Riding Under-equipped

Too BOBish for my own good? Rawland 650B adventure bike.

I’ve posted before about underbiking, better known as “rough riding.” Its a fun way to go nearly anywhere on a road bike. Transition from fast pavement riding to the dirt is a great way to enjoy city and country – roads and wilderness.

The ride I did yesterday with two friends has me thinking about something different: riding under-equipped. This is when you really, really should have different equipment. My friends Dustin and Jacek and I did a lollipop loop skirting along the Sweetwater Reservoir near the U.S. Mexico border and climbed up to Rockhouse on the top of Mother Miguel Mountain (adjacent to Mt. Miguel). Its a difficult, steep climb of mostly switchbacks. There and back is a mix of mostly singletrack and some fire road. I took the rigid Rawland, while my compatriots slid along on their full sus MTBs.

Foreground: under-equipped; Background: fully equipped

Overall, this was not an intense route. Sure, there was a lot of climbing packed into the 15 miles, and even my friends needed to hike-a-bike on occasion (I did this much more than they). but the terrain allowed for me to ride rigid without too much difficulty, as Dustin promised. But there certainly were sections that provided jarring jolts and flashes of fear. For about 100m, I borrowed Jacek’s Santa Cruz to see what full suspension felt like on a rocky descent. Wow! That was a lot easier and probably safer than my overly-cautious and gingerly approach to singletrack on the Rawland.

The terrain.

At the same time, it was really fun to bounce around on those sections – so long as it didn’t last too long. Sometimes a ride stays in my head for quite some time, and certain sections stand out. The passages that rolled around in my head last night and this morning were some of the more tricky and harrowing moments that would have been far less tricky and not as harrowing if I was using suspension.

Suspension would allow me to get to places otherwise off-limits by my lack of suspension and skills. And it would also allow me to do so with more safety, comfort, and less fear. But every ride on any bike also gives you a little something. Riding under-eqiupped has its upshot.


  1. paleovelo

    Not sure that this speaks too highly of my bike-handling skills, but I have plenty of harrowing moments, even on the dual susser pictured above!

  2. The Tourist that Cycles

    The siren song of the double squish is a sweet one…

    Moving from a light duty country bike to a Karate Monkey was a revelation, I can only imagine what double sus would be like!

  3. Apertome

    Interestingly enough, a few times I have ridden paved/gravel roads and trails with my friend who I usually go mountain biking with. For this mixed-terrain ride, he was on his full-suspension Cannondale, and I was on my Surly LHT. We were each had an advantage, at different times. His advantage on the really rough stuff, and I had the advantage on the pavement and smoother gravel. Oh, and the climbs. I smoked him on the climbs.

    Overall, though, we were surprisingly well matched.

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