30 July 2008

27.July.2008 Ride at Sycamore Canyon with Dana

I rode Sycamore Canyon on Sunday with Dana, my riding buddy from work. Dana is a great rider--strong, fit, fast and skilled. He usually keeps me on my toes.

The ride north followed our normal route. We were moving along pretty fast for most of the ride. On our return, we encountered a man who had his bike pointed toward a trail that we had never been on. Dana asked him where the trail went, which the guy explained but not in a way that gave me a good idea of the exit point.

We were really looking for a way to get back to the car without having to ride on the road, and hoped that this would provide such a route. Instead, however, it was a magnificent switch back ascent of the hillside which afforded us fantastic views of the canyon. Absolutely beautiful! It ended up depositing us not far from where we met up with the guy, but added about 20 minutes to the ride.

I'll be doing that section in both directions the next time I ride Sycamore Canyon.

29 July 2008

BikeSkills Experience

I've been regularly riding Mountain Bikes since 1993. I'm strong, physically fit, have an awesome bike, and usually go with the "advanced" group when I'm riding with a club. So, it may come as a slight surprise that this past Saturday I decided to take a Beginning/Intermediate MtB skills Course.

One of the reasons that I decided to take the course stemmed from my experience as a SCUBA instructor. I had a student in an "Advanced Open Water" course who had been diving for about 20 years. For years, he'd been doing all of the things that I was going to "teach" him in the course. So for him the course was simply a way to advance through the ranks to become eligible to take the "Rescue Diver" course with his girlfriend. On our first dive, he descended the 15 meters from the surface to the ocean floor like a rock but came to a perfect stop and hovered about a meter above the ocean floor. I descended much slower and when I found him I noticed that his mask was partially filled with bloody water. I asked him if he was OK, and he responded that he was. We went on our dive, with him demonstrating all of the skills in an acceptable manner--It was evident he had lots of experience, but there were still things he could improve upon. After the dive, I asked him about the blood filled mask. He said that was normal, it happened on every dive. I ensured him that it was not 'normal' and that it was a direct result of his overly rapid descent. On our next dive, I had him descend slowly. Miracle of miracles, no bloody mask. He was amazed. He'd been having bloody masks for 20 years and one dive with someone who had the skills and knowledge he was missing changed his experience for the better.

The experience with that student lead me to realize that regardless of how long I had been doing something, I could always stand to gain something by interacting with someone with a higher level of skill and expertise who could coach and educate me. Of course, this assumes that the instructor is able to modify the course materials to fit my level and that I'm not so far out of league with the other students that the instructor has to teach two courses at the same time.

I googled Mountain Bike Skills Courses and found several different resources. I had Brian Lopes' book and had read it, but there was something lacking between the written page and my execution. The next thing I came across was the West Coast Style DVDs. I saw some clips from the DVDs on YouTube and decided to get them both.

The first one, West Coast Style Mountain Biking provided me with lots of important skills knowledge and a wide variety of skills to practice, and I continue to watch the segments to build my abilities. The second one, West Coast Style Freeriding Fundamentals, is more focused on Freeriding, as the title suggests, but still provides a lot of really good skills demonstrations. I would have liked them more had they really focused on slow motion replays of drills or specific activities, such as "Ok, now go try to do X, Y, and Z" rather than riders showing off their skills. I still recommend these two DVDs for anyone who wants to improve their skills and find out how to do a variety of tricks and has the patience to watch videos. Unfortunately for me, I'm not much of a video watcher. I get about 10 minutes into them and I start to lose interest or I want to go and try the skills as they're demonstrated. Since we're talking about Mountain Biking and not yoga, it has been really difficult for me to practice the skills as they're taught or refer back to the video quickly.

That said, the missing element for me was the link between demonstration, practice and feedback. I happened to see a YouTube clip from BikeSkills.Com on YourMtB.COM and followed the link to find out more. I was pleased to see that BikeSkills had an instructor, Joe Lawwill, in Orange County--less than 40 miles from my home.

I sent Joe a message asking him about clinics that would be appropriate for me because the only ones listed were "Beginner/Intermediate" and I felt like those might be too easy for me. Joe responded quickly, assuring me that "there's always an easy way and a hard way around an obstical" and that he was certain he could challenge me. Was he right!

So, Saturday morning, I drove to Aliso Viejo to meet up with Joe and the other participants of the BikeSkills clinic. We met at Aliso Creek Park, signed waivers and Joe started in with his "Do's and Dont's." He explained to everyone the value of having our brake levers positioned so that we could easily brake with one finger. Next, Joe set about describing the concepts of shock compression and rebound and then worked with each participant to tune our shocks. My shocks had both been set at the shop just a week before, so I was probably the fastest to adjust -- no adjustments needed. Other people took considerably longer. While this is a great service and worth the $89 course fee in and of itself, it did take a long time to get everyone set up right--time I would have rather had learning skills, or at least resting out of the glare of a rapidly warming sun.

We started off in a small flat dirt area at the beginning of the trail. We practiced pumping into dips. It was quite amazing to find that with a simple loading of weight into the front shock while the front wheel was entering a dip, I was able to keep the bike moving. We later learned that this technique could be used to navigate out of situations where the front wheel could get stuck such as a rutty, slow speed ascent or descent.

Pumps were followed by track stands. These were pretty easy for me, especially with all the road riding I've been doing.

The next skill we learned and practiced was the manual. This skill was really the basis for the remainder of the clinic. A manual is like a wheelie, except that instead of using a pedal stroke to lift the front wheel, the bike is thrown forward and the front wheel more or less lifts itself off the ground as the rider's weight is now over the back wheel and the arms are extended. I'd never been able to do a wheelie because I always tried to muscle the front wheel off the ground with my arms and had my body in the wrong position--too far forward. After seeing the manual being done, I was amazed at how easy it looked, and logically it fit. So, I tried my first manual and failed. I tried again, and had a limited amount of success. I tried a third time, after receiving some feedback from Joe, and I was so successful that I forgot to modulate with the rear brake and went over backwards landing on my butt and elbows (I was REALLY glad I had padded shorts and elbow guards!) I was bruised, both in the physical and ego sense, but the pain on my iliac crest and elbows didn't go away. After a few more sorry attempts on my part, we headed up the hill.

The climb was not terribly difficult for me or Joe, but most of the other riders were lagging far behind us. Joe stopped when we got to a rock step in the trail. At that point we waited for everyone else to show up. When they finally got there Joe went about describing how to clear this one foot obstacle. First, we would ride up to it, loading the front of the bike and then doing a manual to get the front wheel on top of the ledge, allowing the handlebars to come toward the chest. Then, once the front wheel was up, we would push the handlebars forward and down causing the rear wheel to lift off the ground and follow the front. It was kind of like a bunny hop, but going up hill. We practiced this several times before we turned around and practiced the descent--Coming up to the drop, doing a track stand, then pushing the bike forward with the arms and the body backwards. It was so easy.

We continued up the hill until we got to the top. We practiced going over a log for a few times, perfecting the skill we learned at the step. Then we moved a bit and practiced manuals up a larger step and then manuals off a small ledge.

The next exercise was descending a rocky, rutty, slope called "Rocket" Joe demonstrated how the pump action could get us out of a tricky situation where the front tire might get into a rut or encounter a rock that we needed to move beyond in order to not fall. He had us descend while changing lines in order to make the skill a bit more complicated. I didn't have any problems with this skill, zipping down the long bumpy rock face like it was slick rock. When I got to the bottom I had the opportunity to see how NOT to go down as one of the students did an endo. Good thing he was wearing a full face helmet and guards on his elbows and knees/shins. I guess he didn't pay enough attention to the "back and down" part of the instruction.

The final skill for the day was a three foot step up. It was all about using "helpers" and manuals. Joe demonstrated several different ways to clear this obstacle, at one point appearing to be flying up hill. Very, very impressed, but by this point in the day my iliac crest and elbow were hurting quite a lot so I decided to just watch. Some of the other students attempted the skill, but only the guy with the 29er was able to clear it.

Next to the three foot step was a 5 foot step that Joe used to demonstrate his prowess. As a 42 year old man, I marveled at his abilities, but had no inclination to attempt such a stunt (maybe next year :)

My plan at this point is to practice the skills and then go back in a few months time to get some more feedback and learn some new skills. If you're in Southern California, I whole heartedly recommend taking Joe's class. I feel more confident in my riding abilities than I ever have.

25 July 2008

The First Ride for the third time.

My first ride on this baby was a dream. I picked the bike up on Friday night. I was pretty tired, so I decided to forgo an evening ride and instead opted for an early Saturday morning ride. Instead of making an early night of it though, I went over to a friend's house and ended up not getting home until around midnight. I quickly fell asleep and just about 2am, I was awoken from a dream where I was riding my new bike on some swoopy single track. I was a bit annoyed at the neighbors or their friends who decided to say their goodbyes on the street outside my window and the sound of an expensive sports car igniting, but the I quickly set myself back to sleep so that I could rejoin the bliss of my single track dream. As usual, I awoke around 5:30, but I laid there in bed for a while. I actually tried to get out of bed at 6am, but with the late night and the disturbed sleep, it just wasn't happening for me. A later ride wasn't an option though because I had to be in San Diego by 11:30 to work the Rainbow Cyclists' Bike Corral at San Diego's Gay Pride festival (the Bike Corral is like a coat check for bikes.)

After working and then wandering around the "Pride Festival" until 4pm I headed home. The idea of a ride was in my head, but with the lack of sleep and being in the hot sun for several hours, my body just didn't have enough energy to put everything together.

On top of feeling physically drained, I also didn't really want to ride alone. I wanted my first ride on the bike to be with one of my long time riding buddies. Part exhibitionist, part egoist, part comrade, the act of riding a new bike for the first time raises a host of complex emotions.
It seemed that none of my riding buddies were in town, so a bit disappointed but filled with excitement, I woke up on Sunday morning ready to try my new bike. I loaded the bike on the roof, put the wheel in the back of the vehicle, and was getting my clothes together when I decided to check my phone. One of my buddies had called on Saturday night. I called him back, and found out that he was about 10 minutes away from one of our usual ride spots.

I asked him if he would wait for me which meant about 10 minutes before I would be able to get all my stuff together and another 25 minutes to drive to the trail head. Surprisingly, he agreed. So, I put my ass in high gear, got everything else that I needed loaded into the car and zipped down the freeway.

From the moment I left the house I was giddy. I was finally going to riding my new bike! I was having a hard time containing myself. I had one of those ear-to-ear grins and it was difficult to maintain a gas-saving speed.

I made it to the trail head and found my buddy waiting. I slipped into my shoes, grabbed my hydration pack, started my HRM and said "Let's go!" We jetted up the to the start of the trail head, chatting and discussing the finer parts of our previous week. Our plan was as normal: ride Sycamore Canyon from just off Mast Blvd. in Santee, up to Goodan Ranch in Poway. Do Martha's Grove and then head back. There's lots of curvy single track, some good climbs, and some technical sections that I usually go around.

It's a "lollipop" ride--out and back, with a loop at the far end. I've ridden there a hundred times so it would be a good place to put the bike through its paces without adding any other variables to the mix.

We started down the trail, the bike feeling very natural under me. The medium sized bike was actually much more appropriate for me than the large framed bike I had been riding. It felt more like an extension of me than a tool to move down the trail.

Everything went very smoothly for about the first 5 minutes. Then I hit a bigger bump and the seat moved so that it was tilted nose up. I stopped, grabbed my multi-tool and fixed the seat. About 5 minutes later the same thing happened, so I fixed it again and this time tightened the little sucker down with a bit more force. I haven't had any problems since.

For most of the ride I was right on my buddy's tail (it's a cute one so I'm not complaining). At one spot where we had a fast/furious downhill, so I hit the remote on the Joplin R seat post to drop the seat. With the seat out of the way, I was moving faster than I had ever allowed myself to go on this trail before. Somehow I managed to get myself into a fairly deep rut that had an abrupt curb like end. I figured it was all over. I figured they were going to be wiping me up off the trail. I rode it though, and the suspension on this bike was absolutely amazing. I didn't even feel like I was in the rut, and with a slight manual, the shocks absorbed the exit point like it was candy.

After that experience, I was feeling really confident; maybe in myself, mostly in the bike. I continued down the hill, remarking to myself how much I like the Crank Brothers Joplin R seat post. I can't ever see myself going back to a static seat post after this experience. As I was zipping down the hill, I got to the curve where it's very sandy. I hadn't thought I was going as fast as I actually was, because I hit the sand and had a much more difficult time knifing through it than I ever had before.

When we made it to Martha's Grove I was excited because there is a point on the trail where it gets very technical. When I first started riding this trail, it was one of those hike-a-bike sections for me, even though I saw lots of people do it. It's a rocky rutted steep drop of about 4 feet. It's possible to roll over it, but it always scared me. Not today though. I just rolled down it like it was no more difficult than a stairway.

The rest of the ride was a blast. I still had that ear-to-ear grin on my face and as I drove home I was still excited.

If it's possible for a man to love his mountain bike, then I'm in love.

23 July 2008

Buying a New Mountain Bike.

As I have mentioned in my previous post, I hadn't bought a new bike for myself since 1999. Everyone I have been riding with over the years was tooling around on a new Turner or Ellsworth or Trek. Everyone had at least 120mm of travel on the front and about 80mm on the rear while I was forced to set the pressure in my 80mm front and 40mm rear so high so I wouldn't bottom out on the smallest of bumps. Sure, these once were state of the art shocks, and sure there are still those out there riding hard tails, and sure there are still those who don't understand why anyone why anyone would put any suspension on a bike; but I was longing for a smoother experience. After all, just because riding a mountain bike is my main form of meditation doesn't mean that I have to be uncomfortable doing it.

So I set about doing some research. I had no idea what to buy beyond knowing that I wanted LOTS of travel in a light weight XC bike. There is just so much hype, and so much hype about the amount of hype. Most of the magazines aren't any help because they have been focusing on the 29ers or bikes that didn't fit my needs. Plus, it's definitely not like it was in 1999 where there were only a handful of major players to choose from and there wasn't the proliferation of blogs, websites, magazines, forums, etc. Also, currently the majority of the discounters only carry a few brands aimed at the mass market. While they may have a high-end bike or two at Performance, there's not much in the way of choice--with GT being about the best they have to offer. Some shops carry only one brand (e.g. Trek Superstore or Specialized boutique shops). And most of the other LBSs are spread out requiring long distances in the car just to visit and see what they have. So, bottom line--too much subjective information available to get a good idea of what to buy; not enough concentrated physical inventory in the proximity of where I live to get a hands-on experience.

So, I went to Google as my first stop. I entered "Top Rated Mountain Bikes". That didn't help too much, but it did point me to mtbr.com. Once there I found a page with a huge list of bikes that riders had rated. I started off with the criteria that I wanted a bike that had been rated by at least 30 people and that had an overall rating as close to 5.0 as possible. Given a rudimentary understanding of statistics, I recognized that a higher sample size (e.g. the number of people who had rated the bike), the better the confidence interval. In other words, more people rating a bike, the more realistic the rating value would be.

I looked at a few different bikes with lots of reviews, like the SC Blur LT, but I was under-impressed with the bike after reading what people where saying. I kind of stuck to just scanning the "Weakness" area because I figured that is where the real truth would be stated. I checked out a few more "well known" bikes and followed leads from one to another. I can't remember all the bikes I looked at now, but I read about 1000 different reviews.

One bike that I ran across while reading a review for a completely different bike really hit me. It was everything I was looking for: super light, 140mm travel front and rear, super sexy, over 70 reviews and a total rating of 4.92/5.0. The biggest weakness to the bike, according to a very large number of reviewers, was the rider's abilities. I decided to look deeper into this bike; the Ibis Mojo SL.

I searched the web for reviews by pros and magazines. Here's what BIKEmagic had to say about the ride: "We've ridden a lot of bikes, and while most of them are really rather good these days it's been a while since something actually blew us away. But that's exactly what the Mojo did. Whatever you think about the looks or the price, this is a stunning bike to ride. Somehow it manages to feel both light and stout, have both less and more travel than it actually does and combine high-speed stability with low-speed manouevrability." That's a pretty good endorsement. But then I came across another review, this time from one of the legends of MtB.

Here's what Brian Lopes had to say at bikemag.com, the web arm of Bike Magazine: "I'm thrilled to be riding what in my opinion is the best looking and best riding bike on the market. I personally tested numerous bikes and the Ibis Mojo has won hands down as the best all-around machine. Which was the main driver for my decision, shortly followed by the like-ability of the Ibis owners, their future products, heritage and long-term commitment and vision to make the ultimate working bikes in the market. To me it was a perfect fit."

So, the next step was to find one. I came to learn that the bike was available in two models, the Mojo and the Mojo SL. The SL, standing for "Super Lite" was available in three colors: clear, gray and brown. On the web sites, the clear carbon really struck my fancy, but apparently it does so for a lot of people because when I tracked down a dealer in San Diego, they didn't have a clear in my size. The gray just looked too much like primer coat and the brown looked absolutely ugly. Still, I decided to check out the bike in person anyway, even if I would have to wait for a frame to be ordered.

So, I drove to Cal Coast Bicycles in San Diego after work last Wednesday (the 23rd of July) to give the bike a test. They didn't have any Mojo SLs built, but I got to test out the Mojo. The bike felt good. I mean, it felt really good. Alex and Charlie convinced me that for my size, I needed the medium frame even though my old M4 was a large. At first, it was a bit awkward because the smaller size altered the way my body interacted with the bike, but after just a few minutes in the sadle, I felt like the bike and I were one. There wasn't much in the way of a real test of the bike; just jumping curbs and running on some dirt next to the freeway, but the experience was awesome.

I went back to the store, hopping another curb, and just as I rolled into the shop, the rear tire went flat. Nice! I had decided that I was going to get the bike. The question was, wait a week for a clear frame to come in or go with the gray or brown. The gray still looked like primer coat to me, but the brown was actually kind of sexy. It didn't look anything like the brown I saw on the web sites. I debated, brown now or clear in a week...Now won. Of course, "now" isn't "now" when all you have is a frame on a wall and a shop that needed to order some parts for the build kit. So, I made my order, swapping this part for that, getting exactly the bike I wanted. I wasn't terribly concerned with weight, even though I got an SL. I figure the platform pedals (Time Z Control), a Joplin R Seat Post, and Ergon GX2 grips with carbon bar ends. Most everything is from the XTR build kit. I got the Fox RP23 rear and the Float RLC front. I got an XT cassette because the number of XT cassettes I'd go through in a year was costing me serious bucks--I keep bending the 3rd chain ring because I use it for climbing a lot of times. Anyway, the end result, with all the changes and my bear-bell, light mount and HRM holder is 12.8kg (~28.2 lbs.) When it came time to pony up my credit card, I popped the question: I'm a member of the San Diego Mountain Bike Association and as such I am supposed to be entitled to a 10% discount. At first Alex said that he didn't think they could give the discount on these bikes since they were so new and in such high demand. For the amount of upgrades or cash we were talking about here, I figured it was in my interests to pursue it a step further. So, I asked him to ask Charlie (the owner). When he returned he asked me if I had my membership card (which of course I did) and rather than earning just over 6100 airline miles, I earned about 5500 miles. I hoped that there was a sliver of possibility that the bike would be ready by the next day (Thursday) for a ride with the San Diego Mountain Bike Association. Of course, my hopes were dashed because there wasn't time to order the missing build kit parts until the next morning, but on Friday, I got the call to come pick up my new sexy machine.

I must say that the experience at Cal Coast was very good. Of course, in my opinion, when you're laying down about $6K for a bike, the experience should be very good. Alex took the time to make certain that everything was set up correctly, that the shocks were just right, that everything worked, except...as I rolled out of the store it became very evident that no one had actually tested the drive-train, and the rear derailleur was all out of whack. They had it fixed in a jiffy and I tooled around a bit on the street before loading it onto the top of my vehicle. I was giddy. I wanted to ride. I wanted to show it off. I wanted to experience a trail with this new bike under me. It was almost like a sexual desire. But it was late. I didn't have time to ride that night and didn't have anyone to ride with. I needed to be someplace early on Saturday morning. I was chomping at the bit, but I'd need to wait until Sunday.

I'll cover the first ride in the next post.

17 July 2008

In Memorium...An M4 rolls down the trail.

Do I really need a new Mountain Bike? Well, the answer is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no. In the grand scheme of things, with children in Post-Katrina Mississippi living in toxic temporary housing several years after being uprooted from their toxic ghettos, I can emphatically state that, no, I do not need a new bike. Neither do I need it so that in some small way I am validated as a studly 42 year old man still capable of kicking ass on the trails--I'm not much of a competitor, in that I recognize that I sit somewhere on a bell curve of ability, and I'm no where close to either end. So, all the competitive spirit within me is exactly that, something residing solely within me and directed 'against' myself. So, why do I need a new bike?

The last time I bought a bike it was 1999. I had bought a really sweet 2000 Specialized M4 S-Works. It was red and white and I felt on the top of the world.

Before that, I had been riding a Trek 8000 hard tail that I bought in 1993. (The picture to the right is one I got off the web. I don't have the fenders or the panniers.) The Trek 8000 had served me well, but in 2000 I had my first high-paying job and it was time to splurge.

The M4, as I said, was really sweet. It was my first experience on a "full suspension" bike, and given that I had 1.5" of rear travel, I was 'stylin'. I could speed down hills faster than I ever could have done on my old hard tail. In the nearly 10 years that I've been using the M4, it has been "my steed" on climbs throughout San Diego County, a few trips to Northern California (Boggs Mountain State Forest) and a few rides outside of Las Cruces, NM. It's seen me through radical physical changes; it's seen me through radical emotional changes; Mountain Biking itself has been a guiding force in my life.

About a year after I got the bike, election day 2000, I carefully lifted it to the top of my car and secured it in the rack. I had a plan for the day: vote, get coffee, go to work, ride with my friends in the late afternoon. But, like so much that went wrong that day, my plans were soon changed. The polling place was closed because it was too early in the morning which left me to decide whether to go grab coffee or wait the 20 minutes for the polling place to open. I chose the latter, but since I only lived a few blocks away, I drove home and parked the car in the garage. Unfortunately, the bike was still on the roof as I eased the car into it's slot. With a loud snap the front shock's drop outs snapped off and the bike crashed onto the roof of the car.

Ok, so the day was starting off badly. I cursed and cried and thanked the spirits that neither the car or the house hadn't been damaged. I loaded up the bike into the trunk, voted and headed off to work. At lunch I rushed over to the local bike shop hoping I could get a new shock installed in time for the afternoon ride. They had the right shock in stock, so I was all set. I'd pick the bike up later in the afternoon.

I returned to work only to receive a call from the bike shop that the steering tube had been flanged and that the frame was destined for the scrap heap. I cursed and cried some more. Then the guy at the bike shop told me that he could get me a crash replacement from Specialized for half price, but it would be a few weeks. Alas, now we had a war mongering president in the White House and me without a bike. At least one of the problems would be solved relatively quickly.

Within about two months I got the replacement frame, transferred everything from the old frame and was back in business. At that point, I was riding trails at least three days per week. Mountain biking has been my life. It is a way to forget about everything and be completely in the moment; it is my form of meditation. So, to be without a bike for smonths was painful. Fortunately, I had a month long vacation planned to Bali from the middle of December which helped to pass the time without a bike.

I have contemplated what to do with the M4. I could give it to my 18 year old son as an upgrade to the bike he has now but doesn't ride. He has a 2001 GT I-Drive 1.0 that I got when Supergo was blowing out the pre-bankruptcy bikes. The components on it are a mixed bag. Some LX, some Avid, Some absolute crap (like the front shock.) He was tall for his age when I bought it for him and I didn't want to have to buy another bike for a while, so the frame is a large and he grew into it quite nicely. None the less, about the time he turned 16, I stopped being cool enough to hang with, and a nasty nicotine addiction took hold of him thanks to his posse. But, when I told him I was buying a new bike he asked for the M4. But I don't really want to give it to him. I'd be happy to let him use it to go on rides with me, and maybe after he's shown me he's serious (I can't really stand the fact that I sound so "fatherly") I'd give him the bike. Otherwise, I think it would be a waste to have what is really still a very nice bike sit idle in a garage where I wouldn't be able to offer it to someone else who might be interested in going for a ride with me but doesn't have a bike.

So the other day when I was in the shop picking out my new bike, I realized that I had done a lot of upgrades on the M4. The only parts that were still original from the 2000 frame were the XTR shift pods and the Thompson seat post. The XTR cranks were a replacement about 2 years ago. The XT Cassette and XT dereilleur were replaced about eight or nine times, the most recent being about a month ago. After destroying several XTR cassettes in the first two years, I decided that I would use the XT cassettes because of their greater durability. The Hayes Stroker Carbon Disc Brakes were new in March 08, replacing the Hayes El Camino's that replaced the XTR V-Brakes. The Specialized seat had been replaced a few times as a result of crashes that tore the covering. The Mavic Crossmax XL wheelset was a replacement of several other wheelsets. The Ergon grips replaced the original grips that had gone from red and black to pink and gray with UV exposure. The fork had gone from a Manitu Mars CL, to another Mars CL to a Rock Shox Reba Team. The rear shock had gone from a Fox Float RC to a Cane Creek Cloud Nine. And of course, the chain had been replaced at least 50 times.

So, I got my new bike (which I'll post about soon) and the M4 now sits off to the side of my garage, alongside the Trek 8000. We'll see what happens. But back to the question of why I need a new mountain bike...I guess just because. Not very convincing, unless, of course, you're a mountain biker.