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May, 1998

"Hey, it works..."

If you consider my fear of heights, then you will understand how hill climbs can be that much more challenging to me. Going up is not so bad, as long as I stay focused ahead. It's when I have face downward that the world starts to spin. I know that some of the hills Brad has lured me up weren't that steep, but looking down from the top, I swear some looked to be straight down. Keeping all of this in mind, I hope you will understand my rather unorthodox approach to hill climbing.

First, a disclaimer: I am NOT, by any means, saying this is the right way to do things. It is hard on your equipment, and can backfire to produce an even more difficult situation to get out of. Second, this "technique" was developed out of necessity, and the better I get at actually conquering hill climbs, the less I need to use it.

Now, as I've said, going downhill makes me nervous. I get even more nervous when, after an aborted hill climb, I have to struggle with the bike on a steep hillside, get it facing downhill, get back on it, and get to the bottom so I can try again. I HATE DOING THIS! Thus, my mindset when starting a hill climb is "Get it to the top at all costs!"

This trick won't work unless you are almost at the top (within 10 feet, I'd say, but it really depends on how steep the hill is). This is usually where things fall apart for me for various reasons. The first time I did it was out of pure panic, but it worked so well I adopted it as "style." The maneuver is based on a simple philosophy..."If the bike made it, then I made it." If my bike and I crest the hill without having to go back down to start over, then the climb was a success. I think you've probably figured out my trick by now, but I will explain it just to be sure.

As you near the top of the hill and realize you are not going to make it, the first thing you must do is gauge the distance to the top. If you attempt this trick too far from the top, you could find yourself tumbling downhill with a very hot, heavy, angry bike following close behind. Now, if the distance looks feasible, the next step is to choose a direction. Obviously the direction should be uphill, but you want to make sure you aim for the cleanest path possible with the smoothest transition at the crest. These two steps have to be carried out fairly quickly to avoid possibly coasting backward at a high rate of speed (something Jay is familiar with, I believe). The last step is actually a five-part move to be performed fluidly. Apply a little clutch and give a good, hard twist on the throttle to get the RPMs WAY up. Plant both feet and gently slide off the back of the bike while letting go of the bars completely. If all goes well, your bike will crest the top in a blaze of glory with you jogging up behind. No muss, no fuss. I even like to give a little push on the bars right before I let go, as if to say "Fly straight and true, my trusty steed, for I will join thee soon in glorious Valhalla."

OK, so it's not much of a tip. It has gotten me out of a few potentially bad situations, though ("the crack" at Rubicon, for example.) Sure, it's a rookie move, but what can I say...this is the Rookie speaking.

"The Rookie Speaks" by Paul D.