Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Feels Like the First Time

One of the enduring themes when recovering from an injury is the list of "firsts." You continually find yourself saying, "For the first time since I tore/separated/sprained/broke my (insert body part) I went (insert mundane activity). I'm really tired of saying it at this point, but it just seems to keep coming up.

In early 2007 I contracted Walt Wehner to build my ultimate single speed. Ultimate, at least, for an able-bodied rider who had never sustained an injury worse than a scrape or bruise in 23 years of mountain biking. How quickly that ultimate bike became a wall-mounted display.

When I designed the bike, I went with a rigid, non-suspension corrected fork. It is roughly 2.5 inches shorter than a suspension fork would be. If you were to install a suspension fork on the bike, it would ride horribly because the head angle would be about 2.5 degrees shallower. Think chopper. Add the change in bottom bracket height, seat angle and top tube length and you have a real mess. That didn't matter, though. I would never want a suspension fork. I was a single speeder, man. Pure. Hard core. Tough.

About 18 weeks after placing the order, the frame and fork showed up at my door. I built up the bike and rode it a grand total of three times before breaking my wrist in The Crash. But three rides was enough to know it was a great bike. We (Walt and I) nailed it.

Fast forward to last night. I eyed the dusty orange bike on the wall in the garage, the bike that had taunted me for almost two years, and I decided it was time to ride it. Since my wrist has been feeling pretty good lately, I figured I might as well see if this bike was ever going to be useful to me.

Up to this point I have been using a suspension fork for all my off-road riding. I was able to get past my hatred for climbing on a single speed with a suspension fork. Really, I had no choice. If I wanted to single speed, it had to be with suspension. In time I actually grew to like it.

Would I even LIKE riding a rigid bike now?

The last time I rode the bike was night ride with Doug in October of 2007, so I gave it a quick tuning last night, although it didn't need much more than air in the tires, some chain lube and a rear brake adjustment.

I took it out to do the normal Wednesday Lake Natoma-Granite Bay ride this morning. After riding the Moncog for so long, it was a real eye-opener to ride something light. Railing out of corners and flying over steep little climbs was a blast. I was climbing up many more hills in the saddle with this bike. It's SO fast.

The rigid fork wasn't much of an issue, really. The lack of bar ends was a much bigger problem than the fork. It was the first time (hey, another first!) I have not used bar ends, and my wrist wasn't digging the lateral bending when climbing. That's a good thing, though, so I'm not going to put bar ends on this bike. Oh, and I'll be keeping the bike.

Anyway, here's a picture from the top of one of the climbs:

So is there really a difference between a $175 Chinese frame and a custom-built frame? Um, yeah.

I need to wrap this up, so here are the final ride stats:
  • 35 miles
  • 3 park rangers
  • 1 rattlesnake
  • 1 ground squirrel, crushed, RIP (sixth career kill)
  • 1 flat tire (shocking, I know)
  • 1 sore wrist
  • 1 happy camper


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