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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Mud World

This was my first trip up to Tiger Mountain so I can forgive myself for getting off on the wrong exit. I usually don’t drive myself up to this Seattle favorite mountain bike trail and as a passenger I never pay close attention. The same goes for the trail itself. I usually just hump behind friends who are familiar with the mountain. I figured that I had done Tiger Mountain enough times so I shouldn’t get lost going by myself.

There were about ten cars in the parking lot when I pulled up to the summit. That’s kind of a crowd for a week day this early in the season. I ended up passing three cyclists and one forest service truck all afternoon.

The ride begins with a pretty healthy climb up the forest service road. I locked out my front and rear suspension and started grinding up. The road is so steep in places that you can’t stand up on the pedals to crank because you will lose traction on the rear wheel. If you stop on the steeper inclines it can be a chore to regain your forward momentum so if you are going to take a breather do it on a relatively flat section. The brutal uphill section gives you lots of time to think. What I tend to think about is how much this part sucks. I think about how much easier it would have been if I had gone to a matinee.

I saw another rider about 1/8 of a mile in front of me. I didn’t feel too strong out of the gate today so I didn’t think I’d be passing anyone on this ride. This climb will never seem easy to me but I think I felt better than usual because I had done interval training the day before yesterday. I kept swearing out loud and grinding up the road that spirals around clockwise to the top of the mountain. I blew past the guy in front of me and raced up the last mile to the top.

When I got to the trailhead I lowered my seat, unlocked my shocks, put on a thermal sweatshirt and helmet, and started down the single track trail. It was a sunny day but on the trail the tree cover is so dense that it is like riding at dusk. There is not much time to be reflective on the way down because most of your thought processes involve making life-saving decisions on how to ride the course. My new bike makes the riding decisions a lot easier and I was constantly amazed at some of the obstacles I was able to negotiate with not much trouble. The trail is in pretty bad shape because of all of the rain we’ve had this past month but I was able to ride most of it at a fairly good clip. This was the first time that I didn’t have at least one wipe out coming down.

Because of the mud, most of the trail was pretty treacherous and a lot more technical than usual but there are plenty of sections where you can open up the trottle. Through the fast parts I’m laughing out loud at how much fun I’m having, but around the next switchback the trail will turn to shit and I’m picking over logs and four foot drop-offs. I passed two guys on the descent. My new bike simply outclassed what they were riding. As I get older I need all of the technical advantages I can get.

Before I began today I was planning on doing two laps of the course. The downhill was just too punishing today and by the time I was back at the bottom all I could think of was getting back to Seattle and having a nourishing pint, or a nap. My bike was so completely covered in mud that I had to stop by the self-serve carwash on the way home to make it pretty again.

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