Some don’t make it back. I smelled this poor little guy before I saw him. Coyotes and cars don’t play well. I was climbing slowly, rising sun in my face when the whiff of death became apparent. Only the sound of my breathing as I stopped to make this little tribute.
The road continued to climb for several miles then topped out with a view of a small mountain village. The road turned to dirt and the mobile had no signal. Keep pedaling. A low road along a dried up river but the soil was damp with recent rains, a small column of dirt spraying up from the front wheel. Switchbacks began and were loose, dry and laden with washboard. Up and up and up. Small sprocket, looking down between my legs at the rear ring, never wanting to surrender to the low gear. A photo, ya, that’s it. Reason to stop.
At roads end was a gate blocking my movement, but oh what a gate it was. It is claimed that 75% of all Fortune 500 CEO’s have property in or near Santa Fe, and this baby looked like one such compound. Every trip out here I find a new paradise..owned by someone else.
There was no choice but to retrace my step. Miles of downhill back to Two Trails and then I drop south into the high desert. Miles of downhill tarmac, nice shoulder, no shoulder, glass, debris, etc. And then single track along the rails all the way back to town. The trails changes to improved trail and I realize I’d ridden five difference surfaces on this little gem. Right at forty, perfect, solitary miles. RIP Mr.Coyote
“I hope I run into the bear on a downhill,” I thought as I rounded the blind corner in a tuck and in the drops. The trash cans along the road had been turned over, sorted through and consumed. Bear country. At 30mph I might just glide by, but in the steep sections I was moving so slowly I could see the individual knobbies on my front tire.
Maybe my flashing headlight would lull Mr. Bear into a trance and allow my passage without complaint. Or send he or she off into the brush at warp speed. As it turned out, no bear. Not today. Perhaps they too were hungover after the holiday weekend, food drunk on sloppy campsite dweller trash. Up early today, before the sun, an extra thermal layer to protect my fragile, shrinking body. Nobody on the road. The sun rimming the Sangres.
Although I ride with others, for the most part, riding is a solitary pursuit. I like being alone, on my own, and at the mercy of the environment. I daydream, visualize and talk to myself. When I my legs burn and feel tired I pedal harder, just to see what happens and if I can recover. I’ve ridden this route many times. It’s somewhere between 23 and 27 miles but the GPS always cuts out and says “Sorry, not really sure how far you went.”
That’s okay. It’s just an idea more than a challenge. It’s simply about being out. Long rolling downhills, steep uphills and the shadow cast as the sun peaks the mountains and lights up the path in a vibrant yellow swath. I watch my own form, and that of the bike, as they roams the rock, dirt and high desert scrub. Coasting and looking. Waiting for what lives around the bend.
“I haven’t ridden since May,” my friend said.
“Good.” “I want you fat and slow,” I replied.
The goal was just twenty-five miles of hilly, New Mexican gold. My house, north of town, east of town and then back into the guts of the city. But this was my first ride with someone else in roughly a year. I knew we would ride fast, too fast, because neither of us knew the correct pace. I on the Fargo and he on his road bike. The route begins straight up. Within ten minutes neither of us can speak as we gasp for anything we can. “I can’t talk anymore,” I said. “Give me ten minutes.”
Cold to hot and the sun begins to show it’s face. Strong enough to tan my arms through sun sleeves. Lips chapped. Legs on fire, but the conversation, when possible, is fantastic. That’s one of the great things about this pursuit. Time in the field. Time to think. Time to talk. Time to wonder if coincidence is really that or something far more.
Heading west from a small bridge. “Now we have a nice, long downhill,” I say lowering into the drops and crouching just over the top bar. The road is rough, vintage New Mexico, with dirt, glass, broken road shards and other debris. The bike is so stable and rolls supremely over everything in my path. Rounding at corner at high speed I nail a medium sized rock lying in deep shadow. It fires off the tire like a gunshot into the brush but the bars never tremble or move.
By mile ten my legs are good. Solid. Ready. A short stop for a bite and then back to finish the ride. Done.
“Will you ride with me now?” my wife asks as I roll to a stop in front of the casita. “Sure.” “Why not.”
Bikes on the back of The Duck and off south of town where the road ends and the dirt begins. She is tentative, still learning, but the trail is perfect. I air down the Conti’s but she doesn’t want me to TOUCH her bike. A short, steep drop and the trail begins. Twenty-five miles of rolling singletrack. It’s beautiful. Truly beautiful as the wind from the east assures us a tail wind on the return trip. A few steep, sandy dips but otherwise packed to perfection with the wet summer.
This is my first real trail work on the Fargo, and I’m amazed at how solid it is, how smooth. Even with the new tires, and the sand, the ride is fantastic. My seat post and saddle making strange popping noises, but I pretend they are bird sounds and enjoy the ride.
There are hills here. Oh ya, there’s that. First ride, out and back, 16 miles with a little over 1100 feet of climbing. Not much, but enough compared to Southern California. The air is clean here, so my lungs burn from lack of as opposed to quality. First light, alone and bordering on cold. Fall is winking at us from the shadows.
Rivers of Earth, dried and washboarded cover the road. The silence or morning punctured by tire on powder, then back to silence as the wheels find tarmac once again. My seat post creaks. In fact, my seat appears to be broken, or sagging, forcing me to sit on the far back rim. Adapting is the key. I’m down to 157 pounds, and I’ve never broken a seat before.
The community is still quiet. A ride quietly to keep the dogs at bay, a chance to bark missed as I slip by. The bike is so solid, so stable and geared for these places. Comfortable. Effortless. Me on the other hand, a temperamental creature. Unsure what I can do. Consequences around the bend if I go too hard. New meds are helping, but everyday is a maiden voyage.
A tire change. Travel Contacts spin silently on the road, so smooth. And quiet. And when the road turns to dust they are just fine. Even in deepish sandy spots I roll across. Water bottles, x 3, go down rapidly as the environment sucks out all that I have to give. Mile after mile ticks by. I love it here.
The return trip to Santa Fe is downhill and I mean downhill. No pedaling required for eight miles and all the speed your nerve can handle. The bike is stable, very stable and rolls almost as well as my road bike. At home others want to ride, so back on I go, legs somewhat in rebellion but luckily they are slow and I can follow and watch as the light turns to white-hot midday form.
For those of you wondering. This bike is far more capable than my cross bike, and more comfortable. This bike is also as stable as my old touring bike, but again, far more capable. I have it loaded down somewhat, but it doesn’t ride like a heavy bike. I can ride 40 miles on this and feel like I haven’t really ridden, not something I could say with my carbon cross bike or my old steel touring frame. There is something strange going on with the seat however, which is odd. The center part of the saddle collapsed to some degree, but shows no crack on the underside. Thudbuster seat post creaks like mad but I think this is common, and I still love having that small bit of give.I think there are nicer version of this post out there, and could be worth exploring. Rode Shimano my entire life, so still getting used to SRAM, but just as capable. However, if I was touring mostly I would go Rohloff. Tire change was huge. From 2.2 knobbies to Continental Travel Contact 2.0, which by the way they advertise as 700×50 but are actually 28×2.0.(Tire math is more confusing than high-school trig.)