Loving the new trails

Tina and I have been here in the Metroplex about a week now, and I’ve had several days to ride Beatrix out on some local trails.

So far, I’m thrilled.

But first let me backtrack.

Lubbock had slim singletrack pickings, other than the trails out on the east side of town near MLK Boulevard and the far superior trail systems up at Palo Duro, about a two-hour drive north from our old place.

I think I’ll miss Palo. Those trails had it all: nice vistas out into the lower canyon, a handful of technically challenging climbs (particularly on GSL) and a great roller-coaster down from Lighthouse Peak.

When it comes to MLK in town I have more mixed emotions. The trails out there did have a few tricks up their sleeves. There are some pretty gnarly climbs on what was becoming impossibly loose dirt as the drought persisted into this summer. But you get to a point of riding the same 12-mile loop over and again, weekend after weekend, leaves you pretty underwhelmed.

I couldn’t wait to move someplace with a better variety of singletrack offerings, especially after I tried my first North Texas trail ride several months ago while visiting my dad one weekend.Tina, Gaia and I were here for the weekend, and I had heard many great things about North Shore up at Lake Grapevine, so I threw my bike on the rack and spent that Saturday up there.

North Shore deserves its reputation as the “Mecca” of local — and possibly state — trails. Today it remains one of my all-time favorites, though I must admit I have yet to make that somewhat lengthy drive up there to ride it a second time.

Instead I thought I’d spend my first week — and precious free time between jobs —  trying others around this area.

On Wednesday, I rode Cedar Hill State Park’s DORBA trail.

It was … well … it was so-so. Not bad, by any means, but it does lack some of the technical challenge I’m looking for. I only had time to complete the three- and eight-mile loops, so I can’t really speak to the larger 12-mile one. But what I did try was mostly flat and generally effortless.

Then, on Thursday, I found Sansom Park up near Lake Worth. It didn’t take long to realize why it is apparently hailed by local dirtheads as one of the toughest local nuts to crack. That sucker is pretty intense. A man-eater.

That first stretch of shake-shake-shake baby-head rocks almost convinced me to turn around. I don’t mind a rough ride, but I’m trying to go easy on Beatrix’s rear derailleur. During my last ride in Lubbock a couple weeks ago, gear shifts were all screwed up. More concerning, any additional downshift twitch when she was already in first gear would send the chain flying into the wheel. That will almost certainly result in a chewed-up wheel and a string of profanity that would make an inmate blush.

I spent about an hour later that afternoon trying to fix it with the barrel adjuster. I got it calibrated to either shift all the way up smoothly or all the way down, but not both ways. Frustrated, I left it at that until after the move. On Monday I dropped her off at Trinity Bicycles here in Fort Worth. Turns out, according to the guys there, the hanger was bent (for a second time in six months) and the derailleur itself was warped. It needs replacing.

Money’s tight at the moment, so I’m riding her as is. Downshifting is smooth and fast, but getting to smaller cogs is a trainwreck. That’s why I was trying to take it easy Thursday on the rocky portions. Don’t want to rattle that busted derailleur any more than necessary. I even considered turning around.

I’m glad I didn’t. Sansom gave me a feeling I haven’t felt since my first ride at Palo. Other singletrack riders know the sentiment, looking up — bewildered — at a mercilessly steep and loose ascent.

“How the hell is that possible?” I muttered to myself between frantic gasps of air and long, hard pulls on my Camelback tube. “Show me. Show me the guy who climbs this thing.”

There are several such leg-burners out at Samson. I love it. It’s the best kind of challenge, and I’m determined to beat the old mistress at her old game by the end of September.

A second go at Sansom on Friday was slightly better — encouragement that it just takes practice, a few more hours reading to brush-up on technique, and patience.

I said the same thing about hills back in Lubbock and at Palo that I was zipping up and over in no time.

Anyway, take a guess where you’ll find me again tomorrow.

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