs to a nice and bony (and surly) 170. It's not quite the same as the "Southbeach Diet". It's called the "Midwest Weight Loss System".

Rant about Sucking:

As soon as I got to town I went to get my first mountain bike. The first place I went when I moved to town (besides the liquor store) was Lee's Cyclery in Old Town FC in order to get price-raped on a shitty bike (GT Aggressor 1.0). Lee's has built an entire generation of success moving a high volume of shitty bikes to new-to-town clueless douche-bags and, believe me, I was no exception. The neat thing is, is that they are still doing it today! You could probably stop in there any day of the week and watch their commissioned "sales brahs" give the "hard sell" on some overpriced piece of shit to some wide eyed freshman with his/her parents credit card (or the money he/she saved from delivering pizzas all summer).

It might sound something like this:

Brah: "Welcome to Lee's! Can I help you?"

Frosh: "Well... Yeah... We were looking for a bike."

Brah: "Well you came to the right place! What did you have in mind?"

Frosh's Mom (interjecting): "Well you know Micah really just needed something to get from the dorms to class."

Brah: "Excellent right over here we have some...."

Frosh: "I also want to do some mountain biking too. Do you have something that'll do both?"

Brah: "Of course we do. What is the price range you were looking at?" (testing the waters....)

Frosh's Mom: "Somewhere in the $200-$300 range."

Brah (finally gets it): "Well, we don't have anything exactly that price. But for around $500-$600 we could get him set up on one of these!...

...It's perfect for "commuting", has a great Shimano component set, and as you can see by the little rubber accordion shaped dealies on the front fork, it is "mountain ready!" Plus, these knobby tires are really good on the sick singletrack you'll find here in COLORADO!"

Cash Register: "Ching"

moving on.....

The first thing I did was load up my new aggressive aggressor (albeit the 1.0 version) with my roommate Eddy and his 1995 Specialized Rock Hopper and go up to Horsetooth Mountain Park to wheeze and walk my new shred stick up and back down the mountain in a completely miserable and disenchanting reality check. I was even bleeding out both shins and an elbow for some goddamn reason. I probably slipped while shouldering my bike over a fucking rock or some bullshit. When we got back to the parking lot I knew that from then until eternity I would never, EVER "mountain bike" again.

After a few more vain attempts and a few more years of bleeding, stitches, and surgery, I finally was offered a "real" mountain bike (KHS Team). By this point, I had a much better understanding that getting up the hill was much harder (and could possibly be just as much fun) as getting down. I had finally seen good mountain bikers shred tech-y up and down and at least had a cursory knowledge of what was really going on. Just to see what was possible on a bike was all it took. I knew that although it was physically and mentally impossible at that point for me to achieve success on a bike, I paradoxically knew that I could do it. Fuck it, right? It must've been all that Minor Threat music telling me to do whatever the fuck I wanted. And I wanted to bike.

This mutha fuckin bike still climbs great and shreds to this day. Great bike. (BTW: $400. Lee's woulda charged a GRAND.)

Getting to the Point:
The motherfucking point is.... I MEAN the fucking point IS.... What was I saying? Ummm. Hold on. Oh yeah. Biking and shit. Gimme that wine real quick. Ok.

Living in west Fort Collins, I live next to what me and my friends refer to as "a great backyard". The network of trails just west of our houses are extensive, challenging, rocky as hell, and accessible with no automobile. Quite simply, it's perfect. It's what this whole blog is about really. With my new understanding and appreciation for what bikers were really accomplishing on trail, I made it my goal to "clean" my local trail. The "Nebraska Me" wouldn't have even considered it. The loop seems fairly simple now, but I'm telling you to most people it is not. To actually "clean" (pedal the entire loop without putting a foot down) this loop is one hell of an accomplishment. Even now. I don't care how good you are, maybe you clean it 97% of the time, it is still something to be proud of.

The big part of me trying to accomplish my goal was to switch to clipless pedals. Which scared the hell outta me. I was predisposed to getting fucking injured all the time anyways, so it was very unappealing to physically attach myself to my bike. If you ever feel the same way about going clipless let me just say one thing:
Fuck you man. That shit is the best thing ever. So you might fall over a couple times.... No big. I literally got 100% better at climbing the day I went clipless. But hell, that 's just me.

Time and weather permitting, I pedaled that loop every goddamn motherfuckin day that I could for a year and a half. It was my white whale. It fucked with me. I pedaled it rested, hungover, drunk. I sessioned the tech-y parts. I watched my dick-hole friends clean it with ease. I knew and named every rock that ever knocked me over (with names like "that fuckin pointy-ass rock" or "that goddamn off-camber-dusty-piece-of-fuck-rock near the fence that is too damn close to that other shit-ass rock"). I broke expensive bike parts. I bled, cursed, and physically kicked the shit outta this trail with my feet. And BTW, don't get pissed and punch and kick rocks. It's stupid and it hurts.

Life is funny like this.

One day. I clipped into my KHS. I rode up and over all the rocks I spent so much time naming. They were still sons of bitches, but I knew them well. When I got to the point in the trail where there was only downhill left to shred, I thought to myself, "I guess you're a mountain biker". I'm not going to lie. I was proud of myself. It was a long time coming but it seemed very anti-climactic. I can only assume that most drawn out successes probably are.

Epilogue (it's about time, huh?):

I used these small successes as an excuse to buy a Yeti. This was the official day that my bike was more expensive than my car. A true Coloradoan. I never understood that concept until I was one of those people (coincidentally, I got the same feeling when I bought a subaru).

Here are a couple of photos from that loop that doesn't seem so damn impossible anymore.

This is one of the sections of rocks I used to name that I could NEVER clean. Loose and jagged, it taught me how to GO UP.

A look down the approach of the "stair section" of Shoreline Trail.

The new Yeti is a lot smoother down that section than the KHS. Although I still ride the KHS a couple times a year just for fun (and nostalgia).

"Old Skool Loop" elevation profile.

Old Skool Loop from the Sputnik's POV. Damn Commies.

I can't say that taking all of this time and effort to post such a rambling self revealing diatribe about why I do what I do was worth anything. I guess I can only think that I'm not the only one who has had experiences like this. I have a love for biking. I LOVE biking. It's something I will do as long as my body lets me. If for nothing else, I think a lot of people can relate.

The vices are still lingering a bit, but at least now I don't view them as accomplishments. And as I finish this meandering blog, my mind is drifting to other biking accomplishments that I know for a fact are just as impossible (paradoxically) as the one I've just described, but I would hate to tell you what they are now on the off-chance that I never achieve them. But believe me, they are the things that I think of as I fall asleep every night. I hope to not only accomplish them, but also find new and more challenging ones. (and to stop punching and kicking rocks and dirt, which I still do from time to time)

Lastly, I feel Colorado is undoubtedly a beautiful place and also my HOME. The rocky mountains, the majestic vistas, the hairy-ass women. But even after 10 years... There's nothing like a flat, green, stretch of football field on a crisp fall Saturday afternoon. In other words...

"There is no place like Nebraska! Good ol' Nebraska 'U'!..."
Bos Before Hos Y'all!

You can take the boy out Nebraska, but you can't take Nebraska out tha boy. GBR. Bitches.

Thanks for reading,
Zness da Pness.

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