Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ancestral Dirt

Words and photos by Greg

I had to leave our happy valley for the occasion of a family visit and to do some bidness. Headed off over the mountains to the Dark Side of the state where most of the people congregate and where my direct ancestor, my dad lives.

My dad and I have a trip planned for later this summer. The trip involves days and days of riding dirt. My dad rides. He's ridden for years. It's his fault that I got started messing around with bikes. And though he's training hard for our trip, he hasn't done much dirt riding. Ever. I wanted to get him out onto some trails to get him some more experience.

In honor of the occasion, I finished hacking together a crappy bike made almost entirely from parts I've been scavenging from bike shop trash over the last few years. The result was a completely rideable–if creaky and homely–singlespeed bike. I gave up singlespeed mountain bikes a couple years ago when I realized that "No one cares that you ride a singlespeed" and that it didn't do much to make my knees happy. Still, singlespeeds are simple and easy and tough and I had the parts laying around. I brought the bike along with me with the intent of leaving it in Denver.

Dad had told me that he'd gotten himself a cheap mountain bike. And it turned out that he had. Cheap, I mean. Not much of a mountain bike to an elitist bike snob like I can be. But rideable. In a 1993 low-price kind of way. Fully rigid. Long stem. Canti and U-brakes. Biopace chainrings. All dressed up with a lavender paint job. I, however, with my retro singlespeed frankenbike, didn't have much room to be an elitist bike snob.

Dad and I headed for Green Mountain hoping for some trails that were fun and not too hard. I put him on my bike, hoping a little bit of fork travel would help him. Which left me on his lavender "mountain" bike. We hit the dirt and headed off. The trail was rolling and pretty smooth and flowing. The kind of trail that would make lots of guys wear tight spandex and ride a bike more expensive than they needed in order to impress their buddies. We did not impress anyone in that manner.

Dad was painfully slow on the way out. Climbing he was okay, especially for 75-years-old rockin' a singlespeed. But descending, he was all tense and locked in place and sketching. I gave him some tips: Get behind the saddle on descents. Stand up and let the bike roll over rough stuff. And at first he wasn't getting it and I was clueless as to how to help. But as we rode our out-and-back, some light bulbs went off and he started to put it together. By the time we got back to the trailhead, he was kickin' it. Getting his weight back and getting off the saddle and generally looking like a mountain biker. He even felt the thrill of impressing a passerby on the final descent, when the guy riding up eyeballed dad's singlespeed and his sweet form. 

I left my bike in Denver with Dad so he can get some more practice and have some more fun before our trip.

I know: No one cares that you ride a singlespeed. But when my 75-year-old dad rides a singlespeed, I think it's pretty cool. 

Dad, spinning away out across the grasslands.

Me, amid the green. (After he left for an appointment and gave me my bike back.)


  1. Dude, are you dissn' single speeds? I ride one and people DO care what I ride, they think I'm HARDCORE. Hell, we have our own race category's so we must be HARDCORE. Single speeds are simple, light and HARDCORE. I'm so HARDCORE I don't use a front "shock." I like it rigid in the front and HARDCORE in the back. I just changed to harder gearing so I now rock the climbs in a HARDCORE gear. It's too bad you gave up on single speeds, because if you hadn't you'd be HARDCORE like your Dad.

  2. Landon:
    I distinctly remember the day you invited me to try out your new singlespeed and how the chain popped off and my leg whipped and slipped off the pedal and I fell to the ground and nearly rolled under the tire of a moving truck. So when you use the term HARDCORE, I know you know what you're talking about.
    ...or maybe that was a fixed gear...

  3. I think it's pretty cool that your 75 year old dad rides any kind of bike!! I'm starting to get back in shape after years of health problems and I hope to get my balance back so that I can ride my bike and not feel like I'm tettering on the edge of disaster!