A Meditation on Gear, In List Fashion

The equation biking + capitalism means that I ride, and I buy stuff for riding. I’ve even created a line item in our family budget for bike stuff. Mostly, I try and keep it within the dollar amounts that my wife spends on her: a. hair; b. clothing. I figure, that way, she can’t exclaim that I am wasting too much money on this frivolous avocation.

Boy, it adds up though. In a way, I miss those old days when I was a runner and all I needed was: 1. pair of flimsy running shorts, 2. running shoes. Simple. Clean. Unencumbered. Cheap.

Mountain biking requires gear. Or maybe the truth is this: Men, as they age, require more gear. (Is it because we fear death, as Olivia Dukakis said so well in Moonstruck? As if more gear will make us immortal?)

I suppose the following are true:

1. Men do fear death, and some gear does help allay that fear (helmet, gloves, good brakes, giant suspension systems, automatic seat post elevators, navigation systems, padded shorts to protect one’s taint, etc.).

2. Biking is a complex task, and the mere fact that a bike is involved means there will be gear involved, because things wear out, such as: chains, cassettes, seals, racks, tires, grips, locks, and such.

3. Gear is cool–and we are conditioned to believe that said gear is cool and very, very necessary. We need these things because: i. they help us ride better; ii. in capitalism, if you can sell desire, selling the product is so much simpler.

All that said, I really like my new socks, from Mountain Flyer Mag. I got them with a new two-year subscription.

It’s All in Your Head

There are those certain special sections on your local ride. You know them well. They’re sorta scary, but not really dangerous. But the line is difficult to find. Often you pedal up to the first part of a series of obstacles–waterbars, rocks, roots, drop-offs, etc.–and you hit it, determined to fly over the damn thing.

But it never happens. You stall and clip out, or just fall over, or pitch backward onto your keester.

Probably your best chance of clearing this section of trail was the first time you rode it, because you weren’t thinking too much. About how difficult the section is. How you’ve never cleared it. How your buddy clears it all the time–taking different lines each time! (The bastard.)

It’s in your head. Failure. Deep in there somewhere, the idea rests: I will never clear this section.

This idea informs your body, which informs your bike, which makes you get right up to the spot and you spin out, fall over, clip out, smash into something, and so on.

There are some sections of trail that used to be challenging and seemingly impossible, but gradually you figured out a way to get through them. Because always in your head you knew you could clear it. Failure was not ingrained. But these other sections are different. They own you.

There are many places on the local trails around Denver that are in my head. And I wonder if they will always be that way. Someday I’m going to reach my pinnacle of physical power and balance, meaning if I don’t clear them soon–like before I turn 50 or something–then I’ll never clear them.

First, I have to get the idea of failure out of my superior thinking machine. I must refuse to be owned by these meddlesome sections.

Here are two pics of such sections. They’re both at White Ranch, in Golden Colorado.

This one is right in the beginning of the route from the lower lot (going down is easy; going up sucks, as you have to balance and ride up the narrow ramp).

And here’s another. It looks simple enough, but the entrance–where that little waterbar crosses over–has always stumped me. And after that, I haven’t even thought about a possible line.