My New Toy

We have a rule in my house: when it comes to learning or health, money isn’t important. This is probably how I am able to do some of the things I do like working with a coach, personal training, traveling to races all over the world, and buying fun toys. Likewise, my wife is always learning and constantly enrolling in courses and taking classes. She is certainly the more cerebral of us, so when our interests intersect I pounce.

Last weekend she declared she would like to get a bike and sent me a few links to bikes from Dick’s Sporting Goods. I politely smiled and said no, we were going to the local bike shop and getting something that will last. To be fair she won’t be riding it very hard, but I much prefer to get a better bike from the local guy anyway.

So I slapped the bike rack on the Jeep and we headed out as a family. She was more concerned with color than options and wound up choosing a very nice Specialized hard tail. Since we were in the store, and I was in need….I started to poke through the inventory. Keep in mind I have been looking for a mountain or gravel bike to call my own for some time, but just haven’t gotten to picking one up. If we are all going to ride together, especially in Lake Placid, I would need something one way or another.

The selection was decent but there were no gravel bikes that were going to work, but there was a hardtail in the price range I was looking at. The Cannondale Trail 5. Being a Cannondale owner already, and living in the area the company was founded in, I was already pretty much sold. I took it for a quick spin around the parking lot and that was that. We had the sales fella wrap them up, and simple as that we became the proud owners of mountain bikes.

Of course as soon as we got home the entire family went for a nice ride (ON THE ROAD!!!) which was great. Spending time together, being outside, and staying active is a perfect use of an afternoon in my opinion. My first thoughts after more than a few circles as my test drive were that the bike is very different from my other on-road bikes. The geometry, the wheels, disc brakes, shifting all of it is a complete alternate universe compared to my Super-Six Evo. Despite initially feeling funny on the bike, it was alot of fun, and I hit as many puddles as I could. Eventually we got back home and I took the road bike out for a nice brick ride and it was like taking off my combat boots and putting on slippers for a run.

The next few days I found I could ride around the yard and the dog would run alongside tiring him out with minimal effort from me. This is a good trick to know, and something I have done a few times already.

While that was all fun, with work, I wasn’t able to go out alone, in the woods until today. I had been really looking forward to exploring some trails I’ve driven past near my house, and as soon as I was home tonight I changed up and headed out. Pedaling as I wanted to let me see what the bike had under the hood. With a one-by the gearing is very widely spread out. The bike has a very torquey big gear, so much so that it is easy to pop the front wheel off the ground on a hill. The small gear is an 11 tooth I believe, but don’t expect to go very fast on this thing. I’ll eventually put a computer on it, but I don’t think I managed much over 20mph. The front shocks and 29″ wheels rolled over anything on the road with out much notice. Smaller logs and rocks are also not an issue. I only managed about a mile or two on the trails but it was alot of fun, and reminded me that I don’t know jack about trail riding. Water crossings, mud, logs were all an issue, but I took it easy while I get the feel of being out there.

For the price, and being able to tinker around and explore, this is a great bike. I already have a few smaller upgrades plan like a few lights and some better pedals, but beyond that, this thing is good just the way it is. I wound up spending just under $1,000 so it didn’t break the bank. In fact my wife told the sales rep I was still planning to get a new race bike and didn’t want to spend very much (aka she is a keeper).

I’ve been hesitant to mountain bike for several years now due to a crash I had that really set my training back for months. But being honest with myself, I enjoy trail running, exploring the woods, and being away from traffic. It will take some discipline to go easy and just ride for fun versus hammering like I normally do when I am in the saddle. Being in a position when your break from training is actually training is a good thing I think, and the more time I can ride the better. If I can actually learn to love riding even more, my game is only going to get better. Spending time with the family while that happens is icing on the cake.

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