The sound of my SRAM XX1 chain ring grinding across the rock grabbed my attention for a split second, but not long enough for me to lose focus on the line I was trying to ride.
It was my sixth attempt on a seriously tricky section of trail, and each time I rolled into a particular point my chain would leave a gouge in the sandstone as I muscled the bike into an awkward chute.
Eventually I nailed the line and I was pumped, totally buzzing. I yelled into the bush like a kid and grinned for the next 20 minutes non-stop. It was fu#king magic.
It wasn’t until I got back to the van and the adrenaline had worn off that I even thought to have a look at my bike. There were a few scrapes and bits of pinky orange rock still clinging to the chain ring, but there wasn’t any real lasting damage. A good thing really, because I had no tools with me, and it would’ve been a long walk home if I’d busted a chain link or bent the chain ring teeth, not to mention the expense of replacing such a pricey item.
I was aware when I was eyeing up the rocky line, trying to decide if I was able to ride it, that there was a chance of hurting my bike. And after the first attempt and the crunch of steel chain on rock, that risk was confirmed. But it didn’t matter. I wanted to get that line ridden, and in my mind the potential for damage was worth the feeling I knew would come if I rode it cleanly.
But it did make me think; at what point do you decide the dollars at stake are too great? What is your price limit for an awesome ride?
I know plenty of people who won’t ride in the wet because of the damage it may do to their bikes, but then some of the best and most memorable rides of my life have been the ones where I’ve needed new brake pads and a chain at end (I’m looking at you, Capital Punishment 2010).
I’ve seen other friends absolutely gutted as they feed an XTR derailleur to the hungry spokes of their rear wheel, and equally I’ve seen some mates have a laugh as they tear off their second rear mech in as many rides.
There’s a particular trail my mates and I sometimes ride. We call it the Depreciation Trail, because the tight rock ledges and ruts invariably scrape paint from your bike. But we ride it all the same and laugh away the pain of gouged fork legs.
Of course your bike costs money to run, no matter how carefully you nurse it through the bush or shield it from mud. But to deliver the kind of experiences that I want, that feeling of riding a line that is right on the edge of your skill level, I know the price tends to rise.
I guess at the end of the day, it comes down to how you view your bike and what kind of experience you’re after. To me, my bike is an awesome piece of machinery, but it’s machinery nonetheless; things break, get smashed, wear out and need replacing… And when I look at the ledger, I know that on the balance of things, I come out way ahead.