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Happy New Year!

There’s an old superstition that whatever you do on New Year’s Day sets the tone for what the upcoming year will be like.  If that’s the case, then I should have a great year of riding ahead of me.

We went out to Smithville and it was my first time out there, as well as my first time mountain biking in the snow.  I’m not sure why it is, but I have a track record of trying different trails under interesting conditions.  My first night ride was also my first ride out at the Lawrence River Trails.   It was super-cold out, hovering around 20F and so the snow was “dry” and the few areas where you could see dirt, it was frozen dirt, not mud.  Perfect weather for winter mountain biking.  Joel advised me to dress much lighter than I would for a commute, so I just wore one sweater underneath my jacket, and my usual cold-weather tights under a pair of jeans.  Wool socks, earband, and balaclava, as well as my super-duty gloves.  Joel had gotten a couple of pair of these activated-charcoal toe-warmers which heat up when you open their packaging, and so we had those inside our boots, and I was as comfortable as you please.  I got a little sweaty inside my jacket, but not so bad that I caught a chill.

I found that since I was already familiar with snow riding from my commuting, and I have pretty good slow-speed skills thanks to Friz, the shift to riding offroad in the snow was not too big of a technical step.  The trail had already seen a few visitors, both of the hiker and biker variety, and so it was easy to see where you were supposed to go.  Except for the trails that were north-facing, the snow was pretty well packed, so it wasn’t terribly different from riding normal singletrack, though of course you went a lot slower, and corners tended to be a little tricky.  I had to remind myself that I probably wouldn’t die if the rear end of my bike slid a little wide through a turn, and that bailing off into snow doesn’t generally hurt that much.  In fact, a lot of those slow-speed wipeouts lent well to just plain stepping off the bike as it tipped over.  I still fell completely over more than my fair share of times, but I “saved” quite a few crashes, too.  I actually managed a few tripod turns, and usually when I put a foot down, it’s all over, so I felt really good about that.  On the deep, loosely-packed North-facing trails, I mostly had to walk, but it was okay.  So long as I kept moving, everything was fine.  I’d have frozen my ass off if I stood still for very long, but hiking or riding were great.

I think I could REALLY come to like the Smithville trails under more favorable conditions, and even in these very challenging conditions it was a lot of fun.  It’s very twisty singletrack, which I love, because when I get in the right frame of mind, I love seeing how well I can thread my bike through lots of tight corners.  There don’t seem to be any real major killer climbs, and it’s not a total boulder-pit, which does my spirits good.  A few smallish rockfields here and there are fine, but I just can’t hang with big honkin’ chunks of rock all over the place.

I had a HUGE amount of fun today.  I don’t think I can say that enough times.  As always, it took a little while to “get my head in the game.”  Because I commute daily, and because I ride my bike for most of my other gettin’ around, it takes me a while to change gears mentally, and remember how to roll with the terrain and relax into it.  I very frequently have this “ohmygodI’mgonnadie” reaction when I come upon the first steep descent in a trail, especially when it’s been a while since I’ve been offroad.  My poor depth perception doesn’t help much either, though I am getting better at judging and compensating for my wonky eyesight.  Switching bikes has helped quite a bit, too.  The Redline is a lot better balanced than the old Trek 800 was, and so I don’t lose the rear-end on climbs so much and it’s easier to bring the front end up over obstacles.  I popped it up over a log today just as easy as you please, which was a GREAT feeling.  I’ve been practicing my hopping during my daily commute, over potholes and steel plates in the road as well as other debris, so that skill improvement is paying off on the trails.

I’ve been thinking of participating in some of the mountain bike races this spring, in the women’s beginner class.  Not because I think I’m a good rider and will do well, because I’m not and I probably won’t, but because I’ll be out there anyway, and I started getting sick of answering “nope, I just ride, I don’t race” all year last year.  It’s too much trouble to explain my slackitude to people, so this year, I expect to answer “yep, in the Crap-Girl class – holler when you see me pass by.”  I think I was starting to feel kind of lame anyway, like a skate-betty when the fact of the matter is that I do participate, and I might as well participate in a couple of the more low-key races just to say I done did it.  Besides which, the entry fees for mountain bike races tend to be much more manageable than those for road or cyclocross, since there’s no license to buy.  If I can finish (and myabe not finish last) I will be happy enough.  And knowing my weaknesses (and getting in that practice lap which is especially crucial given my “mental gear shifting” needs) will help me not suck as badly as I could.  I hope.

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