Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Difference Between Road Riding and Mountain Biking

Up until a couple months ago my only real cycling experience was what I would consider "mountain biking". As I was growing up, biking shifted from the ultra-cool-in-the-early-80's-ten speed road bike, to the take-on-any-trail-fat-tire-mountain bike of the 90's, so I grew up riding mostly on dirt, not the road. This was so pronounced that I thought it blog worthy some twenty years later when I finally got my first road bike.

Saturday, Todd suggested that we get in a mountain bike ride, and I thought that was a great idea. I've been riding a good amount on the road so I figured my legs would be good, my lungs would be in fair shape and we'd have a great time. I dusted off the old GT mountain bike that I got for a high school graduation present, put some air in the tires, cleaned and lubed the chain, and we were ready to go. Todd was driving a sweet full suspension Kona bike that made my GT look like a child's plaything. I did at least have front suspension even though it was probably only like 2 inches o travel. Anyway, it's not about the bike right?

So Todd takes us to this place only ten minutes from my house that I never even knew existed. It was great. We headed out and things were going well, although I was quickly realizing how different riding dirt was versus pavement. I didn't know how used to skinny tires I was until I was riding dirt and fearing that every little thing I ran over would blow a tire or send me flying. Also, I was a little disappointed in how my road cycling legs and lungs were not in as good of shape when it came to riding the dirt. I was winded and panting, and my legs were burning from standing up so much. That said, I was having a blast. Poor Todd, who has done more mountain riding than me for sure and was tearing up the trails on his killer bike, was having to wait for me to catch up every few minutes or so. I'd catch up, make one comment about how great mountain biking was, one comment about how being in shape for road biking doesn't translate to mountain biking, attempt to quickly catch my breath, and then we'd be off again. Life was good.

Up to this point, my only real problem was that I wore sunglasses that weren't meant for that type of abuse. They were constantly sliding down my nose and taking a hand off the wheel to push my shades back on was a dangerous maneuver. Todd and I regrouped again, and he asked if I wanted to take the lead. Naturally, this is an offer that cannot be refused. I did however, have to throw in the obligatory, I'll happily take the lead but you'll be suffering slowly behind me. Fair enough, he was up for a different view and would try not to run me over.

My lead lasted about 500 yards. At that point we came to the first fairly technical, for me anyway, maneuver of the day. We were riding along the top of a ravine, but the the trail took an abrupt 90 degree left turn and headed strait down the ravine, and then strait back up the other side. I saw this coming and stopped short, allowing Todd to pull up next to me. Putting my pride way to the side, I said "You can go". With a knowing smile he agreed, gave me some advice like just ride down it, and then he was off. He was down, hit the stream, and was back up on the other side in an instant. Looked easy enough. I wasn't going to sit there and stare at this thing all day, so without thinking too much, I took off on a similar line that Todd took down the ravine expecting to hit the stream and pop back up the other side. Well, I went down the ravine, I hit the stream, and then I hit the ground. Hard. Yup, strait over the handlebars.

I haven't taking a fall like that in I don't know how long. It was literally over before it began, I was just on the ground, assessing the damage. Right forearm: not good; legs: OK; right hip: so-so; head: OK. I was managing to laugh it off at this point, and pretty sure I even got out a "Man down" distress call out to Todd, who was now stopped a hundred or so yards up the trail and enjoyed a great view of the whole thing. I got up, and started walking up the trail. I was holding my bike with my right arm to test it. I could hold my bike with it, which in my professional medical opinion meant that it wasn't broken, so that's good. I made it up to Todd, when the real fun began. I got woozy, and when I say woozy, I mean about to pass out woozy. Ridiculous. Like I said I haven't taken a fall or injury like this in some time, but passing out, come on Clay. Well, I didn't pass out, but I definitely had to sit on a log for a bit. I had my head in between my knees and everything was fine. I'd sit strait up and like a light switch it was back to woozy. After a couple minutes of this, and a drink of some carbo rocket, I was feeling better, but still bleeding like a sieve. It wasn't like a scrap or anything, it was a deep puncture wound, the kind that just keeps on bleeding. Todd dumped some water on it, so soon we were ready to go. I got back on the horse and we continued to have an awesome ride. The second half of our ride was actually more fun than the first. We got into some fun singletrack stuff that was really narrow, some fast downhill stuff, and a couple fun, tricky climbs. Luckily for me there were no more ravines. We made it back to the truck, where Todd took some pictures with his iPhone. The diference between road biking and mountain biking...blood.We drove home, me in the passenger seat, arm out the window, proud of my fresh battle wound. The real pain had yet to sit in. I got home, impressed (read disgusted) the wife with my tale and the wound, and finally went about cleaning it out. Any glory in a gash like this is lost went you start cleaning it out with hydrogen peroxide. Not fun at all. Plus after it was bandaged up, that's when the throbbing and deep pain started. Becky was trying to convince me to go get stitches but I didn't think it warranted it. Later that night when the bleeding still wouldn't stop, I put on a butterfly stitch and that helped out a bit. It finally stopped bleeding about 3 or 4 o'clock the next day. And today, the throbbing has stopped although for some reason it is hot to the touch which I'm sure means something that I'm not going to be excited about.

All in all, it was a great ride. I think it's good to really fall hard every once in a while, at least that's what I'm telling myself. More mountain bike rides to come, hopefully sans injury.


  1. So are we on for more bloody riding a.k.a mt biking next weekend?

  2. I'll be in D.C. Friday and most of Saturday, but we might be able to get in a mountain bike ride. I had a blast last time, minus that whole over the handlebars thing. We'll get back out there soon.


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