Wicked Fat homily

I recall the 1990 New England summer months as great for riding, but memory is like that, eliding the inevitable humidity, thunderstorms, flies.  There is some chance, though, that I actually felt as positively about it then as I do now in that I was happily saving every cent, thriftily set on my dream bike: an ’89 blue to purple fade Suntour XC pro equipped Wicked Fat Chance.  The guys at the Mountain Goat — friends and riding crew, the same ones who had sorted me out with a GT Tequesta a few years before — had generously put it aside after it failed to sell in the Spring.  I picked it up in time for foliage season and it was my only mountain bike until 2001, seeing me through races and explorations in Arizona, Utah, Colorado and more once I moved away from its Northeastern woodsy natural home.  In that time it went through a few generations of Manitou forks (wrecking the handling), a Thomas Frischknecht inspired softride stem phase, a respray, and periodic freshening up on bits and parts, indeed, until all the anodized purple was gone.

By 2005, it had been relegated to the ignominy of around town beater bike with the odd dirt road tour thrown in.  Some confluence of an aesthetic reawakening, a return to rigid bikes (this time without derailleurs) plus having the means and inclination to bring it back to life had me ship it off to Carl at Vicious Cycles to paint it yet again and to restore the original decals. It’s by no means a restoration or a period correct vintage piece.  Not even close: ENO crankset, eccentric rear hub, USE Alien carbon post, Conti Explorer/Twister Supersonics tires, Mavic cartridge square taper BB, etc.  So, it’s, what? Perhaps a kind of coporeal metaphor or placeholder for a dream bike, an allusion, belying origins against wildly spurious anachronisms, all the confused senseless juxtapositions that somehow (for me) hold together enough to feel good on awakening.

I ride it when I’m nostalgic or in an especially good disposition, and I accept the irrational visceral exhuberance I feel.  After 20 years, it remains absolute perfection.

Trance in Nepal

For the Nepal trip I rode my 2008 Giant Trance X0. Any mountain bike would have been fine. With the high altitude steep climbs and occasional big distances, though, the singlespeeds would have been inconvenient. And the local availability (albeit limited) of replacements recommended in favor of 26″ wheels.  With respect to the latter, I had in my imagination the time Greg Roubidoux’s wheel was horribly mangled on the way to Pakistan; he ended up running a very impromptu and problematic 69er.  Finally, knowing that we’d be doing a lot of bike carrying argued in favor of the lightest weight machine possible. Really, the complete calculation yields a rigid geared 26er, but since I don’t have one of those, nor a 26er hardtail, I took the dualie instead.  Risky? Sure: a blown shock likely wouldn’t have found a straightforward remedy.

In the event, I had no mechanicals and only one puncture.  Beyond that, I’ll sheepishly admit it: the 27lbs. Nevegal-shod hydraulic brake 5″ travel Trance was beyond excellent.  At home I hardly ever ride the thing (why I even own it has to do with my road team sponsorship and wanting a replacement for a stolen Superlight), preferring the rigid singlespeed 29er for the irrational aesthetic elements. But the Trance is a rocketship: fast, comfortable, confident. I descended ancient staircases and severely broken track at full tilt, danced over technical singletrack, and locked everything out for climbing. It’s great.

Incidentally, my expedition mate Alex rode a rigid 7speed 29er.