Thursday, May 21, 2009

Back in the Saddle

The mountain bike I will use on the upcoming adventure tour. It isn't anything special, but it will work for me.

I'm back in the saddle again.

That classic truism is apt in more than one way. As many of you probably know I was recently lost off the Appalachian Trail in central Virginia. I was lost for six nights and during several of those nights no one was looking for me (unbeknownst to me). I will have plenty to say about this incident in the future but it is only indirectly my focus now. As you might expect my confidence in myself was shaken because of this incident. Sure I came out of it whole and sound but it was a harrowing experience. So when Andy asked me if I was interested in taking part in the Fortune Bay Company's 887-2009 Adventure Tour, something I had pondered but mostly dismissed for reasons that I'll explain shortly, I was very happy to say, "yes."

The Adventure Tour is a non-competitive version of an adventure race. Like the race it contains a hiking, canoeing or kayaking, and biking segment. Hiking and canoeing are no problem for me. I do both. I have not ridden a bicycle in at least fifteen years and the last time I did ride a bike things did not go smoothly for me. This adventure tour starts out with an 8 mile road bike from Lowell, Michigan to town of Saranac. From there we paddle 8 miles down the lazy Grand River back to Lowell where we don our packs and hike the final 7 miles to Fallasburg County Park.

My concerns with the biking portion were, in no particular order, (1) staying on the bike itself, (2) maintaining a reasonable straight line, (3) avoiding obstacles, especially the large moving kind, and (4) not having my butt fall off due to the bike saddle. I am certain that biking a mountain bike trail complete with its rocks, dips, swells, and roots would not be something I could really do. I felt a bit more confident about a quiet road bike as long as I could follow someone who could warn me of upcoming things like Stop signs and hills. However, that still left the big question of just being able to physically get the bike going and managing to stay on the bike open. On that score I was far less sanguine.

Yesterday afternoon my friend Lil, who is an avid mountain bike racer and does her share of adventure racing to boot, and I went to a local bike shop to rent a mountain bike. The bike probably isn't worth much more than the deposit I had to put down on it. It's certainly many cuts below the snappy bike Lil was riding but then that is hardly a surprise. She showed me how to snap the front tire on and off and how to adjust the seat to get a proper fit. We put on our helmets and with her in the lead set off to bike around the Old West Side of Ann Arbor.

When I got on for the first time I felt a rush of nerves. A thrill that I was so high off the ground and I felt sure I couldn't possibly stay on once I lifted my feet from the ground. After all a bike is quite wobbly when it is not moving. Somehow I got going, my front tire wiggling back and forth as I started to bike downhill along 5th Street. We adjusted the seat to be somewhat higher still after this very brief ride and then I was off again. Lil led, probably never more than 50 or so feet in front (her guess) of me. When something like an uphill climbs was about to start she gave me warning. If a Stop sign was coming she told me about those too. She even said when she was going to actually stop (something I could see her doing, but the extra reminder isn't a bad thing). We made a few circuits of the immediate neighborhood including climbing the lengthy hill along 5th Street that runs from Madison towards Pauline. That was quite a climb for my untrained fat body, but I made it. All told we probably biked about 3 miles on roads, sidewalks, across short grassy bits, and in and out of a parking lot. I did not hit anything or anyone. I prefer the street to the sidewalk as it is wider. I think downhills make me more nervous as I pick up speed, 8-10MPH is fast enough for me.

But I did it. A huge confidence boost. I know now that I will be able to do the 8 mile ride with Andy as long as we work well as a team. I have no reason to believe that we won't.

To learn more about the Adventure Tour visit the Fortune Bay Expeditionary Team's Fortune Bay Expeditionary Team's website and click the Upcoming Events like. this link should take you directly to the Adventure Tour.


Pathfinder said...

Ken, I did not realize that the biking portion was quite an obstacle for you (at least from a psychological standpoint). My hat is tipped to you. This is GREAT!!

I look forward to it!

Kenneth Knight said...

The psychological aspect has more to do with the recent SAR incident. But I was, and remain, concerned about the physical aspect of bike riding. I don't know that there would ever be a time when I would feel confident riding a mountain bike trail even if I could follow someone. Sure a mountain bike absorbs bumps and such but learning to trust the bike and yourself would be tough. I did quite well yesterday but I can also tell you that I was clearly tense as I was squeezing the handlebar grips quite hard. I was never really relaxed in the biking. Could I get better with time and riding; I like to think so.

I think this will be a great event. I'll even try to record some of it for a future Wandering Knight podcast. If I can get other participants and organziers (e.g., you) involved so much the better.

John Manning said...

Hi Ken, great to see you back and blogging - back, I guess, in the saddle.

Steph and I hadn't heard about your adventure on the AT until I was part-way through this year's TGO Challenge, where obviously your absence was noted - you were missed by many of your friends over here, and everyone's greatly received to learn that you're okay.

Very best wishes for your Fortune Bay Adventure Tour. I reckon your only problem on the bike will be drivers who seem blind to the presence of cyclists! Since we moved to Yorkshire I've done the fist cycling I'd done for 17 years and the only real worry (other than tired muscles) was the quarry wagons that tear the roads up in the Yorkshire Dales.

Have a great ride/hike/canoe!

John, Steoh and Sierra

Kenneth Knight said...

Thanks, John. You're right the biking bit will be the mentally and physically the most challenging poriton of the adventure tour. I think I will do fine and the roads we will be on ought to be quiet ones (definitely no quarry wagons tearing by). I do think I will pay for the 8 mile ride in a big way the next day with a very sore butt and inner thighs.

I'm also very glad to be able to take part in this adventure tour. Doesn't exactly make up for having to drop out of the TGO, I'm sure this year was very special for many, but that is the way life goes.

Ghislaine said...

Glad you are back on the saddle. An incident also happened to me but I didn't get lost or anything. I actually went on a camping trip last month and while driving my tire burst leaving me in a really complicated mess since I don't know how to change a tire. After Several hours I finally figured it out but saw this video recently and just wish I had seen it before.