Back in the Saddle
I have been an avid cycling enthusiast for most of my life. Sometimes being more into one aspect of the two wheeled world than another. For example, in the mid to late 80s I was extremely into mountain biking, worked in a shop and rode everywhere on my 1988 Fat Chance Kicker Comp. My life revolved very much around my bike. I was a bike mechanic and loved working and riding on bikes. When front shocks came onto the scene, college graduation forcing me into the real job world and personal time taking a downswing due to getting into a “serious” relationship, I found myself turning to the road. Mountain biking had become a chore to do. Centennial woods in Burlington became off limits to riding with more and more people doing it. I couldn’t just hop on my bike and ride. You’d think that being in Vermont that there is ample riding everywhere. But most of the decent mountain biking requires packing up and driving somewhere. But with my road bike, I could go right out the front door and have the best riding around! Great roads, not too much traffic, climbing, descending, scenery . . . it was all there! I’ve spent the last 10 to 15 years enjoying the Vermont roads.
I didn’t forget mountain biking. I even bought a hard tail around 2003 in hopes of getting back into it. Rode once or twice at Catamount but it just didn’t click. I didn’t seem to be very good at it either. Must be this new-fangled front shock that was messing me up. Fast forward to 2011. Two kids and a full time job in Winooski(my least favorite place in the state to ride) made commuting my best opportunity to get miles in, but due to life and schedules(wife works night shift and kids have to be here or there , etc. . .) this also became a sporadic endeavor. I had heard from a friend that there were some trails “up behind Costco” that weren’t too bad. For whatever reason, I brought in my mt bike and rode up there. Sunny Hollow was a trail system maintained by a group called the Fellowship of the Wheel. I signed up within a few days to their organization and though I haven’t met any of them, I know they are good people by the work they have done for the off road cycling community. My thanks go out to them. After the first time there, I was so excited that I had riding available within distance of my office. It was a perfect combination of beginner and intermediate trails that really got me excited to be in the woods again. Why had I ever left? Though I had been a pretty decent mt biker back in the 80s, I really wasn’t any more. What had happened to me? I was tentative and had to unclip and even had to walk up steep areas(unthinkable)! After the first few weeks, I started to get my skills back. The philosophy that if you don’t use it you will lose it never hit home so much as it had for me in regards to the skills from mountain biking. I’m still not on my top game and I still ride my road bike, but getting back into mountain biking has really brought me back to my cycling roots.
I am challenged every time I ride. There is a great deal of concentration that goes into mountain biking that isn’t as evident in road riding. Don’t get me wrong, you need to keep aware and be focused on your surroundings on the roads but you can get into a zone and move into cruise control. Mt biking isn’t quite like that. You must be focused simultaneously on the obstacles in front of you and the path ahead. This requires a lot of mental strength and discipline. I use my i-phone with www.mapmyride.com to document where I’ve been and sometimes my heart rate. On one particular descent, it rang and after another 20 yards or so, this small distraction caught up with me and my front wheel caught some soft stuff towards the side of the trail and my bike went one way and I went another. My first endo in years! I was fine and it was all good but the ringer now stays off.
The challenges from mountain biking are a direct reflection of one’s life mentally, physically and spiritually. Due to an injury from twisting my ankle on a rock as I tried to bail on a particularly rocky uphill berm, I am taking this opportunity to write some of my cycling thoughts out. If I can’t be out on the trail or road physically, I can still embrace the activity that I love with my mind and spirit through communication. See you on the trail when I’m back in the saddle!