Wednesday, April 10

Right Wing Mountain Biker

In general I would say I’m a very conservative mountain biker.  I’m referring to my riding style, not really to my politics.  On Saturday as I followed Jefe down into Pot Holler I saw what could be done on a bike and I was inspired to do more than I would have been on my own.  As we encountered rock ledges and deep tank traps across the roads I saw ways of getting around those that I wouldn’t have considered on my own.  And I pedaled timidly out of my comfort zone.

Jeff climbing out of Barker Branch of Sand Lick

As I grew more tired along the way I ratcheted back down and was not as motivated to emulate, but I continued to watch Jeff as he rode up and down things I wouldn’t have considered solo.  My inner paradigm is changing.  Now if my outer fat layers could change…

I’ve been fearful of injury.  It’s not the acute pain that comes when collarbone strikes tree; it’s the frustration of a potential long healing process afterward.  I don’t want a little fun today to stop all fun for months.  My recent sprained ankle is a perfect example.  What a ridiculously strategic injury if you want to prevent someone from burning fat…jack up their ankle and watch ‘em plump up like a thanksgiving turkey in the middle of November.

Geoff showed me the Mountain Biking Way.  I see the sun-dapple Path I must now ride down.  But there’s a price: pain.  I’m not saying I gotta go sling my old bones against an oak tree at 25 mph. No, but I’ve got to figure out a way to push beyond my fears and find my flow.

His background is BMX and skating.  I don’t have those as my base, so carving through steep and deep tank traps and bunny hopping over fallen trees and doing a half kick flip to clear the back wheel are not really a part of my repertoire.  I need more mountain biking tools and more confidence to find my groove.

With honed skills I could tap into the existing potential here much more deeply and forget about “developing” better trails.  Why bring the earth down to my level when what I truly need to do is rise to the challenge?

I’m also conservative in that I don’t think subduing the trails with better gear is the answer.  Oh, I’m a gearhead, and therein lies the paradoxical conflict.  I love shiny new bikes and new pieces of gear.  But I also think that if you can only pull something off with a high end bike, or a certain accessory, or lighter components, or more gears, or hydraulic disc brakes, then you can’t really pull it off. 

I’m not such a purist that I think everyone should be riding fully rigid fixed gear mountain bikes.  But I do think that if you can’t ride a fully rigid bike on a trail then your head is in the wrong place.  Of course you’ll get banged up a little bit without suspension, but isn’t that what riding a mountain bike is all about?  Getting banged up, muddy, bloody and dashing out of the dust cloud with a grin on your face?  I ride with suspension and disc brakes, but I wouldn’t stop riding if I didn’t have them, and I’m always thinking of ways to simplify. 

A good mountain bike doesn’t have to cost more than your car.  You can enjoy riding without dipping into the kids’ college fund.  And if you’re not racing does it really matter how light your bike is?  A heavy bike will make you stronger.  If your Rockhopper is holding you back you’re just not riding it enough.

In conclusion I say this (cognizant of its application to my pudgy form): don’t drag mountain biking down to your level, rise to the challenge of the trail in front of you and build your body and mind to meet it admirably.
Descending rock ledges north of
Whites Branch Arch on the Sheltowee Trace

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