Friday, February 13, 2015

The Poor Man’s Roubaix; words by MCD.

My hope since launching The Bicycling Life has always been that the future for this blog would be as a community for all things and all folks cycling related. Not just one cycling nerds point of view on things, but rather as an outlet for a number of like minded individuals to espouse on the world of the bicycle how it relates to them and their lives. As such I am proud to introduce the first contributor to the site that isn't me. MCD is what The Bicycling Life is all about. Good times on and off the bike. Off the bike he is a fine family man who has a clearly visible love for the bike and how it can improve our world. On the bike he is one of the toughest cyclists I have ever had the honor of riding with (or in most cases behind) and I'm excited to share this great post on the site. Enjoy!

The Poor Man’s Roubaix - words by MCD.

Are you a Gravel Grinder?  AnyRoad Adventurer?  Off-Roadie?  Anyone even mildly interested in cycling has probably noticed the recent gain in popularity of riding your road bike off-road.  And of course, the opportunistic bike industry has embraced this new retail category with gusto.  Maybe not as much gusto as fat bikes...but certainly a close, skinnier second.  Off-road specific tires for your on-road specific bike?  Sure!  A new niche is born.  One that opens up your ride possibilities, and is pretty damn fun.

When you were a kid, a bike was just a bike.  And no doubt your nine-year-old-little-self rushed your Mongoose over at least three different types of terrain to claim your spot in front of your buddy’s Atari 2600.  Or maybe your dad followed behind with a two-wheeled quiver in the Family Truckster.  Probably not.  The point is that bikes are way more capable than what we give them credit for most of the time.  And now that you are more mature (in years, at least), you have license to romanticize the fact that you are using a beautiful, elegant tool for a dirty, rough job. 

Now we all know riding your road bike on roads feels pretty nice, and natural.  Hell, the first paved/asphalt roads were built specifically for bicycle use.   But some days, these smooth black ribbons are best used to transport you to those of the less smooth variety.  Thankfully, city planners have bestowed upon us here in Orange County miles and miles of easily accessible dirt trails, gravel maintenance roads, and decomposed granite paths. One of these gems is a section of a lunchtime ride route that my co-workers and I hit up about once a week. Lovely, lovely Hick's Canyon.  This subtle climb meanders towards Portola Parkway, dives into tunnels under major thoroughfares, while bisecting townhome developments flanked by playgrounds and eucalyptus trees. There aren’t any cobbles, but if you squint your eyes slightly, drape your hands on the tops, tuck the elbows in a bit, and pretend it's raining, you can be Roger De Vlaeminck for at least a few minutes.  Cornering on the decomposed granite surface keeps you honest.  The occasional rut begs to be hopped.  Landscapers become your reluctant tifosi as they momentarily cease leaf-blowing. Your less adventurous riding pals can opt for the paved bike path that runs in tandem to this grinder.  Just try not to gloat too much when you all dump out on to Portola, and make the u-turn towards Orchard Hills.

There is an almost childlike feeling of joy and giddiness I get when my 23c tires make the transition from quiet, silky pavement to crunchy, gritty dirt. I'm a little more aware of trail nuances; a little more "light on the bike"; a little more comfortable with two wheel drift.  And I would be lying if I said I didn’t beam a little bit with that weird cyclist pride when other trail users, wheeled or not, do a quick double-take of my choice of conveyance.  Though some of the more anal retentive among us may not be able to admit it publicly, the fine dust patina on your machine that results from visiting this poor man’s Roubaix wears like a badge of courage.

Starting the dirt hurt - Photo Credit: MCD
Hovering, Dutch style - Photo credit: MCD

Pedaling through a planned paradise - Photo Credit: MCD

Riding Trail - Photo Credit: MCD 
Timmy V and Frenchie attacking the DG - Photo Credit: MCD

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