I realized today that I haven’t ridden a mountain bike on singletrack (dirt) in roughly six months. I rode some snow packed fat bike trails on the Farley this winter, but I haven’t been on dry, woodsy singletrack in six freaking months! That’s sort of unacceptable… except when it is.
There are various factors that play into my lack of singletrack riding. Mostly it’s due to the fact that through the late fall and the long Michigan winter I spent most of my ride time on my fat bike, even before the snow and ice came.
I rambled, lumbered, rolled, and crept over everything that rural Michigan has to offer: muddy dirt and gravel farm roads, packed snow-covered trails and roads and sheets of solid ice. While there were some weeks over the winter that I was only getting out once or twice, the important part was that I was getting out. And the amount of full weeks I went without any rides at all were few and far between. While time on the bloated beast couldn’t fully replace the joy of singletrack, it sure did help with my winter survival.
As winter came to a close, I looked in the mirror at the bags of gelatinous flesh hanging off of me and realized that riding 20 to 25 miles once or twice week did wonders for my mental health over the winter, but it did very little to help control my weight (nor did multiple six packs of strong IPAs a week).
So it was time to hit the road so as to pile up miles and time on the bike in an effort to shed at least some of that winter blubber that I was now encased in. Where I once spent my early springs stacking up base miles for the mountain bike race season ahead, I seem to have now gone full circle back to how I got into cycling in the first place: riding miles and miles to shed fat [see the August, 2014 post My Cycling Metamorphosis].
Just like it did 20+ years ago, it started working. I dropped a few pounds and found myself eager to keep riding and keep piling up miles and saddle time. I also found that without putting any sort of pressure on myself to be in “race shape,” I was enjoying these long rides more that I had in a while. To be clear, even when I was racing, my “race shape” was just trying to be fit enough not to embarrass myself!
The combination of once again enjoying riding for three or so hours at time and the opportunity to upgrade my cross bike (that I never race cross on) now has me continuing to “road ride” over whatever crap paved, dirt and gravel roads Michigan can throw at me.
The miles and hours have been piling up yet somehow I have neglected to even air up the tires on my mountain bike or get around putting pedals back on it. I love my mountain bike and I love riding singletrack, but what I am finding more and more is that I just love riding my bike.
Along with realizing the abscense of singletrack in my life, I’ve also realized that it’s now been over a full year since I last raced my bike. That is the first time in maybe fifteen years or more that I can say that. I’m not happy about that, but I’m also not all that upset about it. I have a feeling that sooner or later I will do some races again, but I’m also not going to jump through hoops to make it happen. I mean there are plenty of other things that I’m bad at to focus on!
All joking aside, I hope I can get back to feeling comfortable racing while on blood thinners or at least find away to juggle the dosage to make race day less dangerous in the event of a crash. Until then I’m going to keep trying to log hours on the bike, try to get my fitness and weight back to where I want, and of course get back to riding singletrack: six months is WAY to long to got without!