Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Bike setup with a bit of salt

This is about mental approach to preparation for riding. I have sensed this weird feature of my brain since some time, but it has never manifested itself so vividly as last time on my way to work - about it later. I spend by average 20 minutes to prepare my bike for a ride, oiling the chain, checking tyre pressure, shock pressure, eventually switching pedals, occasionally tyres. I try to do it a day before so that I don't get frustrated by some unexpected problem (like brakes or dropper post needing bleeding) and don't go into the ride with bad mood, trying hard to relax for half of an hour or so. I have two bikes, both totally rideable on my trails and I am not always sure which one to take, so that makes things a bit more complicated. Then I have my favorite set of clothes I dress into and things I take into the back pack, tools, energy bars, fluids. Then I was always trying to eat pre-ride food and warm up.

Sometimes I manage to put everything together and I am proud of myself that I made everything perfect but in most cases it is not as jolly good. Few years ago I just couldn't get over the fact that I had "wrong" tyre on, that I haven't managed to change it in time, or that I forgot to pump up tyres. I was simply unable to adapt and I was nearly indulging blaming every mistake on the trail on that small thing that I forgot to fix. For instance I was not washing my rear end on any diagonal root on uphill, because I wasn't putting enough pressure on the rear end of the bike, but because of that bloody tyre I forgot to change! In last two years - partly due to having small kids, making me appreciate any time out and also with big help of Ryan Leeches coaching program - I learned to control it. I could identify moments when I was starting the witch hunt on which part of bike or my prer-ride routine fails me now.

Most importantly my recent boldness in that respect made me realize that this little thing that is not entirely right, this bit of salt, takes a hell of a load of pressure. Yesterday I was going to ride to work, it was the day when I could take my mountain bike instead of commuter with child seat as I wasn't taking my daughter to the day care. I felt - awesome! I will practice Wheelies!!! As I was carrying the bike downstairs I started visuzalizing my ride through the 2km long boulevard going to the city square I work by. I was meant to sit on the bike aaaand... I had my small XC clipless pedals on!!! Arrrghh... I am not goin 5 floors back up to pick a 15mm spanner and set of my favorite flats... ehhh, I decided to ride like this anyways. Even though I was not fully conscious of this thought in the beginning I felt it coming: "ehhh, at least if I suck at wheelies today, I can blame it on pedals" and the second one: "just put a smile on your face, for people passing you by and for car drivers on crossings, remember to wave when they let you through, DON't feel ashamed of your bad wheelies, just practice, if it does not come, just leave it for another day".

What was astonishing was that I pulled the longest wheelies I have ever managed! I rode almost full length from one set of traffic lights to other, and that happend 3 times! I rode at least 50m in one go. I was coming into float zone perfectly after one good pull on bars and press on pedals. Then I was doing quite good stoppied when I came upon red light... then excellent calm track stand. I felt like a man possessed, I could sense and anticipate things, thus react quicker, I was in flow - flow out of nowhere! Monday morning, after almost sleepless night! So I started wondering if I have some memories of a similar kind, where despite having something "not perfect" I had not only a great time, but I performed unusally well. And sure I had! This one time when I beaten my 2,5h long XC ride best time by 15 minutes, despite having 2.5" Maxxis Minion tyres (I remember thinking before that steep uphill or before that long exhausting straight - "ehhh, just mash it with those pedals, what do you have to lose?"). Or that other time when I showed up on a hardtail with dry semi-slicks in total gloop against blokes on 6" bikes, and I passed two of them in rockiest rock garden we have here, ending up less than 20 meters behind my good friend who is a sponsored downhiller. 

I think that little thing allows me to relax, it takes the blame for my eventual failures but in a different way as I can externalize it, I no longer wish it to be gone, it becomes an available excuse. I am not trying to compare myself to Neko Mullalys chainless run from World Championchips in Norway but, wasn't it a bit of a similar thing? Reaction of our secretary when she saw my happy face and grinning teeth, was a good proof for me, that some mistakes lead to wonderful things!

Arguably yours


  1. Best argument against buying new gear I have ever heard. "If I buy carbon wheels who am I going to blame for being slow?"
    I can get behind that.
    I have my best rides when I don't have a long time to work on improving skills or am trying to figure out a new part and how well it works, and I just decide to have fun. This morning i had 45 minutes to ride. The conditions were okay but not great, and I had a blast.

    1. When an old man runs past you on an uphill, it puts spending any larger sum of money in your bike into question... happened to me