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Saturday, April 15, 2017

THE SIMPLE JOY OF RIDING A BIKE

Late last week I got the news I'd been waiting (and hoping) for.  With the blessing of my surgeon and family doctor I was given permission to get back on my bicycle!  I'll admit that I've been just as nervous as I've been excited.  I was told that I could "ease back into it" by my surgeon, Dr. Salotto.  My wife, who is pretty convinced that I'm incapable of easing into anything, held her breath as I clipped in for the first time in six months.

A little pre-ride celebration!  My first ride since October...and I wouldn't have done it with anyone else!  Thanks for coming with me, Sweetheart! -- April 9, 2017

I think she was surprised when I suggested a short 3 mile ride home from the middle school where I teach after we dropped my truck off for my son.  As far as I'm concerned...that's "easing into it."  What a feeling it was getting back on my bike.  I really missed this...the sense of freedom...the wind in my face...the simple joy of riding my bike!  I made that trip from school twice this week...the second time coming when I commuted home from school on Wednesday.  


The best 5 miles of mountain biking ever!  Mark, Glenn, and I at the Lakes.  Thanks for waiting for us, Mark! -- April 11, 2017

The real test came on Tuesday when I met Mark and Glenn at the Lakes for the best 5 mile mountain bike ride I've ever taken.  Pulling into the lot near the Lake Redman dam I could feel the nervousness in my stomach.  An easy ride home from school is one thing...but a trail ride (even the easiest trail ride I could possibly imagine) is a whole different beast.  Mark, Glenn, and I took trails 4 and 2 around Lake Williams with no problem whatsoever.  


All smiles with Glenn at the Lakes...Glenn because he had a new bike and me because I'm back on my bike.  It's great to be out riding! -- April 14, 2017

2B (or not, 2B).  Yep...let's ride trail 2B at the Lakes.  Glenn Medice & Dave Raymond -- April 14, 2017

Glenn and I returned to the Lakes on Friday morning for another ride.  The pace was slow...but the ride was amazing.  We rode the same loop the we took with Mark on Tuesday and added a little more to the mix.  I was happy to be out and not in pain...and Glenn was happy to be out on his brand new carbon Epic 29er (which, he claims, will be the last bike he buys...this year!)  Ultimately, we added an extra 3 miles to the 5 mile loop we did earlier in the week.  It was a perfect morning to be out on the trails mountain biking...and, with each pedal stroke, I could feel my confidence growing and my nervousness dissipating.  


First ride on my Roubaix.  A quick 7 mile ride around Manchester, PA -- April 13, 2017

The view from my road ride up Starview Road.  Through the blossoms on the trees you can spot Three Mile Island (on the left) and PPL Power Plant (on the right). -- April 15, 2017 

My road bike managed to come down from the wall in the garage this week, too!  Again...not many miles...but who cares.  I forgot how amazing I feel, both mentally and physically, when I'm on my bike.  I made it out for two road rides.  On Thursday I managed to sneak in my first ride since October before my son's baseball game.  It was an easy 7 miles around the industrial parks near my house.  Today, I got out for an easy 10 miles...highlighted by the view of the blossoms in full bloom in the orchards overlooking Three Mile Island nuclear power plant and PPL Power Plant.
  Spring is definitely taking over south central Pennsylvania...bringing with it a sense of new beginnings.  I can't help but see the parallels.  This Spring season I can definitely feel a sense of renewal and rejuvenation.  A kind of rejuvenation that only comes from the simple joy of riding a bike.  It's great to be back!

I've been allowed to ride my bike now for a week.  I managed to turn my pedals 6 of those 7 days.  I couldn't think of a better way to end the week than to take a bike ride to the BOBCAT CREAMERY with my wife, Robin, and my son, Alex, for one of the Creamery's amazing root beer floats.  Yep...ALL TRAILS LEAD TO ICE CREAM! -- April 15, 2017


Life is a journey...not a destination.



David A. Raymond -- April 15, 2017


Yep...it's great to be back.  Just soaking it all in at the Lakes. -- April 14, 2017


Here's a list of GARMIN maps and stats from a few of the rides featured in this post.  I know they are short (mileage wise) but hey...I'm easing back into it!

April 11, 2017 -- Best 5 mile mountain bike ride...EVER!  With Mark & Glenn at the Lakes.

April 13, 2017 -- First post-surgery road ride on my Roubaix.

April 14, 2017 -- More mountain biking fun at the Lakes with Glenn.

April 15, 2017 -- Road ride up Starview Road to the orchards.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

I LOVE MY BIKE

"Bike Envy" isn't something that I get.  Sure...I might do a double take at the latest bikes on the floor of Gung Ho Bikes...but it's not like I ever get that "I need to have that and I need to have it now" feeling.  If you are that person (Glenn, I'm speaking to you) then March and April, when all the new bikes are on the floor of the shop, have the potential to be better than Christmas.  Last March (2016), for the first time in five years, I purchased a new mountain bike...and I love it: 29 inch wheels, hard tail, carbon fiber, and orange.  No sir...I don't think I'll be experiencing any bike envy this year. 

My 2016 Stumpjumper on it's maiden ride in Swatara State Park -- March 5, 2016

That's not to say that I haven't had my fair share of mountain bikes over the past 22+ years.  They haven't all been Specialized...but they ALL have been purchased at GUNG HO BIKES...the BEST BIKE SHOP AROUND.  Over the years, my bikes and biking gear have run the gamut from no suspension to full suspension to some suspension...bright colors to flat black and then back to bright colors...biking gear straight out of a Seattle grunge scene to spandex to baggies & t-shirts.  I've had some really great bikes, a couple that I absolutely loved, and two that I couldn't wait to rid myself of...but each has a story to tell.  Here are, in the order I owned them, the mountain bikes that have taken me on more journeys than I can count.  Enjoy...

1995 GT TIMBERLINE

My first mountain bike was a 1995 GT Timberline.  No suspension...but after a massive crash in the summer of 1996 I added the front suspension (visible in the pic on the right).  I owned the bike until I donated it to charity in 2006 -- Left: Riding now "Forbidden Four" at Rocky Ridge County Park --1995.  Right:  Riding Rocky Ridge County Park -- 1998.

2001 GT AGGRESSOR 2.0 

 2003 GARY FISHER TASSAJA

Two of my least favorite bikes.  Top:  My second mountain bike was a 2001 GT Aggressor 2.0.  It was too big and cumbersome for me (for some reason I purchased an XL frame).  I have no pics of me actually riding the bike.  I sold it to some college kid back in 2003.  Bottom: My third mountain bike was a 2003 Gary Fisher Tassaja.  I didn't hate it...but I had no love for it.  For some reasons (and my friends will have a hard time believing this) I have zero pics of this bike.  I sold it on EBAY in 2006.

2006 SPECIALIZED STUMPJUMPER COMP

One of my all time favorite bikes...and I parted with it too soon.  I bought my first Stumpjumper in July of 2006.  It was the first bike I raced with and it helped me navigate the swamps of West Virginia in June of 2007.  It had a SIMPLICITY about it that I loved and that I missed when we parted.  Pic:  Sugar Loaf Trail in Ohiopyle State Park -- 2007


2006 SPECIALIZED EPIC COMP

The only time I was talked into a bike was in the summer of 2007 (not that it was anyone's fault but mine).  I purchased a 2006 green Specialized Epic that the bike shop used as a demo bike.  It was a step up from Stumpjumper and it was the first full suspension bike I owned.  I raced that bike hard and it served me well. Left: my new 2006 Epic in the back yard.  Right: racing in the 2007 M.A.S.S. Relay Race in Marysville, Pennsylvania -- April 2007

2009 SPECIALIZED EPIC EXPERT CARBON

My 2009 carbon Epic was the first carbon bike I owned, up until that time the nicest bike I had owned, and by far the most expensive bike I have ever owned.  I can trace my love for red and black color schemes back to this bike.  I had the bike for a little more than a year....for that was the year that a s**t load of personal problems took center stage.  I parted with it in September of 2010 for far less than it was worth. Left:  Bringing home my new carbon Epic -- April 2009.  Right:  Riding the rocks in Michaux State Forest -- May 2010.

2010 SPECIALIZED STUMPJUMPER FSR

I hated this bike from the moment I brought it home.  It was a shadow of the red carbon Epic it was meant to replace, it constantly had mechanicals, and it was the last full suspension bike I would own.  I parted with my black 2010 Stumpjumper FSR in June of 2011...brighter and better days were ahead! --  Left: resting on the Cumberland/Adams County line on the "Easy Button" in Michaux State Forest.  Right:  Coming through a waterlogged tunnel at the Lakes -- May 2011.

2011 STUMPJUMPER 29er COMP

Back to the basics!  My 2011 Stumpjumper 29er brought me back to the days of hard tail simplicity.  My first 29er...and yes...I was forced to admit how much better it was than all my 26 inch wheel bikes.  I rode this mountain bike more miles, through more mud, up more fire road, and over more rocks than any other bike, to date.  I loved how it rolled, how it moved, and how it looked.  This bike gave me 5 years of mountain bike bliss...it was a bitter-sweet moment when I parted with it in April of 2016.  After five years, it was time for something new... Left:  My 2011 Stumpjumper resting on the Deadwoman's Hollow Trail sign in Michaux State Forest -- May 5, 2012.  Right:  Riding rocks in Michaux State Forest -- April 12, 2012

2016 STUMPJUMPER CARBON COMP

...and now, the new.  Well...new last year.  My 2016 Stumpjumper Carbon Comp is hanging in the garage and has patiently been waiting for my back to heal.  I was pretty nervous about parting from my 2011 Stumpy...but one ride on this bike cured me of that!  I'm completely blown away at how smooth this bike is on the trails.  No regrets and absolutely no bike envy lurking on the horizon.  Left:  My final ride on my 2016 Stumpjumper (in Michaux State Forest) prior to my second back surgery -- October 30, 2016.  Right:  Riding down through THE GUT in Rocky Ridge County Park -- October 14, 2016.

With high hopes of of getting back on my bicycle within the next month (it's been a long road) I can't help but feel grateful, hopeful, and a little humbled.  Sitting on my butt for the better part of the past year has really made me take stock of all that is good surrounding me.  I'm a pretty fortunate guy with a lot of good things all around me and a new appreciation of it all.  I love my wife...I love my family...I love my friends...and yeah, I love my bike.  I'm really looking forward to that next first ride.

Love my road bike, too!  My 2012 carbon Specialized Roubaix...super sweet ride!


Life is a journey...not a destination.



David A. Raymond -- April 2, 2017

Thou shalt not covet thy best friend's mountain bike...unless that friend leaves it in your garage overnight! Thank, Mark! -- November 2016

Do you have a favorite bike (past or present)?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Here's a list of GARMIN maps and stats from a few of the rides featured in this post:

MARCH 5, 2016 -- Riding Swatara State Park with Mark.

OCTOBER 14, 2016 -- Riding Rocky Ridge County Park with Timmy.

OCTOBER 30, 2016 -- Riding Michaux State Forest with Mark and Kristian.