Our riding "group" was a mere trio; hardly surprising since everyone was probably glued to their TV sets, watching Manny Pacquiao fight Joshua Clottey. Among other things, this also meant that our entire country would be crime-free until the fight is over, insurgency would grind to a temporary halt, and the streets would be clear of any traffic, also leading to cleaner air at least for the morning. Seriously, we could actually make out the shapes of buildings from our mid-point pit stop for the ride. More often than not, the smog covers this entire view.
Fewer cars, less pollution. Thanks, Manny.
ATTACKING THE CLIMBS
While riding through the familiar streets of Marikina on the way to Maarat, I inevitably started thinking about how certain aspects of my run training have made me a better rider. For starters, it now allows me to sustain physical activity in a high heart rate zone, making climbing seem easier. The emphasis on "seem" is important, since climbing on a bike takes a lot of hard work all the time, especially on the steep ascents to the trail head coupled with tricky trail surfaces. But though I was heaving through my eyeballs on some climbs, I was doing it on a heavier gear, never shifting to granny, and attacking strong. That was until the trail showed me who's boss.
There's a portion of the Maarat reverse trail which I consider my kryptonite. Ironically, it's one of the shortest climbs along the route, but due to the combination of loose rocks and fine soil which make up the trail surface, together with ruts and slight turns, it's the part which I find toughest and most profanity-inducing. Of course, since I'm a man and men are dumb, this is also the portion of track where I choose to prove my mettle as a mountain biker.
MY OWN "CLEATS" STORY
On this particular Sunday, this portion felt just that bit more slippery, causing me to lose traction twice and lifting my front wheel a couple of times before forcing me to stop and re-assess the attack. My pig-headedness and desire to tame this trail to submission led me to think I should keep riding up a straight line from my stationary position. I looked at the direction I wanted to go, lifted the right pedal for a powerful down-stroke and went for it. As my foot connected with the pedal, the cleat locked into place and as I pushed myself up, the rear wheel spun on the ground without propelling me and the bike forward. Before I knew it, I was slowly moving backwards, into a small ditch on the side of the trail. I tried unclipping my shoe--something I have always managed to do successfully--to no avail.
Ask any mountain biker who wears cleats and they each have a story to tell you about being unable to release their cleats at the right moment. The stories may either be hilarious or horrifying, but they all have one common denominator: pain. Once, I was riding with a group where someone was trying out his cleats for the first time. He fell at least thrice during the ride, suffering cuts, scratches and snapping a cable on his bike. To me, that's a funny story. The horrifying ones are those that make you think twice about getting cleats because they involve surgery and stitches. Luckily, my story is a funny one.
Having my foot stuck on a bike reversing on its own onto a ditch, I made an effort to break my fall by propping my gloved (thankfully) hand onto the wall of packed dirt beside me. The ditch continued to suck the bike (and I), forcing my elbow to slam against the dirt and dry grass, scraping itself all the way to the ground. Moments later, I found myself looking up at my feet. I was laid on the ditch for what felt like milliseconds before I was up on my feet dusting myself. Both my riding buddies stopped to ask if I was okay, took a look at the damage and checked to see if there was anything wrong with the bike. The chain came off, and that was it. I was bruised and my elbow felt like it was hit by a sledgehammer, but I could still ride. Now I was even more peeved and pedaled harder up that climb to reach the pit stop ahead of everyone. I washed my scrapes with questionable water from a drum, and sat down to rest.
Then, we all laughed about it.
Just after the fall. You should see it now. Ow.
I'm thinking that after this, I ought to give that portion of the trail a name. So far, I've got "Elbow Break Hill" or "The Big Elbowski" unless any of those are taken. Any suggestions?