It’s the 29er’s annoying little brother. It does things the hard way. Cushy Suspension? Neh. Fat, shock absorbing tires? Nyet. A little stupidity and brashness? Yes! Ladies and gentlemen, cyclocross!
So I’ve written about our Sunday rides through suburban streets and hidden trail systems and we have cross bikes and 29ers come along for the ride. It’s a 2.5-3 hour ride and it is nothing short of fun. Together, we have carved out guerrilla tracks behind shopping centers, in neighborhood parks and a rough patch of abandoned city park space dotted by power lines. I’ve done these rides with my Niner Air 9, but I found it a little more challenging and engaging with my Giant TCR cross bike.
This last Sunday we found ourselves pushing our bikes harder, faster. Everyone at some point was getting pretty gnarly. A couple of the crazier dudes were doing BMX style tricks with their Specialized Crux and Cannondale SuperX. Very nice machines that they’re treating like an old Huffy on its last legs. Guys are passing each other on pretty narrow single track and everyone’s sliding down decents with the inside leg out and foot unclipped. The MTB crew is just flying through these sections with ease.
One section of our trail system is on the property of an abandoned industrial park that has been shut down for years. Apparently the premises is still patrolled by local police in the off chance they catch a trespasser but we’ve never thought anything of it. Just some guys on bikes. Well we dove into the woods, did a loop and came out the entrance to find a cop waiting there. Okay, back in the woods we go. There’s a secret exit that dumps out into another industrial park.
We’re flying down a long gravel trail around mile 20 of the ride and I decide to overtake a friend on his 29er. I make the jump around and at high speed I find myself headed right into a sharp right descent with my brakes locking up. The Kenda Small Blocks aren’t doing a good job on the terrain and I can’t imagine any tire at that point would grip loose gravel. I unclip my right foot and extend my leg into the turn and suddenly flip over the handlebars and slam into a bigger patch of rocks, forearm first.
I jump up, get back on my bike and start riding. I look down, my shifter is crammed inward and there’s a huge lump on my forearm. I catch up to the guy I initially passed and asked him if my arm looked normal. Everyone I showed it to, the reaction was the same. “Ooohhh,” they’d croon. “Do you have health insurance?” Not exactly a reassuring thing to hear.
I managed to ride out of the trail and back on the road but eventually resigned to calling a friend and have them scoop me up. My arm wasn’t feeling good and I didn’t want to test the injury.
So, here I am most likely out of riding trails for a few weeks. Hopefully those weeks won’t turn in to months. I’ve always wondered, cyclocross always seemed kind of crazy. And, yeah, it definitely is.