Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bar Ends and Pits of Gravity

Summer is drawing to a close with a perfect day weather wise. In the 60s, slight cool breeze, lower level sunlight hinting that fall is not far off. Best way to enjoy the weather? Mountain bike ride, of course.

Number one son Ian and I originally planned to hit Tiger Mountain. Our plan was foiled by sleeping late and the female half of the clan needing the family vehicle to shop for school supplies - another sure sign the summer clock is ticking.

No problem, we'll suit up for yet another ride at Big Finn/St Ed Park, rideable from the house. I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times - we're damn lucky to have some cool trails in the neighborhood. After goofing around the house a little too long, we finally hit the pedals at 4:00 PM or so, then onto sweet singletrack just a few minutes later.

Trails are still dry and dusty, could use a little rain and here in the Northwest, that won't be a problem in the coming months. Just a few other riders and the occasional runner sharing the trails today, all greetings with a hello and smile. I've been riding these trails since 1989, so 21 years of nearby singletrack bliss. Man, I'm getting old. I don't feel it though - at least not today.

Plenty of kickstands available here in the Pacific Northwest. This one appears sturdy enough to hold up two bikes. We made a few pit stops for Ian's Geocache action. Found one cache and planted another. Just another diversion and excuse to play outside.

I installed bar ends on the 29er. I omitted 'em when setting the bike up, but missed 'em while riding. Sure, they may be out of fashion, especially on a (slight) riser bar - so call me Dork Boy. These are carbon fiber bar ends however, so that's Mr. Dork Boy to you buddy.

In our local woods, there's a section of trail I lovingly refer to as the "Gravity Pit". You drop in one side and if you're going fast enough - feel a bit of compression at the bottom - then pedal like mad to clear the uphill side. Done correctly, you can almost coast up the other wall. In this day and age of freeriding and other stunts, pretty tame really. Back in the early days of mountain biking with no suspension, seemed a bit more daring. I remember during the '90s hitting this on my MB-Zip and registering 30 mph on the old Avocet computer. A nice acceleration rush for sure.

During that era, one time I was following a dirt motorcycle illegally poaching the trail and passed him as he didn't clear the uphill section. We both were laughing as he fell over into the bushes and I pedaled right past him. Another time my old riding pal Brian crashed head on into another rider at the bottom of the pit. Nobody was laughing then. The other rider brushed it off and continued his ride. Brian won a trip to the emergency room with a wrenched back.

Over the years the trail has widened and become less steep, making it easier. Still, a fun section to hit during the usual ride. Many times however, while I play tour guide with other riders - many hesitate to enter the Gravity Pit - and take the bypass trail.

For all our rides Ian and I have shared in these woods, he's never attempted the Gravity Pit - until today. I showed him how it's done by riding it a few times, then stood about half way up on the wall in case he didn't make it - then I could catch him if he stalled. Most riders brake on the downhill section and don't have the momentum to clear the uphill side.

Not Ian, he hits the thing with some speed and blazed the downhill. I could tell by the look on his face the speed took him by surprise. He holds it together and coasts pretty far up the other side - nearby to me. Even with me yelling "Pedal, pedal, pedal", he freezes and coasts to a stop - where I grab him. He's laughing and saying he forgot to pedal - was a little scared. I tell him he could have made it - great job - wanna try it again? Huh, yeah - but not today.

We laugh some more and check the speedo on his bike - 20+ mph. Not bad. We'll try it again when he's ready. No rush, all for fun, no getting hurt.

Ian plays camera man while I demonstrate the Gravity Pit. As with most things video and picture related, it doesn't appear that steep. Trust me, it's not that big of deal - but much steeper then it appears. Pictures sometimes do lie.

After our Gravity Pit adventure, we continued sampling singletrack and cruising the woods. Late afternoon golden sunlight dappling through the trees, cool temps, good times. One Clif bar stop in the park itself, sitting on a picnic table, overlooking the green lawn. Then a slow ride home on quiet streets - most of it no handed - 'cept for the occasional wheelie.

Yup, not a bad way to spend the afternoon.


  1. Just utterly fantastic, such neat riding places. Ride on biking bros' Dan and Ian.

  2. I'm pretty sure I ate it there too, following you and Fred one night after work, back in the early 90's. Nothing quite like taking the nose of the saddle right in the small of the back!

    Looks like fun guys.

  3. Yes, the Gravity Pit occasionally adds more victims to the list.

    I had another pal, Kent, who's never been mountain biking ever - riding on my loaner Fat Chance - attempt the pit and crash nicely at the bottom. Not too bad, 'cept he had to sit his bruised ass on a 12 hour plane flight the next day.

    I remember you, Fred and I doing some night rides back there. You with your homemade lights, constructed out of RC car batteries and who knows what else.

    Dude, dust off the mountain bike and head on over.

  4. Yeah, I finally picked up a NightSun setup (I think that was the brand) shortly after that. Amazing difference! They're still mounted on the bars to this very day but all bets are off on where the battery ended up, let alone if it would even take a charge. I might have to find a new one.

    Watching you and Ian's videos has been great. I may have to join you.

  5. @Anonymous -J
    Come on out - whenever you're ready - we are.

    That would cool to somehow share riding areas - especially areas really diverse from each other.

  6. @Dan O
    I'll take you up on the offer to explore your local parks one of these days; those trails just look too great! You ride year-round, or do they get too sloppy in winter?

  7. @Frank

    Whenever you're ready to ride - just email me. I also get a kick outta showing people "my trails".

    You can pretty much ride 'em all year - they drain pretty well. Come on out! I'd a kick outta seeing my old MB-Zip in action as well.