What's the easiest way to tell that the Masiguy has been on a bike other than his road or track bike...
... just look for the blood.
Yep, I took the cross bike out today. I was lucky enough to get my Mom and step-Dad to watch the Princess long enough for me to get out for a nice ride on one of my favorite local trails- the north side of Lake Hodges. For those who do not know the area, it is a great trail that has elements of not-so-technical trails blended with medium-technical trails... which means that for me they are SUPER technical trails... especially on the cross bike. However, these are some of my favorite trails, just because they hold lots of memories of epic rides- both good and bad.
I've always loved the trails around Lake Hodges, so they seemed like the perfect place to take the cross bike out for a bit of punishing. I figure, if I'm gonna try to do a cross race (or two) this year, I might as well ride the cross bike a few times first. My poor CXR has been in disrepair for some time now, since I had to strip some parts off of it to keep Ryan Rish of the A&F Pro Development team racing... that's how much I love those guys. I finally pieced my bike back together and am planning to basically overhaul the thing completely with my Dura Ace group... (I know, I'm totally spoiled).
(Before Chad from A&F or the Squirrel freaks out- I wanted to give some love to my friends up north... and I need to do some bike laundry...)
The trails around the lake are not all that technical if you have any kind of skills in the dirt... which means that I am totally in over my head every time I ride there. I am 100% comfortable on my track bike riding elbow to elbow at very high speed, banging into another rider in a Keirin, but if you put me on the dirt I turn into a total freak and ride my brakes non-stop and panic at every turn. However, despite my lack of skills, I thoroughly enjoy riding in the dirt and find it a great way to remind myself why I love to ride bikes... because it's a lot of fun.
I went out hoping I wouldn't crash at all, but figured I'd go down a few times... but only did it once. So I was pretty happy overall. I mean, the section I crashed on, I've never cleared- even with dual suspension and I almost made it today. I grabbed, as always, just a little too much brake and washed the front wheel out. The crash was at pretty slow speed, so I really just fell over. I was going to get a picture of the raspberry on my butt... but that requires showing a little more of my ass than I am comfortable with and I don't want to lose my PG-13 rating and go straight to NC-17. We're close and all... but not THAT close.
Honestly, I cleared way more than I ever have on a mountain bike and totally surprised myself at how my handling skills have improved- all that time on my Haro Mary SS has totally paid off. I am by no means an expert in the dirt, but I am getting far better. The spot where I crashed today is the opposite direction of the same spot I crashed in '97 when I tore the PCL in my right knee. So to walk away dirty, a little bloody and with a bruise on my ass seems like an upgrade.
Some of the sections of trail are so tranquil and pretty.There aren't many places that I get to ride that are like this. Most of the few trails I know are totally open, desert-style trails. Getting to ride, for any distance, under a canopy of trees and along the edge of a "creek" is pretty special... even if I'm bleeding. (And, for the record, all those red leaves are poison oak... which I managed to stay out of.)
The trusty steed...
... which I probably should have taken a picture of when it was still clean. I have to point out a couple things- A) the Ksyrium SL wheels (though a little older) held up beautifully to my weight (205lbs) and hard riding and stayed completely true and 2) the ProLogo Nago saddle that I rode for the first time today is one of the most comfortable saddles I've ever ridden. ProLogo is the high-end division of Velo saddles and they have really stepped up their game and produced some great products. I have the Scratch saddle on my carbon bike with Record parts and I have been very happy with the performance of the saddle. The Scratch is the same saddle ridden by both Petacchi and Zabel on Milram... so I'm in good company. Velo produces all of our other Masi-branded saddles, just like 9/10 of the world-wide cycling industry and they make phenomenal products. On top of it all, Stella (the owner and driving force behind Velo) is one of the best people I have met in this business.
The bike rode flawlessly today, even though I worked on it recently. I was super happy that I was able to ride many sections of the trail that I am familiar with walking. It was cool to clear stuff that I have previously been unable to on full-suspension bikes.
Sadly, this is fire season in SoCal. On the drive up and back, I had to drive through a very thick area of smoke from one of the recent wild fires. This is the time of year when this part of California is exceedingly dry and the winds are very high... a very bad combination.
At least one life has been lost and several have been injured by this round of fires. The fine men and women who fight these fires are true heroes around these parts. The fires of 2003 stole many lives and many homes. Without the bravery of these fine folks, the situation would have been much, much worse. So, let me say THANK YOU to the firefighters who place their lives on the line to save other lives and property during these terrible fires.
In the end, even with the smoke and the crash, it was a great day for a ride and I had a great time banging off the rocks and trees today.