The New York Times, in their ever-present wisdom, provided me with plenty good reasons to keep trying new things (especially crucial now that I have hit the big 3-0). Studies suggest that challenging and expanding our motor skills associated with a new sport can strengthen the brain! Unfortunately, the sports I tend to choose often require a good deal of falling and/or breaking of one’s body. Like skiing, ice hockey, and now…mountain biking.
Last April, I finally caved to years of peer pressure (mainly from my sister). Since moving to Western Colorado, my general perception is that everyone is a fearless mountain biker. Shreddin’ and droppin’ and rippin’ and hurlin’ their bodies through the air. I have now joined this clan of crazies by purchasing a mountain bike. Mind you, it’s a pretty bottom-rung, basic hardtail (read: no rear suspension) mountain bike, but I love it. It’s perfectly fitting for a person who has no idea what they’re doing.
Much of the month of April was spent making attempts at learning how my mountain bike works and what it (and I) are capable of. My first rides could barely be called such. They mainly involved hiking my bike and being doubled over attempting to catch my breath. This is fun, right?
I’ve taken to riding some of the interesting and tricky, slightly technical trails in the Hubbard Mesa area during less busy times of the day since there are lots of people shooting in not so safe places (i.e. across trails). It’s exciting to ride the same trails over and over again because I can see so much improvement in my bravery, skills, and aggressiveness. There are rock gardens I was previously walking through that I now slowly roll over (not quite up to the shreddin’ status. Yet.)
Mountain Biking Near Rifle
Hubbard Mesa has been a fantastic place to get some basics of mountain biking down just five minutes from our house. Lots of doubletrack dirt roads to start and gain confidence and then miles of both challenging and flowy singletrack. Finding the best trails are tricky mainly due to some of them being “illegal.” Best place to start is by doing some homework on mtbproject.com. If possible, find some locals to show you the ropes and take you on a grand adventure. Most important, be extra aware of where people are riding ATVs and dirt bikes, as well as listen for shooting. The majority of people are responsible shooters and use safe backstops, but there are a few folks that do shoot across some of the trails. Take precaution and a buddy!
Mountain Bike Skills Camps
In May and June, I was fortunate to attend a couple of skills clinics to help push my boundaries a bit (since of course, I wasn’t going to do that on my own). The biggest benefit of the beginner skills clinic I attended during the Fruita Fat Tire Festival was gaining confidence and learning what my bike (and my body) were capable of. In my mind, rolling my bike over a 7″ curb didn’t really seem possible. I have to pop my wheel over that, right? No. Bikes are pretty resilient and able to roll over more than you would expect. It’s just my overthinking brain that’s holding me back from doing it. I’ve started to push myself a little more each time I’m out on the trail and taking on technical parts that I would have previously bailed or walked. My rides still consist of a hefty amount of hiking, but that’s ok. I figure I’ll will be that way for awhile as I learn how to handle new situations (no, I will not drop off that 2 foot boulder and careen down that 13% grade hill. Nope.)
I’m kind of amazed at the crazy things I did this weekend in a gorgeous place surrounded by badass ladies. I’ve only been a casual, xc mountain biker for 3 months and I decided to go to the @vidamtbseries clinic at @trestlebikepark in #WinterPark this weekend. I hurtled my hardtail down the mountain multiple times and survived! Thanks to @ktbranham for snapping some shots and being an amazing and supportive instructor! I learned so much and I can’t wait to shred the trails here in Rifle, Colorado…after I recover.
Fear is a funny, movable thing. All of my preconceived notions of crazy mountain bikers flinging their bodies down a mountain and taking on big drops have slowly subsided. It’s all relative. I’m doing what I once thought improbable and uncharacteristic of myself. I’m lucky to have a go-to riding partner that is supportive and gets just as yelly as I do when those pesky tree limbs jump out at you on the trail.
My advice? Just go do it. Find people to ride with that are better than you (but not TOO good) and have fun. You’re going to fall. Accept the inevitable, there’s going to be a fair bit of pain involved. I still get nervous before I go ride. But on those evenings after a long day of work when the weather is perfect, the views are unlimited, and you’re with good company? You can’t beat that.