The day began with disorientation: April in western washington, clear skies, predicted high of 70 degrees. WTF? oh well, guess we just deal with it as best as we can. For a long time northwesterner, this was serious cognitive dissonance territory. 🙂
the day before, i’d done some prep on the bike (clean air filter, check tires and fluids, etc.) and then taken it for a quick ride around the place. This was of course the time that i mis-judged a log crossing and snapped the front fender off, right at the brace. a quick session with some scrap plastic and a few pop-rivets set things right. I had every intention of ordering a new fender, but the fix worked so well that i might not.
anyway, on to the event. normal morning routine, faithful readers (both of you!) will know it by heart now: drive up, find a parking place, unload, preflight the bike, warm up, then off to sign-up. signed up, and when the marshall asked me if i could observe, i said “sure”. saw him write my name down for section 1, but didn’t really think about it too much. of for some more warm up. found most of the morning sections, then went looking for the afternoon sections. found 2 and 3, but no others. 2 and three were both steep hillclimbs, with the exits nor easily reached without riding the course (a ‘no-no’). so i walked through 3 and on up the trail. found 4, and figured out that the rest of the sections were laid out along a trail on the side of the mountain that would give a mountain goat second thoughts. ‘rugged enough to make a rabbit crash’ is one phrase i’ve heard. walked back to the bike, and found section 1; hmm, that looks like a cakewalk. well, sections (the ones i saw, at least) aren’t going to be the tough part of this trials, but the loop is going to take a toll. back to the pits to get ready to observe. morning riders meeting commences, they are calling off observers, but my name is not uttered. rrruuh? i let the commotion ebb a bit, then go talk to the marshalls; ah here’s the confusion: when i singed up, he wrote me down to observe in the afternoon, forgetting or not realizing that i was riding in the Advanced class, in the afternoon. well, looks like they aren’t short of observers, so i’m off the hook. so i head out for a bit of serious practice.
i resolve to focus on things i’m uncomfortable with: steep drops, turns over jumbly rocks. I manage to re-teach by body a few things about staying loose in the bike, and leaning the bike over; don’t try to keep it vertical all the time, it really does turn better when it’s leaned over!
after about 45 minutes, back to the pits for a snack and water. while i’m relaxing, a friend wanders up and is examining the back tire of my bike, from the look on his face, i’m guessing he’s about to point out a giant hole in the tire, or a torn-off knob or something. but no, he points out that i’ve a bazzillion feet of rusty wire wrapped around the rear sproket, hub, and brake disk! expletive. i quickly borrow a stand and a BA crescent-wrench, whip the rear tire off and start in with the wire cutters. a few minutes of cutting and pulling, and it’s all gone, and no damage done. we speculated that it was the wire belting from a tire that some asshat probably burnt in a ‘campfire’ in the area.
a bit more practice, some on the big undercut log (which resulted in one of slowest ‘over-the-bars’ i’ve ever had) and i feel like i’m ready. around noon, we get the signal for the riders to meet up at the scoring trailer. get our instructions (yellow ribbon marks the loop, it starts over yonder and ends over thataway, ya got 3 hours, now git!), and away we go. off to section 1, looks like a cakewalk, sure enough start off with a clean. nice. on to 2. sections 2 and three and laid out parallel to each other, up a steep hillside. 2 is a mixed-media climb, dirt, a big rock step, and the rocky dirt on to the exit. 3 is about twice as long, starts in the water, makes a significant right turn 1⁄2 way up, and has a piece of old log choker cable about an inch in diameter across the line, about 8 inches off the ground. the cable has some give, so it’s really not much of an obstacle, but it makes ya think. back to 2, watch a clean and 3, decide on 2nd gear, and go for it. good traction, i do a little ‘traction bounce’ just after the rock bit, and get out clean. down the hill and attack #3. 2nd gear, concentrate on getting through the turn clean, and then getting a bit of momentum built up before the cable and the steep steps after it. a little footpeg leverage just after the cable, and i made it out clean! you can see a photo here. (notice the wire cable just under the bike’s front wheel.) yee haw, started off with 3 cleans! but now we get to the meat of the trail. it’s visciously steep, both uphill and downhill, and requires nearly as much effort to ride as a section. #4 has a sharp left followed by a steep climb, 5 has a nasty root-filled uphill left that caught nearly everybody for at least 1, etc. etc. 8 and 9 were a bit noteworthy in that they were a continuous section; 8 has a devilish little turn with a perfectly placed dining-table sized rock right at the apex at footpeg height, forcing you into exactly the wrong place for the exit. very tricky!
finished the first loop in about and hour and 15 minutes, the entire loop couldn’t have been a half mile long. but it was work. I’ve been riding events over the past year and tried to keep track of what my heart-rate was doing at various times and what my calorie burn was. One of the things that i’ve learned is that if i’m sitting at the entrance to a section, and my heart-rate is over 145, i should take a little rest break until it comes down to about 130 or 135. I ride much better, given the extra 2 minutes it takes for the rate to come down. so on the second and third loops, i paid attention to this; the loops was so short and so challenging that unless i gave myself forced breaks, i’d just wear myself out. by doing this, i managed to get through the event without once arriving at the end of a section and not being able to get my hands unclenched from the grips!
finished out with 39 points, which turned out to be good enough to ace Curtis Mann out of 3rd by 1 point. Michael Jordan schooled all of us though, with 24 points, topped off with a 4‑point loop 3!. Nice ride, Michael. Kyle Larson also put in a good ride to take second.
Next event is May 3rd, at Deer Flats, above Gold Bar. Great place to ride, nasty place to get to. about 5 miles of rough, rocky road.
If you’d like to find out what observed trials are all about, let me know, i’ll get you detailed directions and you could come up and spectate.
keep those feet up!