I went for a mountain bike ride today with a friend. As I loaded the car, I was sure to pack a variety of clothing. We were driving to the trail head and it sits about 2,400 feet higher in elevation than where I live. I wanted to be prepared for wind, rain, and the potential for a hot ride as the sun climbed higher in the sky. I packed a variety of food. Some of which would be eaten on the go as the trail (and my one-handed dexterity) permitted, while other food would require a stop to open and consume. Lastly, I’d want something more filling for the drive home post ride. Maybe I do this because I don’t like to be cold, or maybe it’s because I’m a mom. Whatever the reason, I just like to be prepared.
I go through the same process in preparing my bike for the ride. Tire pressure is checked and adjusted to the characteristics of the trail to be ridden. The chain is checked and lubed if necessary. The hydration pack is filled with water and checked for a multi-tool, tubes, pump, patch kit, and compressed air. Having experienced a variety of mechanical problems along the trail, I like to be prepared to address the issues I may encounter or lend a hand to anyone else in need. Ultimately, however, I’m there to ride and not push my bike back to the car. The people I ride with seem to share this philosophy of preparedness.
As I was riding along a 12 mile loop called Centennial Cone, I encountered 3 mountain bikers from the same team* with matching lycra. The third guy told me that I could expect one more dude wearing the same kit. These were the kind of guys that like to go fast and I was concerned that I might meet Dude #4 on a blind corner. There is some cliff exposure along the particular section of the trail where I was expecting Dude #4. I kept calling out as I approached blind corners in the hopes of alerting anyone who might be flying along the trail to my presence. Nearly two miles passed, and Dude #4 still had yet to make an appearance.
As I approached the crest of a hill, I stopped to wait for my buddy and have a snack (the kind that requires two hands to open). We both took the opportunity to remove excess clothing as all the climbing coupled with the sunshine was warming us up. At this point, we were roughly halfway ~ 6 miles~ into our ride. As we began the descent into Elk Creek, we soon came upon Dude #4 who was pushing his bike up the hill. As he limped along, I could see he had a rear flat, no water, no tools… nothing but him and his bike. I asked if he needed a pump. He replied that he also needed a tube. I suggested that he could use a 26″ wheel tube in his 29″ tire, but he declined. He went on to say that he was the one who came out to ride unprepared, so he would continue walking the remainder of the way. I suspect he had about a 2.5 mile hike ahead of him, based on where he had likely parked and began the ride with his buddies. And his buddies probably still hadn’t realized that he’d crashed out miles before.
At the next stop as I waited for my friend to catch up, I continued to think about Dude #4. How could anyone even consider riding this loop so….. unprepared?? The loop is 12 miles long with 1,850 feet of elevation gain. At some point, even the best of riders will want at least a sip of water. The climbing is strenuous. Once again, at some point, even the best of riders will want a mouthful of energy. I’ve seen broken chains and flats on this trail. Mechanical issues can and do happen to bikes, no matter how well they are cared for. Crashes can and do happen, even to the best of riders.
As I reflect on today’s ride, I’d like to thank Dude #4 for the lessons and reminders. First, thanks for the reminder of why I prepare for a ride the way that I do. I’m thankful that I carry all that extra gear that I don’t need 99% of the time, because I’m there to ride and not hike. I’m thankful that the people I ride with wait for one another at periodic intervals and circle back when it seems to be taking someone too long to appear on the trail. Lastly, thanks for owning your decision to ride unprepared and not interrupting my ride to fix the issues you could have addressed yourself, had you been properly prepared. I suppose all that time hiking with your bike gave you lots of time to think about your ride. I hope it was fun before the crash.
* The team that Dudes 1-4 represent shall remain anonymous.