You know how you go on vacation somewhere and you just fall in love with the place? And before long — maybe it’s while you’re still there, maybe it’s sometime soon after you get back — you find yourself thinking, “I wish I could call that place home.”
That’s pretty much the short version of why pro mountain biker Rebecca Rusch lives in Ketchum, Idaho. And she loves it so much she wanted to show it off to other people who love riding. Which is why she created Rebecca’s Private Idaho, a 95-ish (or 55-ish, if that’s more your distance of choice) mile dirt fondo, the first edition of which was last weekend.
And as Rebecca’s number-one fan and blog stalker, I was able to score an invite for The Hammer and me.
Even before we started our five-hour drive from our home in Utah to Ketchum, Idaho, The Hammer and I needed to resolve a dilemma: what bikes should we bring?
This was not an easy decision to make.
See, we knew that most people would be riding cyclocross bikes — but The Hammer doesn’t even have a cross bike, and I have never gotten comfortable on mine; for whatever reason, I seem to be the last cycling enthusiast in the world who hasn’t fallen in love with CX.
So: no cross bikes. But the problem wasn’t resolved, because I had made the foolhardy boast that I could do Rebecca’s Private Idaho (RPI from here on out) on a World Bicycle Relief Buffalo bike:
As you can see here, this one has been upgraded with a Selle Italia SLR saddle (the saddle I use on all my bikes), Time ATAC pedals, and a Garmin 510 bike computer (More on this later).
Otherwise, it’s stock. Which means it weighs fifty-five pounds. Which is not a problem when you’re riding on the plains of Africa, but which may not be ideal for a dirt (almost) century. With about 5000 feet of climbing.
I’d have a Buffalo bike waiting for me in Ketchum, but — just to be safe — I decided to bring along my geared Specialized Stumpjumper hardtail.
As for The Hammer, she brought her geared Gary Fisher Superfly hardtail, as well as her Specialized Stumpjumper singlespeed, which she’d ride if I went with the Buffalo. You know, just to keep things interesting.
The five-hour drive was relaxing; since this wasn’t a race, we didn’t have to be nervous. I drove; The Hammer read The Cuckoo’s Calling (a recently-published detective novel by JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books) aloud to me.
And then, about half an hour before we arrived in Ketchum, we started coughing.
The smoke was thick. Ash was falling from the sky.
I knew that there had been a fire here recently; it had been touch and go as to whether Rebecca was going to be able to hold the event at all. Had the fire started up again?
No. This was, in fact, smoke that had blown in from the Yosemite fire. Still, The Hammer and I agreed: if it was this bad on the day of the ride, we’d skip it.
Oh, Sure, I’ll Be Happy To Ride In A Parade
As it turns out, we didn’t need to worry; the smoke had blown through by the next morning. Saturday dawned with blue skies.
And The Hammer and I were due to join Rebecca, Katie and Jen from World Bicycle Relief, a couple of Rebecca’s friends, and Levi Leipheimer in a parade.
We would be right behind the high school marching band, and right before a guy riding a camel.
So we donned cowboy hats, except The Hammer, who wasn’t a big fan of the idea of being in a parade in the first place, and drew the line at wearing a cowboy hat.
Obviously, I have no such problem. Nor, evidently, does Levi:
And Rebecca looks right at home in a cowboy hat:
Levi stopped at a firetruck to borrow a wrench and adjust his saddle height down 1.5mm. Rebecca was astonished he knew how to work on his own bike.
So, for the next two hours, we rode around, very slowly, being careful not to ride through horse poop or to startle the camel. We gave out lots of World Bicycle Relief stickers, and dared each other to try doing wheelies. None of us took up the dare, because it’s not that easy to pop a wheelie on a 55lb bike.
Numerous people yelled, “Get a horse!” at us. Since — apart from the marching band, the camel, and us — every entry in the parade was horse- or mule-powered.
With the parade behind us, I really had only one more responsibility for the day: decide what bike I was going to ride the next day.
I decided the best way to make the decision would be to set up the bike the way I would ride it, and then do the first part of the ride…which was also the biggest climb of the day.
So The Hammer and I went to The Elephant’s Perch — a local bike shop — and borrowed some tools (and got some help) to get my pedals and saddle on the Buffalo.
And then Katie, The Hammer and I headed out on the paved Sun Valley road, which — we were told — would eventually turn into a dirt road…and the biggest climb of the day.
We never even got to the dirt.
“I don’t have a spare tube that will fit this bike,” I thought to myself. “Nor do I have the wrenches I need to change a tube, much less fix anything else.”
“And most importantly,” I said to myself and anyone who was nearby and happened to be paying attention to a guy who was talking to himself, “Riding in this position for 100 miles would turn this ride into a death march.”
I was finding, in fact, that even fifteen miles of riding in the bolt-upright position of the Buffalo bike was remarkably uncomfortable for someone (me) whose butt (mine) was much more accustomed to the leaning-forward position I usually have on road and mountain bikes.
And in short, I wussed out.
And the next day, I would not regret aforementioned wussing, even for a second.
Which is where I’ll pick this story up tomorrow.