There was a time, now almost literally years ago, that me talking about riding dirt meant one thing– singletrack. These days most of my miles spent on dirt are of the dirt road variety. Something that I find to be a hexagonal tug of war equal parts a challenging, loved, creative spike to the vein, and a depressing, sad, pathetic state of my cycling life. The latter is rarely thought of unless I start to think about the days of racing–or just plain ol’ riding–my mountain bike in the woods for long periods of time.
Don’t to fooled by my “racing.” Yes, I did it, but anyone familiar with me personally or The Soiled Chamois v.1, knows that I did it pretty poorly. Sure, I had a couple of age group podiums here or there, and in the infancy of endurance mountain bike racing I was happy enough to finish mid, to upper mid pack. But eventually I became thrilled just to limp across a finish line knowing that I completed something that many non cycling “civilians” would never attempt.
Truthfully I am pretty happy with riding just to ride, and riding dirt roads, I have no reason not to be. After the thousands of dollars I spent on racing over the years, followed by navigating three DVTs without major issues (i.e., death) I am more than content to be cruising Michigan dirt roads with my camera.
Don’t make me write it! I CAN’T!!… I WON’T!!!.. OH SHIT, HERE IT COMES!!!…
OH, F*CKING HELL, I WROTE IT!!! SOMEBODY SHOOT ME IN THE F*CKING FACE!
Some of those negative-ish thoughts were spawned from recently seeing the amount of traffic this blog gets via some other real(er) cycling sites. I appreciate the linkage, and I thank them for even thinking to share this dross with their readers, but I also imagine the utter deflation those readers have when they arrive here and see that while the sites they came from wielded well crafted tales of exciting picturesque outdoor adventures, or hilarious single speed bike racing and debauchery, this site is just some middle-aged dude riding his bike around dirt roads taking photos of cows, bitching about the weather and how fat he’s getting.
In a way, I’m sorry, not sorry. To quote the great elbow nippled philosopher Popeye, “I am what I am, and that’s all that I am.” A quote that I would consider more of an empowering life mantra if I didn’t know that I live a good hunk of my non cycling blog life steeped in regret, failure, shame, and embarrassment of what I’ve made (or haven’t made) of myself.
All that stuff of course reeks of negative hyperbole, and it very much is to an extent (’tis my nature). But I’m man enough (sort of) to admit that on a rare, sunny, Michigan spring day, with a few hours at my disposal, the first thing I thought of was not whether the trails were in good enough shape to ride, but whether or not the dirt roads were firming up and would make for good riding. Followed by whether I should use my cross bike, or my hard tail with the fork locked out, and whether I should I take the Nikon or the Fuji. For the record: hard tail, fork locked out, Nikon with the 70/300 kits lens. All were good choices.
I rode dirt roads south of town, and was more than happy with the road conditions. Most all of the roads were tacky and firm, or dry and hard packed. As a bonus, some of the roads that in a few weeks time will be fish tailing stretches of deep, dry sand were made firm by the rain, sleet, and ice brought by what now passes for winter in global warmed central Michigan.
Riding the PrOcal felt right in many ways. While the dirt roads were dryer than I hoped, many are still in pretty rough shape, and the fatter tires (with fast rolling WTB Nano 2.1s on), added some much need comfort over the ride’s 36 miles. I have to admit, there are times that I find myself totally in lust with the idea of a Salsa Cutthroat. I think that bike would just be the swellest for these sort of rides. Why the hell do I own TWO mountain bikes, PLUS a fat bike?? Dumb.
The ride was nearly the exact opposite of Tuesday’s ride. Tuesday the weather was cool and gray, I rode the Boone, shot with the Fuji X-T1, and all but 5 miles were done on paved roads north of town. Wednesday it was sunny with blue skies, I rode the PrOcal, shot with the Nikon, and all but 2 of the 36.5 miles were done on dirt roads south of town.
I hadn’t been south of town in a long time. Most of my favorite roads are south, and it was nice to be on them again, as well as see all the trees that are tapped with sap running freely into catheter bags destined first for a sugar shack, then bottles of homemade maple syrup. FYI, when I say sugar shack I am in no way referring to the bedroom that Wifey and I share.
I guess I’ve made up for my recent short posts with this long winded prose about virtually nothing. In the end, if I’m honest with myself, I don’t really miss racing my mountain bike all that much, and given last summer’s constant back pain that made riding singletrack less than fun, I’m quite happy (enough) to be riding dirt roads somewhat pain free, and trying lose a few pounds (I hope). I’m sure there will be some singletrack miles in my future this season, but I have no doubt those miles will be dwarfed by dirt and gravel road miles, and time with my camera. What can I say, I am what I am, and that’s all that I am. Except when I’m not.