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Lessons in Mountain Biking: Try It With Friends!
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Lessons in Mountain Biking: Try It With Friends!

A beautiful Saturday and I was going to spend it on two wheels with a good friend of mine. You bet I was excited! Kristin and I were going to hit some of the mountain bike trails for our daily dose of fun and challenge. It would also be a good experience for me because I would be taking the lead on this venture, calling out helpful tips and hints on how to maneuver over obstacles. It would be my first time instructing someone in mountain biking and I hoped I would do alright.

We were both a bit tired for various reasons and I decided we would take the risk of running into the Surly Bikes folks (visiting town for the weekend) and ride around the Van Peenen area trails. The climb up into Palisades just didn’t seem very appealing to me, also the familiarity of the Van Peenen area made navigation a bit easier. I knew a few trails, one of which Kristin hadn’t been on before; it seemed like a positive choice.

We headed out around lunch time; most times that proves to be helpful with navigating trail traffic as people are eating vs. riding. When we entered IPT and rode by the campers hanging out at the Pugsley Pit, all I could think was “I hope I don’t wipe out on this downhill!” Thankfully it went smoothly and we went on our way. I was watchful of the trail ahead, wanting to make sure that I gave Kristin and myself enough time to move out of the way if we met someone.

Once we came out of IPT we went up North 40 and true to form the switchbacks continued to be a challenge for me. We did our best and continued forth, eventually reaching the downhill hairpin turn that struck fear in me a few weeks back. I maneuvered myself around the turn slowly and carefully while Kristin opted to walk down. I went into detail explaining how I approached the turn and how far I stood back over my seat. Add all that together and one should be able to successfully be able to get down the hill safely.

Gunnar came next along with a zippy ride though the pines. I was amazed that we met so few people while we were out! We did take a break after the pines for some snacks and conversation, while we talked another group had shown up. We were invited to join them but opted to do our own thing on this day. Once we recouped I took us to Little Big Horn and went the way that Travis took me on Tuesday. Overall the trail ride went fine, the usual spots were tricky but I did manage to get up more of the switchbacks than a few days prior. The fun began when we came to the tricky downhill corner that I had to sit far back on. I managed to get around the turn the second try, but when I tried to go at it again I overextended myself and tipped off to the side. Oops! We kept going and eventually came to the “perfect log session” area where we practiced lifting our front tires up and over.

When we came out of Little Big Horn I told Kristin that per Travis’ recommendation that we should ride fast down the grassy trail that takes us back to the little fire pit area next to the pines. It’s straight and safe, a perfect opportunity to go fast in an area and have a rush! After we stopped I asked Kristin what she would like to do next, my stomach growled-reminding me that I would need real food at some point instead of snacks. Kristin then said “Can we do Little Big Horn again?!” Well, of course we can! So we headed back down and around; when we were close to finishing the loop through a bunch of riders went by above us. I had an ungraceful moment of veering off course and slightly tipping over. I laughed at myself, hoping that no one above saw my fumble and commented that I apparently “Drive like my dad.” After all of that we went down Gunnar and back up and through North 40, to which I am very proud to say that Kristin accomplished going down the hairpin downhill! It was a rush for me to watch her and I was very proud of her bravery in going for it.

Our stomachs weren’t making us “hangry” quite yet, so after we road through IPT we decided one last “victory lap” and did a second loop through IPT. On our way out we met someone who was definitely part of the Surly Bikes crew. I commented on his awesome leg tattoo, to which he said thanks and replied with “Nice bike!” I can’t deny the feeling of pride that welled up and I probably had the goofiest smile on my face after that.

Kristin and I were hungry on a superior level being that we had biked for 3 hours! We went for lunch at the Co-Op and talked of what plans we should make for later. I text Travis and asked if Kristin could join us for more biking, knowing that Travis and I go out for about an hour or so. We had maybe an hour before we would hit the trails again and I will tell you that it came a lot sooner than you’d think! I worried that my riding would be junk, my legs and body were already tired. I knew my body would retaliate against me the following day, but I didn’t care.

We went on IPT and decided that we should go on Little Big Horn the opposite direction that Kristin and I rode earlier, that way we could ride down Dust Bowl. After we came down Dust Bowl, Travis suggested we go up the fire road to the prairie area. We would take a short part of Rocky Road down to Fred’s and then ride from Fred’s to the Louge. So several new trails for me on this day, one of which would be a mental challenge for sure!

I’ve been on part of Rocky Road about a year ago, but for me that’s long enough to make me not remember a darn thing. I had never been on Fred’s before, which seemed to be a never ending, rocky downhill. Travis was actually surprised I even tried any of it; I made it a good portion of the way down until I came to a downhill turn that tripped me up. I couldn’t get back on the bike and ride the rest of the way down because it was too steep. So I walked with Kristin the rest of the way down and felt proud of what I did manage to ride. The Louge was fun and flowed beautifully and is another trail that I want to ride again in the near future.

A total of 4 ½ hours of biking made my evening pizza taste even better than usual. My legs were tired, my arms were sore, and I had new bruises and scratches to add to my collection. It was a day and I couldn’t have asked for better people to ride with.

More about friend, bike, mountain, fun

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