My Neighborhood Cruise

My Neighborhood Cruise

 

Every time I receive a test bike, I put it through my unique procedure in an effort to become familiar with my new friend. I often refer to this break-in process as my neighborhood cruise. What is supposed to be a quick ride up and down the street to bed-in my brakes and test out my initial suspension setup often turns into a late-night ride home under streetlights. Let me explain.

WORK BEFORE PLAY

The standard protocol for test bikes at Mountain Bike Action is before the tires ever hit the dirt, we shoot each bike in our photo studio located downstairs below our cubicles. Oh, and by the way, when I say “we” photograph the bikes, I’m referring to our Hall of Fame staff photographer John Ker. If you know John, then you know his all-too-familiar saying, “Just one more time.” This saying usually refers to a test rider needing to repeat a jump or rail a corner for the 20th time in a row. His obsession with snapping the best photos possible follows him into the studio. After I’ve patiently waited for my new ride to receive all of its mug shots, it’s transported to its temporary home—a high-security facility better known as my garage. This is where the whole story begins.

FINALLY, TIME TO RIDE

I’ll often spend about a half hour playing with my suspension settings and double-checking that every bolt is tightened to its proper torque spec. Before I know it, a helmet appears on my head, and while I’m wondering how that got up there, a pair of headphones pops into my ears. Some old cycling shoes manage to lace themselves to my feet, and just like that I’m off. I watch as my garage door goes down and begin to get hyped as my music goes up. My neighborhood is printed like a map in my mind, allowing me to tell you about every patch of dirt in a five-mile radius. I can tell you the best curbs for getting the most air, or I can show you the ruts I’ve ridden in to look like berms. Once I’m on my bike, addiction takes over and I can’t stop. My rides around the neighborhood turn into laps, and then those laps grow bigger. I find myself jumping off anything in sight and sprinting down the streets as if I were a 10th of a second off the podium. These rides have even taught me valuable skills I can later take to the trails. Manuals, cutties, bunnyhops and other moves are best learned right in front of your house before you attempt them in the dirt. Riding around the neighborhood is not nearly as exciting as shredding a singletrack, but it’s a child-hood antic I never want to give up. It just feels right, and I can’t explain why.

 

MORAL OF THE STORY

If you’re anything like me, then you enjoy riding your bike any time and on whatever surface is currently available. When you don’t have time to hit the trails or it’s too muddy to ride them, go ahead and give your local neighborhood a try. Sure, it might not be as exhilarating as blasting down a singletrack, but it will allow you to practice essential skills for your next ride off-road. You’re likely to encounter some funny looks, ripping down the streets like a child who just got a new bike on Christmas day, but if you’re having fun, who cares? For me, a day spent riding a bike is better than any day off one. It doesn’t matter if your idea of a bike ride is barreling down a trail at top speed or just getting out after work for exercise. The only thing that truly matters is that you go out and ride.

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