"I am death, shatterer of worlds, annihilating all things." That gem is from the Bhagavad Gita. An Indian Prince asked Shiva if he could see his true visage. Shiva strongly suggested against it. I had a bit of an epiphany the other night while on a ride. My brain is pretty slow on the uptake. I am that guy who always remembers the punchline long after the delivery would be actually funny. So the fact that I never connected the dots in this case shouldn't be a very big surprise. I have been pretty upfront of my fear of Needham Town Forest. Some openly mock me about it. Fine. A few have the actual skill to back that up. But I stand by my respect of NTF. Its not a place to be taken lightly. People want gnar. I get it. I do too. But NTF goes a tad beyond gnar. On weds I met DD and Joel in the parking lot. They were running a bit late so I was alone in a wooded parking lot clad in spandex. Awkard. To say the least. A couple of other mtn bikers pulled in the lot. They were a very enthusiastic bunch. They quickly asked me if I was here for their ride. I tried to be polite. I was nice and asked them what their ride was all about. A rider joined them and asked about NTF. "Is it technical?" Dude in camo shorts and a bmx helmet laughs and says "yes" New guy asks, "How technical?" Camo shorts sort of mockingly says "the most technical place you will ever ride" New guy is getting a bit agitated, "harder than Harold Parker?" Camo guy. "much harder than HP.." New guy gets nervous.
I sat on a rock watching all this unfold and laughed my ass off. Inside of course. No one clad in spandex should be outwardly laughing at anyone in a wooded parking lot unless they want to get their ass kicked. It was actually empowering. Here was a dude who clearly knew what he was talking about and he was giving NTF the grade A gnar stamp of approval. Deitch finally arrived. We get our act together and roll out. I do my best bull in a china shop impression. Smashing into all the things. Even riding through a downed tree. DD lays down a good mid-ride heckle "This is why you can't have nice things Chip..." I tune him out and continue smashing. Until we get to a section I have never ridden and let him go a head. He does what he does best. He really has some sick skills. Watching him ride techy terrain fills me with some hope that I can actually ride it one day.
We get about .25 miles. To a very familiar spot. Dave decides to try his luck at riding a log of death. He doesn't die. But I feel like we are pushing our luck and I hear the other group smashing through the woods headed our way. So we move on. We get to the tree of fear and Dave's tire demon rears its ugly head. Dave has a gift. He sort of has blamed it on Schwalble Racing Ralph's super light casings. Looking back every time I ride with him he breaks something. His kill rate on tires is staggering. Tonights victim was a brand new Specialized Ground Control. Dave said it was indestructible. Um it died the same quick death of countless RR at Dave's hands. The puncture was through the tread. Stan's is shooting out like a geyser. Dave grabs a can of something and starts his own personal NTF Foam Party.
We somehow get back to the parking lot. That is one of the beauties of NTF you are never that far from the lot. So repairs thankfully are easy. DD puts a tube in, we meet Joel and head back out. As we "redo" the prologue section we bump into the Foxboro crew. They are up to some high level shenanigans. They are trying to ride up a chunk of slate rock that we typically go down. Of course the only guy who makes it is on a singlespeed. Then one of their crew decides to drop down the rock of death as I call it. Colin once heckled me severely at the bottom of it. It was a priceless heckle. "Chip, I can smell your fear from down here" That cut deep. But while words may hurt, axe head rocks actually cut through flesh and bone rather easily. As I have said a million times I am a horrible technical rider. I use NTF as a playground or a crucible. Its the only way for me to enjoy riding in there. If you go in thinking you are going to shred or ride it fast it will chew you up and spit you out. So when I see a guy on what looks like a hybrid going at the chute of death I say to myself "self either this guy really is good or you are about to witness some serious carnage" He clipped in and then proceeded to hit a tree. Thankfully it was a nice tree and kept him from falling down the rock face to his death.
But this experience really made me think. These guys are on crappy bikes in shorts and t-shirts, are crashing like its their job and are laughing their asses off and having a great time. It dawned on me. This is why I love mtn biking and mtn bikers. They give zero fucks about what people think. They might be a bit fat, they ride ugly at times, but they are in the woods having a blast. Ok back to my story. So I sort of forget about Dave's tire disaster for a second. But then I start doing the rewind on just how frequently he has destroyed his bike when I am with him. I may be some kind of curse. I mean the list is insane. Too many tires to count. A destroyed full suspension bike in LLF. The SSAP debacle. I hope he doesn't read this because if he puts 1 and 1 together he is going to come up with CHIPBAKERISCURSED. And he might be correct. That time I shattered my arm to pieces in SF. Yeah I had used a smudge stick on my mtn bike. Like the day before I broke my arm. I sold that bike by the way. I don't care if it was built by a mtn bike Hall of Famer it was cursed. It was my fault. You don't mess with that type of magic if you don't know what to do with it.
But none of that occurred to me at this point in the ride. At this point I just wanted to ride. I took Dave and Joel over to some stuff we never have ridden before. I found it the other day by accident. For a place that is 5 minutes from my house I have a very limited knowledge of the trails. Its easy to get lost in there though. Its all these secret trails that are more maze than trail system. If a Minotaur burst through some trees with a battle axe I would not be surprised at all. The new trails had a really good flow to them. A bit less axe head ridden. And maybe a touch less out to kill you. We had been in the woods for a while and we were all getting a bit bonky. I started doing my best to direct us back towards the car. Dave saw a nice log to hop. Its like the log ripped him out of the air and body slammed him to the ground. Of course his leg was pinned between the log and his bike. The ONLY thing that kept him from snapping the leg in half is his consumption of bacon. I am sure of it. Builds strong bones. Ok once we determined Joey umm I mean Dave was ok I took us back on fire roads and fireroads only. We passed a ton of sick trails but I could sense tonight would end badly if we attempted any more gnar.
When we got back to the car we saw two of the Foxboro crew. They were smiling and putting a bike back on the car. The bike was missing a crank arm. Dave even in his injured state fixed the bike and sent them back into the woods for more gnar. It was a rad night indeed. I am loving mtn biking more and more. Still not "good" at it. But I think mtn biking is sort of like yoga. Being good at it is very relative. The main thing is riding. Keep striving to get better. I still am amazed when I do something and don't die. I have been riding a geared bike which is a total eye opener. Going from riding a singlespeed to gears is wild. I am noticing some bad habits creeping back in. I have to remind myself to ride like a singlespeeder and attack the technical sections. I have to remember to ratchet. The new bike is amazing. I am a true believer in thru axles. Its stiffens up the front end so much. Especially on a 29er. I honestly didn't think I would notice a difference but its night and day. It tracks through rock gardens and technical sections way better than a quick release fork. And yes, I have been liking the gears. Granted I only have 11, but its nice to be able to have some gears to set up certain climbing sections or when I am going park-to-park. Its opened up riding for me.
And its sexy. Sexy is important with bikes. At least in my mind. I hope Dave will keep riding with me after this revelation. I swear I am not the 5th rider of the apocalypse. At least I think I am not. Sometimes I do feel these little nubs growing out of the top of my head but I am sure its just from all the times I was dropped as a child...