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.