crash course in mountain biking

7 May

Eric surprised me last week with a brand new fat bike!

bike

If you’ve been following along, you know that my biking skillz are lackluster at best.  I never rode much as a kid, I’m not sure I ever had a bike with gears or hand brakes, and I am terrified of getting hurt…something about being on a bike, which is further from the ground and faster than running, makes me feel very injury-prone.  However, I’ve heard it’s great cross-training, and I love being out in the woods…so I was trying on my regular mountain bike, and Eric kept insisting that I’d be more confident on a fattie.  So he bought me one as a surprise.  And what a surprise it’s been!

Eric and his buddy fixed her up for me on Friday, and we immediately took it out for a ride.  Since Friday, I’ve been on the bike 4 times, for a grand total of 20+ miles.  So far, I haven’t broken anything, although I have a plethora of bruises, scrapes and scratches.  It has been a crash course–literally.  I’ve fallen more than I ever have, but on the plus side, when you are falling off your bike so often, you eventually become (slightly) less scared of biting it.  Although today there was one point in time when I thought to myself that maybe I was tempting fate since I have yet to seriously injure myself.  I’m hoping all the weight lifting we’ve been doing has made my bones very strong…I think that’s how it works???

In any event, I am enjoying it.  I have some things I need to work on:

  • Gauging the amount of space I need–I keep hitting pedals and handlebars on stuff because I forget that I am on a bike or something…I have to get better at spatial relationships.
  • I need to build up my endurance.  Funny I can run for hours on end, but I can’t handle more than 45-50 minutes of cycling without getting massively tired.
  • Going up hills…I am so much better, but really steep hills are still tough, and I have a tendency to come up out of my “saddle” (it’s like an instinct really) and apparently that’s bad…also when I don’t make it all the way up a hill, when I fall off, I end up crotch shotting myself because my legs are too stubby.  And then I almost skid backwards down the hill, which will be special if/when it ever happens.
  • Keeping my feet in “neutral” so I don’t kill myself going over crap on the trails…thank goodness for big tires or I’d be wiping out even more than I already am…
  • Being more confident

However, I’ve been making some decent progress:

  • I don’t always ride the brakes going down hills.
  • My butt only hurts for the first 5 minutes of a ride…then I forget I’m hurting because I’m too busy focused on not injuring myself.
  • I can ride up small hills (I think having more and better gears is probably a major reason, but I’m not going to discount just plain, old practicing and getting stronger).
  • I often make it through the “tricky section” of Badgerow Park–a series of trees that are so close together that there is really no room for error followed by an uphill–the trees mean you have to kind of take your time, so there’s no chance to build momentum to get up the hill, which is my MO for hill riding.  I hear Heather’s voice in my head each time directing me to “look where you want to go” and I make it through the trees 98% of the time.  The other 2%, I hit a  handlebar or pedal on a tree and fall off.  Or, like I did tonight, I get my foot stuck between the pedal and tree.  I don’t even know how, and I probably couldn’t do it again if I tried.  Sometimes I wish I had a camera crew watching me at all times for moments like that one–where I was stuck and trying to figure out how to get out of it…I fell for the record. haha.
  • I rode over a big (probably small actually ha) log going down a hill, then all the way up the hill on the other side.  I haven’t even attempted it in the past, because you can’t ride over crap when you’re riding the brakes down the hill.  Monday, I tried 3 times–I could get my first tire over, but got stuck and then fell over.  I quit trying as I extracted myself from the brush after I wiped out bad the third time.  Today, I tried and made it over my first try!!! But I got excited/surprised and promptly fell off.  The next three times, though, I made it over and up the other side!!!! The trick, I discovered, is to be fearless–you just gotta get enough speed going and not give a shit if you fall and hurt yourself.

And I can’t help but think that maybe this is just a bigger metaphor for life in general…Go all in when you get to the scary hill, don’t worry about getting hurt (injuries almost always heal anyway), and you might just make it over the obstacles.  And if you’re lucky, you come out the other side grinning.

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