24 November 2023

Archival footage: My Week of Riding Dangerously [UPDATED]

The following essay was posted to both the Rigid/Hardtail and the 50+ Years Old forums at mtbr.com on 24 November 2023.

Turned 57 a couple weeks ago. Means I've been riding mountain bikes for close to 40 years now. 

As happens to some of us, I ended up hanging on to many of my old bikes, and have acquired and restored a couple other vintage rigs over the years, too.  Several of my older bikes are still intact and quite rideable.  The rest have essentially become organ donors or wall-art, so in a sense still "around" if only in spirit.
Quite literally hanging on (the ceiling) to several old bikes
Had an idea pop into my head the other day, as a kind of 57th birthday commemoration, that I'd ride (as-in really ride, on singletrack trails, out in the woods, just like I used to back-in-the-day) some of my oldest bikes over the course of a few days in the vicinity of my birthday and try to hit as close to an aggregate 57 miles as I could in the process. Rounding upward by just a few tenths, I pretty much nailed it at the end of Day 4 of what I've decided to call: My Week of Riding Dangerously

It was brutal. It was amazing. Effort was expended. Flow was elusive. Skin was lost. Blood was shed.

Flats: 0
Broken body/bike parts: 0
Dabs, portages, mulligans: lost count

I've no regrets. 

My Week of Riding Dangerously was everything I wanted/needed it to be: a fully analog, thoroughly tactile, uninsulated reminder of so many of the aesthetics and sensations that initially drew me into the sport in the first place so many years ago.  

If you've still got an old bike or two hanging around in your garage, I encourage you to dust it off, pump up the tires, and take if for a legit spin on your local XC trails... Just one old dood's opinion, but I think it's good for our aging souls to reminisce, and to reflect on how far things have come in the decades that have passed since we first got started riding bikes on trails.  

I'll leave you with a few terribly obvious observations from My Week of Riding Dangerously:
  • Disc brakes are so much better than cantis... but cantis worked back then, and they still do today.
  • Dropper posts are essential to effective and responsive bike handling... but ride an old bike around for a bit and you'll quickly recall how steep and quick you can still ride without ever lowering your saddle.
  • Suspension forks, tubeless tires, wide bars, short stems, beefy rims, and slack geometry definitely enhance bike handling in innumerable positive ways... but the truth of the matter is, you can still have a great nostalgic time shredding around on rigid, narrow, long, and steep sh!t, too.  You're just not going to be able to do it as fast or effectively as you're accustomed to.  And in my book, to on occasion be reminded of how far you've come, and how much things have changed (mostly for the better), isn't really a bad thing,
Below are some sexy iPhone portrait-mode pictures of the bikes and the distances/elevations I rode during My Week of Riding Dangerously.

1994 Breezer Lightning -- 12 miles -- 1000 feet elev.

1991 Ibis Mountain Trials -- 13 miles -- 1100 feet elev.

1992 Retrotec -- 16 miles -- 1800 feet elev.

1985 Rock Lobster -- 16 miles -- 1300 feet elev.

UPDATE: 25 November 2023
Thought this response to my original post in MTBR's Rigid/Hardtail forum, along with my reply, merited inclusion here.
I make a rule that every new bike purchase must be followed by selling a bike.
Thanks for confirming this is a good policy.
I guess I could see your point... if we were talking about shoes, or T-shirts, or even skis... there are lots of things that we own which were at one point cool or fashionable or top-tier-tech that tend to lose their luster or efficacy over time. That kind of stuff is consumable, it wears out and becomes just so much trash.

But there are other things, like old bikes and cars and tractors, which, while no longer top-tier by any means, are nonetheless, if they've been well-maintained or carefully restored, still perfectly viable, even dare-I-say pleasurable, as modes of transport if you're willing to shift your mental space into a more nostalgic mode whenever you intend to enjoy them.

I'm really, really glad I've kept my old bikes.

Pretty sure my urge to hang on to, and likewise to ride these old bikes out in the woods once in a while, is triggered by the same part of my brain-stem that salves the old dude's desire to drive around town on Friday night in his sweet 1970 Oldsmobile 442, which it just so happens is exactly like the one he drove in high school... or the the war vet's compulsion to meticulously restore and tractor around the fairgrounds on Labor Day weekend in his old 1928 John Deere, which looks, sounds and smells just like the one he grew up driving on the farm back-home.


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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey