Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Omniterra, Multimodal, a Bit of This, a Bit of That

Vacation time. That's what I'm living on right now. Vacation time. Stay-cation in the parlance of the ad-makers and trend setters. Staying home. Relaxing. Running. Biking. Not getting too worked up about anything much.

It's been a good run so far. A week and a half in to a two week respite. I've gotten in some good runs and some good rides. I've been able to continue coaching the next generation of dirtbag cyclists on the fine art of blasting through the berms and hucking the jumps when the jumps come there way.

On Saturday, the 4th, I woke up around noon after a long day of straining water with my dipnet in Kenai on Friday, catching next to nothing, and decided I wanted to go for a long ride. I needed to clear my head of some thoughts that were threatening to drown me and I knew that a straight trail ride wouldn't cut it. I needed something a bit more painful to focus my thoughts not on the existential crises brewing in my head, but instead on the physical pain of long, hard miles.

In pursuit of this goal, I loaded up the hydration pack with water and a couple of pre-packaged Rice Krispy treats and started out the door, climbing from my house and towards Hatcher Pass. The goal and route was only loosely defined: Go up. Decide what to do when up far enough.

This is a general route I've taken a few times in the past. Once all the way to the mine. A few times just to Archangel road. A few times over to Government Peak Rec Area.

I like the road bits of this ride. They are comfortable even though the road is narrow and heavily traveled. There are generally enough cyclists that ride the road that the road users are aware of us being there. The traffic due to the holiday was a bit heavier than usual, but still not bothersome.

At first I thought I might try going up and over the pass and then taking some of the ATV trails back to town. That plan hatched while I was still sub 1000 feet of elevation. By 2000 I was thinking I'd just head up to the mine, maybe hike up to  Gold Cord lake, and then head back down. By 3000 feet I figured I'd take a right at Gold Mint and ride that trail out and back a ways before heading back down the mountain.

In the end I went up a bit further - Archangel Road to the Reed Lakes trail where I rode the mile and a half open to bikes before turning around and heading back towards home.

While riding, though, I got to thinking about omniterra and one bike to rule them all. I feel like I beat this dead horse time and time again, but I am constantly amazed by where and how I end up riding my bike and how if I were to have a different bike for every type of riding I do, I'd not have the adventures I do because the machine would limit my imagination and ride.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I must have a bike that can adapt to whatever I decide to throw at it on a given ride. Road, gravel, single track, light downhill - you name it. I am not a planner. I head out and see where the wind takes me. Fatties have allowed me to do this more than any other bike has. And the Pugsley, I hate to say it, has been the shining light in this omniterra pursuit. Well, I've only ridden two fatties - the Pugs and a Trek Farley, but between the two, the Pugs has proven to be the more capable ride for my style of riding. The Trek was fun once I got used to it. Fun on trails. Riding mad miles on pavement was brutal on that bike. The gearing was certainly trail-centric. I like 2x10 drive trains, but when riding roads it is awesome to have a big old 44 up front.

Some days I do wonder if the idea of omniterra, of one bike to rule them all is catching on, if I am the patient zero for the movement, or what. No, I know I'm not the first to approach riding like this. Not by a long shot. I haven't been riding long enough to be the leader of any type of movement. But it seems that I see more and more often articles and blog posts about going simple. About getting rid of the garage full of bikes in favor of one bike.

In fact, in this month's issue of Bicycling magazine the cover story is all about a guy who has gone from racer to dirtbag and how happy he is. Surly today posted a similar type of story about another dude who's just living the dream with one bike and not much more.

What strikes me about this situation right now is this: Bicycling has this article about simplifying while at the same time reviewing a string of bikes for their editors' choice awards and not a single one of the bikes is under 2500 dollars and the one that came closest to that 2.5k mark was constantly referred to in terms of being "amazing for this price point."

Of course Surly is trying to sell bikes and products, too. So is the idea of going dirtbag, of being simple and having a single bike to rule them all just a new trend, something that the hip riders will profess on the surface while continuing to curate their personal museum of bikes specific to riding situations?

Hell, does any of that matter?

Of course it doesn't.

What matters is that we all get out there and ride. Whether we have a 10,000 dollar uber-bike or a 300 dollar Wally World special, what matters is that we are out in the world riding. It makes the world a better place, a happier place.

And for the readers who are lucky enough to be in the MatSu Valley - here is a helpful hint: There are some new single track trails in the MatSu greenbelt system that are freaking amazing fun to ride! Fast, curvy, challenging and just flat out fast. Come check 'em out!

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