lately i have been spending some time reorganizing and rearranging our house. mostly the bike room, but the activity has slowly spread over the entire house.
i have an old rock shox duke sl u-turn suspension fork that has just been hanging out for sometime now. it has been quietly staring at me from the corner of of the bike room. it has been silently begging for a purpose.
i decided at some point on friday that on saturday i would install some suspension on my khs and give the fork this purpose. i almost feel like i'm going to do the fork a favor by using it. but let me preface this by stating that i have been fairly vocal about not riding suspensions of any kind. all of my bikes were rigid and the closest i wanted to come to a suspension was running my tires at low air pressure. anyway, after our ride saturday morning i headed to the shop with the fork in one hand and my khs in the other.
the first task was to find some v-brake posts. i had some that i had taken off the surly when it was new, but they were too big. i dig in some drawers at the shop and find some more. right diameter, wrong threading. my foray into the land of squishy seems to be ending before it even really begins. dj, the mechanic on duty, has me look in some of the packets that come with new bikes. since some new bikes have forks eqipped with disc brakes but holes for v-brakes they include some posts, just in case. so i start digging. again, wrong size. finally, in a stroke of utter brilliance dj digs an old manitou box from a pile and pulls out an aged suspension fork. i pull the brake posts out and try them in the duke. the threads are like butter and go in smoothly and perfectly.
i hang out for about an hour installing, wondering why it doesn't work, having dj check my work behind me, then repair my screw ups and then it is done. the solo-one is front end suspended. now what?
since my legs were pretty spent already going out another ride seemed counter productive, even though i really wanted to.
sunday shows up soon enough and i load up the dogs and the bike and head for the trails. i get set up and start riding. i want to start on a trail that begins and ends near the parking area just in case i need any tools at the car to make adjustments. the first two miles are awkward, i'm riding with a freewheel, which i haven't done on the trails in a while. and i am riding with a suspension, which i haven't done in an even longer while.
the forks sucks up some bumps. in the sections of trail where i usually have to contemplate different lines due to speed, pedal strike, or lifting the front end, i find myself just floating through, feet at three and nine as i coast through obstacles without even thinking of my line. the descents are fast. this is somewhat alien since on a fixed wheel you are pretty limited when it comes to speed downhill.
it took a couple miles to get used to brakes. when to, when not to, which one, etc. were skills i had only been using on the road so i tried to apply the same logic to the trails. i think braking is one of those skills i will never fully master on the trails.
a lot of people see fixed wheels on the trail as being tiresome since you have no "breaks" to coast and catch your breath. i suppose this can be true, but not really. yesterday i wore myself out way sooner than i usually due since i was braking, this made the ride feel very "stop and go". i pick up a lot more speed with a free wheel (and since the khs is geared a lot taller than the surly) but i also slow down a lot more when i need to brake for something. with a fixed wheel i feel more in control and more consistent. when freewheeling i feel like the bike is taking me for a ride, sort of. both are fun, one is a lot more relaxing which i find to be almost the entire point of riding the trails, but still, there is definitely room for both types of riding.
as it stands i will be leaving both bikes set up exactly as they are right now, until i decide to do something differently.