Mountain biking in Slovenia – my experience
4th week after the operation
Today I was on my exercise Kettler bike for the first time after the surgery. Although, my exercise bike is not comparable with my mountain bike and the only similarity is in pedaling. But both bikes are as a result of wheel invention.
Wheel is one of the most important inventions in human history. For those of you who played Sid Meier Civilization game, the wheel was one of the most important inventions. With the invention of the wheel you could start producing chariots and later all kind of vehicles so that your troops were moving farther and faster and you became the main conqueror of the world.
My more serious cycling began when I started going to primary school and got my BMX bike. All kids my age were riding BMX bikes in those days which were produced by factory named Rog in our country. We were still citizens of Yugoslavia in those days, Slovenia became independent in 1991.
We moved the handlebar of the BMX forward so that we almost got the similar position like riding a chopper. And the biggest dude was the one having a fluorescent colored plugs between the spokes and the one who stuck rolling papers between the spokes so that the bike made noise while he was driving around. Then we sprayed the frame of our BMX bikes with two different colors so that the colors mixed.
The obligatory skill of a BMX raider was driving on the rear wheel only. Hours and hours, day after day we practiced driving on the rear wheel. Many times we fell on our asses before we learned to ride on the rear wheel. Yet in the end we succeeded, we drove the whole school playground only on rear wheel. This meant the basketball court across the width and a little football field in length. Soon we rode on the rear wheel only with one hand on the handlebar. Then we went to BMX track at Bežigrad or in the woods where there was a hidden BMX track which we never found out who made it. BMX track in the woods had been there as long as I can remember and few years ago it was still there.
In the 3rd year of primary school we began mountain biking. In our country primary school lasted for 8 years from age of 7 till 14. So when we were about 9 we began mountain biking. Our first mountain bikes were not anything like today’s mountain bikes, the only difference compared to normal bikes was that it had more gears.
I got my first ‘no-name’ mountain bike when I was around 9 years old it had 15 gears I think. Today when I remember where we used to drive with those silly mountain bikes it gives me chills down the spine. We were so young and yet we were driving on such steep hills around our neighborhood. Soon I twisted both rims on the bike and when I jumped on the small half a meter high skate ramp I totally destroyed my bike. I just threw it in the trash there was no point of repairing that bike, I needed a new one.
So my parents bought me my second mountain bike Rudy Project. I don’t know if today Rudy Project is still making mountain bikes, but that was more then 20 years ago. So my second mountain bike had 18 gears. It still had no suspension forks. But with this bike me and my friends were already driving around larger hills then those hills around our neighborhood. Tosko celo, Katarina, sv. Jakob that were the hills we climbed with this better mountain bikes.
In 1991 right before the war in Yugoslavia started, with this bike I went with my friend ‘Downhiller’ on a train to Pula, which is in Croatia, but back then the Croatia and Slovenia were still part of Yugoslavia, so there were no borders to cross. And from train station in Pula we rode a few tens of kilometers to his grand parents weekend apartment. I remember that the military aircrafts flew few times over us as we cycled towards our destination. And few days later after me and my friend got back home, they closed the border between Slovenia and Croatia. And soon after that the Ten-Day War in Slovenia started and eventually Slovenia became an independent country and Yugoslavia began to fall apart.
But with this bike I had a first serious accident. It happened on a downhill from Katarina on a 90 degree right turn. I fell so hard that my bike was beyond repair and luckily I had no injury. Accident happened in one part of the downhill where there were small bumps every ten meters and such a bump was right at the end of that 90 degree right turn. So when I exit the turn the bump threw me on the right edge of the path, where I crashed into the tree. With the front tire I hit the root of the tree, the handlebar turned left and towards me and with my stomach I hit the handlebar and then I was thrown up in the air. I did ‘salto mortale’ and after few meters of flying in the air I landed with my back on the ground. I just layed there on the ground for couple of seconds. The ‘downhiller’ came back for me and checked if I was alive. Then he rode at my home which was about 10 miles away, to tell my father to pick me up, because there were no mobile phones in those days. And my other friend which was riding behind me stayed with me until my father came. (This other friend rode a Cannondale M something or F, I can’t remember. I can’t remember even if his Cannondale had that rubber on the fork as if it was kind of suspension, or did he own that bike later and that day had a hardtail Cannondale… ). My bike was completely destroyed. Seatpost was bent forward at the angle of about 40 degrees, the front wheel was bent into the pretzel and forks were broken and twisted. Stem was also bent.
Then I got my first ‘real’ mountain bike KHS Elite 1000 in 1995. It was yellow with aluminium frame and had 21 gears, but was without suspension. I ordered front suspension forks from America. The forks were Manitou4. I still have this bike in my garage with Manitou4 forks. I think those forks were about 300$ when I ordered them. But it was more then 15 years ago so I can’t remember the exact price.
“Wow, a few centimeters of travel,” that was awesome. The ride was something completely different than the ride with my previous bikes and forks.
In Manitou4 forks there were elastomers of different colors (blue, red, yellow) which regulated the rebound and travel. But in the winter those elastomers were solid as a rock. A few centimeters of travel decreased to only one centimeter. We drove Panaracer Smoke tires in those days. So I put Panaracer Smoke 2.1 tires on the bike and it was ready to go where ever I had the guts to drive downhill.
But soon after that in my high school I put my mountain bike in a garage and left it there for dust to cover it. Fear after debacle when I completely destroyed my Rudy Project bike never disappeared and the pleasure of chasing my friend on downhill slowly vanished and the bike was not my life priority number one anymore. My friend ‘Downhiller’ then started to compete in downhill. In high school he won several medals and trophies. But because it was expensive sport and not well established in Slovenia, he then slowly turned his back from competition.
Then came the year 2009 and after almost 15 years of break in mountain biking my friend and business partner who was also a ‘freelancer’ persuaded me to star mountain biking again. I could not go on a tour with him with my old KHS Manitou4 bike. So he recommended me Giant mountain bike. After 15 years I had no idea what kind of mountain bikes were on the market and what kind of a mountain bike I needed. So he said to me that he owns Giant mountain bike and that at the end of the year there are many discounts and that I could get the best value for my money. So I searched for all round mountain bike. And in August I bought Giant Trance X2 2009 with 30% discount over the internet from Austria. It had a Fox 32F 120RL front suspension forks with 120mm of travel, Fox float RP2 rear suspension, XT shifters, XTR derailleur, SLX cranks, bar, stem, seatpost were all Race Face evolve, WTB laserdisc trail rims, Hayes Stroker trail brakes and Kenda Nevegal tires. This was excellent all round bike (it even won MBA shootout over Specialized Stumpjumper and other bikes) designed for long trails and what a difference it was compared to my KHS bike which I still have in my garage. But after a year of mountain biking I quickly got back the feeling and I wanted a new bike. Although the Trance X was excellent bike the brakes were not the best. They were reliable but nothing more and the rims were real pain in the ass every time I changed tires. Replacing a tire on that rim was mission impossible. Also I wanted a more robust bike with a little more travel.
A year later I pre-ordered my current bike Giant Reign 2 2011 with 150mm of travel front and back. I again ordered the bike in Austria since they gave me a 20% discount which in Slovenia was not possible. First thing when I got the bike was replacing the Shimano deore brakes with Avid Elixir CR, shifters with SRAM X9, Giant stem for shorter Race Face respond, I bought Stan’s Flow wheelset with Superstar hubs and replaced Giant seatpost with Race Face evolve which was on my Trance X. I also replaced seat with my old seat Selle Italia flite gel flow which I bought for Trance X. I replaced slow Kenda Nevegal 2.35 with Maxxis Ardent 2.4 tires and on stock wheelset I put Maxxis Minion 2.35 front and Maxxis Ardent 2.25 on rear. And this is my current bike on which I can not wait to sit again after I fully recover.
And while I am recovering I have to satisfy with my Kettler exercise bike which has nothing to do with my mountain bike. The only resemblance is in pedaling.