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Saturday, July 18, 2009

It's mid July and several friends have asked me,"Have you been up Green Canyon and seen the new single track?" "Well, no" I had to answer. So, yesterday morning I got up early and went all the way up to the "fourth trough" meadow at the wilderness boundary. Single track is always great. Single track that you can get to by riding from your house is just fantastic. I rode the fixed gear Pake with only the front brake, cut-off shorts, hiking boots/Power Grips, 32mm tires, and 75 psi.

People ask "Why the skinny tires no rear brake?" Well, let me just say there are times I do enjoy fat tires, Lycra shorts, freewheeling, clipless pedals, and two brakes. I am flexible enough to try and practice other types of riding. I even have the geared cyclocross bike, but I hardly ever ride it. Yeah, gears.

That said, I love the simple elegance of the fixed gear cross bike. I like the feeling of riding with "normal" clothing and shoes. The no rear brake thing is no big deal, even when riding the freewheel. With skinny tires, you will always run out of traction before you run out of brake. It makes you ride smart. You have to brake early. You have to brake when the trail is flat and smooth. If you wait until the trail points down and is covered in loose rock, you have waited to long. The front tire will drift and slide out.

Speaking of drift, if you want to be a good rider, you have to get comfortable with drift. Drift is that fine line between rolling friction and sliding friction as you go really fast through a turn. If you experience drift enough, you can learn to control it and keep your tires from sliding out. Find a section of trail and practice at various speeds.

The same philosophy applies to braking. A good rider is very familiar with the full on emergency/panic stop, and comfortable with that fine line between stopping and going over the bars.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, go to a grassy field and practice the emergency/panic stop. Put two cones (rocks, potato chip bags, big gulp cups) about twenty feet apart. Ride toward the first cone at speed. Brake hard when you get to the first cone and try to stop before you get to the second. As you get better, move the cones closer together, and repeat. If you want to be a road-warrior-bicycle-commuter, you really should practice stopping as quickly as possible. When a car driver pulls out or opens a door in front of you, and they will, you will be ready.

Or, forget all the above, put on you cut-offs and hiking boots, and just go ride. Slow.

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