Deep in the woods surrounded by trees, I began to finally understand what made mountain biking special. Yes, it requires a lot of patience, and sure, getting bounced around doesn’t feel natural, but as I raced down a dirt path through a sea of green trees, being there just made sense.
This is not a feeling one can have while peddling away on the stationary bike at the gym, while lost in the latest episode of The Kardashians. No, this is a feeling one can only understand having spent enough time immersed in nature.
While it isn’t always easy to appreciate the natural surroundings while shifting gears, avoiding various obstacles, and trying to keep balance, that doesn’t make it any less wonderful. In fact, that’s what makes mountain biking stand out.
A few weeks ago, I had no idea why I would attempt such an activity, but after Monday, I have a better understanding as to what drew me to mountain biking in the first place.
While my first mountain biking experience was far from perfect, I have since spent some time on the paved bike trails near my house, getting used to the bike itself and building my confidence in general. This practice gave me enough courage to get back on my bike and give it another shot in the woods. However, this time, I enlisted some help.
After reading about that first time experience, Scot, a friend from high school, reached out and asked if I wanted some help. As someone who had been mountain biking for the past two years, I knew he’d be the perfect person to give me a lesson. He also thought it would be helpful to bring along his friend, Frank, who has been mountain biking since the fifth grade. If anyone could teach me how to mountain bike and give me the confidence I needed, it was these two.
Still, I was nervous, even after we sat in the parking lot and went over the basics of mountain biking, including how to switch my gears on the trails and how to brake. I stared at the woods with some hesitation and apprehension, having no idea what to expect. Would it be like last time? Would it get easier? Would I still feel overwhelmed? I pushed the thoughts and fears out of my mind, and got on my bike. If this was something I wanted to do, I had to get out of my comfort zone to make it happen.
We headed into the woods, and after some reassurance from the guys, I began to feel better about my decision to give mountain biking a second try. The trail also started off a bit easier than the last trail, so it was exactly what my confidence needed, even if I did ask a million questions.
As we continued to ride, I began to feel better about biking, even though parts of the trail were difficult. It was hard to watch some of the other bikers fly past me and jump over obstacles, while I rode as slow as possible on my brakes or had to walk up some of the inclines.
Learning how to switch the gears did help a bit, but the trail was still difficult and getting used to going over roots and rocks, especially while going up hill, was uncomfortable and unnatural to say the least. Sure, it wasn’t the perfect experience, but I was getting there.
Throughout the entire ride, Scot and Frank were extremely supportive, constantly offering up advice and encouragement when I needed it most. They pushed me to my limits, but also knew when to give me a break.
Thankfully, the entire trail wasn’t purely roots and rocks, and there were opportunities for me to ride smoothly while soaking in the green trees and flowering plants. It was an absolutely beautiful day to be in the woods, and the perfect way to clear my mind after all the changes and challenges I’ve experienced over the past few weeks.
The entire ride was great, and even though it was tough, and I was tired, my favorite part came at the very end, as the sun was setting through the trees. We reached a path that was relatively narrow with a big drop, and the foliage was dense and bright green. At the moment, I felt transported to another place, and it felt as if we were in a rainforest somewhere far away. I felt at peace with myself and with mountain biking, and my confidence was finally there.
Of course, a little while after this, I took a turn too fast and fell, scraping my knee. It hurt, a lot, but no tears were shed, and I got back on my bike and pushed through the pain to finish the ride.
Maybe, I’ll never understand how two wheels can mange to navigate through the trails; maybe, it will always amaze me. But, I am beginning to understand why people mountain bike and why I am continuously called back into the woods. Something magical happens when you are speeding along through nature, something that does not happen anywhere else.
Even though it may be challenging and scary, and even though I may fall many more times, it’s because of this feeling that I will continue to push myself to get back up each time, and try it again. The huge bruise on my knee is a reminder that I put myself out there, and even though I got hurt, just the fact that I was willing to push myself to my limits, is reason enough to be proud.