Monday, October 17, 2011

Chamois pads? Yes, Please...

This past weekend was my first real experience with mountain biking. Well, my first experience during my adult years. I tried this business once during high school in Chile and ended up sliding down the side of the hill in a mess of dirt, dust and limbs, clutching for dear life onto any brush within reach of my fall line.

Michael's bikes
My younger brother, Michael, is a big time mountain biker from Georgia who fell in love with western PA while visiting for my birthday a few weeks ago. He had some free time this past weekend, and drove north with his Trek Paragon 29er (his baby) and Trek Top Fuel (for me to ride). Michael and my friend, Eilis, have been going on and on and on about the joys of mountain biking for a while now, so this seemed like the perfect weekend to try.

Driving around with my brother
Saturday afternoon, Michael and I enjoyed a late brunch in Squirrel Hill and afterwards visited one of the bike shops on Forbes Avenue. He suggested that I make a small investment in some bike shorts with chamois pads in order to make for a more enjoyable riding experience. After some discussion and driving to another sports store, he convinced me to purchase a relatively inexpensive pair. There was a "buy one bike item, get another of equal or lesser value for 50% off" deal, so I threw in a pair of gloves. With my borrowed bike and helmet, and new pants and gloves, I was ready to ride.

The Leg -- 2011
We met Jb later on Saturday, and after an attempt at one trail (already closed for hunting) and an attempt at Frick (too much traffic going back into the city), we settled on South Park and managed to arrive right before sunset (yay construction traffic!). Michael pulled out his helmet and handlebar lights, and we went for a ride. It was quite the experience, riding through South Park in the dark on my first "official" ride with two guys who are really good with their bikes. Save for some minor spaz-out moments (which apparently were so funny at times that Michael had to stop riding because he laughed so hard), and Jb watching my headlamp roll down part of a slope (it was still attached to me; pretty much a reenactment of the high school experience, only this time in the dark), the ride was incredible. I fell in love with the mountain biking. My husband, Nick, wasn't able to go with us, although he just shook his head when Michael pointed out the consequence of my Saturday night altercation with the slope (see photo to left; no worries, it's just a flesh wound).

Watching Michael fix his bike chain (Jb camera shot)
On Sunday, we met Jb, Eilis, and one of Jb's friends for a ride on the Seven Springs 24-hour race course. Michael and Jb took the GoPro cameras (videos currently being edited, footage coming soon!) and rocked the course along with Jb's friend; Eilis hung back and helped me find my bike legs. Riding during the day was a bit easier, although there were more rocks and leaves at Seven Springs compared to the South Park trails from Saturday. This made for a good, fun challenge (and no major falls), however it was really strange to bike on the slopes I'm so used to riding with my board.

Ale ready to ride

Jb taking a turn

Michael clearing a log
Despite branch scratches on my legs, the gnarly bruise, and some sore muscles, important assets were well-protected thanks to my brother's foresight. Thank goodness for those bike shorts with the chamois pads.

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