I spent the afternoon of the 4th in the woods on my all terrain bike. Getting out on the trails has been a long time coming for me. It's been rainy so I have been avoiding the trails until they dry out. I hate to see trail damage and ruts from riding too soon. Fortunately the ground is sandy and rocky in the Mohican State Park so aside from a few soft pockets the trail was firm and dry.
Of all the types of cycling I like to partake in mountain biking is one I really enjoy. I've long since given up on going fast and instead I like to keep a slow to moderate pace and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the natural world as it slides by. Following the natural undulations of the terrain and being totally immersed in the organic surroundings is a totally different experience one can have on two wheels compared to other forms of cycling. Trail conditions and surfaces can change quickly and technical challenges and obstacles keep things from getting mundane.
The unique thing from a fitness standpoint is that even if one rides conservatively or even pokes along the exertion paid out from the constant climbing and descending can be taxing if not brutal. I rode about 17 miles of the single track loop and it was by far a much greater effort than the 50 mile road loop I did the other day.
Back in the early 1990's when I raced mtb I used bar ends on my handlebars. For some reason bar ends seemed to have fallen from favor and I even rode my bikes a few years without them. I may be letting my retrogrouch show but this year I put a set of old bar ends on my Motobecane and found they make a huge difference.
These stubby bar ends are the last ones I bought years ago. Made by Profile Designs they are only 3" long overall and stick out about 2 1/4" from the leading edge of the handlebar. Last week I dug them out of my spare parts and stuck them on for a quick test ride around neighborhood. Without them I never really felt totally secure with my grip on the bars. When my hands are on the regular rubber grips I like how the bar ends contain the outside of my hands. They make my grip on the bike feel more confident especially on rough fast descents.
On long rides bar ends offer a different hold position which is welcome when spending hours on an upright bike. Canted forward as I have them the position approximates the feel of riding on the brake hoods of my road bike.
The original intended purpose of bar ends I think is to aid in climbing. Moving my grip to the far ends of the bar opens up my upper body increasing leverage and just makes me feel more powerful when rocking the bike up the steeps. I've also noticed that having a hold on the bike slightly forward of the leading edge of the bar seems to remove some of the twitchyness of the front end while navigating slow technical terrain.
People have asked me "Aren't you worried about hooking small trees with those?" I suppose that there could be a small risk but in over two decades I've only caught a bar end on a tree once and that was a slow speed encounter so I wasn't launched over the bars. With experience a rider just knows how wide he or she is and makes allowances for it. Like walking through a doorway we position ourselves so we aren't banging a shoulder as we pass through.
Something I noticed while riding on tight twisty trails with trees close in is that occasionally I'll make contact with trees on the very end of my bar. Just glancing blows not enough to cause a loss of control. Without bar ends if my hand is hanging off the end of the grip just a little bit the pinch between the tree and bar can hurt. On my ride yesterday the bar ends protected my hands a couple times as I bounced along between the trees. The bar ends will stay on my bike.
Eastern single track: Roots and rocks O'plenty! After many years of riding hard tail mountain bikes I love my full suspension bike. Sometimes I miss the quick agile handling and climbing prowess of my single speed hard tail but so far not enough to want to actually get it out and ride it on the trails.
As usual I spotted lots of wildlife. Here's a Whitetail fawn that still has it's spots.
Wood bridge decking is covered with a continuous length of chicken wire to provide grip. In a moist forest environment it doesn't take long for bare wood surfaces to get very slippery. The chicken wire works great to help keep the rubber side down.