I've missed the woods.
It's not that I haven't been there. I have ventured into the woods and trails many a time over the past couple of years, most often on the cargo bike in the course of a necessary or whim-based route change, but I hadn't set out to specifically go riding a bike in the woods for ages until this February.
The recent E2L1 was my first time in a long time that I used a mountain bike for something resembling mountain biking. The bike, in this case, is a 1998 Nishiki Manitoba I had bought off of Salem before he went traveling. It was never a particularly high-end machine, but I like the frame for a few reasons.
1) Weird pedigree: It's a Japanese-branded chromoly frame, named after a Canadian Province and made in the USA.
2) Weird geometry: The frame is labeled 18", though it measures 17.5" max to the top of the seat tube and 15.5" C-C. It has a longish top tube compared to that-- 21" or 22+", depending on how you measure it. It's well suited to my own short-legged, torso-rich geometry. Anyway, it's sturdy, it's handy, and I like it but for one minor quibble:
I kind of hated riding it.
Here's the thing. I had picked it up a couple of years ago and did nothing to it beyond a quick pedal around the driveway to determine that it was due for a major overhaul. I set it aside and it sat, untouched, until the morning of the aforementioned Eel ride. I fished it out of a pile and went through it just long enough for a perfunctory tire inflation (they held air), brake check (they showed significant potential to reduce speed) seat swap (the supplied post was too short to raise to my height) and chain check (thoroughly worn out).
I figured I would just run what I brung for the Eel and deal with sprucing up the bike some other day. That was a reasonable plan but for the constantly skipping chain, clunky shifts, barely adequate brakes and painful saddle that increasingly detracted from what was an otherwise enjoyable ride. That said, I did like the way it handled in the woods and see potential for a nice low-budget trail machine. I'm not going to ride it again in its current state, but I will ride it again. It's worthy of a makeover. More on that soon.