Wait–no–that’s not the right picture…
Here it is:
IZach used to live in Northern Illinois and used to do many an NCC shop ride. He had a secret weapon in his arsenal: the Sara. The Sara doesn’t even get a nickname–she’s too tough for one.
Don’t be fooled by her smile. Seriously.
IZach was mounted on a rigid, singlespeed Karate Monkey 29er. The Sara was rockin’ a custom Form hardtail.
This being our last day of riding, I said I wanted to be abused. I wanted a hammerfest–a long, drawn out beating of a ride. I wanted miles. Elevation. Cramping. I said this partially serious (I do like my hammerfests) and partially in jest. Only, it turns out that IZach and Sara are accomplished racers–in events ranging from 2 hour events to 12 or 24 hour endurance events. Oh. Crap.
Even BPPhil had his game face on.
They took us out to West Sedona, where the trails were varied and longer, and where the authorities would be less likely to find our bodies. There wasn’t any serious exposure, but there was a fair amount of off-camber riding, and a significant amount of rocky climbing, gravelly descents, and everything in between. The exposure was more of the “slide down a slope in pain” kind of exposure, and not so much of a “fall to your death” exposure.
Just to make certain that we experienced all that Sedona had to offer, a local Cactus took one for the team and threw a few needles into RTobie’s tire.
Biermann, a local and friend of IZach and the Sara, dove in to help with the work. Then, everyone dove in to help.
IZach showed us a great tool to check tires for cactus spines:
He called it “a cheap cell phone.” Those of us with iPhones took a quick, quiet step backwards.
BPPhil showed us the Colorado method of reseating a tire, which involves giving the tire a nice, comfortable embrace.
BPPhil and IZach holding
Racing Ralphs are great on the trail. Review to come. But they’re a real PITA to get mounted on a wheel. Many hands, several tools, and some interesting vocabulary were required to get them mounted. Once mounted and inflated, we found this:
None of us had anything other than Benjamins, so we dropped a hundy in there to boot the slit. ‘Cuz that’s how we roll. And then we reinstalled the tire, reinflated, and pressed on. A slime tube and a dollar-bill-boot served adequately for the rest of the day.
As per Sedona norms, the scenery was incredible.
And I don’t just mean the mountains…
BPaul was nice enough to lend me ‘his’ 20″ Spearfish 1 for the day…review to come. And the scenery just kept getting better and better.
The Karate Monkey gettin’ it done:
Biermann droppin’ in to say hello:
BPPhil lands a solid jump (curse you, point and shoot shutter delay):
Giant “was there even a drop there” Matt getting it done:
RTobie, rollin’ on a river:
The Sara, minimizing wind drag:
And yours truly, rocking’ the spandex:
[LMFAO] I, I, I, I work out… [/LMFAO]
I may have done a barrel roll through a cactus. Possibly. But no one has any photographic proof.
Ok. There may be photographic proof. That’s RTobie pulling needles.
IZach and The Sara, striking a pose:
The calf-termath (**names eliminated to protect rider’s privacy):
And after five hours of riding, this is how you feel:
Unless you’re BPPhil. Stay classy, BPPhil:
It was inspiring to see IZach ripping up and down the trail on a rigid, single speed. He proved that it could be done, and showed elegance in his efficiency of movement.
As things panned out, RTobie and BPPhil hung out in front with IZach and Biermann, and GMatt and I held down the rear with The Sara. The Sara could drop us at any point (and did, several times), but was kind enough to hang back and make sure GMatt and I survived. That, and I’m pretty sure she wanted to hang around for my falls. BTW, The Sara–those were purely for comedic purposes. I was falling on purpose. Really. No, really. Why are you laughing?
Having The Sara behind me for much of the riding was interesting–in what I could hear. I could hear her Chris King hub freewheeling when I was pedaling vigorously. I could hear her wheels spinning freely when I was braking heavily. I could hear her drop a couple gears in anticipation of a climb, rather than trying to shift mid-climb as I was doing. Hearing her ride taught me a lot about how I should be riding: conserve energy, brake less, corner harder, shift earlier. Watching her and IZach ride was like watching a master’s class in Sedona mountain biking. My many thanks to the two of them for their courtesy, patience, and hospitality.
Riding with the two of them also reinforced an additional thought: the Spearfish made me a better rider. Sure, IZach and The Sara got it done with less–but there is no doubt that had I had less bicycle, I would have gone slower and had less fun. The full suspension allowed me to efficiently put down the power I had, and ride a long time with less effort and less fatigue. Talk all you want about the efficiency of hard tails, rigids or singlespeeds. I’ll take a full suspension, geared 29er every day, all day.
At the end of the day, we did have to box the bikes up and ship them back. BPaul, holding down the fort:
For such a big guy, he has surprisingly delicate hands:
IZach contemplates stealing the carbon handlebars on the Spearfish 1:
One rider goes back to Salsa, in the box:
All boxed up and nowhere to go:
What the heck…one final ride!
Following disassembly, IZach, The Sara, Scotty and the SoS crew headed into Sedona for some well-deserved burritos and libations. No bronze animal statutes were harmed in the festivities. I know I just said it, but many thanks are due to the B&B crew, Salsa, North Central Cyclery, IZach and The Sara. All of the Sedona locals–and particularly IZach–exposed us to many new sights and experiences.
And what of Sedona? I was right at the outset: Awesome. The trails were far more technical than I had anticipated–much chunkier, much more climbing, much more scree, gravel and sand. But it was amazing and awesome. Equally amazing and awesome was the skill progression that the SoS crew showed. Each day, we all rode stronger, faster and better. I can climb things now that I would have walked a week ago. I can descend things that would have required ropes and pulleys last summer. And I can bomb things that would have been a tightly clenched, rear-tire-dragging sufferfest just a few months ago. That’s in large part due to the examples set by the locals, and by BPPhil and RTobie, and in large part due to the Salsa Spearfish we were riding.
Another huge thanks goes to the SoS riders. Tobie–for setting all of this up, and being an incredible role model and friend. Phil–for sharing your expertise with us in all things bike mechanical and riding, and for becoming a new friend. Paul–for hanging with Matt and I, for gutting it out on your first real mountain bike excursion, and for being a voice of reason and support. And Matt, for the fist-bumps, the tire pumps, and the big jumps…great minds think alike.
It truly was the trip of a lifetime–and one that I’ll never forget. I’m sure more things will come from this trip in the coming weeks, as I process all of the experiences. As I close out this post, I want to go back to one comment from a few days ago. Friendship means trusting a recommendation. I learned that on this trip. And everyone in our group became a trusted friend. If someone suggested a different line, a different turn, a different shock pressure, a different philosophical perspective–even where the suggestion was hard to take at first, I learned to try new things. On this trip, I became a better cyclist. But more importantly, I became a more skilled and better person. From the breadth of the Grand Canyon to the intimacy of a cactus needle in the arm, I gained perspective. I can only hope to keep growing in the future.