15 September, 2016

Shifting Gears

Recent events have me significantly changing my riding preferences. Road cycling has simply become dangerous. Between the dramatic increase in distracted drivers peering at little teeny screens, increasing traffic on roads, and a blooming of driver road rage, I'm rethinking how I want to spend my time on two wheels.

A recent tragedy on what has been my regular training route really brought it home for me. While riding on Dexter-Chelsea Road, triathlete Karen McKeachie was hit and killed by a driver who didn't see her. Head on. I can only imagine the horror of seeing an SUV at full-tilt bearing down on me. This road doesn't have wide shoulders, and in the place where the accident occurred there really is no escape route. Recently I rode past a small memorial to McKeachie and a simple thought filled my head:

"That could have been me."

On the day the accident happened, before details had been released, I received texts from three friends checking in to make sure it wasn't me. It could have been me. I've ridden that stretch dozens of times.

Couple this with incidents like Kalamazoo, and my own experiences, and I'm making a fundamental shift. I can't count the number of middle fingers, red-faced yelling, and other stupid behavior I've experienced. And, it seems to be escalating over the past year.

Who wouldn't love this view on a ride?
Fortunately, last year I discovered the joys of riding gravel roads. Where I used to see 10 cars per mile, now I see 10 cars per RIDE. And, when I am passed, its usually with a wide berth and a friendly wave. Combine that with my recent move to western Washtenaw County, with easy access to the Waterloo Rec Area and miles of dirt roads (like the one I live on), and this becomes pretty damn appealing.

Plus, over the last year I've rediscovered the thrill of mountain biking. Some of this was fueled by purchasing a Salsa Beargrease X5 this Spring. I've had so much fun riding that! Getting out on the trail, with no cars and relatively few other cyclists is a blast. While my rides are shorter in duration, they make up in intensity. Plus, mountain biking is more of a total body workout as you're using your upper body, too. Add to this the joy of being in the woods and you've got a combo that's hard to beat.

To further fuel this, my house is 2.5 miles from the DTE Energy Trail (formerly Waterloo). This great 5 mile route will eventually expand to over 20 miles. I did my first ride on it from home this week. Wow! What a blast! I've also had the good fortune to ride the VASA Trail outside Traverse City several times this year - also great fun!

Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon World Cup
Naturally, this fueled another bike purchase. After discovering the joy of a mountain bike with gears in the fat bike, I found I wanted a faster, more nimble ride. Fortunately, I stumbled on a great deal on a lightly used Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon World Cup. After only a few rides, I've grown to love this bike. It's fast, smooth, and I love the 1X drivetrain.

Can't wait to run the fat bike in the snow, too! That will bring a whole new dimension to fun Winter fitness.

So, my love affair with bikes and riding hasn't waned. It's just matured and changed direction. Away from the road riding that was getting increasingly scary and toward gravel roads and dirt paths. I certainly haven't given up road riding. It's just that I will spend considerably less time doing it, at least for a while.