13 Aug 06
I finally take the bike to Nine Mile, and it’s a good time.
For the first time in what has literally been years, I took the bike out to Nine Mile yesterday for a ride. I had a good time, though it was not without its painful moments. I knew that my endurance wasn’t up there even before starting due to a late start this year and a lack of long rides, but I did about as well as can be expected in spite of various components on my bike that were openly plotting against me.
The biggest culprit was the tires (above). I bought Kenda Kross Plus tires to replace my worn out (OEM) Hutchinsons because I knew my bike would spend a lot of time on pavement and opted for a smoother ride provided by the slick center section. The knobs on the sides did an admirable job of providing traction in most off-pavement cornering situations and made this setup perfect for a commuter bike.
I knew there were going to be problems when my bike slid out from under me on the second turn of the ride. I’m not sure if that was a hint that I needed better tires or an affirmation that I should’ve indeed worn my gloves, which I had left in the car and figured I probably wouldn’t need. Honestly though, this was just some really lose, fine dirt, and no tire is going to save you from that.
Just slightly injured, I continued on in search of a good single track to start the real ride. There were no trail maps at the time, and there was a wedding going on near the chalet so I didn’t want to disturb. My philosophy at Nine Mile has generally been “let’s see where the trails go and hope we can find our way back.” Fortunately this has worked well so far as I am still here.
Back to the tires. The two situations where they really were a hinderance were:
- Quick descents leading into sharp turns. I’ve decided that riding semislicks on single tracks is kind of like the drifting of the biking world. You’re not leaning much in these situations so you’d be relying on that center section of tire to provide stopping traction. My approach was to just modulate the brakes until I was going slow enough to make the turn, and then let the back wheel lock up a bit to slide me around. It worked pretty well, actually,
- Ascents on smooth dirt were also an issue because in these situations I was already up and leaning forward, taking the weight off the back wheel and inducing some slippage.
If I was a serious trail rider or had another bike, I would set it up with some better off-road tires, but this honestly wasn’t so bad. I kept away from the long uphill logging trails (which in the past had wood shavings), something that absolutely would’ve killed me.
The other and more minor issue was with my pedals (PS: the Crank Brothers site is hot). This was my first time riding clipless in a full-on trail setting, and it was OK. There were no times where I was struggling to unclip, which can prove disastrous when you’re trying to abandon your bike as it’s headed for a tree (not that mine was).
The way Crank Bros’ clipless pedals work is best explained by picturing two lines crossing each other with a spring holding them in an “X” shape. When you clip in, you compress the X horizontally and it springs back around your clip. This can be done from any angle and they call it All Access.
An unexpected caveat with the All Access system was that scraping the bottom pedal against a rock pressured the springs to open and release your foot. This led to a few times where I thought I was clipped but wasn’t, which can be a problem when you’re landing off of a jump and your foot slips. Still though, for pure aesthetics and ease of use I love the All Access design.
In spite of all this, and my chain skipping once or twice and also jumping free of the chainrings completely, it was a good time. I really want to go again today.