Schooled, Bloodied, and Broken

I should have known when the day started out with a history lesson it was going to be interesting……….

I was invited to ride the Donnerville State Forest by a local guy, Jim Akins. It’s a small town, so the connections with Jim are numerous, though I have not spent much time with him. We don’t really have any experience with each other and so Jim was deferential in a biking way. I’m slow. I will have to stop to rest. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Donnerville is a trail network that is under the “control” of the St. Lawrence Mountain Bike Association. My ride with Jim started with a history lesson. “I first started riding these woods in 1996…..” (That should have been my first warning.) “I put that trail in 4 years ago, and that trail in…..” (The second warning.) At some point “If you are training for Leadville you should come here. I always get beaten up when I ride here…” (This should have been another warning.)

The trails ARE really nice. They are moderately technical. That mostly comes from the fact that they are: tight, steep, and switchback. Not stuff that I typically ride a lot (so yes, good experience). Jim and I started out riding and chatted. I wasn’t relaxed on my bike and eventually I missed a couple of moves, falling behind. Jim nicely started calling out directions to me on how to do some of the moves. Schooled…….

I started to get into the ride and relax a little bit. Still periodically I would do a 180 degree switchback, up a 15% grade with rocks, and ……fall. Eventually I lost a little skin. Not a lot. The bonus of falling here is that it is slow, and mostly soft. Still…..bloodied.

I really did settle in and start to have some fun with the ride when I hit something and my chain popped off. “Jim, I dropped my chain.” I went to put it back on and looked down. My rear derailleur was there in a weird orientation. It was kind of like when you look at someone’s leg that has been broken and instantly know that something is dramatically wrong. Hum, it shouldn’t go that way. Here is a visual (after I got it aimed back int he right direction):


What happened was pure bad luck. I kicked up a 1″ dia stick and it got sucked in between the chain, the cassette and the derailleur. The derailleur lost. “Aw, Sh!t. Jim, I am done.” “What, let me see……aw, sh!t, you are done.” Time to walk out of the trails. Broken……

The good news is that I don’t think I did anything to the wheel or the frame. I am more bruised than really bloodied. (Even that is mostly ego.) And I got a great lesson from a 65 year old guy. He’s a much better technical rider than I am. I guess that comes from the 20 or so years of experience and having been the person who built those trails. As Jim said, I know where I need some work.


UPDATE: I biked the bike down to the shop this morning. Even though the derailleur is all mangle it still pedals AND shifts (kind of). I have about 5 gears I can use in back. That XTR part is amazing. If I had to I could have kept going on him…..


4 thoughts on “Schooled, Bloodied, and Broken

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