Friday, August 3, 2012

How the South is different

I'm not about to get political here, I'm talking about riding.

Well... ok, just two things on this Chick-fil-A business that's been in the news and whatnot.
1.  Way to go Mumbles.
2. Bojangles' is AWESOME.


So, what I wanted to discuss is how riding in the South has been different thus far.

Humidity.  Yes it's been hot down here.  I think our first week down here it was like over 100 nearly everyday, which I've been told is abnormal.  But, it's not the temperature that is killer, it is the humidity.  It's not really the same humidity that I remember from my days in Georgia, where you found yourself soaked just walking from the comfort of your a/c controlled apartment to the a/c of your vehicle...  no, what I'm finding is the heaviness of the air is an absolute killer on rides.  It's that weight in the air that I've yet to adjust to, so when the lungs start crying for more air I seem to be left stuck sucking on a sponge.

Trail conditions... there are a couple in this category.

Trails here are buff and clear.  I guess that's the difference in riding trails created specifically for mountain bikes (here) versus riding State Forests where trails were originally designed for hiking (New England).  Being designed for mountain bikers, and receiving frequent maintenance, riders/workers seem to be partial to debris-less trails.  Yes, nice derailleur snatchers (branches) need to be cleared, but everything is cleared leaving a nice view of the hard packed trail.

Trail length frequently leaves something to be desired.  I've found a bunch of trails that are sub 6 miles... some being closer to 3.  I'm not used to forced laps to get mileage in.  But again, I suppose this is a sacrifice made to have mountain bike specific trails, as well as utilizing available lands to increase the number of trails to choose from.  I do miss being able to hit Wompatuck or Foxboro and just ride my way through and around the forest with minimal to no repeats of trails and still log 20+ miles.

Building these shorter trails to utilize the land available sometimes means squishing in the miles... lots of twisty and turny bits.  Lot's of switchbacks.  Lots of leaning the bike over on turns.  Lots of stuff I'm frankly not used to!!  Switchbacks, most of the time, were utilized on climbing hillsides in New England... forcing trails to twist back on themselves wasn't considered in the original hiking minded design of said trails.  So, my experience on switchbacks was on tight technical climbs where speed would probably be low anyway.  Here they are utilized to pack the trails into small places so I'm having to relearn how to ride in a sense. It's kinda neat to take on a different style, but man is it a process to get your mind wrapped around trying to keep speed up as much while getting the whole turn thing down perfectly on some sharp turns (outside pedal down and weighted - get off the damn saddle, inside hand press down into the turn - get off the damn saddle before you wash out!!).

The technical aspects of trails here - yes there are some roots and some rocks - are far outweighed by the buff fast stuff.  There are trails here and there that can keep you honest with a mixture of tight turns, ups and downs, and some roots and rocks thrown in for good measure.  But these trails are definitely not the trails I learned to ride on when I got back on the mountain bike a couple of years ago.  Is that an advantage or disadvantage?  Maybe I learned some skills up North that you might not (be forced) to learn down here... but does that help me here?  There are no rock walls to cross here like there is EVERYWHERE in New England... but hopefully that translates into me being confident to keep speed up through whatever mess I find on a trail here.  On the flipside, those learning on the tightness down here will probably smoke me with their ability to carry speed through the corners at a level I have not gotten to yet.

What it has done is made riding new again.  It's always been fun, and I have always been learning and improving (or at least striving to do so) with each ride.  But now I get to focus on a new set of skills and really work.

So far, so fun!!

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