Fat Tire Tuesday: Staying Upright

Reflections on going for it, even when it’s slick and you might, well, crash

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I had ride plans with a friend of mine this past Sunday.

And on Sunday (as you may have noticed, if you live in Northern California anyway) it was gray, a bit chilly and was pissing down precipitation a good part of the day.  

I checked the hourly forecast. I checked the radar. I looked out the window.  

Then I called the friend I had made ride plans with.

We discussed the options; wasn’t looking like the rain was going to hold off. In fact, that green blob on the radar was getting bigger, moving faster. So… should we ride now? Try to beat the incoming while we can? Don’t ride?

It didn’t take us very long at all to reach a conclusion:

Green blob challenge accepted. And yeah, it gave us hell.

Now, I’m from the land of east coast mountain biking, so riding in wet conditions used to be completely commonplace for me. I know full well that even the most familiar trail transforms into some kind of alternate reality version of itself; it may look the same, but the drizzly-day parallel universe trail is a totally separate entity. The rocks don’t act the same under my tires. The roots I completely ignore when the trail is dry, become key players in steering strategy.

My tires kick mud up into my eyes. My gloves don’t have quite the same traction on the handlebars or the shifters.

I forgot about all of those things. It made me feel like I hadn’t lost my technical, east-coast touch.  

Until the first time I totally ate shit on the ride. I say “first time” because it was in no way the only time.

But it was freakin AWESOME. A bit of a surprise, yes. But still awesome.  

Turns out, I still remember to crash without getting hurt! I know, this might seem like a really strange thing to be stoked about, but being able to come off of the bike properly is just as important as being able to stay on the bike.

I came home from that ride an exhausted mess; the extra effort of trying to control the bike and stay upright, coupled with the times I failed miserably at doing just that, made my usual 20 mile ride feel a LOT longer, and a lot more tiring. And honestly, it takes a lot of energy to pick yourself up off of the ground.

But that was one of the best rides I’ve had in ages!

It was a good reminder about change: we’re not in control of it. We can’t really avoid it. But we can keep our eyes open, crash as smoothly as possible, and laugh about it as we pick ourselves back up off of the ground, and keep pedaling down the trail.

P.S. As tempting as it might be to try and beat the rain, to sneak in that ride … keep in mind you’ll probably get caught out in it, and in many instances, riding wet trails can be damaging. Read MTB Rules for Rainy Season Riding reprinted with permission from Hilltromper, and/or contact your local trail advocacy organization for guidelines specific to your area.


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​Fat Tire Tuesday columnist Sarah Hansing has been slinging wrenches as a pro bike mechanic for 15 years (with the exception of a one year stint working for Trek Bicycles in Wisconsin.) Epicenter Cycling scooped her up as their lead mechanic and the shop’s crew plans to ​keep her forever. Sarah loves riding singlet​rack, wrenching on bikes, and hanging out with her jerk-face but adorable cat Harlan. (Who is a jerk.)

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