Went to the group ride this week to do Butterknife. The only other riders who showed up where three young college guys. I recognized one from the ride there two weeks ago and knew he was fast, so I told them they didn’t have to wait for me since I ride there alone all the time anyway, but they were nice and just like, “naw, we can stay together” all while messing around in the lot doing stoppies and slow vert wheelies, while I sat on my idling KTM watching and fiddling with my helmet strap…
Man, these kids (anyone less than half my age can be called a kid) can ride – so fast through Butterknife, jumping stuff, wheelieing over stuff at 25 mph. I ride so much by myself that I get a little delusional that my skills are getting marginally OK. Some exposure to good riders realigns my self-assessment quickly. It was humbling.
Butterknife, for those (probably all of you) who’ve never watched my riding videos is the trail that, nearly over the last year, has gone from something I never wanted to ride because I thought it was too difficult to my go-to training trail for both mental re-creation and skill honing. It has a few spots that are challenging – jutted boulders and rocky step ups with a cliff on one side, tight drops with abrupt u-turns and climbs. I typically break the entire route into the following: Twist N Shout, which is a somewhat flowing section leading to the start of Butterknife, then seven miles of tight singletrack with four spots that test my skills even after riding them 50+ times. The first is a loose, very short rocky section, sandy and off-camber (I’ve fallen off the edge twice and it takes me about 15 mins to muscle the 450 back up onto the trail). The second is a 3 foot near vertical step onto a huge boulder platform that always jolts my bike and body and makes me hold my breath unconsciously. You have to pop the throttle to loft the front wheel at least midway up the face of it. The third is a climb of only about 30 feet but littered with sharp boulder slabs jutting in all directions (I’ve looped the bike onto myself here once). The last is mentally the most difficult. It’s a section with two abrupt rock ramps, off-camber boulders and rock slabs, with an unpleasant cliff drop off along the left side. The best way to clear it cleanly, I’ve found, is a line right on the edge of the drop off, which goes against everything in your mind and body. You have to maintain momentum, no pausing, keeping your eyes focused out front about 15 feet (don’t look down at your front wheel!).
Anyway, on this ride, the guys would speed off and then wait for me occasionally. After the penultimate gnarly jutted rock section about 75% through the trail, I kicked up a huge rock into my chain and blew out the master link just as I was coming up to them where they were waiting for me. I didn’t realize what happened, just heard a huge clunk. So, we started to pull away and I couldn’t get the bike to move (they were already out of ear shot). I looked down at my front sprocket, a 14 tooth circle that looked odd with no chain wrapped around it and then looked behind me and saw my chain stretched out in the trail. Awesome.
I had a spare master link, so I got it out and started trying to get the thing together but realized I didn’t have big enough pliers. Super. So, I messed with it using my half-sized needle nosed pliers, which I couldn’t get enough pressure to press the plate on the link. Meanwhile, a black cloud storm was on the verge of hitting and a cold wind started gusting, all with it being about 45 mins before dark. I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I started thinking I was going to have to walk ten miles all the way back in my moto boots and gear in the dark and come back the next morning with a tool or spare chain, hike back out to my bike and fix it to get it out.
After waiting for me at the end of Butterknife for awhile, the three guys finally turned around and came back to where I was. None of them had a chain breaker and only one of them had a pair of pliers, not much bigger than mine. Regardless, two of them got to work messing around with my chain. I was pretty certain it wasn’t going to work. The other one rode off across the top of a plateau in between two of the canyons to look for a somewhat smooth route to tow me out (I carry a tow strap).
They worked on it for about 15 mins and started making progress getting the link plate pressed on far enough. They got it done and just to add to the excitement, one of them dropped his helmet, which rolled to the edge of the cliff, falling over it just as he got the tips of his fingers stretched out to grab it. After he climbed down to retrieve the helmet, we were on our way back.
The whole ride back I was thinking of how many times I ride that trail solo and I would’ve been screwed had it not been for having those guys riding with me. We got back to the lot in darkness. I gave them my contact info if they ever wanted to ride with someone 1/10th their abilities and gave them the two beers I brought for after the ride. It would’ve been a miserable night if I had ridden solo.
So, I’m going through my riding tool kit and beefing it up more. I met some nice guys I’ll hopefully get to ride with again, and now have another fun story to mix into my normal riding experiences.
Here’s their YT channel.