August 15, 2009

Shindagin Shenanigans

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WHAM! I touch back down to the rocky trail front tire first, correcting my balance just in time to avoid going over my handlebars head-over-heals. After the jump, I take the next sharp right turn as the surrounding trees rush by, coalescing in to a kaleidoscope of green and brown as I hurtle down the trail. As I come up to the next obstacle, I grip my handlebars tighter and remind myself that I should be watching the trail, not admiring the scenery.
Just as this thought occurs, a huge splash of mud hits me full in the face. Great. Now I can’t see anything.
Up ahead, Magoogs speeds up and hops his bike up on to a wooden obstacle, waggling back and forth over the wooden slats nailed to the downed tree trunk. My vision momentarily obstructed, I take the easy but wet alternative: a shin deep creek. Having passed through Mother Nature’s version of a car wash, I emerge soaking wet, but my face is cleared of mud.
Keith and Andy come clattering behind us, and Magoogs and I stop to watch. A pile up ensures, which begins with Andy plowing straight through the creek and ends with him edo-ing on to his face. Keith, seeing the stoppage, begins to slow down. At the last moment, however, he changes his mind and decides to go for the obstacle. Hitting it with much less momentum than Magoogs, Keith bails after a few feet, crashing in to the trail side-first.
We all grimace at the carnage, but Keith gets up, smiling ear to ear. The only thing is, one of his ears is filled with mud.
This is mountain biking at its finest: laughing at your friends’ bravado as you’re all doing slightly moronic things on fast moving objects in the woods. The place where we are biking is called Shindagin Hollow and is the centerpiece of the mountain biking scene in Ithaca.
Rated the No. 5 city in the United States to live in by Bike Magazine in 2002, Ithaca has a strong community of bikers surrounded by a plethora of great riding. Shindagin is in a word: AWESOME. Steep, windy, with a multitude of man-made obstacles, there is something for everyone.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of the area is the people I’ve met riding here. Everyone is super friendly, greeting each other in passing on the trails and gathering around their cars and bikes at the end of the day to share stories and beers. Trail-maintenance is a matter of pride amongst the locals, and several efforts are coordinated every year to fix up problem areas and construct new obstacles to ride on. I could definitely get used to this crowd.
After Andy and Keith pick up the pieces of their bikes and themselves, we all have a good laugh at the ridiculousness of what we are doing, then pedal off down the trail.
One of these days, I swear, I will start to lead a normal life.