Published Somedays

If you go reaaallly fast in loops, you can slow down time

(updated: Nov 9, 2017)

Do you enjoy riding alone? Do you avoid races, gatherings, and social bike events? Are you a misanthrope? Do you hate Strava, gravel bikes, clubs, Sprinter vans, rock cairns, whining, and the word ‘bro’? Do you ride to get away from everyone? If so, join my new ironic cycling club, the Strava Wanking Club. This club will do fun and exciting things such as: not meet, not group ride, not take pictures, not use electronic gadgets or apps, ride boring trails and talk about how great they are, ride alone at night wearing bear suits, scare riders, heckle racers, and plant poison ivy.

So I live in Greenville, SC now. Note I need to specify SC, because whenever I say I’m from Greenville, especially to someone in NC, they immediately think of Greenville, NC. While Greenville, NC may be ok for some people, it’s flat, and has one place in town to mountain bike. As a result, I am compelled to quickly correct the inquirer, as if to say, “How can you even think that?”. Greenville, SC is hilly, has tons of riding, and is close to the mountains. It’s great if you’re a cyclist to live in Greenville SC. There are a lot of really good riders too, and everyone is friendly. There, I just ruined Greenville, SC now because now everyone will move here.

The other week I went for a solo ride, 20 miles of mostly singletrack out at Clemson University – the Isaqueena trails. I did less than half of the trails out there. And guess what? I had a great ride and learned something. I can have fun and educational time in the woods and not leave a trace. It’s why I enjoy mountain biking.

These trails are on the Clemson Experimental Forest, which was initially a project funded by Roosevelt ‘s New Deal programs back in the 1930’s during the depression. They rebuilt the forest from spent farmlands and eventually created Lake Hartwell. Lake Isaqueena was used for practice bombing during WWII and subsequently drained, cleaned and dammed. You can read more about it here: Clemson Experimental Forest

During my tour of the Bottom End, which is the less ridden lower half of the Isaqueena trail system, I came across an old cemetery and home site. The home site was the summer home of US Senator John E. Colhoun and his wife Floride Bonneau, and later the full time residence of his son, John E. Colhoun Jr.. It was constructed in the 1790’s and known as Keowee Heights Plantation. All I could determine from reading about them on the plaque there was that one of the wives wrote music, they may have been involved in the Confederacy, and they always gave their offspring the same names, at which point I became so confused I started picking up black walnuts from a nearby old tree and tried to remove the outer hull, which stained my fingers so badly that weeks later they were still tanned.

Did I mention that this was a solo ride? That’s right … nobody around to tell me which way to go or or how fast to go or how long to stay someplace or not to mess with the black walnuts. Sometimes I enjoy getting lost.

So I turn 50 in January. I’ve been documenting some my riding since about 2002, when I was 34. I kept getting better and better, until a few years ago when I finally went off one drop too many and injured my back. Actually, it might have been snowboarding, but the cumulative injuries and dysfunction were there, building up for years, and all it took was a simple fall on a snowboard to break the camel’s back, which is literally what I am since I wear one of those damn camelbak’s on my back. But I refuse to put a bladder in it so I carry water bottles … I know, it’s like the worst of both worlds.

The point is that ever since then it’s been a downhill slide. I started getting slower, couldn’t do things I used to be able to, was in a lot of pain … no longer could I muster the same intensity as before. I healed to 80% and stayed there with some ups and downs. That is until recently, where I finally figured out how to heal my back, and now I have nearly all of my intensity back.

The point is, I am going to get older and older, and lose more and more of my intensity and riding ability, but that really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I can go out and ride my bike, and while I am doing it, I feel like a kid. I’ll go one step further … I don’t just feel like a kid, I am a kid. I never really realized this before, because I was, well, young. But it’s an actual transformation. I don’t hurt when I am riding (most of the time anyway); I can ride for hours and hours. My senses are heightened, and my reflexes improve. Afterward, I feel tired, sore, stiff, slow, I gotta go to sleep at 10pm, whatever. I revert back to 50. But that’s an amazing thing!

Because think about it … a lot of people, riding around in their cars, seething at cyclists, not realizing the fountain of youth that lies right before their eyes. Maybe they feel it calling them and they fear it and react with hostility and defensiveness to it, like hearing a faint whisper in their heads calling them to rebel against the culture of convenience that is causing their bodies to rot and decay. After all, they are always labeling cyclists as immature and rule breakers and bikes as playthings. They must know deep down that bikes would make them young again, but they are too far gone, like being plugged into the Matrix.

Maybe you get the same feeling doing any activity, but I haven’t felt the same doing other things as when I ride a bike. And I don’t even care what type of riding it is …. Road, beach, XC, DH. It’s all good. I think it’s because there are no constraints or boundaries … you can go where you want, unlike a sport such as football which traps you into a box (unless you are Forrest Gump and you catch the ball and just keep running, past the endzone, through the stadium and beyond, until nobody hears from you again).

"Life is like a box, you gotta get chocolate out of it." ... or something like that.

Speaking of being trapped in a box, you can trap cycling in a box too, by doing laps or ‘loops’. I see too much of this. You realize that you can actually ride a bike pretty much anywhere, not just on a loop, and without some sort of ‘loop timing device’? You can ride to a trail, ride back from a trail, etc. Some of my best rides in Wilmington were when we rode to the trail, and then to another trail, and then back home. Assuming the risk, of course, which I can’t blame you if you don’t feel it’s safe (see hostile driver paragraph above). But it can be well worth it. I guess that’s why we take the risk.

The point is, if you always treat cycling like some sort of gym workout where you have to do 4 laps at 80% max heart rate and 2 laps at 90% mhr, and you boast that you’re on your 44th loop at Blue Clay, man, you are probably not a fun person to be around. That is not something you want to brag about. If you are this person, try sessioning some shit. Make a jump or pile some logs up or ride on a log. At some point in your life, your ‘loop timing device’ is going to tell you that you’re not as fast anymore, and then what? Are you going to become Al Bundy, “I scored four touchdowns in a single game!”, reminiscing about the past? In the end, you have to realize that on a bike, you are young, and that is all that matters.


Pics, pics, pics

Can you find the trail? If you need the trails raked or blown then I've got some paved paths for you to ride

Views of Lake Hartwell

This trail is part of what's known as The Bottom End, which consists of 20+ miles of trail. The upper half of Isaqueena is roughly another 20 miles, for 40 miles in total. Then you add in Fants Grove just a hair further south, which is another 20 miles, and you have 60 miles of trail at Clemson. I wish I went to school here.





Old school chainrings, when riders were riders and they forged their own bike parts.


The old cemetery near the Keowee Heights Plantation



Filed Under: Ride Reports > South Carolina > Clemson

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