The mountain bike trail May 14, 2013
Phoenix, Arizona in May. It’s really getting too hot to go mountain bike riding at noon anymore. This is the story of my biking experience in the heat and of Rob, my mountain bike hero.
Rob and I decided we need some exercise and decided to go on a mountain bike ride. There is this mountain bike trail along a park called Deem Hills that is close to our house. We can bike to the park and then bike the trail, then bike home. All together it usually takes an hour to an hour and a half from garage back to garage, probably 6 miles total, about three miles along the road and 3 miles of mountain bike trail. This trail is probably “medium” in difficulty, but I’m fairly new to mountain biking. The trail is rocky and the beginning goes on a consistent upward incline with a lot of rocks. I have biked this trail many times, but it is not easy for me. The beginning of the trail always kicks my ass, but usually in a good way. Well on this day it was an asskicker in a big way and not in a good way. I was already sorta tired just getting to the trail, it was a little too hot out, maybe 90F, and it’s dry and sandy. I started out up the trail and was doing good, then got to the gnarly stuff and my front tire hit a rock and I just stopped. Once I was stopped I could not get going again, I’d try to get on my bike and the back tire would “spin out” and I couldn’t get momentum going and would either stop or fall. Repeat scenario. Repeat scenario again…. like 20+ times. I was so hot and exhausted. I fell onto my bike a few times and jammed my leg and then my pelvis on the bike frame. I was fighting for breath with sweat pouring off my face. Rob was ahead of me, merrily pedaling along as though he was on flat ground. Oh fuck, sometimes it sucks doing physical activities with someone who has more experience and is in much better shape than me. Anyway, I could see Rob headed toward the top of the hill as I am spinning out, falling over, overheating, now in pain and generally suffering in my own personal version of hell. Determined to ride the bike instead of walking it up I tried again, and again. My heart was pounding out of my chest as I expended enormous amounts of energy to move only a couple inches at a time. Finally I fell over and too exhausted to get back up, I vomited on the side of the trail…. just a little. I just sat there breathing with my bike in the middle of the trail. I sat there several minutes before I felt well enough to look up along the trail and see where Rob was. Rob was waiting patiently at the top.
I gave up and walked a section over the worst rocks, then got back on the bike and biked up to the top of the hill. Rob sat there staring at me while I biked up; I was utterly exhausted. As I biked up to him, struggling to breathe, he congratulated me: “good job bud, you did really good”…. Hmmmm…… You know… This should be something that I think is really nice of him, but I do think that it’s a little ridiculous that he always tells me stuff like this, even in a case like this day, where I obviously really couldn’t have done much worse. I found his overly nice and encouraging attitude patronizing and annoying. I told him so. He told me that at was being ridiculous, and that at least I was doing it and not sitting on the couch. He also told me that if he expects me to be as good at mountain biking as he is that it wouldn’t be fun for me and I wouldn’t like it, and he wants me to like it. Ok, fine, I guess he has a point. Ok, but just let me breathe before I go on the rest of the trail.
I rested at the top of the hill for about 10 minutes before we continued on. Rob waited for me patiently before we kept going. The rest of the trail is fun. It has some rocks and ups and downs, but at least has enough breaks to catch my breath as I go along. We rolled along and it was really hot out and I still didn’t feel quite right. I wasn’t doing very well, but I was determined to stay on the bike for the rest of the trail and not walk anymore.
While cruising along the ridge of the trail, about halfway done, I hit a rock and my rear tire suddenly hissed and went flat. I stopped to look at it. One of the spokes broke and went through the tire. It looked bad. Rob came back to check on me. I had nothing with me to try to fix this. I frequently mountain bike alone with no repair kit. Even if I had one I wouldn’t know how to use it. Rob had a full repair kit with him. He is trying to get me to learn how to do stuff, so he started unpacking stuff and telling me to get the tire off the wheel: I’m going to put in an inner tube. Of course I’m hot and tired and frustrated. It doesn’t go well. I take an extraordinarily long time getting the wheel off the bike and untangled from the bike chain, then can’t seem to get the edge of the tire off the wheel and I’m ready to cry. Rob eventually gets frustrated with my inadequacy and takes over. He gives me one job: I need to hold some valve part for the tire as he works.
He takes the wheel off the bike and the tire off the wheel. He gets the inner tube in the tire and the wheel mounted back on the bike. And then asks me to give him the part I was holding. I went to hand it to him and immediately dropped it…. Into a rattlesnake hole. It rolled along the trail and fell into a hole next to the trail. Well, at least it looked like a rattlesnake hole. “Oops. Well, that probably is gone forever” I said. I crawled along the ground and started digging at the hole to try to find the part. Rob told me not to look for the part as the last thing we need is me to be bitten by a rattlesnake.
Well, the tire had a great new tube, but it sort of needed that part to hold air in. The tire could be filled with air, but it leaked back out through the valve. Rob pumped the tire up with a hand pump to the best of his ability and then told me to ride it off the mountain as fast as I can before it loses all its air. I start headed down the trail but the tire went flat within minutes. Rob pumped it up again. I rode it again for about 2 minutes and it went flat again. I was hot, tired and frustrated. I ran out of water. I told him I’ll just walk the bike back home, which is about 3 miles off the mountain and along the road. Rob didn’t want to do that. He switched bikes with me and pumped up my tire again and then rode down the mountain putting most of his weight on the front tire, practically doing a front end wheelie all the way down the mountain. The weather was getting hotter. Rob managed to ride my bike home. I rode behind him watching him get some momentum going by repeatedly pedaling on the flat rear tire and then coasting on the front tire doing a front end wheelie as far as he could. When we finally made it home we were exhausted, hot and thirsty. I took my bike to the bike shop and got it repaired. While I was there I bought my own repair kit to carry with me on the trail. Now I just need to learn how to use it, and to hold onto important bike parts while out on the trail.