Off-road Revival, Part IV

While you crazy roadies were busy crashing each another out at Merco, guess what I was doing?

Downhill bike? Downhill shorts? Shin pads? What the $&^%? For God’s sake, that bike has a 24″ rear wheel!

For those of you who have started reading this blog recently, I’ve chronicled my stilted return to mountain biking (Part I, Part II, and Part III) over the past six months. This “off-road revival” culminated in a less-than-stellar XC racing re-debut.

However, my latest mountain biking escapade has clearly overshot “revival.” Perhaps “off-road midlife crisis” is more appropriate.

I suppose a bit of background might be useful. Allow me to introduce you to my friend Rafer. Rafer partakes in every activity you would imagine from a guy named “Rafer”: hiking, skiing, downhill mountain biking, surfing, and (apparently) road bike wheelies*. Oh yeah, and he’s earning an MD/PhD, but that doesn’t fit his namesake as well as all the “Xtreme” stuff he does outside academics.

While Rafer looks ridiculous attempting to wheelie a road bike, he’s far more comfortable “hucking” his bike off “eight-foot drops,” as illustrated here.

Rafer has been trying to get me to ride “real bikes” since my freshman year in college, right about the time I quit mountain biking altogether and took up full-time road racing. I resisted for nearly five years, but one can only resist Rafer’s charm for so long.

That brings us to Sunday afternoon, when I found myself uncomfortably astride one of Rafer’s two DH mountain bikes at a park just outside Laguna Niguel in Orange County. As you can see, I hated every moment of it.

I have to admit, when pointed downhill, a DH bike is a dream come true (redundant, I know). As a lifelong hardtail-with-Rockshox-SID rider, I’m accustomed to gingerly finessing my flimsy bike around boulders. The highlight of Sunday’s ride (for me, at least) was the moment I realized that nothing short of a Honda Civic could cause this bike to deviate from its line.

The highlight of the ride for Rafer was the moment at which I succumbed to gravity (and its effect on an obese DH bike), and began walking my bike up the trail. “Haha, I never thought I’d see the day that Rand walked his bike up hill!” he exclaimed, giggling like a school girl.

Whatever, bro. I looked hella “Pro Downhiller” pushing that bike up the hill.

Overall, we had a great time. It was a beautiful, cool, overcast day and the trails were perfect. Rafer enjoyed showing off his descending prowess, while I was thrilled to discover an entirely new genre of cycling. In the end, I concluded that downhill/freeride is a mixed bag: walking 45 pound bikes uphill sucks royally, but the plush suspension and handling almost makes it worth the effort.

After all that, am I going to go out and buy a DH bike? It’s tempting…

…but unlikely. I just spent the last thirty minutes gluing up my new tubulars.

I guess I’ll always be a sissy roadie at heart. Sorry Rafer!

*Oh yeah, and just for historical accuracy, I should mention that Rafer totally bailed on this wheelie and ended up on his back, still clipped in. Ha!

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