Sunday, November 27, 2022

Why Mountain Biking is Best with Friends

Mountain biking is a blast, you get the benefit of cardio and strength training mixed with a dose of adrenalin and some fear.  But it is even better when you get to share it with friends.  I've been blessed for the last 20 years to ride with an excellent group of individuals that have blessed my life and become true friends. We are the "old men" of the OMMBC (Old Men Mountain Biking Club), but you don't get the official title of "Old Man" until you hit 50. 

It all started when my brother showed up at my house on Thanksgiving Day covered in mud riding a 2000 K2 ProFlex with a carbon Easton swing arm.  His first words to me were "you gotta try this!" From then on by the good grace of God, these amazing gentleman (and few ladies) were brought into my life resulting in a long consistent history of weekly night and Saturday morning rides year-round.

These friends were mostly found on the trail, then they brought others and while there have been a number of riders over the years (probably around 100+) there has been a core group of about 15 crazy die-hards that are up for anything.

After 20 years that equals about 1,000+ rides.  That is the beauty of living in the Oregon Willamette Valley, you can ride every day if you want.  I've got to spend a lot of time with these guys because we have hour long climbs up McCulloch Peak, Alsea Falls or Black Rock.  Or on long drives to Moab, Bend, Oak Ridge, McKenzie Trial, etc.  And when you do that, you get to know someone's "real" character.    

This is why mountain biking is better when you experience it with people you trust, enjoy being around and are people of character.  What that does is allow you to have shared memories of great trails, crashes, food, crazy rides, road trips, life experiences and lots and lots of laughter (without all the drama).  


The photos in this post are an example of that.  These are photos from just 2022, which include some of the next generation.  In 20 years of riding you see kids get born, grow up, graduate from school and event get married.  That is a lot of history (and a lot of stories).  

Now, there is obviously the safety side of riding with someone in case there is a mechanical or injury.  And we have had both.  There is always the need of a tool someone else has, or pump that is quicker to get than yours, or the tube you forgot. All given freely without a second thought (even if it is just a helping hand in getting a tire to seat).  But it is sharing a laugh, a smile or life venting session on a climb that better and a bond stronger.

Finally, if you ride a lot, you are going to ride alone, which I like to do.  I get to control the pace and just enjoy being outside, but it is a different experience when you are with someone.  Not better or worse, just different.  While I may not be the most articulate in expressing my feelings, I think you can see by the pictures the power of friendship around a united interest and how it makes that experience all the more special.  

I have also found the mountain biking community to be very accepting and inviting, which again sets it apart (even if you aren't an eBike fan or ride a single speed :-)).  So, go ride and do it with someone to make it even more enjoyable.  

Sunday, January 23, 2022

I bought an e-Mountain Bike and why you should too!

I have never been one to worry that some new technology is going to "ruin" mountain biking forever. If you think about it, mountain biking was born by using technology in a new way.  So, dropper posts, full suspension, 29", fat tires, etc. have all added to the mountain biking experience and inviting more participation than holding it back.  And now we have e-Mountain bikes, and they are here to stay and here is why.

E-Bike Classifications

First, a conversation about e-bike classes is important to understand for this discussion.  

Class 1 ebikes are limited to a top speed of 20 miles per hour, and the electric motor works only when the rider is pedaling. 

Class 2 ebikes are also limited to a top speed of 20 miles per hour, but they have throttles that work when you're not pedaling. 

Class 3 ebikes can go up to 28 miles per hour and must have a speedometer, but may or may not have a throttle.

What I'm talking about for mountain biking is Class 1 e-Mountain bikes.  This is important because there are certain trail groups (or more like the land managers) who are very resistant to e-Mountain bikes (like COTA - Central Oregon Trail Alliance/NFS in Bend) who I think are well meaning, but avoiding the issue by just saying "no" to all e-bikes (11/27/22 Update - I have learned that the eBike restriction is more from the land manager than COTA).

For the purposes of this discussion, when I talk about e-bikes, I'm talking about Class 1 bikes.  Now there are two types of mountain bikes in the Class 1 category.  Those that have resistance all the time and those that have a "free spin" or no resistance when the battery is not engaged.  And finally, there are motors that give you a 2x assist (free spin) and those that give you a 4x assist (belt drive always on assistance).  

Why Is All This Important?

This is all important because there are those that think riding an e-bike is no different than riding a motorcycle, which is like saying a kiddie electric car is the same as a monster truck (okay maybe a little extreme). Because trail stewards are concerned that e-bikes are going to tear up their trails like a motorcycle would (yet horses are okay, but don't get me started down that rabbit hole).  

Why Did I Want an E-Bike?

One, I'm getting a little older and two I wanted to ride longer.  We have a local trail system at Alsea Falls (Fall Creek) that for a climb to the top is about 70 minutes.  So, one up and done and I would like to do two or three laps.  An e-bike makes that possible.  

What Was My Criteria?

Here is what I wanted in an e-bike:
1. A full-suspension mountain bike
2. Class 1
3. Free spin 2x assist
4. Light weight
5. Good battery life

I wanted a bike I could pedal (and climb) without the assistance and when I turned on the assistance, I only wanted a small bit of assistance for climbing.  Also, I wanted to be able to ride it down without having the assistance on.

What Did I Get?

The bike I got that checked off all the boxes was a 2021 Specialized Turbo Levo SL.  This bike weighs 40 pounds exactly with pedals.  It has a free pedal when the assistance is off with a 52-T climbing gear. There are three levels of assist which can be customized, and it only provides 2x assistance and it is built on the Stumpjumper frame (which I have been riding for years).

Now having the light weight, free pedal and less assist comes at a premium price.  But to me it is worth it (though it is hard to buy a bike that costs as much as a 10 year-old truck or a new motorcycle).

How Does It Ride?

First, it rides just like I thought it would.  With the "motor" off, the 52T climbing gear and 40 lbs (about 7-9 lbs more than my current bike) makes it very rideable, even on the climbs.  In fact, I think I could do the entire ride without using the assistance, which is just what I wanted.  Coming down I feel the extra weight just a little (like jumping), but it isn't a bad thing to have some extra weight when cornering. 

I've been on four rides so far and I have found that I get almost the same workout, but I get there just a little faster (and my legs aren't fried).  If I keep it on the lowest power setting, I can ride right with the rest of the group. Now a 4x assist that has a belt drive and always has to be on, will climb much much faster.  

The e-bike does not make all riders fast or equal.  You still need to be fit.  For example, I road with a person who has the same bike I do, and we put it on full power and then peddled up a climb.  Because I was more fit, I got to the top before he did.  Whereas if we had matching motorcycles, we would get there at the same time.

This allows me to do a local ride, like Fall Creek (which has an hour climb) and do 2 to 3 laps which is another reason I wanted one.  I did three normal rides on a single charge and still had 1/3 to 1/2 battery life.  

Bottom Line

Was it worth it?  Yes.  In fact, it is so fun it is hard not to ride it for every ride.  It is still a workout, I still sweat on the climbs and I still come down with a smile on my face. So yes, you should get one!

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Mountain Biking is Dangerous (or is it?)

As I sit on the couch, recovering from another broken bone injury sustain while riding my mountain bike, I do have to admit that mountain biking is dangerous.  This time I broke three ribs in my back and sustain heavy muscle trauma (hurts worse than the the breaks) after crashing on on a jump on Misery Whip at Fall Creek Bike Park (Alsea Falls).  It was my second time through the jump line that day and I just over jumped a right hander into the left bank and crashed into a stump at the bottom of the "s" turn.  And I was by myself (though a doctor friend and his doctor friend found me about 15 minutes after I crashed). 

After my friends made sure I wasn't "seriously" injured and my legs started working a little better, they got me to the service road and I road down to my rig and drove to the immediate care facility.  

The final result was broken ribs 6,7 and 8 under the right shoulder, tendon and muscle trauma to both thighs, along with soreness and stiffness in numerous other places.

While I didn't miss a day of work, I have had a lot of time to think about the crash and resulting injuries, and here are a few observations:

1. Mountain biking CAN be dangerous.  I have wrote a few posts about crashing, it is part of being a mountain biker (see my video But the vast majority of crashes do not result in broken bones.

2. Mountain biking is NOT dangerous unless you make it that way.  Meaning, my mountain biking has progressed from thinking a green trail was hard to riding double black diamond trails.  But in my experience, I have only been hurt or seen others get hurt when they are trying something more than just riding.  For example,  I have had three broken bone crashes when I was jumping my mountain bike. I broke a collar bone turning off my GoPro and hit the only rock on a flat trail.  I broke another collar bone riding to the trail in a very heavy fog and hit a curb.  So I have never been hurt just riding the trail no matter how rough or technical the trail was.  So my trying to jump (which I took up in my 50's) is where I have received broken bones.  Otherwise I could have rolled through the spots and been fine.

3. Sleeping in the recliner sucks.

4. It is true that you should never ride alone, but it happens.  So you need to let people know when you leave and how long you will be.  That way people can know where to look if you don't come back on time.  I also carry my cell phone with me and I wear a RoadID.  I am also very grateful for the two mountain biking docs who found me on the trail. The mountain biking community is all about that, helping each other.  Also, I have to say thanks to the hikers in the parking lot who loaded my bike when I couldn't. 

5. Bones heal faster than muscles and tendons. The bruising and tightness of my hamstrings has been far worse that dealing with the broken ribs.  I felt like I could have got back on my bike and pedaled around the block on the flats after a week with my ribs.  But I'm barely able to walk after two weeks and sitting has been very difficult.  

6. Follow-up with your primary care doctor.  Mountain bikers tend to think they are tough, as the saying goes, "Mountain bikers don't sue when they crash, they take pictures of their injuries and send them to their friends." But, when I went to immediate care, they were really only focused on seeing if I had any broken bones in my back.  They never even looked at my legs.  So you have to be an advocate for yourself.  Once I was home and the adrenalin and shock wore off, I discovered a lot more injuries and soreness.  

7. It is tough watching your body change.  I went from a very strong and in shape person, to a person who could barely walk and needed help getting dressed.  My legs are weak, my "saddle toughness" is wearing off and I've put on 5 or 6 lbs. At my age (61) I have to consider is trying to say make that gap jump worth 6+ weeks off the bike.  When you ride 3+ days a week, that is a lot to give up for a "moment" of glory.

8. With that said, don't beat yourself up playing the "what if" game.  I've gone over my crash (what I can remember) over and over thinking things like, if "I would have just been 12 inches to the right..." and you can't do that to much of that or it will get in your head.  Some might ask am I now scared to get back on my bike or "did I learn my lesson." I'm not scared at all, in fact I can't wait to get back riding.  But do I have a healthier understanding of my limitations and skill level.  I have learned that I can take a drop, but I am not good at taking a "lipped" jump.  You have to continue to "ride" the bike even in the air, and I realize I will brake before a jump (not a good thing) and my mind freezes in the air, so I don't "ride" the bike.  While it is an amazing feeling when you hit it all right, I'm not good at it, and I need to face it, and know that it is okay.

I've been riding with a group for about 18 years now and we ride year round.  The Old Men Mountain Bike Club (OMMBC) has also had its share of broken bones as shown below, and most have also been from jumping or pushing the edge:

And in 2020, our riding community (not one of the OMMBC) lost a friend at Black Rock.  So in the end Mountain Biking is dangerous, but I still maintain the danger is self-inflicted vs. a road rider who can not control the dangers around them.  I feel far safer on my mountain bike on a black diamond run than I do in the bike lane riding out to the trailhead. 

So in the end, mountain biking is as dangerous as you make it out to be, and I like that.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Why I Like e-Mountain Bikes and Why they Should NOT be Banned

Mountain Biking is an interesting entity. Like a flowing river, people keep trying to control it, steer it and put boundaries around it.  Yet like a river it will find its own course, you can't control it especially in a flooding situation.  So you need live with it, embrace it and "go with the flow." e-Bikes like 29" inch wheels are coming and mountain bike groups and trail organizations need to get in front of it now and remove the friction and tension around them. And I am no talking about banning them. 

e-Bike Power Classifications:
First before we start our discussion we need to understand the basics about e-bikes. There are three power source types:

Class 1: eBikes that are pedal-assist only, no throttle, and have a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph.
Class 2: eBikes that also have a maximum speed of 20 mph, but are throttle-assisted.
Class 3: eBikes that are pedal-assist only, with no throttle, and a maximum assisted speed of 28 mph.

My Take on e-Mountain Bikes:
There are people who have too much time on their hands and not enough of what I call "living at 360 degree life." They are in the "here and now" and don't think about the sustainable future of our sport. Young mountain bikers are going to get old, more people riding trails means more support of the sport which means more support of trails.

So I think trail managers and riding clubs need to get in front of trend they can't stop and embrace it a 360 view. For example, they can say that only Class 1 e-Mountain Bikes are allowed on their trails. That takes out the concern over "motorcycle" like trail riders. You can also establish rules (depending on your terrain) that you can only use the assist mode while climbing.With a max speed of 20 miles an hour for the assist mode (based on your pedaling) most experienced riders are already going that fast and wouldn't want any assistance going down, especially technical sections.

Also, e-Mountain Bikes are getting lighter and companies like Specialized are releasing bikes that have some assistance, but still requiring heavy pedaling and shifting down while climbing. What is the advantage of that setup? More laps on your favorite climb or longer days in the saddle (especially as you get older).

My Use Cases:
Here are a few use cases that I think are a valid use for an e-Mountain Bike:

Use Case 1 - Couples - many times one spouse or the other (mostly the female one) will not want to ride with their significant other because they keep getting dropped on the climbs, etc. An e-Mountain Bike is a great equalizer in that case. It is always better to do a sport you love with the one you love.

Use Case 2 - Old Age - one of my favorite places to ride is Alsea Falls bike park. It has a paved and gravel climb that is about 2000 feet of climb in about 4 miles or less. I'm approaching 60 and while I'm in good shape, I can do about 1.5 laps before my legs are tired. With some pedal assist on the climbs I could get in 3 laps.

Use Case 3 - Disabilities - there are people who need assistance pedaling because of a disability. In fact, this would be my only case for allowing someone to use a Class 2 bike if they couldn't pedal at all.

There are probably more, but you get the idea.

Specialized e-Mountain Bikes:
Specialized has been a leader in e-bikes and their Levo e-Mountain bikes are no exception.  As mentioned above they have two versions based on their Stumpjumper frame.  I have always road Specialized, and especially Stumpjumpers (in fact I have 2017 and 2019 carbon models).  On version is your traditional Class 1 pedal assist and the other is the lower power Class 1 pedals assist.  The later comes in under 40lbs.

The links below are to a video that points out the difference which I think you will see other manufactures adopt and then an MTBR review of the same two bikes.

So there you have it, not an exhaustive discussion but hopefully it helps to frame the discussion in a positive way.  Because I for one want to be riding into my 80's and I know that an e-Mountain Bike will get me there.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Scars of the Past - Remembering "Great" Rides

As I have said in at three previous posts about injuries (Nov 10, 2018, Jul 29, 2016 and May 20, 2013) mountain biking includes an element of risk (and reward) which includes crashing and scratches in various forms.  But, unlike road riding, you can crash, slide out, fall over and generally get separated from your bike and walk away from it (with maybe a little poison oak). A road bike crash is not pretty.

Recently I was in the bathroom after a shower and taking an inventory of my body as a map to great rides:
  • There is the "BB" sized scar on the top of my left hand that happened on my second ride down COD in Bend Oregon. Somehow my had got twisted under my handle part in a crash on a rocky section. All I had was this round BB sized hole that healed like a little rock.  The top of COD is one of my favorite trails which I connect with Funner.  
  • On my right wrist there are two side by side 2" "racing stripes" that I got going down the "Stairs" on the upper McKenzie River Trail (MRT).  The upper MRT is one of the most technical trails you ride as it has narrow trails through sharp lava rocks.  This crash happened as I approached the "Stairs" and a riding partner said wait, let me film it, which caused me to stop and loose momentum. Going too slow, the wheels locked on a step and over I went.  My helmet saved my life and my wrist got the tattoo. 
  • Of course there is my left collar bone which has taken the brunt of my getting to know the ground.  From my soccer days I always tumble to my left. A long time ago I broke it skiing (another crazy story), but since I have been mountain biking I have broke it three times, but never just mountain biking:
    • The first time was at Black Rock in Falls City where I went over a drop that was under construction that very day.  The break resulted in surgery a plate and 8 screws. But I was able ride out (a zip down jersey makes a perfect sling). 
    • After about 18 months I had the plate removed as it made sense if there was a chance of breaking it again I didn't want the plate in there. And about 9 weeks later on my way out to the ride in a very heavy in the dark I turned onto what I thought was a drive way that was really a walk way and crashed into the curb at a high rate of speed (for a mountain bike) and broke it again (but no surgery). I again was able to ride home. 
    • That was in February and that following May in Moab as we are doing the Whole Enchilada in an upper meadow on a flat "safe" trail I reached up to turn my GoPro off and hit the only rock in the trail. It was a "small" break and I was able to complete the entire ride. Needless to say I have a nice lump on my collar bone.
  • On my left forearm is a small patch that was a "rub" burn, where I was riding the long skinny on Funner in Bend where I slipped off and landed with my arm on the slide and even with my long sleeve jersey and a wind jacket still got a "rub" burn. 
  • On the inside of my right calf there is a series of about 5 scares from where I feel over on the Sulfur Springs tail (yes there is a small trail and I only road it once) and fell over when my doctor riding partner stopped and I couldn't unclipped fast enough (I was till getting used to them).  I raked my calf over my big ring.  My riding partner said lets go to my office and I'll sew you up (23 stitches later).
  • On my right shin there is a little brown spot that looks like a mole but is really a spot where my front tire threw up a rock that hit my shin bone through my sock at Black Rock. It bleed a little, but never really healed for a long time.  I guess it killed the skin or something. It was my strangest injury ever.
  • Finally, there is my right angle that has a very large scar from an ankle break at Alsea Falls that required surgery a plate and 10 screws (and a surgery to remove them).  This happened when I came over a jump and landed on the hill side and slid out, not really a crash at all, but my ankle caught on something and twisted till I broke (I still road it out).
So there you go a tour of my body and of great rides.  And while it sounds like this is a rough sport, it really isn't, but the scars remind me of rides enjoyed, views seen and fun times. These are things I would never change.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Riding at Night - Cheap Lights 2018

I have been night riding for 13+ years and doing it year round. The "Old Men" bike club (OMMBC) ride year round and we normally start at 8:00 p.m. Night riding adds excitement back into a local trail that you ride over and over. Some people think that is "crazy, but you drive your car at 70 miles an hour in the rain all because you have good car lights.  Mountain biking at night is no different. With good lights you can go just about as fast as you can during a daylight ride.

Now there are excellent light companies out there with excellent lights and great features, but they are expensive and I just didn't like the idea of taking something that expensive out in the rain and also the potential crash with it.  I'm also a realest (or in other words a cheap guy) so I buy cheap lights.  And I’m a fan of the cheap lights on Amazon.

I've seen the YouTube Videos and heard the "horror" stories, but I have to say I've avoided those problems and have had great success with these lights over the last 14 years.  The key I’ve found is to use an upgraded battery and not the default battery they ship with.  The batteries they ship with the lights do not hold up well in our (Oregon) winter weather and they don’t hold a charge long.  I’ve had the best luck using the upgraded battery (which used to be the standard battery back in the day).  I have batteries that I’m still using that are 7 years old being charged once to twice a week.  

I just purchased a new set of lights and while they are “bigger” I’m not sure they are that much brighter and I never believe the lumen's claim, but that is also half the "fun" of buy cheap lights.  I have never had a light fail from rain or weather. The most issue I have is with connections because of a crash, etc.  So I have had one or two lights fail over the years because of that (again why I like the cheaper ones because they are easily replaced).  

So hear are few links to the lights, the extended batter and the cord extender:
This is my newest light (it uses the standard connection that matches all my other batteries).  I bought two. $32
The model I have used for the last three years (which I have two of and they still work great) is no longer available.  So here are two “upgraded” models.  These will be a little smaller and lighter if you don’t want to use the larger one above for a helmet light.  

Weihao Bicycle Headlight, 10500 Lumens 7 LED Bike Light, Waterproof Mountain Bike Front Light Headlamp with 96000mAh Rechargeable Battery Pack, AC Charger
Here are some extended battery options:
Magicshine MJ-6092 Small and Lightweight 2 Cell Bike Light Battery, 2600mAh Li-ion Waterproof Rechargeable Bike Light Battery for MJ-900, Round Plug

Magicshine $24 (2 cell) this is the one I use
Magicshine $49 (4 cell)
Magicshine $61.00 (6 cell)
Battery Cable Extender $10
And because I like to put my battery in by jersey pocket or my camelback I use an extender.
Video of a night right on Mary's Peak using two of the $25 and $29 lights linked above.  The camera takes some of the light away, but you get the idea:

No go ride!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Fall Riding 2018

Corvallis Oregon is arguably the best place to live if you are a mountain biker.  It has year round riding on everything from very technical trails to flow trails and everything in between.  Some years the winter rains set in early and other years like the fall of 2018, the rains hold off, the trails stay firm and leaves have time to properly change colors.  It has been a great fall clear into November with little rain and fun rides.

McDonald Forest

Decker Loop

Black Rock

Mary's Peak