Opinion: Memorable Rides

Feb 20, 2015 at 20:25
by Mike Levy  
n a

Your head does funny things when your body says enough is enough and begins to rev too low regardless of how hard you push on the pedals. Those who've ''bonked'', otherwise known as hitting the wall fast and hard, are very aware of how it goes. After your legs and lungs take leave, the rest of you doesn't really see the point in going on, so it just... doesn't. It's a hard feeling to describe to a rider who's only ever shuttled or not pushed himself that hard (or has always fuelled himself properly), but it ends in complete emotional distress. Picture how you would feel if your dog died in front of you unexpectedly: a lot of sadness, frustration, maybe some anger. Maybe a lot of anger. But you can't very well just sit on your ass in the bush, can you?

No, you need to get to the corner store and eat six Pop-Tarts and a drown yourself in a litre of Coke, so you keep turning the cranks over in the most miserable way possible. You want to be anywhere where there isn't a bike, especially your own beast of burden, and leaving it in the woods seems like a really viable option. Thankfully our brains take over and common sense prevails before we try to eat a squirrel or the fake leather off our shoes. For me, that means that I usually end up lost in thought, a daydream of sorts where I'm in a much happier place.

2013 Specialized

Feeling like you're going to die in the bush? It's best to think of the good times. Photo Sterling Lorence

This exact scenario happened to me a few months back, which I blame partly on a lack of fitness and mostly on a lack of planning. As I fumbled along the trail in a daze I found my thoughts trying to account for all the bikes I've owned, which eventually led to me reminiscing about some of the more memorable rides that I did on them over the last twenty years of skidding around. I may have been cursing the ride I was on at the time, but my first trip south from B.C. to Utah so a buddy and I could pretend we were good enough to ride Rampage lines popped into my head like it was yesterday. I was on a steel .243 hardtail with Atomlab wheels (24'' out back, of course, with two DH tubes inside of it), Profile cranks, and a Manitou Sherman sprung so stiff that I doubt I ever got more than half of the fork's travel on an average ride. This was long before my ankles shot pain up through my legs every morning, and I still had some decent sized coconuts, so the fact that I was on a 43lb hardtail with a 680mm wide handlebar did little to keep me from rolling off of drops that'd still be considered large by today's standards. I remember this particular day like it was only a few years ago rather than much longer, and I'd been riding like I had way more skill than I actually did, which was a good thing because my first ever run down the infamous Flying Monkey trail that day was a hectic lap on the ol' hardtail that saw me get lucky about a dozen times.

The Monkey is the trail that you want to cash in all your luck on, and I ended up doing a top-to-bottom without any issues, which is something I doubt I'd be able to pull off today. Four hours later I was on the other side of the valley, tee'ing up the old Grafton road gap from Gracia's section in whatever New World Disorder was out at the time. But it wasn't to be - all my luck had been used up on the Monkey, and too much confidence had me rolling in with not enough speed. Trip over, and a long drive home with a bent steel hardtail, bent Profile cranks, and a broken ankle. Even an injury couldn't keep that day from being one of the best that I've ever spent on a bike.

There seems to be some sort of strange masochistic parallel between me having great rides and times when I eat shit hard enough to hurt myself, with another of my favorite days on the bike beginning with a nicely executed scorpion into the face of an oncoming jump, this time in France. I'm going to sound like an a*shole, but living in southwestern B.C. means that I'm not a huge fan of travelling to Europe to ride my bike. That said, there is some gold across the Atlantic, and I happened to stumble across one such trail in Morzine while piddling my way through the Portes du Soleil, an event that strings together a handful of different resorts via lift-accessed riding over 80km in both France and Switzerland. That sounds pretty sweet, and it was a good time, but most of the trails are fairly typical of European bike parks: unpredictable jump lines mixed with some pretty fun, raw singletrack. Then came a slight detour in Morzine that took us off course and onto a trail that likely tops my list of anything I've ever ridden. With two lines crossing back and forth over the trail's entire length, and mostly off-camber ground covered in layers and layers of leaves, it was impossible to not get loose anytime the bike wasn't pointing straight. It was so good, in fact, that I actually forgot about the large patches of skin missing from my knees and thighs from that earlier get-off.

bigquotesIn what has to be one of my more shameful moments, which is really saying something if you knew me, I took shelter in a shit-splattered outhouse for thirty minutes while I waited for a fellow rider to fetch his vehicle and drive me out. This was the first and only time that I was cold enough to not be able to talk properly, which I hear isn't a good sign.

There are countless others, like my first time riding in the BC Bike Race, or anytime that I've ridden the iconic Seven Summits trail up in Rossland, but not all of the most memorable rides are stuck in my head because they were so much fun. Mountain biking is far too rough and tumble for my top memories to not include that time I lost it about half way down the Canadian Bacon line at the now ancient first Rampage site, a bobble that saw me lose a shoe and only hit the ground three times in about seventy feet as I cartwheeled off the side of a small mesa. That was a big one, but it didn't hurt as much as the time I carried too much speed over a decent sized road gap and right into a 4ft diameter log laying on its side and hidden in the bush, completely out of the way but smack dab in the middle of my misguided course. Have you ever hit your head so hard that your eyes won't stop moving back and forth like they're having their own little seizures? Best to avoid that if you can.

<i>Things can go south quickly when you combine a bad mechanical and shitty weather.</i>

Things can go south quickly when you combine a bad mechanical and shitty weather.

Injuries aside, my favourite ride that took a turn for the worse happened just last year, and it's fair to say that it was a slap upside the head kinda reminder about being prepared... halfway through what was going to be a pretty solid 70km of saddle time, after climbing up and over one mountain and to the top of another 3,000ft peak, my bike's freehub decided that it was quitting time. It would have been annoying enough if it just stopped engaging, but it decided to take things from inconvenience to majorly frustrating by completely seizing. No coasting allowed and about 30km between myself and my van. Then it started snowing. My only option was to head down a gravel road to the bottom, but the freezing rain and cold snow had me chilled to the point of concern within just ten minutes, and soon enough my hands were too cold to even pull the brake levers. In what has to be one of my more shameful moments, which is really saying something if you knew me, I took shelter in a shit-splattered outhouse for thirty minutes while I waited for a fellow rider to fetch his vehicle and drive me out. This was the first and only time that I was cold enough to not be able to talk properly, which I hear isn't a good sign.

Returning to my story of bonking in the bush that had me reminiscing in the first place, I never was able to recall all of my different bikes over the years. And while I also couldn't tell you about every ride I've done over that time, I could easily write a rambling and nonsensical novel about my most memorable rides, both good and bad, which is exactly how it should be. Can you recall a ride that stands out to you, one that you know you're going to be telling people about ten years from now?


  • + 50
 Me and a couple buddies decide to go on a ride. 60 degrees at the base of the mountain, tshirt and shorts, no camelback. 5000ft of climbing later, we are at the top of Mt. Wilson, which is covered in snow, with wind at about 30mph...in tshirts and shorts with no food and only our water bottles. One buddy is so cold he can't talk, and his arms seize up, none of us can really function correctly though. Luckily, we saw a group of guys hiking, equally as cold and unprepared as us. I call them over and we all huddle up, we do a couple motivational chants "We will make it down!", "We are warm!" We now leave our newly made friends and attempt to ride down Mt. Wilson, a gnarly, rock-laden single track winding alongside a cliff. Slowly, with frozen hands, we make our way down the snowy, icy, rocky trail. Towards the bottom, the weather got a bit warmer and we felt a bit better. By the time we got back to the car we were all stoked over the ride. We survived and I never regret that ride!
  • + 33
 The rides where everything goes wrong are the most vivid memories
  • + 4
 Woo shout out to Mt Wilson! Good times on those trails.
  • + 77
 Meanwhile, a group of hikers remains missing, presumed dead, somewhere near the summit of Mt. Wilson.
  • + 10
 This last summer we hit the gravel roads for a training ride in the Arkansas backcountry. After 12 miles of continuous climbing we hit the summit, for the ozarks it was amazing! We were rewarded with an equally awesome descent. On the descent my friend and I were coasting along at about 28mph when we saw what looked like a deer lying in the road, weird. That "deer" jumped up facing us, then took off flicking its 4 ft tall just like my shop cat. It wasn't a deer, but a mountain lion. We were so close I could have hit it with a rock. At that very moment we had the bright idea to chase it. Mashing on the pedals as hard as we could, my buddy's chainring bolts sheared off. It was a long scary walk out of the woods.
  • + 6
 I got cold on a ride one time and, while approaching a switchback, started squeezing my brake levers, but didn't slow down. My first thought was that my brakes were too cold to work, at all, but then I looked down and realized my fingers weren't on the brake levers... I was just squeezing my grips but so cold I couldn't tell...
  • + 24
 Some of Levy's most memorable rides involve injuries, bent frames, broken bones, crashing attempting Rampage, mechanicals, and near-hypothermia.

This is a crazy sport but what's crazier is how passionate we remain for it after these kinds of experiences. Nothing beats adventure and adrenaline, huh?

I've been knocked out cold three times on rides. They say after 3 serious concussions you should stop doing risky activities to avoid serious brain damage. Not an option.
  • + 41
 Explains a lot of your comments, though
  • + 9
 No mercy
  • + 3
 It's not much of a sport if it's easy.
  • + 16
 I am always the one that falls at least once when I ride. No doubt the best ride was late last year with a few friends of mine. There was this rock we all wanted to ride down (and its a STEEEEP rock). So ya know all the guys make it down and some do it a few times. Then there was me, who my first attempt started over because I wasn't clipped in and then the second one. I was the only one who hadn't gone down (not to mention the only girl there too) so I thought to myself 'screw it whats the worst that could happen?' So I started down...held my brake as hard as I could and sat behind my seat as far as my short arms could get me. I would say it was all dandy until the last part when my sucky brakes (they have since been replaced) kinda didn't work as well. I have this weird thing with speed. Sometimes I love it and sometimes I want to creep like a turtle and that ride I was just going for it. Well the best part is this rock was so steep that the ground kind of came with out warning. The second I got off the rock I smacked the ground (still on my bike) and just like a slow motion action movie I could just see my pants rolling down. I SAT ON MY TIRE AND WAS MOONING EVERYONE!! So like any lady would I laid there laughing so hard I was crying with a couple of my friends. I don't think anyone could articulate one word because we were all laughing so hard! I don't think I can ever forget mooning 5 guys at once but that was definitely one of the most memorable rides. **I HOPE YOU LAUGHED!!**
  • + 13
 I'm from socal where the dirt is pixie dust and sand year round. On a trip to Tahoe I will never forget my first experience with hero dirt, 6 hour ride on Tahoe Rim trail, in the pouring rain, 45 min downhill waiting on the otherside of a 3 hour climb. The best part is at the bottom you arrive in the parking lot, drenched, mud everywhere splattered up and you just think, "That was the one sickest thing I have ever done." and you feel satisfied for only that day, then you want to go back.
  • + 12
 The perfect spot to leave your bike...
  • + 8
 I remember when my buddy on his for ride on single track hit a high wooden feature I'd still be scared of. I was so ashamed I tried to make up for it by showing off on the jump line and would up with a broken back. Good times.
  • + 15
 Happens everytime
  • + 1
 Oh no... you got the third kid syndrome. If you go to playgrounds often and look at small boys... whoops it goes wrong way. Sometimes when on the playground you will see a group of boys. There will be one who will be always the first to try some dumb sht, like stand on the swing and swing it until he goes horisontal and then jump off. He may shout to others, let's see who jumps farther! Then the second kid will look at it and he will try it, but he will be scared a bit and he will let go. Then the third kid, even thugh he's scared to death, will try it, not just to try it but to prove something - and he usually ends up eating sht. Probably because he wants to prove to the first bloke that he is no worse than him, and to the second one that he is better than him. Probably, because the first kid does not think at all, second thinks it through a bit and the third one thinks too much. I've seen it in various instances including MTBing and done it myself more times that I can remember... Big Grin
  • + 3
 I dont know about third kid syndrome but youv defo got some sort of syndrome...
  • + 3
 Comes from being the third son. My big brothers did exactly as you described over and over.
  • + 6
 One of my favorite stories ever posted here, awesome read. Glad you didn't die.
  • + 6
 Aw man, that story is a fantastic read!
  • + 2
 Best story ever to appear on Pinkbike.
  • + 6
 If the freewheel disengaging would have only been a minor inconvenience (I presume it was mostly descent to the car park), why didn't you just unclip your chain and stuff it in your bag?
  • + 4
 Because there was still plenty of climbing to do.
  • + 5
 For good and bad, almost every ride I have these days is memorable since I got my second kid, exactly one year ago. Partly because there are so few of them but also because I learned to appreciate any time I hold bars, stand on pedals while moving through a forest. We'll see in 5 years if I get spoiled again and use expressions like: would be awesome but it was too cold today and corners were not as tacky as I like them to be Big Grin
  • + 4
 Most of my best ride memories come from my youth. Large cahones and little equipment. Being poor and only having a road bike with drop bars, ripping jump lines with my buds until the wheels actually caved and I got my first mtb. Can't clear those jump lines anymore. Go figure.
  • + 3
 A mate and I went to our local trail centre to try and do some filming on one of the trails. We decided to do a load of trail first like we normally did and then spend a few hours running up and down this trail moving cameras, riding a bit, moving the cameras and riding some more. We spent a good hour trying to get a zipline shot with some climbing rope and a couple of pulleys, It didn't work. By this time we were nackered and trying to get back to the car, but we didn't want to miss out on the funnest section of green trail ever. We were going far too quickly and I was about a foot off his back wheel as we were flying over the rollers, It was getting pretty lively with our wheels struggling for grip, I shouted out that we should probably ease off, he looked over to see what I said and caught the bank, sprawled right infront of me, I ran him over and ate shit hard. We struggled to our feet, nothing broken, and rolled to the car about 100m away. We never made the edit, best day ever.
  • + 2
 You're absolutely right that some of the most memorable rides are the ones that kick you in the ass and decide that today is not your day.

Late last fall in Utah, in what was an unexpectedly steller November riding season, the high elevation riding was finally coming to a close as the 10,000' trail I was climbing to turned into a blizard towards the top. Went from a nice 58* to 30* in an instant and the snow was falling... Sideways. I wasn't expecting that ride in Park City to go that high, but knowing it would probably be the last of the year so I wanted to test my luck and keep going. Well, my luck ran out when my chain broke at the top and after taking out a link and putting the chain back on, I got a flat like 200' down the trail and had to fight to get the frozen tire off the rim while my fingers had officially stopped working.

20 minutes later I was able to continue the 3000' descent back to my truck and my hands were completely locked up. I was able to enjoy the ride down Pinecone(the giddiest 4 miles of high elev UT single track I can think of) and ended up back at the empty parking lot where I realized how shitty of a situation that could have been. I felt dumb, but it still was more fun and a better memory than cutting the ride in half would have been.
  • + 1
 I have many memorable rides. Why remember your bad mistakes and bad luck? Unless it is to make a concerted effort not to let it happen twice. Shit happens. I like to laugh about it.And feel good about the fact I get to ride another day.
  • + 1
 Most memorable ride I had was when I was in the Vended region of France. The place is flat as a pancake and my girlfriend had arranged for me to meet the guys at the local VTT club (MTB). I rocked up in my Trance with 2.35 tyres only to see everyone was on a hardtail with 1.9 cross country tyres.

It was one of the flattest and most gruelling trips I've ever experienced. A major highlight was flying down a chute and then getting launched into a lake. I somehow managed to salvage my bike and continue riding only to later get a puncture: this then culminated in me cutting a big chunk off my finger on a disc rotor when trying to seat the tyre.

The ride back to the starting point was 5 miles on flat fire road, I had bonked many miles earlier and was now simply hanging on for dear life. My hand was now covered in a red sock (bandage) and when we finally arrived back at the car park everyone told me I had some of the greatest crashes they had ever witnessed. My girlfriend picked me up and we headed to the French hospital where they proceeded to charge me 200 euros for some stitches, oh yeah the doctor who was assigned to me was a real hottie too. I'll never forget that ride, ever.
  • + 1
 So glad to hear the truth here on pb, OMFG" I'm going to sound like an a*shole, but living in southwestern B.C. means that I'm not a huge fan of travelling to Europe to ride my bike." Nothing against Europeans but seriously "Have bike must travel mentality does'nt cut it for me either" some people just have too much money, or should I say more money than passion, just looking to put another notch on the bed post . I live in BC and I could probably ride every day for the rest of my life and ride and a new trail each and every day that would satisfy every itch in my body. This being said, a comment like this on pb, is cool, and thanks. Try make a comment like this on POF and you will be Doomed.
  • + 1
 That one time I went over my handlebars and knocked myself out cold for a good 15 minutes because "that drop looks easy" XD
Anyway so I was training for this endurance race that had many sections of rocky climbs with switchbacks and all sorts of uphill "fun", back then it seemed like a good idea to tackle a section backwards go down the nastiest climb and practice the switch backs a couple times, long story short, I clipped a "not too big but big enough for an XC bike" drop that leads almost directly to a left hander switch back, f*cked up went over my handlebars landed on my head and woke up a good 15 min after that! Broken helmet, busted lip, flat front tire, and squashed ego XD, anyway that's one of my most memorable solo rides.
  • + 3
 Best ones are the ones with no expecation where the heart and head primed for adventure. Where everything and nothing is possible, eyes wide and open.
  • + 5
 Photoshop trolling of the day: www.pinkbike.com/photo/11950675
  • - 2
 You are a class dingus, as always. My slow clap to youuu
  • + 2
 @MikeLevy--love the article! Bonking and nearly dying is what mountain biking is all about, not shuttling and hucking. In My Superior Opinion.
  • + 1
 The day I rode Keystone about 3pm my legs just locked. All I could do was sit in an upright L shape and smack my legs w my fists and then ended up limping out an hour later. Felt like I'd been hit by a truck.
  • + 2
 haha, I started a race run in Angel Fire once by grabbing my pant leg, with my hand, to get my leg over the toptube, cause I'd slammed that leg into a boulder during practice the day before. People were giving me the hairy eyeball for sure... By the bottom of the run, I was standing for the corners, then collapsing onto the seat after each, as I could only stand for that long!
  • + 3
 I tried to ride 14000 ft of vert one day. Died after 6000
  • + 3
 Awesome story. Thank Levy
  • + 3
 You should write a book.
  • + 2
 Name and Shame Mike! What was the free hub?
  • + 1
 Glad you're still alive Mike!~
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