Of Two Wheels and Nature
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of mountain biking with a local group called “PUMP”, or “Portland United Mountain Pedalers”. I’ve done a lot of road-biking since I moved to Oregon in May, 2005 but I haven’t ridden any trails until recently.
Wow, what have I been missing?
I bought my Gary Fisher Tassajarra mountain bike in May 2004 to replace my aging and quite heavy full suspension Nishiki Blazer. The resorting to a hardtail frame lightened the bike and upgrading to disc brakes has improved braking in mud and wet weather. That was a busy summer of trail riding with the “MMBA” (Michigan Mountain Biking Association). That’s been one of my most proud purchases.
I don’t know what inspired me to get back on the trail. Maybe it was some guilt of neglecting my MTB, or maybe it was my disgust with automotive traffic, polution, and traffic management. Who knows.
What I do know know is that although it has given me more injuries than any other outdoor activity, and has made me work so hard on a bike, it’s been the most inspiring and mood lifting activity in my life in general.
Some may argue that I don’t really get to appreciate nature by cruising along trails at 12mph or faster, or that I cause more harm than good in my adventures, but I do know that MTB are also activists, nature lovers and go out of their way to help anyone in need.
I had a flat tire while riding a trail this past weekend, but I didn’t have any worries, the group of 11 riders all waited for me and several were quick to help change the tube, pump up the tire and make sure I was OK.
The night before the group ride, I was up on some very technical single-track with three other riders near a place called “Scappoose” and had a bad spill that really mashed my shoulder and left me feeling quite sore for several days. But right after my spill, the two following riders quickly checked up on me to make sure I didn’t need medical attention.
Wow…strangers making sure I’m Ok…wish I could say the same for some of my road accidents.
Back in Michigan…I was riding down a road called “Ryan” when a rather large pickup truck decided that he didn’t like me riding in the street. He had plenty of room to pass me on the left just as hundreds of other vehicles had done that day, but he wanted me off the road. Honking and reving his engine, he sped past me at full throttle and hugging the curb. He didn’t hit my bike directly, but his righthand mirror clipped my left shoulder pretty hard causing me to steer directly into a curb and endo onto the grass of someone’s lawn. I came out of it with some bruises from the fall but the odd thing was that it was witnessed by several walkers and other drivers.
Nobody asked if I was OK, nobody pulled over and said that they got the license plate of the pickup, nobody FUCKING CARED that I was just run off the road and could have been killed.
Is it any wonder that I prefer the woods to the concrete jungle and metal predators?
Even in Portland, Oregon, I still get some pretty close calls and have been in screaming matches with unruley pedestrians to either get on or off the road, but any time there’s been any conflict, I’ve had someone to back me up. Some stranger walks up and supports me…some stranger calls the cops…some stranger offers me a bicycle pump…some stranger offers to take me and my broken bike to a shop.
The mentality I see from people here is that we watch out for each other. On or off the trail. Why can’t this happen everywhere?
But if I want to take my two wheels and escape from rolling death traps, I’m then attacked by so-called “environMENTALists” that want to keep bikes off of natural paths. They claim we cause harm to the environment more so than hikers. Nevermind that any mountain bike group out there puts in countless man-hours fixing erosion that we supposedly cause, increasing safety and awareness and promote a HEALTHY LIFESTYLE.
I guess I can’t win.
Do I have a point to all this? Not really, but I am going to hike and bike this weekend no matter the weather or what some eco-wack says.
Would they rather I just bought an ATV and tear up the trails by widening them, causing noise and air pollution with exhaust and waste more gas?
Ever hear one ATV drive by? The decibles are enough to cause ringing in your ears.
Every hear one hundred bicycles go by? Unless they are shouting and ringing their bells, it’s no louder than a strong wind or a choir of insects in the woods.
I’m not going to go make a lot of noise and make things worse, I’m going out to appreciate nature.