As they say, even the best laid plans go awry. When it comes to mountain biking, that adage seems even more apt. It isn’t so much if something will go wrong, but rather when something will go wrong. This is even more true when my planning “style” is taken into account. Most of my plans consist of vague ideas in my mind that I don’t fully communicate. I tend to take a laissez-faire attitude towards planning, and when paired with Mikal, someone that has even more of a laid back attitude than I, the odds of something, nay, many things going wrong increases exponentially.
And so it was that we formulated the best plan we could. Go ride mountain bikes, in Frederick. As far as plans go, this one was pretty solid, it had all the necessary details. I found a few routes I put on my GPS, so we could follow the little purple line, with which I became so intimately familiar over the past summer.
Alas, this plan would not come together so simply. The day before the ride, issues started creeping up. Issues that were easily solvable. The timing and nature of the issues caused enough frustration to consider cancelling the ride, but I wasn’t going to let that happen.
The first problem? A broken front wheel.
No problem, I’ve got tons of wheels. Issue sorted.
Next problem? A broken shift cable.
No problem, I’ve got a shift cable and will adjust it for free. A ground rule was set: don’t touch anything else on your bike without direct supervision.
With all our bases covered, the plan took a firmer shape. Meet at my house at whatever time, we’ll fix bikes, then we’ll ride. Bike fixing commenced promptly at the agreed upon time of “whenever”. Things were going swimmingly, the front derailleur was working as well as possible. But, there was yet another problem with the front wheel. My rotor was too big, it wouldn’t fit in the brake caliper. So, we headed to Mikal’s place to get his broken wheel and poach a rotor. Laughing, making fun of our lack of planning, we finally got things sorted and out on the road.
An hour later, we pulled into the parking lot to freezing temps and a light snow falling. The bike repairs continued in the parking lot, with a last second rotor install, and then we were finally off. Home free!
We started off down the trail, happy to finally be riding, when I realized my bike was making a horrible noise. An unnatural squealing. It sounded like something on my bike was dying a horrible, slow, painful death. So, no more than two minutes into the ride, we were stopped, with a bike upside down. It was determined, through committee vote, that my front wheel would not spin. Upon close inspection, I realized that my front hub was seized. Seized as in not spinning at all. The only way to get my wheel to spin was to have it so loose in the dropouts that I could feel it wobble laterally, which is very confidence inspiring.
Mikal said we could stop if I wasn’t up to it, but forget that. After the previous day, as well as the ridiculous morning, I was determined to ride, front wheel be damned. So we rode on, through the snow, the cold, the ice, and the rocks. And it was awesome. The falling snow made it feel like we were cheating. Like we weren’t supposed to be outside riding bikes on a day like this, and certainly not supposed to be having fun. After the troubles we had experienced, the ride plan changed. We would do the short route and focus on having fun. It was a great day to be outside, so we stopped a lot (a lot) to ride challenging sections, continuously fix bikes, and take pictures.
It seemed that finally, the bike issues were behind us. But, when it rains, it pours (or snows in this case). Mikal’s bike started making a noise. This noise was definitely less frightening than the noise my bike made earlier in the day, but it was nonetheless not the kind of sound a well tuned bike should be making. Once again we stopped, a bike went upside down, only to discover that a rotor was coming unscrewed. Who knew that Philips head screws with no loctite was insufficient to keep a rotor securely fastened? (I did).
So we now had one bike with a front wheel that didn’t spin, and another bike with a rear brake that was at risk of failing catastrophically. Nothing to do but keep riding, I guess. Another 20 minutes of riding, and my rear tire went flat. We stopped again, bikes on the ground and I pumped up my tire.
Back on the bikes, more technical terrain, more fun.
This was a day that seemed would never get started, and once it did get started, the universe seemed determined to stop us dead in our tracks. With a little mental fortitude, a shift in the game plan, and a determination to ride, we were able to turn what could have been a horrible day into a solid, fun day of riding. I think this is one of the most important aspects of sport: learning to deal with adversity in a positive manner. Some of the most memorable, enjoyable days on the bike have also been some of the difficult. This was certainly a great day in the woods on the bike.