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Documenting this Rider’s Transition from a Trek Fuel EX9 to a Canfield Brothers “the One”

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I was pretty bummed that I had bought the wrong bike. More than that, I’d travelled across the western United States on my anniversary (yes my wife is that cool) because it was the only medium Canfield Brothers “the One” that I could find for sale in the west. Rare bike. Limited opportunity. And I’d even test ridden it in the guy’s cul de sac. Should’ve ridden it in the mountains near his house! was what I was thinking as I pedaled up my local climb with 7+ inches of front travel squishing with each pedal stroke and my knees feeling uncomfortably close to the bars.

But, as other people had testified that this was the light dh bike that could actually climb, and people my height (6ft) said the medium was good if you like a smaller rig, I went all in. I forced myself to forget how things used to be by selling my other mountain bike, a Trek Fuel EX9 (had to replenish some of the house downpayment fund I’d used to get the Canfield. Again, yes, my wife is that cool).

And after one month and a 20mm stem change, I love this bike like no other steed I’ve ever owned.

Yes I instantly lost almost 3 minutes on a regular 18 minute climb- the bike is at least ten pounds heavier and has more travel than anything I’ve ever owned before. But it does climb like a stubborn goat, and I ended up loving riding it so much that I’ve gotten in the best shape of my life and ended up crushing all my uphill times from my xc bike days. Yes I still have visible bruising on my right butt cheek from getting thrown sideways due to a pedal strike on a downhill three weeks ago- it has a lower bottom bracket than anything I’ve ever owned before, but that low bb makes for the best “in the pocket” feel I’ve ever experienced on a downhill. And yes, at first, when I hit road or xc stuff on my way to the real dh, it felt like the slack front end was a chopper that wanted to flop to the side at the slightest provocation making me doubt my purchase. But man… you point that thing downhill and lordy oh lordy. Sweetness ensues.

What I have found is that regardless of the fact that I have to work a little harder for that peak, I should’ve been riding this “downhiller that pedals” as soon as one was invented. This Canfield is so perfectly suited to my style of riding that I feel I’ve cheated myself for years. I’m 42 and I now feel like I’m in a rush to hit all the “big spots” before I don’t want to hit the big spots anymore.

If you’re at all like I was- on the fence about the type of bike you’re riding because you’re looking for a bike that slays the downhill, but you have to be able to pedal up your local steepness… spend no more time thinking. You love to jump and huck the bike off stuff? Me too. Love to slide and charge down -45 degree slopes? Same. Go get that Canfield (the One has been replaced by the Balance which you can set up with 650s or 26” wheels). Added bonus was that I just took it to Skeggs for the first time and it was so, so fun on what turned out to be the flowiest xc singletrack I’ve ever ridden in my life. It was roller coaster smooth, with lots of rollers and poppers to get air on, and the One handled it beautifully.

One caveat: if you’re already the slow climber in your group, you might consider adding an additional riding day to your weekly regimen to offset the time you’re going to loose in the transition from the bike you should have been able to pedal well in the first place. Your buddies will wait if they’re really your buddies, but let’s not be impolite eh?

My mantra as I climb now is, “I give a *%$# about an uphill.   I give a %$&# about an uphill.” Which really is synonymous with- while a little more emphatic than- the mantra I’ve lived by for two decades: “I only ride up TO go down.”

The good thing is that now… I’m doing it on the right bike.

update: It is now one year later and I am now the proud owner of a Canfield Brothers Balance… the bike that the One morphed into in 2014. That should tell you what I think- after more than 20 years of mountain biking on other brands of bikes- what I think of the creations the brothers produce.

Crashing Blows

Crashes used to have 4 stages:

Stage 1. The “Ahhhhh crap” stage.

This is that moment when you realize you will be hitting the ground very hard, very soon.  Thankfully, time slows down under these circumstances so you can enjoy these little epochs like a scone with coffee.  Sometimes, they feel so long that, heck, you could go back for a refill, wait for a barista to go on break, return, and then make your macchiatto.  Case in point:  when I crashed yesterday- from clipping my pedal and getting thrown sideways as if I was riding side saddle on the top tube- I literally had time to think, This is taking a while… there’s grass swooshing under my butt right now.  This isn’t so bad.  I might come in for a soft landing. 

My train of thought was interrupted, however, by stage two.

Stage 2.  The impact.

The shock of the hit and sometimes, the instantaneous pain of it.  Sometimes the pain grows in the latter stages, but regardless where it enters the frame, I hate it (preaching to the choir, I know).  Comes in all shapes, sizes, lengths of lacerations, diameters of bruises, and depths of fractures.  You would think this would be the stage of the crash that makes me/us think about whether or not riding is really worth it.  To me though, it’s not so bad as the eternal second(s) of stage 1.

Stage 3.  The dust settling/body assessment phase.

Most crashes fall into the get-up-and-say, “&%#$ that HURT, but any crash you can ride away from is a good one I guess!”  Some crashes are get-up-even-faster-because-you’re-about-to-be-run-over-by-your-tailgating-buddies.  Still others force you to lay there regardless and figure out if all your limbs are working and in one piece (and whether or not you’ll be able to find your bike, let alone ride it home).  Pain- if it’s going to grow- usually does so exponentially in this stage.  Thankfully though, civilization is usually a mere ten to fifteen miles away at this juncture so as soon as you groan your way to your feet and wobble over to that poison oak bush that so thoughtfully snatched your bike out of the sky, you can climb aboard and forget all about your little meeting with the earth while pedaling merrily between bluebirds for the remainder of the ride.

Stage 4.  The recovery phase.

I don’t remember this being all that significant before I was in my thirties, but you can put that down to memory loss as I’m sure it’s never been fun.  Can’t sleep for the first few nights until things scab over, and the bruises seem to seek out marauding countertops and coffee tables to bash.  This joyful stage starts with hunting down a washcloth that will be ok to ruin since you’ll be “steel-wooling” your dirt-crusted abrasions with it.  But… give it a few days and usually we’re good to go; hopping back on our bikes.

Until we get to that point in our lives when we notice that frequently… we’re not good to go in a couple days anymore.

I remember the time I crashed on a little popper, coming down a fire trail in Briones a decade ago.  It was no different than any other minor crash and yet… it was.  Not AT the time, but rather FOR the time.  Or- more specifically- for the amount of time it took to heal.  I was 32 and after riding and crashing for pretty much my entire life (riding more often than crashing thankfully) I noticed one major difference after that one:  I had the same abrasions and the same bruises, but the sad change was the ridiculous amount of time it took my body to feel normal again.  Since that memorable crash at 32, I have been among the ranks of those riding studs who enjoy the distinguished 5th stage of crashing.

Stage 5.  The what-the-hell!-this-is-taking-forever! phase.

This usually starts two weeks into stage 4 and can last for a surprisingly long time.  Simply stated, crashing doesn’t hurt more as you age, it just takes more time to heal, so it hurts for longer.  What used to take a week or two to get over now takes three weeks to a month.  Two of my riding buddies (seen in the photo above) went down at the beginning of the summer.  It’s now late August and one is still on the mend, unable to ride, while the other was going so stir crazy, he hopped on his bike yesterday even though he was wearing a medical boot for his broken heel… and he’s the young’n in his mid-thirties!

So all you whippersnappers out there, enjoy your quick-healing years while you can because you’ll still love riding just as much in your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and later.  The difference is that you’ll know you have the capability to do what you used to, buuuuuut… you might like riding so much you want to skip being laid up for a month or three.

And punching bluebirds in the face just for being happy while you wobble home bleeding is just not nice.