Here’s Sh*tbike Challenge, Part V–straight from our October 2008 issue. Catch up with the previous installments here.
I've said a lot of things that have come back to haunt me, but I never thought an offhand comment I made a few months back, when we were working on our "50 Trails" feature, would put me in mortal danger.
My fateful statement, essentially that good trail + shitty bike = a good time, was to be put to the ultimate test. The variables of my assignment: one great trail, one abomination of a mountain bike.
The Trail: My adopted hometown trails are a dense network of swoopy, undulating, purpose-built singletrack that demands to be ridden fast. I've burned countless laps into these trails, from last summer's first exploratory rides to a long, wet winter of night riding that turned into a green and tick-laden spring and, as I write this, has turned again into another hot SoCal summer, where the trails under the bone-dry brush are as hard and fast-rolling as concrete.
The Bike: My pre-ride inspection of the Softride was short and disdainful. There was no suspension to adjust—the fork was already shot to hell, the last of its oil caked to its blue lower legs. With an adjustable wrench and Allen key, I carefully worked the lone, half-stripped binder bolt to adjust the beam to its maximum height, still a few inches too low.
Inspecting the beam for cracks, I found something nearly as disconcerting: a silver badge with the following warning: "Maximum Rider Weight Limit—All Terrain: 180 lbs. Road-Only: 200 lbs." I haven't weighed 180 since tenth grade, and as I looked down at the beam I couldn't help but wonder where it would break.
The Ride: Like so many of my rides, when it fi nally came time to rally the Sh*tbike, I found myself scrambling to get out the door. Getting to the trailhead with enough daylight left to ride meant leaving the office with the phone still ringing and my e-mail inbox still pinging, and my head was in a fog when we arrived at the trails.
But then a funny thing happened. Dipping under that first section of canopied trail, I forgot all about the beam and I forgot about the pinging and ringing back at the office. I reveled in trying to dust my friends around my hometown hairpin switchbacks, and I rallied the sh*t out of the Sh*tbike up the short punchy climbs that hide around blind corners. The bike handled like a tight little hardtail. It was…fun.
So, does one good ride make it a good bike? No way. Throw a technical trail at this beamed beotch and it'll turn into a sure-fire deathtrap. But on these trails, on this day, it sure as hell beat riding an office chair.