Mountain biking is hard. Really hard. But I always wanted to love it. It looked fun and exciting. Mountain bikers always had great leg muscles. So I went for it. I found a used bike with the help of my friend Matt, and then started getting my butt kicked every time I rode. I panted hard uphill and clenched the brakes in fear on each downhill. Later on these would come to be known as my “false starts”. I’m an unlikely candidate for mountain biking. I was never that good on a bike, even on flat ground.
Then, Matt found me a husband who became my mountain biking mentor. My true love for mountain biking began. Brian encouraged me to ride regularly and fed me water and Clif bars along the way. He would call out “good job” as I pedaled hard uphill and my legs would spin faster. He’s a skilled mountain biker who enjoys long rides and bike-packing (backpacking on your mountain bike), so his huge enjoyment of the sport was also inspiring.
We traveled all over the west in our van with our mountain bikes riding on a rack on the back. We visited delicious mountain biking destinations like Moab, Sedona and Crested Butte. There’s nothing more inspiring for a new rider than to suddenly be in a place which is cherished by pretty much all mountain bikers.
We did many ten mile rides on varied terrain. My confidence grew and I wanted to try my first long ride, 26 miles on the McKenzie River Trail in Oregon. I found out what a saddle sore was about 15 miles into the ride. We quickly aborted the ride and Brian went to get the Sprinter while I rested my injured parts. The next weekend we tried again (with lots of chamois cream) and we made it! It felt incredible to complete that ride, especially after failing the first time.
We continued riding in Colorado this summer. We rode all the classics around Crested Butte and then did a 35-mile ride on the Monarch Crest Trail! This ride began at 11,300 feet and was simply spectacular. It offered plenty of smooth single track trail through green alpine meadows and nice forest riding as well.
Now I have about 100 rides under my belt, some of them pretty long and hard. I’m stoked to have made such progress! It definitely took a lot of patience and persistence. After two years of biking I can look at my collection of rides and say that I’ve become a mountain biker.
Two of my girlfriends who are great riders suggested a dropper seat post and I’m going to try that when we return from the boat next spring. Hopefully it helps, because I feel too high off the ground when I ride downhill. I love my big 29er bike, but sometimes feel like an awkward 5’11” bird perched on top of a tall seat post. Lowering my center of gravity should help me bounce over rocks more safely and comfortably.
I ride cautiously, and my philosophy is that this sport doesn’t have to be dangerous. I’ve ridden expert trails all over the west, increasing my skills gradually and walking anything outside my abilities. I’ve gotten tremendous exercise, seen beautiful places, and enjoyed myself a lot.
In closing I’ll share my dirty little mountain biking secret. I’ve never crashed. Not even once. Not even a small, avoid-a-big-crash-by-taking-a-little-crash crash. I’m attentive and lucky. Cautious and quick to dismount when I see a hairy obstacle. But that’s just how I am, and even cautious people like me can learn to love mountain biking!