A Foray to the Dark Side

It’s happened. I’ve been indoctrinated. It was inevitable, but I didn’t think it would come so soon. That’s right, I’ve bought a mountain bike. I’ve traded the pavement for dirt, lycra for baggies, endless fields for forested corridors, the whooshing of wheels for the springing of suspension, speed for skills, 20 for 12, and 28 for 51. The last two referring to gear ratios, of course.

Truth be told, this actually happened a while ago. The middle of June 2020 to be exact. Or rather, Month 4 of Year 0 of what the outside world refers to as “The New Normal”. I wouldn’t know a whole lot about that though, I’ve been rather busy riding my new bike.

Meet Felix, a 2020 Felt Doctrine SLX.

You don’t need pedals to mountain bike, right?

I actually only just came up with that name as I wrote this, no particularly striking name has come to me before for this new beast.

What may come as a surprise to those of you reading this that are cyclists (or bikers), is that I’ve gone for a hardtail cross-country (XC) mountain bike – and an aggressive one at that – when the trend is for full suspension with longer and slacker geometry. For that, I present the following counter-arguments:

  1. Starting on a hardtail will improve my, admittedly poor, handling faster than full suspension
  2. It’s beautiful
  3. It’s simple(r)
  4. It’s better for bikepacking
  5. I’m still too much of a roadie and would rather go uphill fast than downhill fast
  6. It’s an excuse to buy a full suspension bike in the future
  7. I don’t need to justify my decision to you

In the 12 weeks or so since that magnificent creature arrived at my door step, I’ve put about 500km into it. In road terms that’d be less than two weeks of riding. In mountain bike terms, that’s something like 40-50hrs of ride time. Those hours have been predominantly mountain biking at the most popular areas near Calgary, with a couple gravel rides thrown in, and a very ‘educational’ 30min at the local pump track. An education in the limits of my turning ability and the hardness of the ground, that is.

Felix has yet to take on any epic rides though. For the most part, the riding has been a matter of getting less uncomfortable in a new environment and building some skills so I’m not bumbling my way through every trail. I have taken him up a 900m technical trail climb, the top third of which kicked my butt, with equal time spent pushing as time spent riding. I’ve improved since then though – there’s only an 75% chance of the same thing happening again. At least I don’t feel the need to drag the brakes down every descent now.

I am eyeing up some more ridiculous rides. A couple of which I hope to get to before the snow suffocates the trails. As for the bikepacking, well that will be left for next summer.

I’d give a more in-depth review of this bike, in part because I found those lacking when I was looking to buy it, but 50hrs just doesn’t feel like enough time to do it justice. I also don’t feel qualified enough as a mountain biker to differentiate it. Yet. Instead, I’ll leave you with some scenic shots of this bad boy.

I would tend to agree with that sign
This view is, in fact, from a massive park in the middle of Calgary (Nose Hill)
Overlooking Cochrane. 100% chance of me not taking this path down the ridge

In all seriousness though, exploring a new-to-me type of riding has been a much-needed break in the stressful times that has been these past 6 months. It’s allowed me to get out and explore areas I’ve only seen from afar and experience more familiar areas in a new way and with a different lens. And I think that’s something a lot of people could benefit from. It’s been months of this situation, there’s at least months to go. You don’t have to buy a bike to figure out how to try something new or experience something familiar in a new way. All it takes is some creativity and willingness to try… a bike doesn’t hurt though šŸ˜‰

Cheers,

Evan

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