Picking up the story from two weeks ago – after running all over town to acquire a replacement wheel and pants that didn’t make me want to stab myself, it was back to my luxuriously appointed Hilton Garden Inn room to prepare for the next day’s fun. I swapped my tire over to the new wheel and put it on the bike, noting that the addition of the new wheel transformed my high-performance Yeti to a Wal Mart bike, at least in weight, but no matter, I was going to ride!
Saturday I headed out mid morning. The roads, which in this city are reportedly horrid during the week, were wide open and I got to my location in the low foothills in good time.
Whenever I ride at a new place, I try to first pick a “calibration trail.” This is a trail I’ll ride to get a sense of how they rate trails in the area. Seattle has a lot of steep, rocky, rooty trails, so even a trail marked “Beginner” will have some gnarly-ish sections. Over my years as a mountain biker, and, especially as I pass through middle age, I have struggled to get good information about trails, because everyone wants to put me on the dirt equivalent of the Burke-Gilman. Don’t get me wrong, the Burke is an excellent urban paved trail, but it’s not much fun if you’re trying to mountain bike.
So, when I first ride in a new area, I start with a trail that’s perceived as intermediate, both to find out what the bikers in the area consider intermediate, and to give me a comparison point if later I ask a local for trail suggestions.
You’re all wondering, right? Was the trail really intermediate? Was it so advanced I could barely ride it? Did I fall asleep on it because it was so boring?
It was more exciting than the Burke-Gilman, but it wasn’t super-thrilling either. There were a few sections that offered a technical and less-technical option, but for the most part there were very few roots, rocks, and steeps. The scenery was pretty and there were enough ups and downs that I got a nice workout and a warmup for the next trail. And I got an annoying guy who advised that I take the easy way around one of the technical sections, because of course he knows more about me after riding behind me for 2 seconds than I know about myself, but, I digress.
Next I tried the super-advanced black diamond trail. Now this … this trail was fun. There were a lot of short, steep ups and downs, many of which had roots and rocks to keep it interesting. Much of the trail ran alongside a beautiful, placid lake. There were technical climbs that took me a couple of tries to “clean.” (Mountain-biker for riding all the way through without stopping or putting a foot down.) There were some other riders also trying to “clean” stuff, so I had nice people to commiserate with. There was one really long climb with insanely tight switchbacks that I might have been able to ride if I had been fresh, but it came at the end of the ride and I confess that I walked most of it. In Seattle this would have been considered high-intermediate, or maaaaybe entry-level advanced, but it was big fun.
Nevertheless, my ride completely wore me out. Maybe it was all the spurts of intense effort required to get up and over the technical steeps on the advanced trail, or maybe it was residual jet lag, but after the second trail I was so hungry and burned out I didn’t think it would be a good idea to tackle another trail. So, instead I went to the Applebee’s at the next exit down the highway and ate the universe (don’t judge – Applebee’s has some tasty grub).
Tune in next week for the second-day ride report, where I’ll discuss the merits of riding on one wheel versus two.