(Last) Weekly Roundup: Dad’s New Truck Edition

Children are innocent
Teenagers fucked up in the head
Adults are even more fucked up
And elderlies are like children

Perry Farrell might be on to something. I’ve had this sense of, ah, regression lately. At first I thought it was anhedonia, the byproduct of various professional and personal disappointments, but now I recognize it for what it is — not an inability to feel pleasure, but a disinterest in the pleasures of late adulthood. I don’t want to drink interesting vodkas or travel to fascinating places or earn enviable sums of money. Don’t want to win arguments or write enduring prose. My interest in what used to be called “the fairer sex” before society decided that was unfair — still present and accounted for, but no longer shouting quite so loud in all the corners of my skull.

This is what I want to do: as another pansexual lead singer once declared, I want to ride my bicycle.

My son’s trip to Angelfire Bike Park was so successful that I decided to replicate the experience closer to home — specifically, at Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia for their last mountain-bike weekend of the year. Feeling somewhat superstitious, I called Angelfire and had them deliver an exact copy of John’s rental bike to the house, because I knew he would have success on it and there’s no point in working your tailfeathers off in this world if you can’t make something just right for your son. Then I went shopping for my bike. I’d just about settled on the grownup version of John’s bike when the pro shop at Angel Fire called. They had something that I might like: a larger and more elaborately equipped variant of the Trek Session 9.9 that I’d ridden down their mountain. Was I interested? Sure.

God knows I’ve spent some money on bicycles over the years — my last couple custom-build BMX and dirt-jumper bikes each cost as much as a new Honda Grom — but this was a new frontier. In cost, for sure. In complexity, absolutely. The Session’s four-piston hydraulic brakes need to be bled, they need pad changes, they become hot enough to burn through skin on long downhills spent trailing a very fast 10-year-old who is still a 10-year-old. Servicing the bike’s frame and suspension requires three different ranges of torque wrench. It’s slightly smaller in total dimensions than a 350cc four-stroke off-road motorcycle, but longer front to back than my Honda CB1100. It’s the lightest long-travel downhill bike ever made, thanks to the painstaking engineering of its carbon frame, but it still weighs thirty-five pounds. The UPS shipping calculator warned me that if I had underestimated the dimensions of the shipping box by more than five linear inches I would be subject to having my shipment confiscated and sold at auction. My first serious racing bicycle cost $169 on closeout and could be serviced with one hex key and two sizes of open-end wrench, but this one needs to have the carbon-fiber handlebars tightened to between 3.8 and 4.2 Newton-meters lest they slip (if too loose) or explode on impact (if they are too tight).

I took all of it seriously. Our trip to Snowshoe, undertaken in the company of my former racing student (and John’s current racing instructor) Martin “El Jefe” Larrea, was planned with Guderian-esque precision. We rented an enormous house at hilarious cost and roamed through its eight bedrooms claiming dibs. Our vehicle was another rental — a brand-new F-150 King Ranch with massaging seats.

The weather did not cooperate. The mountain was closed for fog, then it rained in forty-three-degree drizzles on our early sorties down the hill. John crashed twice and injured his knee a bit. I tore some ligaments off my foot slipping a pedal in midair. Jefe’s Specialized Demo 29, which did not cost more than a new 600cc sportbike, snapped a spoke then developed a worrying tendency to wobble its front end at speed. We took a break to fix what we could. I self-medicated and gritted my teeth; unable to stand without help, I could still hold myself steady and clear a 25-foot tabletop on the Session.

It’s a wonderful bicycle, to put it mildly. I’m not sure it can be crashed. It reads my mind and is magic-carpet stable in the air. On the second day, when John got a flat tire and I had to dry-heave my way five miles up a hill in order to retrieve our truck, I realized that the big Trek should never be pointed in any direction but down a grade of at least five percent. If you abide by that rule, it will never do you wrong. The UCI Downhill World Championship was won on this frame, just a random example pulled off the line. It’s ridiculous for me to own it, but the same topsy-turvy world that lets hedge-fund managers stumble around a racetrack in a McLaren Senna also allows me to own and operate this vehicle at any skill level I can manage. Let’s hear it for the free market, that magic invention that saw me using JB Weld on my bikes back when I could ride worth a damn but now gives me a chance to treat the world’s most advanced downhill bike like a cafe racer.

Securely mounted by all remaining ligaments to the Session, which I think of as “the Sesh”, I trusted it enough to start asking it questions as we descended Snowshoe’s infamous “Skyline” freeride trail.

“Sesh,” I said, “there’s a woman whom I have loved deeply and I know she is hurting right now. Should I reach out tonight to make sure she is okay?”

“That’s weak,” Sesh replied. “What you need to do is get two more pedals in before that long step-up. Then I won’t have to save your bacon when you smack the second hump with the back wheel at 27 miles per hour.”

“You have a point. Hey, Sesh, I’m worried that I’m not where I should be in my career or my life right now. I’m forty-seven and…”

“Dude! You won’t make it to forty-eight unless you drag the back brake a bit and get your outside pedal down around this turn. We both know there are three long tables on the far side.”

“Okay, okay. Hey, Sesh, on the way here we drove past the home of this girl whom I really hurt five or six years back and it makes me think that…”

“Your ten-year-old son just cleared that gap jump,” Sesh snapped, and lightly kicked me in the ass via the 550-lb/ft rebound rate of the Fox DPX2 rear shock transferred to the seat. “If he looks back, will you be lost in thought… or will you be in the air, where you should be?” After thirteen trips down the mountain, it was obvious that Sesh had all the answers I would ever need. Not that I don’t get some of that clarity during a club race, but that’s a byproduct of the mainline hit from that activity which is the necessary thrill of head-to-head competition. At Snowshoe, I had no competition but my own expectations. I was free to focus on riding my bike and being better at it. I feel better at the bottom of the mountain, like I’ve hauled some of the garbage in my head out to the city dump. Sesh has only one flaw: he’s not made in America. Nobody’s building a full-travel downhill bike here now. Trek moved production to their bespoke Taiwan facility in 2015, and Intense followed shortly after. I’ve asked the kick-ass dudes at Guerilla Gravity to consider addressing that problem for 2020. Right now their longest-travel 29″ wheel bike has 130mm of travel. Sesh has 190mm, and that’s the difference between me rubbing my knees after a ride and replacing my knees after a ride. So in the meantime, I’ll just have to deal.

My three-man crew was in sync. We laughed and told jokes and talked smack on the long rides up the ski lift and in the bustling restaurants between those rides. Our topic was “progression”. Martin had hit a pretty big drop on Skyline. John wanted to do it but I didn’t think we’d brought a stout enough neck brace. I also wanted to do it but I suspected that my injured foot would call time when I hit the ground. We set other goals and we achieved them, or we didn’t. John ran down a bunch of college kids. Some of them were tickled to be overtaken by a child. Others were ungracious about it. My son greatly preferred the latter reaction. At the lift, he pointed to a handsome fellow who looked like the mountain bikers you see in REI ads.

“That old guy,” he said of the twenty-something, “he wasn’t hitting the last gap before the bridge, and it was trash slow,” he said in an outdoor voice approximately thirty decibels above his whisper-quiet normal speaking volume, “so I cleared it and rode up next to him and HE… GOT… YEETED… ON.” The parent in me wanted to correct this behavior, but I’d given all my adult personae a long-term leave of absence to be revoked only if absolutely necessary.

“Yeet not,” I suggested in response, half-heartedly, “lest you be yeeted.”

At the end of Sunday’s session I rode Sesh out to the King Ranch, lifted him into the bed, and grimaced as both of my hands cramped shut like the claws of an old crone. I’d spent tremendous money, time, and thought delaying this broken-body reaction: Revolution Suspension grips, Deity’s carbon-fiber vibration-damping 35mm bar, careful adjustment of the megabuck Fox Factory 49 triple-tree fork. My planning had carried me to the very end but not a moment longer. I was seized by the unfortunately legitimate notion that I’d been one of the oldest men on the mountain, and almost certainly the least mens-sana-in-corpore-sano among them.

“Sesh,” I said, “this one hurt. You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.”

“There’s only one thing,” Sesh replied, wisdom radiating from the inscrutable forged-carbon texture of his unbreakable bones, “you did wrong. Stayed in West Virginia… a ride too long.”

* * *

For Hagerty, I lampooned the 2+0 and told tales of low-stakes cheating.

34 Replies to “(Last) Weekly Roundup: Dad’s New Truck Edition”

  1. AvatarE. Bryant

    “It’s the lightest long-travel downhill bike ever made, thanks to the painstaking engineering of its carbon frame, but it still weighs thirty-five pounds.”

    I’ve got a pretty fuckin’ light V10 CC that wishes to argue with this statement, but it has the unfair advantage of springs that are about 1/7000th the weight so it’s not exactly easy to make a fair comparison. Since it’s the internet, I’m right and you’re wrong.

    And trust me, sleds like this can be crashed. For me, it typically happens when I find a bit of extra speed in a tricky segment and then find out that I have no clue what to do with the newfound velocity in the following segment. Managed to bust a rib through my chest protector this summer in that manner, which then made the XC later that afternoon even less enjoyable than it’d normally be.

    Much to the bike’s credit, it came through this crash with nothing more than a few light scratches, which might have actually occurred on the Pinzgauer ride to the top of the run (shuttling being an inexact art when there is no chairlift). As usual, Shimano and DT stuff is more rugged than I.

    I’ll be more interested in Guerilla Gravity stuff when they start building bikes with reach and angles that are more appropriate for Midwestern riding.

    Reply
      • AvatarE. Bryant

        I’m short (5’6″), so I ride 27.5 to have fun.

        Adventure Mine is your place to get shuttled via Steyr-Puch’s finest (they have two – Hans and Heidi, IIRC). Head up there for the Miner’s Revenge MTB festival in mid-July, and then head up to Copper Harbor afterwards. Makes for a nice mid-summer vacation.

        Reply
  2. Avatar-Nate

    I watched the two videos ~ you’re insane, John looks *very* competent .

    The linked articles were good reads too .

    -Nate

    Reply
  3. AvatarGMAN

    Great quote “You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way”.

    I’ve spent the past summer trying to get back into mountain biking after a 15 year hiatus (kids/job/other hobbies). In addition to finding out how crazy advanced the new bikes are (my built up 1994 Trek is now vintage/retro), I’m finding out my 47 year old body is also vintage. My 27 year old mind said I could still make that jump, my 47 year old body missed the turn after the jump and hit a tree (broken ribs/shattered ego).

    I’ve been shopping for an upgrade all summer and have been leaning towards a hardtail. It just seems more suited to the midwest (Chicago suburbs) trails that I ride. Your posts have inspired me, but also confused me. Maybe I do need that full-suspension, multi-thousand dollar enduro bike? I sure as hell don’t need a 10 year old Yeeting me…whatever that is.

    Reply
    • AvatarKen

      If you go hardtail, get a 650B+ (aka 27.5+). You’ll get the climbing prowess of a hardtail, and a little bit of forgiveness from the wide (though not quite fatboy) tires of the 27.5+. Trek makes an affordable version of the Roscoe that’s a decent value. I think its low $1k – get the 2020 though, better shock and drivetrain.

      But if your budget allows, go full suspension. And go w/an AM bike. They are good all rounders. Most higher end rear suspensions are valved to be tunable on the fly. So you can setup for an XC or downhill run. Specialized still has the brain too.

      Reply
          • AvatarGMAN

            The problem is, I can’t. They are both direct to consumer brands with no dealers. I have to go by what I read. They both have good reviews and reputations. Do you have an opinion on quality differences between the two of them?

      • AvatarE. Bryant

        Seconded the recommendation for a 27.5+ hardtail. I’ve got a Pivot Les 29 that’s wearing a DT XM551 wheelset and Maxxis Recon+/Ikon+ tires in 27.5×2.8. With a 130mm Fox 34, it’s pretty damn capable.

        There is also a lot to be said for a “trail” full-squish bike in the 115-130mm range. It won’t be a full-race XC rig and it will also not hang with a 150mm enduro bike, but for all-around use this seems to be the sweet spot.

        That being said, I’ve got more miles on my 155mm enduro rig (currently wearing a 27.5+ wheelset) than on any other bike this summer, and that’s because it is super-comfy, very forgiving, and really doesn’t present any penalties unless one is getting timed on climbs (and if you are in that situation, don’t take any advice from this particular short muscular guy who is saving his lactic acid for the downhills).

        Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      It sounds like you would be best suited with a first-rate hard tail or a 100mm travel enduro. I use a Lynskey Pro29 for that kind of stuff.

      Reply
  4. AvatarJDN

    I’ve never been more than a filthy casual when it comes to biking. I rode everywhere as a kid, built shitty ramps and hucked my huffy off them until things broke (thankfully just the bike, not myself), but I never seriously got into BMX or mountain biking.

    As a 20 something I went downhill mountain biking at either Snowshoe or 7 Springs and rented one of the full tilt downhill bikes. It assuredly was more than 35 pounds, and was comically difficult to actually pedal anywhere on the flat or uphill, but I’ve never experienced anything that was as good at its task as that bike. Within two runs I was willing to hit kickers fast enough I was fully clearing landings and it.did.not.matter. I could land in the stupidest positions and locations imaginable and the bike sorted everything out. I’ve never had an experience like that where the capability of the equipment was able to compensate so much more my lack of skill. I’d finish runs shaking with some sort of physiological manifestation of impostor syndrome because I knew it wasn’t my skill that was keeping me out of the trees or crumpled on the ground.

    It was a ton of fun, but it still ranks up there as feeling amongst the most dangerous things I’ve done.

    Reply
  5. AvatarKen

    That’s why I love MTB. I ride in New England, which is mostly a combination of technical XC, with some downhill. Average speeds are 7-10mph, with occasions to hit 20+ here and there, followed by 5mph rock gardens. That kind of riding alternates between (as you’ve put it before) “Ball Bearing Brain” and what you’ve described above – the inability to think of anything else besides what’s flying at you and the bike. Both are great for clearing the mind.

    They are opening more and more downhill parks around me, I just tried a couple this year. I was too cheap to even rent a downhill rig. Kinda wish I did now. I rode my modified 2013 Santa Cruz Blur, which has been changed into an XC / AM hybrid of sorts. Larger front Fox shock w/140mm of travel, dropper post, 1 by 11 drive, 27.5 x 2.4 tires. Had a blast, but never felt quite confident enough to do any jumps that were substantial drops. Was a blast at speed though. 40+ mph in the woods is nuts.

    Reply
  6. AvatarCompaq Deskpro

    My $160 Craigslist special is starting to shit itself. I can’t cover up the fact that the gears are chipped and I have to very gingerly shift into 3rd (in the front) or the chain will fall off. Sometimes it does anyways, on several occasions per ride, especially when wet. Now the rear derailleur is frozen, which is fixable, but the resistance from the knobby tires and lower limit is becoming noticeable. Maybe next spring I’ll spring for something like this.

    https://boston.craigslist.org/gbs/bik/d/cambridge-specialized-road-bicycle/6990112902.html

    Not trying to commute, not trying to go on the roads or trails at all, when I screw up I don’t do it again, I just want some exercise equipment. My effort put in on that beater bike over the last few years brought my leg back to a point better than I expected, some difficult hiking trails were surprisingly less difficult than I remember them being.

    Reply
  7. AvatarCompaq Deskpro

    I like Rush, I think I’m well versed on maybe 70% of their catalog. Lots of highlights from their career, Temples of Syrinx, Red Barchetta, everything from Farewell to Kings. If you like Freewill (or don’t), then check this out, here’s “Afterlife” by Avenged Sevenfold. The protagonist finds himself in heaven and finds himself uncomfortable with it, wishing to go back to Earth to continue his life.

    Reply
    • Avatarhank chinaski

      ‘Freewill’ is one of the 5 or 6 titles that still gets airplay on the commercials. ‘Something for Nothing’ is digging deep. Mad props. Next up, a ‘Tai Shan’ reference for a piece regarding GM sales in China.
      Triple points for anything from CoS.

      Wounds sustained in the Weekend Warrior style can help sustain the illusion that you’re still young-ish. A disease that needs more than one pill to treat, the ‘beetus, or god forbid anything do with the plumbing, and the roll downhill takes a more literal meaning.

      WV was on the short-list for a retirement LZ, but jeez, their fiscals….

      Reply
  8. AvatarEric L.

    This was hilarious and carefree. An excellent piece, I managed to laugh out loud at yeet not, lest you be yeeted.

    You aren’t suppose to offer praise without suggestions but improvement, but in the words of this Jars of Clay song I’m currently spinning, “I won’t go faster if you want to / It’s not what we came here to do / I just want to driiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive.”

    Reply
  9. AvatarTyler

    Sir: two completely unrelated article requests. First, a repeat, how in the name of all that’s holy has the author of a Camry SE track test not found his way into a TRD Avalon yet? And second, with apologies if this is just stupid forum fodder, but after reading the Corvette round-up and thoroughly enjoying your R&T piece on the Camaro … Is it time to evaluate the relationship and market strategy between those two cars more closely? I don’t know if I can spend a lot on a Camaro or if a Corvette is a steal or both but there sure seems like a lot more crossover between the two than there was in recent memory. If I walk into a Chevy dealer with $60k or whatever to spend on a fast toy, how does that even work anymore?

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      You’re right about the TRD Avalon. I should fix that.

      The Corvette Grand Sport C7 and Camaro ZL1 1LE cost the same amount of money and posted the same laptimes… there was definitely some overlap although the Corvette was sweeter to drive and the Camaro felt more serious. The arrival of the auto-trans C8 puts some air between the two IMO.

      Reply
  10. AvatarLynnG

    Jack,

    I was curious as to what your new bicycle cost and correct me if I am wrong but $8,500.00 was the price I found on the Internet. Eight Thousand Five Hundred Dollars before taxes and shipping. To quote a famous SFPD detective: :Man’s got to know his limitations.” WE are not on the low side of 30 are we??? Now I would not the be the first to admit that I have dropped some serious change on various 40-45 year old motor vehicles (Made In America) that I only drive to shows and on driving tours and to the garage for endless service repairs (quality control at our great American automotive manufacturers slipped a little in the early 1970’s). All of which I might add, were built at the Clark Avenue Facility in Motor City Michigan. Now I will assume that the resale/trade in value of your extensive watch collection has only increased with age, but will the resale/trade in value be maintained for a bicycle???? If you put that Eight Thousand Five Hundred Dollars in a 401K stock index fund or Berkshire Hathaway B Shares by the time your son is ready for college it would be pay for at least two semester at “The” Ohio State University or similar instate institution. Just a thought…. Best, Lynn

    PS: I think that one needs to pursue pontificating on various aspects of automotive issues because the pay must be more lucrative then spending 40 years in manufacturing logistics, drat I missed that boat and did not even know it was at the dock….

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      The older, slower, and more fragile you get, the more expensive the bikes become.

      I use the bike to ride with my son. I rate the time we spend together as being worth more than future money. I would give a lot to have had a father who spent the weekends riding bicycles with me, both when I went to university and now.

      I don’t think of myself as highly compensated. I make more money than an urgent care physician but less than a 26-year-old trader at Goldman Sachs. As for the business in general, it’s not lucrative on the average but there are a few folks making real money, mostly at the top of the print mags.

      Reply
      • AvatarAoLetsGo

        Sweet bike, too rich for my blood but I totally get it. I am on my 5th MTB, it is a full suspension 29er and my old body (considerably older than you) likes the plush. Only $2,500 new and it’s been beat on so bad/good that I had it rebuilt twice. I went through most of the evolutions of these bikes since I started with hard tail and hard fork.

        Good on you for doing this with you son, I started mountain biking with mine when he was 5 and we had fun and special bonding times. He passed me up on the trails years ago but we still will get out and ride together. Speaking of riding together I rode my road bike twice this year, my roadie friends are not happy with me, c’est la vie. I need my time in the woods, the rush, and the head clearing I get from a MTB.

        Reply
        • AvatarAoLetsGo

          I just thought of one event that reminds me of your bike. My son had bought a used Yeti downhill beast from a pro rider so he could bomb up in Copper Harbor. We took a trip to Moab and Durango, he had a blast on that beast while I had my Yeti ARC hard tail and I took a beating and got thrown off countless times.

          Reply
      • AvatarBigPoppaSpends

        I’ve posted here before questioning your spending on items like yet another watch or another pair of English shoes. A man doesn’t need more than 2-3 watches and ~5 pairs of good dress shoes Above that is some sort of vague hording or ego stroking behavior. Hardly a massive sin, but at some point you have to look in your closet and say, that’s enough.

        In this case however, I can see the point of the purchase. This is a top flight piece of engineering that lets you partake in a highly valued activity with your kid. I’d guess a 4-5K version of this bike could do 95% of what the 9.9 could,but that’s quibbling. Sometimes the best is worth it.

        Reply
    • AvatarDirt Roads

      Hell I’ve been in aviation 40 years and still don’t own my own home. The money some spend on bicycles is what I would spend on a decent used car.

      Reply
  11. AvatarLynnG

    Jack, You are absolutly on mark, quality time with your children becomes more priceless as time passes by. I was just set back by the price of your new bicycle, never would have guessed. But then again the optional areo kit on a new CTS-V approaches that amount so everything cost a lot. Enjoy your new bike and as Sergeant Esterhaus use to say: “be careful out there”….

    Reply
  12. AvatarDirt Roads

    I know if my wife heard me worrying about some gal I hurt 6 years ago she’d have my shit packed and on the front lawn before I got home. Why worry about that woman and her feelings when there’s nothing you can do about it? You’re married now Jack. Focus on DG.

    Reply
  13. AvatarBrendan Martin

    Hey Jack,

    Completely unrelated but thought you might be interested in this:

    https://www.ateliermovements.com/

    A new watch movement company which aims to make them in the USA. They are designed to be drop in replaceable for ETA movements but they’re not clones. Looks like an original design (I like the balance bridge).

    I hope they succeed. If they can price them cheap enough, some of the American microbrands could start using them instead of ETA or Seiko / Miyota movements.

    Reply

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