After a hard-ish week of training, I was really looking forward to the Mulberry Gap Women’s Weekend. I’d volunteered to help with the bike maintenance instruction part of the weekend, and, though I wasn’t 100% sure of what to expect, I knew it’d be a good time no matter what. What I definitely didn’t expect was a near-blowout of my passenger side rear tire, which went totally flat in the space of about 10 seconds while I was going fast in the fast lane of the heavily-trafficked 3-lane I-75 just south of Chattanooga. Luckily, when no one is punching you in the face, it’s pretty easy to deal with panic-potential situations with a cool head and steady hand. I guided the Steel Box through traffic to the shoulder, which I found to be far too narrow for a tire change, so I limped to the next exit with my hazard lights on and found a suitable parking lot. (p.s. keeping a yoga mat in your car has more use than just impromtu yoga sessions)
From getting out of the car to finding a ProGold pro towel for a final hand-cleaning, flat change time was 12 minutes.
Once I’d found a tire repair shop, purchased a new (used) tire (the rim-ride had destroyed the inside of my old one), and waited for the installation, the total time lost was only an hour. After that, it was off to Mulberry Gap.
The afternoon meet-and-greet time & settling in was just getting warmed up when I arrived. As an added bonus to everyone being excited to meet each other, Mulberry Gap is dog-friendly, so there were some 4-legged friends around as well…
…and a cool moth
Sometime around dinner, we found the clown bikes in The Barn.
…and before bed, there was a bug that needed a proper dispatch from the cabin. I found a suitable page of a nearby magazine that served this purpose well.
Saturday morning, we started out with breakfast and a short ride to talk about bike handling. Split into beginner and intermediate groups, I rode out with Anet, one of the event organizers, and the latter of the groups, and we went to a short section of a nearby singletrack climb. Before we started, I made one rule for the group- unless you’ve actually hit, injured, or caused some other accidental physical harm to someone, there’s no apologizing allowed. That’s something you don’t often hear in a pack of guys that’s learning something new- them apologizing for not being able to clear an obstacle or for having a slip-up of any sort. Women, on the other hand, seemed to feel compelled to say they’re sorry for these things. I let them know that there’s no need to be sorry for a normal part of the learning process.
Just before the ride, everyone filled their pockets with some goodies donated to the event from Gu Energy Labs. They were super stoked…
After our short ride and some lunch, we geared back up for a longer afternoon ride. We went up a long forest road climb to the Bear Creek trail with a quick stop at a very nice overlook. Luckily, the rain in the picture missed us until the very end of our ride.
Once we were down Bear Creek, we rode more of the Pinhoti Trail. I made it up and over a climb just ahead of my group, so I stopped and took some photos, and caught a few of the ladies on their way through the creek at the bottom
Just as we arrived back at camp, the bottom dropped out as a big storm came through. It knocked the power out until nearly midnight. Which meant, unfortunately, that my bike maintenance portion of the evening was blacked out. I was able to help a lot of the ladies individually, though. I’m sorely disappointed in some of the halfass things that husbands were doing with their wives’ bikes.
For example, one woman’s bike was set up with gripshifters. No biggie, but he hadn’t taken into account the length of the bar end, grip, and shifter when assembling everything. So, she ended up with her knuckles approximately 6 inches apart from each other on the bars when grabbing in a spot where she could use both the shifters and the brakes (you can see in the photos below- the scratches on the bar are where the brake levers were clamped prior to my moving them). I cut about two inches off of each one of her grips and moved everything out. She was stoked.
Then, there was the woman who was missing a spoke.
The woman whose husband had told the bike shop that she weighed 150 or 60 pounds (she’s probably 120 with a lead weight in her pack).
That photo was taken after lots of descending, and she’d only used about half of the travel. In all fairness, though, that one was a pretty awesome bike that he’d ordered her for mother’s day, but it’d just arrived at the shop the day before she left. It would have been nice to have called her and asked, though. I helped her with adjusting the air volume and told her to ride the bejesus out of it down a hill and see if she came closer to using all of the travel.
Some other honorable mentions- running shoes with flat pedals, running shoes with cheese-grater cheapie flat pedals, and a new set of 26×1.8″ tires. Of course, I can also see the view that at some point, its everyone’s job to learn about his or her own equipment. That goes without saying. However, you’ll never get interested enough to learn if you hate riding because there’s a myriad of cheap-to-free things that could be fixed on your bike to make riding more comfortable, easier, and more enjoyable.
On a more positive note, here’s Lynn, a very inspiring older-than-the-others woman who has the flat pedal game down to a science, with some nice, wide platforms, and a pair of five ten shoes.
I don’t know a much better way to spend a stormy afternoon than having a glass of wine and working on/talking bikes with some new friends.
The next morning, since I had a long drive home ahead of me, I decided to forego the post-yoga group ride (I actually didn’t do yoga either, instead getting a super kickass sports massage from Shelley, the massage therapist in for the weekend). Luckily, the drive home did not include any more flat tires.
It was an excellent weekend. Mulberry Gap is a really nice place to stay- it’s really close to miles of great singletrack, the cabins are nice, the food was tasty (and you all know how I am about food), and the company was more than I could have asked for.