Monday, June 05, 2006

Riding In Tune: Point

Note: Today's post is a collabrative effort by Bike 29 store owner and fellow blogger George Wisell. Today I have posted the introduction and the first part of the article written by George. Tomorrow, I will post up the second part of the article and conclusion. Enjoy!

Riding In Tune

There are a lot of mountain bikers riding today to the beat. You can find them everywhere. Just look for the tell tail wires dripping off the ear lobes. It’s such a popular thing to do that even hydration pack makers are sewing in ports to accommodate the digital music players. Is this a good thing? Does a fine ride not exist without your personal soundtrack? Mountain bikers George Wisell and Guitar Ted tackle the subject from two different angles in this Point- Counterpoint.

Point: Riding With Music
By George Wisell

I have been riding bikes with headphones for a very long time. As a kid growing up in England, I used to ride my bike everywhere. I rode to and from school, 6 days a week (seriously), to rowing practice 3 towns away twice a week, to the BMX track every Sunday 4 towns away. The rail system was never convenient for me, and you can forget about the buses. The one thing that made all my various trips easier to deal with was to listen to music. Back then it was a giant walkman and tapes. Nothing used to get me more fired up for going to school on dark, cold and blustery December mornings than Iron Maiden. In fact, it gave me the ability to take my mind off of the task at hand. As you can imagine, besides driving on the wrong side of the road, there are many other things at work that make getting anywhere in England on the road a challenge. I was always vigilant, safety was always a huge concern of mine, and being aware of one's surroundings is the difference between life and death in my book. I never fully tuned out the outside world. But the music allowed me to focus, to get the best line through traffic, to seamlessly go from pavement to woods and back again. It was always fun. I got to ride, and listen to my favorite tunes.

Now with the advent of the iPod, I can carry more music than I know what to do with.I don’t always ride with it. I tend not to use it unless I'm specifically going to be on the road versus the woods, I like to know if I am rolling up on a bear or a moose. I only use it when I'm alone too.Now, I always put the pod on shuffle when I ride. Sometimes it's great, often times it's not. 30gigs of music is a LOT of music, and I have several different genres. You never know when Clifford Brown is going to be followed by Slayer.

The whole reason for me to even write this is that the last big ride I did with my iPod was off road. I was trying to meet up with some friends on the trail, and I had a much longer way to go before I could catch them. The iPod somehow knew what to play, every song. I left my house and started grinding up the hill to catch them. You basically gain about 800ft in elevation the first 1.5 miles, before it flattens out again for a mile or so, before it goes up another 800ft in 3 miles. When it turns to dirt, I pull one of the earphones out (in case of bears) and grind all the way to the top. I recognized tread patterns; I knew my friends were a short ways ahead of me. We had all agreed to take a particular trail down, so it would be easy for us to connect.I was determined to catch them. By the time I have reached the summit, there is still no sign of them, so I'd better get moving. The Pod gives me Dick Dale's, “Misirlou”. I was going to catch them.

The instant the trail points down, Dick Dale delivers his signature "jgdjgdjgdjgjdjgdjdjggjjgjdjgjdgjd" (think Pulp Fiction). I rode my ass off trying to catch my friends. I rode so hard in fact that my Karate Monkey actually felt like an IF, lively, snappy, responsive. It was dancing to the music that was coming through my ears. It's true. It became a musical lightning rod. Now, these are trails we ride on all the time, so I know them VERY well, but the tunes helped me focus on getting the best line. Once the Monkey came alive though, new lines appeared, speed increased. I was catching air.I was railing berms at speeds I never had previously attempted on my 6" travel 26er (now parted out and up for sale).I caught them at the bottom. Totally beat potato chips for wheels, but with the biggest grin on my face. They had left 30 minutes before they said they were going to leave.We laughed all the way back to my friend's house and talked about the ride we just did, iPod cooling off in my jersey pocket.I added 6 miles and 1600 extra feet of climbing, and did the ride in the same time as my friends, all with the help of a few randomly selected tunes.

Tomorrow: Counterpoint with Guitar Ted

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