We're going on a trip to the rockies this summer and are planning to take some bikes to do some gen-u-ine mountain biking (and also to have for getting around Calgary and Edmonton during our brief stays there on the way too and from the mountains). We haven't' ridden on our mountain bikes for quite a while... in fact I can't even remember when we last got on bikes just for fun... (okay, The Girl and i have been out flatlanding a few times this summer... but that isnt' really RIDING anywhere... that's just "fooling around for fun"and generally down within a block or two of our house!). So to get us out riding for fun and as a bit of an pre-trip equipment shakedown to ensure all equipment is working well in advance of leaving (so we actually have time to rectify any deficiencies) we went out for a little ride last Thursday.
It started off poorly as the bikes required a bit more than just air in the tires. Indeed when I got my 1FG down I suddenly remember WHY we hadn't been out mountain-biking for so long. The last time we went out the wedge-anchored, bottom bracket eccentric had slipped again and my chain was loose. That thing has been such a pain in the ass... I have the hardest time trying to adjust it - and it's not a trail-side adjustment. all the adjustment point - where a hex key is to be inserted are completely stripped out and round... I wrestled with it for a few minutes and realized I would not have any hope of getting it done in time to actually go for a ride before we had to get back (and started thinking that even if I DID get it dialed - it would suck if it slipped again on a trail 20km fro civilization and i had to ride it out with the chain falling off every bump or few pedals) so I quickly started looking around for other riding options.
The Surly Cross-Check immediately presented itself as a possibility... I've done a bit of light trail riding with it. I've seen others ride cross-bikes in mountain bike races. I had a picture of an early NORBA race with dudes sporting drop bars. And, honestly, if I couldn't ride it on a cross bike, I figured there was no way the kids (at least not The Girl) would be able to ride it - even on their mountain bikes.
So with some swapping around of some stuff we were on our way...
Actually, first we had to stop at Bike Universe to pick up some tubes for The Boy's bike - because I realized we never picked up any spare when we got him this new bike in the spring.
Side Note - It has apparently been a long time since I considered mountain bikes - when did they all go to 27.5!? I mean, 29ers were still a fringe thing last time I bought a mountain bike, and now everything is 27.5 or 29!? I'm not really complaining or anything - I totally get why the bigger wheels are better, but I would have thought they'd keep a few bikes with 26" wheels as an intermediate size between 24" kids and 27.5 adult mountain bikes...
So now if I were to bring the 'cross bike on our trip, we'd have to bring FOUR different tube sizes!? (24" for The Girl, 26" for Amanda's Scalpel, 27.5" for The Boy's new bike, and 700c for my 'cross bike!?)
we went for a pretty light ride through Gabriel Dumont park and then south of the bridges on the wide gravel trail. There are lots of gnarly singletrack off in the woods, but I wasn't sure the kids were quite up for that. I'm not sure I was up for it either - on my 'cross bike.
(also I'd heard the ticks were quite bad this year - with the unusually mild winter - and the tick season was supposed to be exceptionally long... now I'm not a fan of ticks, but The Girl is TERRIFIED of them..)
The trail is quite easy - it's meant for strollers and like biking - most of it could be probably be negotiated on a wheelchair- except for this one bit above where there's a crazy step section (pathway planning fail). we all had to push up it.
The Boy has recently been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. So part of our new normal is regularly stopping for snacks and occasionally testing blood sugar levels...
We got to Chief Whitecap Park and the nice trail ended there. We decided to press on for a little bit(ticks be damned!). At one point when I suggested we try following one of the trail spurs into the bush, The Girl expressed genuine concern about the possible presence of ticks. I had to point out that if we were going to encounter any - it would have been along these grassy trails we had been following for a kilometre or so... The trail turned out to be particularly close and quickly started a rooty, twisty-turny, steep descent that The Boy was game to go down, but i knew ultimately it would mean carrying both mine and The Girls down and back up again, so we turned around...
More snacks and checking blood.
On our way back the girl ate it on the steep gravely section pictured above. She was actually walking her bike down. I'd suggested she keep her hands on her brakes and use them to control her bike - it being pretty damned heavy (relative to her own weight) and the trail being steep - but what kid ever listens to their parents advice? so it started to get away from her and she held on and fell down hill, knee first, on gravel - and then to add insult to injury, the bike fell on top of her... I chucked my bike aside and rushed over to her. She immediately stood up and declared "I'm okay!" - which she was clearly NOT! (my doubts about her diminished - she'll make a fine mountain biker one day!) after trying to pick small gravel bits out of her her wounds and cleaned it out as best I could with water and some ancient gauze found in my little first aid kit that I have carried everywhere for the last 16 years or so (there were alcohol swabs in there that expired 10 years ago - when I opened one up it was absolutely dry! how does anything foil sealed dry out!?) we went to make our way back only to discover that my chainring was completely MANGLED!?
"So, I was just riding along..."
As best I can figure it, I must have pilfered three of the short chainring bolts for... something... probably a few years ago - as I haven't ridden this for some time - and thought I'll go get some new ones and replace them... and then forgot... and didn't notice this when I headed out for the ride and it survived teh first 13Km of our ride... but I think it hit a tree or something when I tossed it aside and that mangled the chainring...
Let me tell you; skating a bike 5Km back home on some old Crank Brothers Eggbeaters... not as fun as you might think... (especially considering my cleats were almost entirely worn out!)
Despite all this I was still considering taking the Cross-Check to the mountains with us - perhaps I'd look for a smaller, replacement chaingring and add some interruptor breaks for slightly steeper descents, and maybe even a rack - because there is nowhere to put a seat bag of any size on the kids bikes that won't be rubbed by the tire - and that way I could be the mule and haul stuff for the whole family. And maybe platform pedals with some of those wide foot straps instead of the eggbeaters.
Later that weekend, Amanda pulled out her old Cannondale Scalpel and tried to sweep of ten years of dust and discovered her rear brake does not work at all. As I know nothing about hydraulic brakes (other than how they work - in theory - I know nothing about adjusting them). That meant a trip to the bike store...
At this point I'm not entirely sure what bike i'll be taking on our trip. We've still got some time. I have decided to ditch the 1FG and ordered a Surly 1x1 frame - which i will swap all the 1FG parts to.
Hopefully over the next few weeks we'll get a few more rides in to brush up on (or LEARN) some trail-riding skills and try out different options for bringing stuff with us. Unless I do take the Cross-Check with a rack - it's looking like backpacks for everyone.