Sunday, April 13, 2008

Hall Ranch

Today I rode Hall Ranch for the second time this season. It is nice and dry minus one melting section of snow and a few puddles, so the trail can finally get a break from riders slogging it in the mud.

I started at the main trail head and rode Bitterbrush and the rock garden up to the Nelson Loop. I rode the loop once each direction, first clockwise (my preferred direction and a bit longer to ride) and then counter-clockwise (which most everyone else was doing). There were a fair amount of other riders up there since the day was so nice. Almost everyone rode sensibly and paused on their descents as I was coming up (common rider etiquette) save for one bonehead who was coming down the roller section a little hot and aired it out right in front of me on one of the jumps. I didn't say anything because he wouldn't have heard me anyway, but these are the kind of riders who make mountain bikers look like...boneheads, by taking unnecessary risks on the part of other riders around them.

After the loop section I rode down Bitterbrush to the Antelope trail out and back. At the bottom of Antelope I noticed more of the front end looseness I mentioned about the last ride. I looked at the disk brake in front and tightened it at the mount. I also worked on tightening the front wheel axle (the WTB hub operates differently than I've seen before: it doesn't look like there are cones in there or that the axle is a through-axle.) I also made sure the quick release wasn't loose. Still, the creaking sounds and back and forth rocking are still evident. Maybe it is the fork at the point where the stanchions meet the lower legs. I'd like to get it under control, because after a season of riding it like this something is going to be trashed.

After Antelope I descended the rock garden. That is always a fun one. At one point I was off the saddle, clipped in by my right foot only, and barely hanging on to the bar with my left hand with whatever part of my thumb happened to get caught up on it (I still had a hold on the right end of the bar). I thought I was going to dump it, but for whatever reason I managed to keep it under control while continuing down the trail and got back on to keep going.

In all I felt like I was riding fairly well technically (not flawless on the rock garden though) and my speed was decent both climbing and descending. There is still some twinge of pain behind my right knee on this bike. With the major adjustments to my cleat placement and all the other changes that came from being properly fit on this machine, I am still unsure if this is part of getting used to it or if I need to adjust the fore/aft cleat position. I can't remember which way to go when the back of the knee hurts. I guess I'll just wait until my knee blows and then I'll know what to do. Or I could investigate it further, that might even be better.

The thing that is still so fantastic about riding a mountain bike after seventeen or eighteen years is how big my stupid grin gets afterward. Sitting in a parking lot after a hard effort, it is great to reflect on the day's ride. Everything that went wrong usually disappears and overall elation takes over. It seems like I rediscover this sport after every ride.

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