Although it may look like one from afar, a cross bike is not a road bike, especially with 30mm tires. The trip up Mud Pike Tuesday made this point clear. The really steep parts were definitely tough enough that intervals weren’t needed. A pace that would have turned out about 32 minutes for the 4 mile ascent produced a time of 35 minutes: about 3 or 4 minutes slower.
Although those knobby tires might lead you to think otherwise, a cross bike is not a mountain bike. The Fat Cat took Ernestina down our lady of unpaved roads, Quebec Run. He was bombing through the dirt and rocks much like he would down the summit on the Cervelo. Pfstsssss! Immediate loss of front tire integrity. This was no tiny snake bite. No close inspection required. This was a king cobra bite. Two gaping holes near the valve stem were quickly patched with much trepidation as to the holding power over such a yawning defect.
After picking his way to the bottom of the ridge, The Cat ran across another biker out there in the middle of nowhere. He was a mountain biker from the garden state. The two talked about how WV/ Southwest Pa was probably one of the best biking areas in the world, regardless of discipline. The Jersey boy compared us to Vermont. The only problem was that the mountain biking was too, technical, too hard here. That’s about right, and that’s the way we like it.
The ride up Quebec Run was more like it for the cross bike. In fact, it seemed oddly easy for the 39x27 gearing. This Summer The Cat did the same climb on the same bike with quite different sensations. At 3 or 4 mph, he was traveling at the speed of gnats, which were heavy in the hot air. He was huffing and puffing such that he was inhaling the little beasts by the pound. Finally, he resigned to walking the steep parts so as to have a free hand for the swatting.
Back on top of the Ridge, the Cat and his crosser decided to boom across Skyline. On this terrain Earnestina did a fairly good impression of a roadie. The intention was to go out and then turn back for a short, safe ride. Alas, the call of the unknown was too great.
There are legends of a forest road that dresses the mountain face like a scar. Ernestina begged for a go at Lick Hollow and The Fat Cat obliged, despite his better judgement. Scenic beauty and flowing track quickly turned to steep drops, furrows and loose stones (I think they call them “baby heads” in the Midwest). To top it off, the integrity of the questionable tire patch was akin to Robert Downey Jr. on rehab.
The front tire softened like a…(insert your own phallic simile here). At one point the Cat tried running down the rocky slope thinking it might just be faster. It became a race against the clock and The Fat Cat was not going to leave the kids waiting at the school door. The seat pack coughed up an old tube that had already been patched several times. Thinking that the time required to change the tube was not worth it if the replacement tube was bad, The Cat started on the quick pump and go strategy and soldiered on.
Again, a cross bike is not a mountain bike. Lick hollow was definitely mountain bike territory and it woulda been tough at that. There where ditches, boulders, rock outcrops, downed trees, crotch knockers and other sundry delights. How the rim survived under that deflated tire is a mystery. But survive it did and the mountain finally spit out Ernestina and her fat companion.
A fast run on asphalt back to Haydentown was interrupted only once more by a little pumping. Actually, good time was made. The Cat actually had to wait a bit for the kiddies to be released. Maybe a cross bike is a bit closer to a road bike than a mountain bike. One thing is for sure: for all the things a cross bike is not, there is one thing it definitely is—fun.