Mountain Bike Trailer Park is a regular column written by Uncle Dan that appears monthly on the Dirt Rag Interwebs. He dabbles in a variety of topics including racing, training, trails he loves and not taking himself too seriously, all with a big dash of humor. If you missed his previous columns, check them out here. He also writes a personal blog, which can be found here.
His name is Zed. I named him. Had to name him, because he’s been around so long. Can’t seem to get rid of him. He’s a real pain in the ass.
Not sure when Zed first showed up. Might have been on a long road ride a couple of years ago. And I’m not sure how he came to live there, in my grundle region, at the cusp of my chamois zone. Yeah, Zed’s a saddle sore.
I don’t have a picture of Zed. Not even sure how I would take one – mirrors maybe? And I have never seen him. I don’t bend like that. But here’s a drawing of what I think he looks like:
Where did he come from? Maybe he started as a bit of chafed skin. Or maybe an ingrown hair. All I know is, he’s there. A lumpy little cyst that likes to shout at me on longer rides.
I’ve tried to get rid of him. I’ve slathered Zed in ointment, hidden him under bandaids, squeezed, and pulled. Sometimes I think he’s gone. But then, on the next ride, he’ll start talking to me. Yelling at me to not sit down. Demanding that I get off the saddle.
So, I started talking back. Mostly I just swear at him. Sometimes I beg him to leave.
But Zed won’t go. And so, on the way out to the Shenandoah 100, he came along with me. And while Joe took a nap in the car, I pleaded with Zed.
“Zed, this race is going to be a long day in the saddle. We’re going to ride 100 miles mostly on gravel and singletrack. Would you just lay off me?”
“Fuck you.” He said. “And shift your weight a little to the right.”
I didn’t like it, but I shifted to the right. Dammit Zed.
What Zed didn’t know is that I had packed a secret weapon in my war against his angry little pus-filled self. I love this race – the course, the food, the aid stations, the party atmosphere – and I wasn’t going to let Zed ruin it for me. My secret weapon? Bar ends. Or, actually, bar mids.
Can’t remember the first time I saw this setup on someone else’s bike. I think it was Lee McCormac’s bike, or maybe it was inspired by the long-distance gravel racers’ use of aero bars.
In any event, putting the bar ends on the middle of the bars gave me a new position on the bike. A more road-bike-like position that took pressure off my wrists and allowed me to rotate my pelvis forward (hot). This made me more aero (bro), but more importantly, it effectively took Zed off the saddle. Ha! Fucker.
Admittedly, it’s a weird setup. And I took some flack from friends. Several people asked that I not ride behind them. They looked too “stabby.” Chip said it was a fine idea “as long as I didn’t endo.” Thanks for putting that on me, Chip. More on that later.
Of course, bar mids would be virtually useless on singletrack, but this race has a fair amount of gravel and pavement. I figured they’d come in handy there.
And, as the race progressed, I found that I really enjoyed having them. On the gravel and pavement, I could shift to a more tucked position and rest different muscles.
Early on in the race, maybe mile 15 or so, I bobbled a rocky drop section of singletrack. When I cleared it, I sighed in relief, but heard a crash as the rider behind me went down. I jumped off the bike to help him. He was hurt pretty badly, maybe a broken collarbone, so I ran against traffic back to the nearest medic aid. As I ran, I thought about how I had handled that section poorly and was lucky it wasn’t me on the ground.
Still, about ten miles later, I crashed. Endoed actually (thanks Chip). As my body went over the bars, my thighs scraped across the bar ends, rotating them down into a useless position and cracking both of them. My thighs didn’t fare much better.
Fortunately, at the next aid station, there were tools and duct tape, and an awesome volunteer mechanic who set things right (or right enough) and I was back in business.
I was glad to have the bar mids back and used them for the rest of the race. My official recommendation – use them for longer races with road and gravel segments. Or don’t. What do I care? Either way, I strongly recommend not crashing.
And Zed? Well, I heard from him some. But it wasn’t too bad. Except the next day, when I woke up and discovered that his twin brother Jed had shown up to party. And he was pissed.
I have been looking on the internet for saddle sore remedies since then. And, it turns out, according to the online forums, I probably have cancer. That, or tea tree oil will fix it. Or was it coconut oil? Just to be safe, I’ll try both.
Be brave and rock the bar mids.