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Lessons in Mountain Biking: Trails Go Both Ways
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Lessons in Mountain Biking: Trails Go Both Ways

A beautiful Tuesday off meant that Travis and I would go explore the mountain bike trails! I lead the way, entering IPT and took us through the whole thing. Today we experimented with tire pressure to see how I could handle more air in my tires. Lower tire pressure makes the tire grip the earth better, but you are putting forth more effort with moving around. It was time for me to see what I could manage. My back tire spun out here and there, but most times if you keep pedaling you can get past the slip.

I’ll admit, I was taken off guard a bit over the fact that my tire was slipping out here and there, it was providing me a new challenge and I had to adapt. I did enjoy being able to move faster instead of feeling like a slow moving monster truck. I felt breathless once we came out of IPT and I had to rest for a few moments. Travis asked me why I rode so fast, but when I’m by myself that’s the speed I normally go on IPT. I didn’t feel I was riding fast at all, but I suppose for myself it was and also could be considered an accomplishment.

I lead the way up Gunnar; keeping my eyes ahead to see if we would run into anyone. The one benefit of going out on a weekday morning is that you probably won’t run into too many riders. I could be completely wrong about this, but so far it’s been true. I felt like I was struggling to ride up and out of Gunnar, the last climb felt harsh.

Today we would explore Little Big Horn; however we would do it backwards from what I am familiar with. Let it be known that there really isn’t a “front” or “back” to the trails but I consider it backwards if I am more familiar with it one way. I learned that when you enter Little Big Horn you can keep going straight and hit another trail that will take you to the lower half of Little Big Horn. A sharp right and you find yourself heading uphill on some mighty switchbacks. The switchbacks will flatten off about 3 times, so each time there was a flatter section we would rest a bit.

It’s amazing how when you take the trail one way it is completely different the opposite way. I was trying to figure out if I liked this way better or not. It’s a psychological battle with yourself sometimes because some areas do become trickier and make you uneasy. Then you find out some spots that kept tripping you up can be accomplished quickly.

At a steeper switchback I took a few tries to get up and around the tight corner. I had to stand up and aim high and lean my shoulder a little to the left to make my way around it. It was learning all about momentum and when to give an added burst of speed for the follow through. After that corner you had another corner section filled with pile of tree roots. The best line you can easily see is closer to the left of the trail, where you avoid most of the roots but still have a couple at the top to maneuver over. I was able to get part way over the mess, but I wasn’t able to completely succeed with that endeavor.

We continued on and eventually came to the corner that challenged me so much on my solo adventure on Little Big Horn. When I was coming from the opposite direction it was an uphill corner turn that had some tricky roots to avoid. Your tire could easily catch in the V of the roots and throw you off balance. This was a downhill now, one that you had to take wide and also have yourself standing up and back behind your seat. There was something very intimidating about sitting back on my seat while around such a steep corner. I had several failed attempts and then requested Travis to show me what he was doing. This is a positive thing with having someone you trust to help teach you the basics. I’m a visual and “doing” learner. I do best by seeing, observing, then following but also appreciate hearing tips. Then I tried again and subsequently tipped over.

I was a little shocked but free of injury or hurt, I did sit there for a minute and let myself gain composure. The next try proved successful and Travis gave me the option of doing it again, I decided that once was just fine for today. I was reminded that it’s okay to work on a spot multiple times and if you tip over, well you tipped over. Get up and try again!

We got closer to the end of Little Big Horn and there was a smaller log out on the trail which proved to be a perfect learning opportunity. All I had to do was work on lifting my tire up just enough to get over the log. Ironically I didn’t feel like I was lifting my tire up at all, Travis assured me I was! Well, okay, that’s not too terribly hard. We practiced going at it uphill and down, I felt like I wasn’t doing the best job in the world but I did get it done and understood the concept better.

It just goes to show that it’s not impossible for one to improve. I remember at one point I questioned whether I’d be able to ride the trails at all, now I’m proving myself wrong!

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