The Down and Dirty of Mountain Biking

If you don’t get hurt once in a while, you’re not trying hard enough.

Riding bikes along the forest paths of Bambesch and Hermeschter as a child first introduced me to the idea of riding a bike in the woods. In fact, most of the family bike rides when I was a child occurred on these paths–it was not until I was older when I realized the endless road routes that could be done on a road bike. Perhaps the fact I grew up riding in the woods had something to do with my desire to start mountain biking. Scratch that; I know it had something to do with mountain biking…Along with the fact I turn to putty in bicycle shops and have no self control whatsoever when it comes to purchasing bicycles.

Um, which side do I ride on?

It’s taken awhile for me to become accostomed to mountain biking–actually, do you ever really become completely at ease? I feel I’m never in control of the bike. I’m terrified of bridges (perhaps because I fell off a bridge while riding? I’ve written about that here) but am working on that fear. My biggest concern, however, is falling, which is somewhat irrational, as I’ve fallen off my bikes more times than I’d like to admit. And today for the first time I realized the reason mountain biking has been a difficult sport to grasp is that I’ve been allowing my fear get in the way of enjoying myself. My hands have always been white-knuckled, clutching the handlebars and brakes as if my life depended on it. With mountain biking, it’s actually more difficult when you go slow. You just need to peddle, look where you are going, and know that at some point, you’ll fall. It’s bound to happen. And, falling isn’t the end of the world. Stopping before a large branch is more time consuming, and actually more difficult, than simply riding over it!

Instead of going for my scheduled 40-mile road ride today (I’ll do that tomorrow), I decided to go for a mountain bike ride followed by a short run. I could not ignore the gorgeous weather we’ve been blessed with, and wanted to check out some new trails to which I was introduced to the other day. I’ve ridden in this particular forest before (it was the first place I rode my Scott in the spring) and the riding conditions were perfect. The winter chill hardened areas of soggy mud, making riding over it easier. There’s nothing better than weaving your way through trees with the warmth of the sun gleaming down, it’s rays causing the frost on leaves covering the ground to sparkle–a phenomenon you miss when only riding on roads. Totally epic.

Newly found paths!

I arrived at the newly discovered trails which have clearly been ridden on recently, and, I must admit, are great trails to ride on off the main trails of the forest. Not only are they “off the beaten path,” but they are slightly more challenging and rocky (I would say technical…then again, I still think most things are technical when it comes to this biking). I was actually pretty proud that I managed some of the “more technical” bits.

And then the inevitable happened–what I’ve been fearing. I fell.  It was my silly back wheel’s fault of course, and had nothing everything to do with the fact I was going incredibly slow, trying to maneuver the bike through jagged sharp rocks, and turn to go uphill. Yes, it hurt, and yes, my run after the bike ride was slightly painful and I have a black-and-blue knee, but I’ll survive–just like every other mountain biker who falls off their bike. Mountain biking is like anything else in life–it’s a matter of trial and error, patience, trusting your own athletic and bike handling skills, and just a matter of getting out there and going for it, with gusto…and speed.

All I need is a Canadian accent, downhill bike,  insurance, body armor, a full face helmet and soon I’ll be riding just like these guys.

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