Okay, so I’ll admit that even as a bicycle enthusiast, mountain biking wasn’t something I particularly cared for. It was always portrayed as an extreme sport in the vein of skateboarding or I don’t know, pogo sticking, and I’m about as far from extreme as can be. Before I even started riding bikes for transportation, I associated mountain biking with adrenaline junkies who bombed down dangerous tracks in motocross outfits and would suffer from the occasional broken body part. Looking back, I now understand the differences between downhill and dirt jumping and the other competitive sub-divisions, and, let’s say, just riding a mountain bike. It is the latter that lately I’ve grown to enjoy quite a bit.
I’ve talked about The Colonel before, my 90’s Dean Titanium hardtail that I built out of leftovers and other cannibalized bikes. I built it as a rugged, do-anything, weatherproof bike that I wouldn’t mind getting beaten up or tossed around. I think I had intended to ride it in the winter in northern Japan before I realized that you need really big tires to ride through the snow. It’s a single-speed because I like the simplicity and I dislike adjusting derailleurs. It’s titanium because I think titanium is just dandy. It’s a Dean partly because that is my name, too. Anyway, I built it up in Japan and rode it 4 or 5 times before coming to Germany where it has been seeing a lot more use than I had thought it would.
Actually, let me rewind and clarify that last statement—it isn’t Germany where I’ve been riding, it’s the Netherlands. You see, the Dutch aren’t just preoccupied with these beautiful and elaborate paved cycling paths, they also are pretty good about maintaining their off-road cycling network. The first time I rode an ATB here in Europe, it was with a friend who lives north of Eindhoven, and he took me on some pretty incredible routes through the forests by his house. Impressed, I thought he was a lucky guy to live so close to these trails, but what I didn’t know at the time was that almost every forest in the Netherlands has these trails. In fact, there are some less than 5 minutes from where I live that start just across the Dutch border. Up until last week, I never knew they were there.
So aside from errands and coffeeneuring, these trails have been where I’ve spent most of my saddle time. Lately I’ve even been bringing Ardie along, too, and he runs ahead of me like a dog sled team of one (he’s not strapped into a harness or anything, that’s the just image I wanted to portray). Some of the trails double back on each other, some go to different villages, some are more technical than others, although the flatness of the terrain here dictates nothing too challenging. It’s just a lot of fun, and I wouldn’t have expected to be doing it as often as I have.
Of course, one thing always leads to another, and I’ve got my eye on some of the more famous trans-european bikepacking routes for this summer, but in the meantime I am having a good time clunking around the woods on a mountain bike.
- Bicyclist Abroad