Climb-Centricity

I admit to having a sinister side–but I’m not that sinister.

When my linebacker-sized buddy told me he wanted to give mountain biking a
shot, I set up a Saturday ride with what I expected would be a fun ride and
perhaps favor my abilities just a little–all climbing above a ski hill.
Besides the new guy, Mike, I’d have Matt, a technical rider with a thing for
downhilling, along for the ride, so I figured the two of us could get Mike
hooked on both the descending and ascending aspects of the sport.

Everything played into my plotting so well: It was chilly Saturday morning,
so my excuse for choosing a climbing-centric route was that we’d get warmer
climbing than we would downhilling. Besides, you’ve got to go up to get back
down, right?

The route was actually the extra loop that the expert and pro-class riders
had to cover in the Kelly Canyon race. The climb was probably a mere three
or four miles, and in the beginning, it really wasn’t too bad. We had to
portage over a fence and a creek, but the bumpy, dirty jeep-trail-looking
ride wasn’t too much of a challenge.

When I stopped at the first fork in the road, I was a little surprised at
the sight behind me. To my surprise, Mike was actually doing really well.
Why did this surprise me? Even when people are athletic they usually have a
tough time making the transition over to riding. Mike was clearly the
exception. But Matt, the veteran, looked like he was still recovering from
his summer internship (which was spent at a deskjob in Seattle–meaning it
didn’t do a lot for his cardiovascular endurance). When they pulled up, I
turned to Matt, "Hey," I said, pointing at Mike, "I think we have a convert
here."

Immediately after stopping, we rounded the next corner and discovered a
psychotically steep section looming ahead of us. I dropped into the crunch
position and still got stumped by the obstacles, forcing me to put a foot
down. My riding partners had to walk the whole thing–okay, so Mike still
had a little room to grow.

What seemed like a half-second later, we’d spilled out onto the radio tower
switchbacks–and I was back in the crunch position trying not to get dumped
off the trail. But, alas, my efforts were in vain as I was, again, forced to
put a foot down. Okay, so I have room to grow too.

I made it to the top a few minutes before Mike & Matt, who had to walk up
some of the steeper parts. But it didn’t take them long to see why this
particular ride is worth the sweat: Eastern Idaho can be kinda pretty in the
fall–even to a Bostonian and an Ohioan. Already, I’d lost all concerns
about Mike not getting hooked on mountain biking–he was sold before we even
got to the rocky stuff. On the flip side, I was a little more concerned
about Matt, who looked like he was hating being back in the saddle. The last
thing I wanted to do was convince one guy to love riding while persuading
another to quit altogether, but it looked like that’s what was happening.

My worries were compounded when I couldn’t find the connection to Moose Run,
the only part of the ride I knew Matt would love because of his downhilling
thrillride obsession. Instead, we crawled off the mountain on the ski
slope–a far more steep and dangerous route.

So that’s my curiosity at the moment: how do you satisfy both the downhill
demons and the mountain goats when you ride? How do you involve the veterans
and the greenies when everyone’s riding at a different level and pace? My
solution was just to make sure to stop and regroup regularly, but I’m not
sure that completely worked. Hey, I got one recruit, but I might’ve chased
off another.

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