Blast From the Past: How to Have a Retro Ride

Originally posted on May 7, 2015 at 5:54 am


Editor’s note: This story by Karl Rosengarth first appeared in Dirt Rag Issue #76, published in December 1999.

It’s all about fun. I ride my mountain bike in search of maximum smiles per hour, and I’m not shy about spreading this philosophy. Occasionally, my riding crew loses their perspective, and I feel like I’m riding with aliens from planet Grimace. On those days, an abundance of hill sprints, one-upmanship and “heart rate targeting” trigger the alarm on my bullshit detector.

If your group rides start to display these same symptoms, don’t worry—there is a cure.

The Retro Ride is your ticket to good health and more smiles per hour. The trick is to pitch the Retro Ride as a “theme ride,” so your pals don’t suspect that you’re feeding them the big chill pill.

All good theme rides require a few “rules.” I picked my retro rules based on my earliest mountain biking experiences, but feel free to modify the rules to suit your needs: Bikes must have a rigid fork, rigid frame and conventional pedals (flat or with toe clips). The following are forbidden: cycling computers, waterpacks, synthetic cycling jerseys, cycling-specific shoes, energy bars, techno-babble and whining.

Pretty simple, no?

Simple like a fox! Get Johnny Racer on his original Ross Mt. Whitney talking about his back-in-the-day escapades, and he’ll slow down to a recreational pace so mellow that you could comb your hair in his pearly whites.

With dusted-off steed in various states of neglect, breakdowns are guaranteed. This is good, as it interjects rest stops. Serious mechanicals are even better—they provide an opportunity for group bonding, as the team cooperates on MacGyvering a solution.

Finally some sage advice to would-be Retro Ride leaders. Pack an ample supply of cookies and M&M’s to bust out during the stops—this increases the group’s smileage. Pick a non-technical route, for two reasons. Reason one: 35 pound bikes. Reason two: If you advertise the ride in your club’s newsletter, you will probably get a bunch of beginners who just bought unsuspended bikes that “qualify” as retro. Embrace these unspoiled newbies with open arms. Water bottles go empty quickly, so pick a route with potable water. Herd the group to the nearest pizza joint for post-ride festivities, making it a well-rounded day. Buying the first round makes it easier to convince some racer-head to lead the next Retro Ride.

If you’re smiling right now, you get the picture.

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