Today’s ride put us over the top as official “Rough Riders.” I guess being student, instructor, and evaluator all in one is a good thing, right? Our classroom today was the Henderson Trail network located a short distance from our house. The whole trail network transverses the hills to the east and south of Henderson and then towards Madera Canyon. We had planned to ride the same trail we hiked a few weeks earlier, but as fate would have it, we found some additional trail and followed that to round out the day’s ride. As hoped, the weather was just stellar today. It had been getting pretty hot about midday so we wanted to get an early start to take advantage of as much “cool” weather as possible. Hopping of the trailhead at 0730, we started our journey. Some may wonder…why take a road type bike off-road, especially THIS off-road? Well, like I said, the trail was close to our house and one can’t argue with convenience sometimes. We took it right in the face right off the bat! A short, but really steep butt kicker, about 15% in my estimation. We both made it up and over without too much effort, let me tell ya, riding off-road up that kind of climb on a road bike sure get’s the heart pumpin’ in a hurry. We both knew this route would be tough so we set out on our Rough Rider ground rules: 1) Have fun and enjoy the adventure; 2) No John Wayne acts! Stop and walk if necessary; 3) Most importantly, no injuries…there are no points for blood-letting.
I must say that I was particularly happy with the way the bikes turned out. Not just because they were assembled by Moi, but because I definitely made the right choice regarding gears, shifters, and tires. In particular, the tires where the most impressive. I opted for WTB’s 38mm width cross tires with an inflation pressure of 55 to 60 lbs. I knew from my limited MTB experience that a lower pressure is the order of the day on the terrain around here. The tires are rated anywhere from 50 to 75 psi so I opted for some place favoring the lower side. I was also surprise that we did not have any flats on this ride as I was expecting some sort of “pinch” flat problems give the sharp, rocky terrain. Another surprise was the amount of time both of us spent using the “granny” gear. Ours was a 28 with a rear 32 tooth lower gear. We used every bit of each for the whole ride. I don’t know if it was because of our lack of our off-road experience or what, but I was sure glad we had it.
Expecting to “hike” part of the route, we weren’t left disappointed. About halfway through the middle part of the trail, the route pitches up at a quick and wicked rate. I’m not sure if anyone could even get up that hill with a mountain bike, it was that steep. The hiking part didn’t bother us much, but both of us were surprise at how much effort we put into pushing the bikes up the grade. Coming off what we thought would be the end of the trail, we experienced what it was like to tackle some tight switchbacks that seemed more designed for hikers than bikers. Keeping our three rules of Rough Rider etiquette in mind, we just stopped as necessary and negotiated the obstacles on foot.
An elderly gentlemen met us at the trail end and informed us about a another trail to the south, or what he called Power Pole road. We made our way through a paved neighborhood and once again were greeted with a “hike” portion. Dismounting, we began the “push” again in earnest. At least this time the “push” was short and we soon found ourselves on Power Pole road. This portion of Rough Riding turned out to be a bit more enjoyable. The road was a little less rocky, not quite so steep, and a little smoother all around. Both of us wanted to press on to the end of Power Pole road, but we were suffering a little from the Bonk Monkey and were in much need of a respite. So, we cut it short, headed north along a graded, unpaved road that paralleled and flood channel towards home.
I had a few lingering thoughts about this Rough Riding thing. First, it is a lot of fun. As a pure roadie for many years, it was really nice to take the same sort of bike and myself out of our element and plop us into the unfamiliar. Second, if you want to keep yourself and your steed clean, this is not for you. Keeping clean and Rough Riding definitely don’t go hand-in-hand. Lastly, I think Rough Riding will continue to be fun and challenging. I was worried that this would just be sort of a fad, kinda like mountain biking was for me. Rough Riding uses the same sort of bike, the bike is a lot lighter than a mountain bike, and because you are riding a road type bike, you tend to steer clear of the technical stuff and focus more on easier to negotiate trails.