I love this one guy who works on my bike. He says almost nothing. When he does say something it’s fairly monosyllabic. But everything that goes unsaid is writ large on his face, best viewed from 3/4 rear angle to catch the sardonic set of his eye and corner of his mouth.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Today the gorgeous fall sunshine catapulted me from my work week early, shooting me across town to ride the new singletrack in Kincaid Park. Kincaid has long been my least favorite local place to ride, because it’s been under the thumb of the cross-country skiers for decades, and as such was comprised exclusively of “trails” that are really roads – fifty feet wide in places, devoid of character, and not all that fun to ride on. There was a smattering of singletrack but no cohesion and it wasn’t worth the trip since it required driving and I have access to way better trails straight from my house.
That changed this year when a local group put some time and effort into developing some singletrack in Kincaid. I think about five to eight miles of the new trails are open now, and Kincaid is a really rad place in the fall; golden leaves everywhere, and better weather than the mountains near where I live, which are now covered in snow so not the best place to ride. Besides, when I say “across town” it sounds dramatic, but it is really only 10-15 minutes to drive to Kincaid.
My rear tire was flat when I picked up my bike, which I didn’t think much of because I’ve had issues with leakage since I switched to tubeless. I pumped up the tire and headed down the road, hitting the trail just a few minutes later. I was STOKED to find that the new trails really kick ass. These have to be the first MTB trails in Anchorage that don’t start with a major climb. Best of all, they are really fast and have banked corners. I swear that no one in Alaska knew what a banked corner was until this year. What can I say, we are new to the bike scene, kinda. We just got our first DH bike park this year, too.
These additions also mean that Anchorage is one primo place to ride. The trail system was always great – unmatchable, in my opinion – but now it’s just unbelievable. We have everything – fast, swoopy X-C singletrack; tough, obstacle-ridden rooty trails, beginner trails, mid-level trails, town-crossing trails, and now a DH bike park. This rocks.
The new trails reminded me a lot of Phil’s World in Colorado, with even a little mini Rib Cage section. A Phil’s World in the Alaskan forest, pretty awesome! I enjoyed my first mile of swoopy singletrack and planned to ride about two hours at hard effort so that I could ride the trails a few times over. I could tell that I’d want to ride them at least twice, probably more than that. My giddiness was quickly brought to a mushy halt by my rear tire’s rapid deflation, though, and I stopped to disassemble my tubeless setup and throw a tube in, which took a bit of time because of all the glue. I mourned the money I’d spent on the tubeless experiment; it didn’t seem to be a success. I tossed in the tube and continued on.
Those trails are insanely good. Tons of banked corners, jumps, tabletops, you name it. They are rad but totally rideable for anyone. Absolutely genius. Well done, Anchorage!
I enjoyed about an hour and a half of riding, not including a 10 minute moose interruption. I rode RIGHT past a young moose, which wouldn’t have been a problem had the trail not doubled back to right in front of the moose’s face. With alacrity I left the trail, spying another rider heading down to where the moose was. I shouted out a warning and had to yell twice – this dude was wearing headphones on the trail. There are certain places I’ll wear headphones but Kincaid is not one of them – too many moose and people. The guy clued in, though, and stopped before he collided with the moose.
He then proceeded to do something that a lot of guys here feel compelled to do. I say “guys” because I have never once seen a woman do this. The dudes approach the moose, yelling at them like they are the neighbor’s dog: “Hey! Go on! Go!”
This is stupid because moose aren’t dogs. This is especially stupid in September because the moose are either brand new to life and have just been abandoned by mommy and have understandably developed issues, or not new to life and really pissed off because not only were they abandoned by mommy last year, but this year they can’t find a mate because the older, more experienced moose run them off. You might also meet an old, big, very pissed off and sexually frustrated bull moose at any time. It’s best to not engage them.
This one was of the young and pissed off variety, for, though smallish, it charged the dude right away. He stood his ground and hoisted his bike onto its back tire in some sort of moose-warding-off gesture, which I didn’t understand until I wrote this just now and realized that in his male brain he HAD to take on the moose, since there was a woman standing there watching. Men. You are strange creatures, willing to get stomped for your egos. There is no understanding you.
Every time a guy tries to shoo away a moose I watch from a distance, fascinated, wondering if this is the day I see someone turned to jelly under a moose’s hooves. Today was not the day, though, for after being charged a few times the rider gave up and went back the other way. I soon gave up as well and shoved my bike up one of those stupid cross country ski trail hills to join up with the singletrack at the top. A few more swoops later and I realized that my rear brake was not working well. The lever had to be embedded in the grip to make much difference. I also realized that my back tire was flat again. Seeing as how I’d started the ride tubeless, I had no more tubes with which to fix my tire. My ride was over, but I was OK with it as I’d gotten in almost ten miles in an hour of riding.
I figured that two bike problems warranted a trip to the bike shop, so I went straight there. I thought I needed brake pads so that’s what I asked for, in addition to rear-tire-flatness sleuthing. I explained the tubeless-to-tubes field conversion I’d just done, and commented that I thought my tubeless days were over and that I thought maybe it was just hype. I glanced at the mechanic referenced at the beginning of this story, and read in the visible quarter of his face that he thought I was making a big mistake. “I can tell you don’t agree…” I prompted, and was treated to the longest string of words in a row ever uttered by this man in my presence: “When tubeless first came out it was all total hype. Now, it’s awesome. It can’t be beat. What pressure were you running?”
Amazed by this flood of words, I answered, and he responded with a sage yet obscure nod. What did that mean? Was that a good pressure, or a bad pressure? I enjoy a mystery so I didn’t ask, but I went along with the idea of re-converting back to tubeless. The mechanic put in a new rim strip since my existing one was all poor-man’s-MacGyver, and inflated the tire only to be sprayed with Stan’s sealant. There was the culprit – a sidewall tear.
So the tire needed to be repaired, and the mech broke it to me gently that my brakes needed a bleed – the pads were fine. So I had to leave my bike at the shop which always feels weird even though I have a spare bike.
What the hell is my point???
I don’t think I have a point today. To sum up, Anchorage has some amazing trails, the weather today was awesome, I had a fun ride, and tomorrow my bike will be fixed. The end.