Newbie MTBer

I got a mountain bike in January '96. This was one of my first rides. The ride was on Saturday, 24 February. I wrote this the next day.

Here in Philly we're having great weather this weekend -- sunny and in the 50's & 60's both days. The only drawback is that it's quite windy.

On Thursday Daryl Doan, Penn Cycling Team MTB racer, announced that there would be a trail work party at a local park (Wissahickon Creek) on Saturday. Being that I now have a mountain bike, and hope to (when trail conditions improve) be riding those trails, I figured that I'd go and help.

I arrived at the proper time and place, and found only Daryl there. He wondered where all the others were, until we realized that the trail work parties are the 2nd Saturday of each month, not the last as he had been thinking. Oh, well. But there we were with our bikes, so we thought we might as well use them.

We went up to one of the trails to check its condition. It was damp and a bit soft. We rode along it a little ways, doing a bit of work on the water bars (rearranging rocks), before heading back down. The descent was very rocky. I kept my weight low and back, and tried to keep up a bit of speed so that if I hit a rock I'd go over it instead of just stopping. I succeeded, though I was pretty scared.

Then we went to check out a trail that I knew of. It goes between the river (Schuylkill) and a highway (Rte 76). I had seen the beginning of it many times, riding around on my touring bike, and now that I had an MTB I wanted to check it out. We rode over to the entrance and started. It was fine at first, a wide gravel dirt road. Then it narrowed and the surface changed to a bunch of small rocks. This was still fine. Then we descended towards the river and went through a section of river muck -- soft thick sandy river deposits. I mostly managed to keep going here by concentrating and pedaling hard.

Then Daryl started laughing. I looked ahead. The river was high from several days of light rain. It covered the path completely for a ways, coming to the concrete wall the supported the highway. Oooops. Daryl said, with an eager gleam in his eye, "I don't feel like going back. I'd be tempted to wade across it". The current looked swift, and as it was only a bit above 50F, I knew the water would be cold. I imagined myself being swept down the river and succumbing to hypothermia. I said "If you do it, I will".

So we did it. He started to ride across, but soon stopped and got off the bike. "How's the water?" I asked. "Cold", he replied. Oh, well. I picked up the bike and stepped in. It was cold. The water was only a foot deep, so altho' is was moving fast, it wasn't dangerous, as there were big flat rocks at the bottom providing good footing. My feet were getting quite cold by the time I got across, but happily as soon as I was out of the water they started to warm up again.

After this, the trail got worse. There were lots of big logs to lift the bikes over and large patches of river muck. I felt proud of being able to go over a log about 8" in diameter. I didn't use fancy tricks like bunny hopping, but I lifted then front wheel, kept pedaling, and found that somehow my chainrings cleared the log. The back wheel slipped a bit going over, but I made it. This is by far the biggest thing I've gone over. Another (minor) accomplishment is that I forded a couple small streams. On the other hand, I had my first MTB endo. I was going down a steep section of river muck (going fast in this stuff isn't an option) and hit a rock. The bike stopped dead, and I went over the bars and landed unceremoniously on a pile of racks. Luckily, I landed on the flat surfaces; no points stuck into my ribs. I picked myself and the bike up, shook us both off, and got going again.

By the time I got to the end of the trail, I was ready to take some nice flat roads back home. Powering thru' river muck had left me tired, and I had little aches in my elbow, knee, and ankle where I hit the rocks. But I felt good. A pretty decent job for one of my first times on the trails.

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