Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mountain or Road?

As time goes on and friends are made in the cycling community, I am often asked if I am a Roadie or a Mountain Biker. Before I answer, let me give a bit of background first. I was a BMX grommet in grade school, doing the flatland tricks and riding ramp. Not very good at either I might add, but I burned time daily on two wheels for a number of years. Miles were put on the singlespeed 20" bike. The Redline RL-20 and Haro Master were my favorite bikes. Day and Night I toiled on them until I got my drivers license, and like most high school kids, that ended my biking days.

In college, U of M - Duluth, I bought a Bridgestone MB-3 mountain bike to use as a ride to class, but really never did. I entered a race with a friend named Sven on Hawk's Ridge and got my butt handed to me. I never really wanted to race at this point, it was just something to do one day. Occasionally I would take that steel beauty out on the trail, but it was a rare event.

After graduating, my brother started to get into mountain biking a bit more, and he and I decided to upgrade to the new full-suspension mountain bikes that were out on the market now. Enter the Pro-Flex 856 (I think that number is right?). This bike gave me a new interest in mountain biking as a more worthy past-time. However, my small town was over an hour away from good mountain biking trails which limited biking to a few weekends a summer. The Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival was one hour away, so it was a race/goal to enter and finish the smaller race called the Short and Fat.

Still, mountain biking did not capture much of my attention, even as my brother became quite involved, racing quite a bit in the WORS series. I could not get past the fact that I needed to drive one hour to ride good trails. Riding for two hours would take 4 hours out of the day at a minimum. In 2002, my son was born and this meant even less time. As my brother continued to get more serious about mountain biking, I actually bought a Harley Davidson in late 2003 to ride to work, or go on little rides right from the house without taking too much time away from the family.

That same year brought another impulse purchase. The Trek 2200 Road Bike. Road riding ignited the pure desire that was lost in me somewhere. I could leave from my door and ride for an hour or two, halving the time of mountain biking on nice trails. By this time I had upgraded again to my Tomac Eli, full suspension mountain bike, keeping the Pro-Flex because it was so outdated it would not bring much money. I experimented with both road and mountain bike racing a bit more. Trying some one of the WORS series events and a couple road races in the WISPORT series. Road riding and racing was certainly fun, and much easier to train for. Ironically, as the cycling industry started to pull me back in, my brother started to fade out of it.

Despite the addition to my family with a daughter in 2003, riding became more frequent. My first road race was the Firehouse 50. It reduced me to the unconditioned amateur cyclist that I was. But for some reason I wanted more. New friends were met with the same intentions and it was all over. I was hooked.

Over the next four years, I have treated road and mountain biking equally. Road riding provides excellent opportunities, more convenient training and group rides with friends on a consistent basis. It was not until this last month that I realized which type of biker I was. While determining my schedule for the season, I realized that the 24 Hours of 9 Mile was the same weekend of the Firehouse 50. Having finished in 22nd place last year in the Firehouse, I wanted to better my finish and/or be a domestique for a friend going for the 60 year old record. But the 24-9 took top honors. The chance to ride mountain bike for 24 hours straight and put myself through ultimate suffering again made my decision easy. If you cut through all the BS, I was a mountain biker if given the chance. I may put three times the miles on a road bike, but I prefer to ride the single track trails in Northern Wisconsin.

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