Paying for Pleasure

Does spending more money on an activity, such as mountain biking, produce greater pleasure? I really want to answer this question with a resounding no, but at the end of the day perhaps that’s not totally honest.

Over and over in my interviews, people talk about “just having fun” as being the driving force of early off-road riding. It was precisely this fun the drove them to invest more deeply into riding, both in terms of time and finances. Better technology, better bikes, better riding? More fun?

I spent $1,500 dollars on a gorgeous full-suspension bike that I love. Riding on this bike is more fun than riding on my old $400 hard tail. Though this was a huge expense for someone on my graduate student salary, I do not regret it. I’ve learned a lot about how riding technology affects riding ability, and how a bike can make a person a better rider. The new bike makes riding more pleasurable and increases my desire to ride.

Quality equipment is pricey. And quality equipment can improve an athlete’s performance, ability, and comfort. This, in turn, can produce greater pleasure in the activity. So maybe you can buy greater pleasure after all.

Cloud Riding

The clouds were low, and we were high.

Imagine, riding atop fluffy, billowy pillows. You can ride up and down their steep plumes, with no fear of falling, since a poofy soft landing will greet you.

Cloud riding is nothing like this.

Real clouds are wet, damp places. Riding in the clouds is riding in a fog bank, but wetter. Rain falls without falling. Everything is muddy and slick. The rocks are still there.

The good news is you can see where the water flows.

At the beginning of the ride, I was advised, “Water is your friend.” Follow the flow of the water. Watch how the water moves over and through the rocks. This is the path of least resistance. Let it be your guide as you flow down the rocks. Flow like water.

This is much easier on my new full suspension bike, which yields to the rocky surface, making me feel as if I am floating up and down the rocks. I flow over the rocks in my braver moments. Other times when I am not brave I walk and try not to slip on the slick surfaces.

I am flowing over the rocks. This is much easier than on my old bike. Flow. Be the water.

Suddenly I experience an intimate encounter with the rocks below me. Palms and thighs collide with stone. I look behind me, and spot a thick sawed-off madrone branch gently vibrating from the force of its collision with my handlebar.

Damage report: twisted handlebars, a bruised palm, and a heightened awareness for the greenery.

Breaking In

Today was a day to break things in.

A list of things better for the wear after today:

  • A new full-suspension mountain bike.
  • The mountain bike destination closest to my home, Rockville.
  • My left knee and elbow.

I approach the new with caution. When I let the bicycle careen down terrain that gives me pause, I am surprised at the ease with which it rolls over rocks and roots, both up and downhill. So different. No need to stand! Sit, relaxed and solid. Steering-eye-trail coordination is improved, and I doubt the thanks goes to my hapless body-mind. I still walk more than necessary on this new bike-trail site.

The trails are teachable. Their features are diverse, from narrow twists to short steep climbs to rocky descents. A little playground for practice.

My new body-bike survived the first fall, no worse for the wear save some superficial scratches at the joints. Remember, keep pedaling!