Monday, September 15, 2008

Mountain Bikes ... Meet Mountain

Watch your back Julien Absalon. Yeah, you may have won the gold medal in Men's Mountain Biking in the last two Olympics. But keep your eye on the rear-view-mirror, my friend, because James and Tim just may sneak up on you in London in 2012. That is, now that we're graduates of the REI Outdoor School Introduction to Mountain Biking class.

The REI Outdoor School van. (09/14/2008)
The REI Outdoor School van. (09/14/2008)

We decided to take this course shortly after buying our mountain bikes last month. We knew we had to unlearn some of our self-taught habits we picked up from riding street bikes as a kid, and learn proper techniques from skilled mountain bikers. Our instructors, Mark and Greg, definitely met that challenge.

Mark explains the finer points of mountain biking. (09/14/2008)
Mark explains the finer points of mountain biking. (09/14/2008)

We learned the correct way to mount a bike, the correct starting position, and the correct stopping techniques, including how not to fly over the handlebars when you make a sudden stop. The trick is to stick your butt out (insert joke here). Although these things were all helpful, I think the most illuminating lesson came when they showed us the proper riding position. Low, with your head above your hands. It made a huge difference, and that alone was worth the cost of the class.

James about to depart for our ride. (09/14/2008)
James about to depart for our ride. (09/14/2008)

We also learned that our bike saddles were too low. I was worried mine would be too high, but once I learned the proper way to start, it wasn't a problem at all. Best of all was the fact that we finally took our mountain bikes off the paved bike trail and onto the natural terrain they were made for.

Tim before for our ride. (09/14/2008)
Tim before for our ride. (09/14/2008)

The class was held at Malibu Creek State Park near Calabasas, which interestingly enough, sits on land once owned by 20th Century Fox. The studio used the land — then called "Fox Ranch" — as a filming location for dozens of films, including three Tarzan movies, How Green Was My Valley, Viva Zapata, The Defiant Ones, Planet of the Apes and Logan's Run, to name a few. It also incorporates the land that used to be Ronald Reagan's ranch.

Malibu Creek State Park. (09/14/2008)
Malibu Creek State Park. (09/14/2008)

For the biking portion of the class, we went along what they call Crags Road. It was a great place for biking. The only downer was the heat. It was hot that day! Thankfully we remained fully hydrated with the 2-liter hydration backpacks we purchased at — where else? — REI.

We rode up Crags Road. (09/14/2008)
We rode up Crags Road. (09/14/2008)

Out of the 13 people taking the course, only three of us were guys. One of the women was older, probably in her 50s. She was a little chunky, and she rode this old Schwinn mountain bike that didn't even have shocks. It even had a rear basket for storing things. Yet I kid you not when I say this woman kicked all our asses when it came to riding. She was definitely a mind-over-matter type of person.

Mark explains how to ride over obstacles. (09/14/2008)
Mark explains how to ride over obstacles. (09/14/2008)

Most of the other girls were pretty young (I'd say in their 20s) and petite. When we were going over the basics at the beginning of the class, some of them just weren't grasping it. I remember thinking, "Okay, even though I'm a big old fatass, I am still so much more athletic than these amateurs." I actually believed it too ... until we got to the big hill.

Greg demonstrates how to ride over a log. (09/14/2008)
Greg demonstrates how to ride over a log. (09/14/2008)

Let's just say that my silent smack-talking came back to haunt me big time. The young girls I was making fun of an hour earlier were climbing up the hill like nobody's business. Meanwhile I was working twice as hard to go half the speed they were. I had to stop twice to take a break. Tim had to stop once himself. But we eventually made it to the top.

Tim on the trail. (09/14/2008)
Tim on the trail. (09/14/2008)

Despite the ups and downs (literally and figuratively), the class was great, and definitely worth the price. The only thing I wish they spent more time on was proper gearing. They did talk about gears, but I still don't feel as if I've mastered the art of knowing what gear I should be in. But I imagine that will come with more experience.

In the meantime, if you're in the mood to go riding with us, let us know!

2 comments:

beastandbean said...

Wow...sounds like a lot of fun! But biking matters aside, did you guys run into Hawkeye Pierce out there at the M.A.S.H. site? Or maybe spy Nancy Reagan watering her flowerbeds on the ranch?

Dying to know! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the insightful and kind words Mister James. Our participant’s good ‘word of mouth’ is extremely beneficial to the success of the program. Glad to hear you guys were educated and inspired and hopefully we see you again!

Scotty
LA Outdoor School Instructor