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Fatbiking in Northeast Iowa: The Reality Check
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Fatbiking in Northeast Iowa: The Reality Check

Today was a day where Travis and I had one of those “Josie reality check” conversations about how obsessive I can be about mountain biking. Fatbiking in the snow has given me new challenges which I’ve taken to like headbutting a brick wall. Let’s take a step back and see what I mean by all this. I am highly emotionally and mentally tied to mountain biking because it is something that I am passionate about.

I’ve never been athletically inclined, so to find a sport of some descript that I do not completely suck at, amazes me. I put myself into comparison mode, and it’s very easy to do when you have a significant other who is an excellent rider in many formats. So when I took months out of my year to work and session various spots, eventually becoming successful; take that success away and I’m left feeling mentally and emotionally confused and unhinged.

It’s my first year of riding; there are aspects of this that I’m not seasoned with. Accepting that in the winter you have new challenges is one of those factors. It is hard for me to simply accept that it is okay to be imperfect. To accept that I will have to put my foot down in areas because I did not ride several months on snow-covered trails last year. As with this year, it will be my first year really exploring the trails for multiple seasons- rediscovering learning curves does not make for an inept rider. The reminder of the fact that I’m still in the learning phase- I am not “taught.”

We had fresh snow on the trails to pack down, well, at least pack more of it down. We started out simple and rode IPT, North 40, Gunnar, and the pines. Widen the paths where you could and enjoy being outside with the sunshine and fresh air.

After the pines we were riding to Little Big Horn’s entrance and I almost had tears well up in my eyes. The scenery was stunning. I had to acknowledge that I felt really lucky to be able to experience some of the beauty of the outdoors today. I am, indeed, hard on myself-I have the courage to work on my insecurities.

We opted to ride the lower half of Little Big Horn and I admitted nervousness. The off-camber terrain has me death-gripping my bars a bit. I poked even slower than usual. I made climbs that I was unsure I would be able to ride up. I also fell and hit the side of my knee on the bike, which I must say, really frickn’ hurt. I nervously laughed it off as I brushed the snow off my tights, “So this is how it’s going to go? Don’t let it get to you!

Eventually we got to the point where I knew the switchbacks would be coming up, and tracks hadn’t been made there yet. From Travis, I assumed we would go down them but he had changed his mind. I was a bit confused and questioned why, to which he was concerned about my safety and didn’t want me to fall and get hurt. I had already made up in my head that, yeah, I’ll likely fall at some point, but I surely wouldn’t get hurt any worse than I already had. Plus? If I’m supposed to get better at developing my riding skills, shouldn’t I be trying to ride that stuff?

So we turned our bikes around and went down. I slid out and landed on my butt on the first switchback; I laughed. I just kinda figured that if I’m to ease up on myself and not put so much pressure on perfectionism that I needed to laugh at the situation. I was nervous as well, and laughter seems to help with that sometimes.

It came down to whether or not I should try it all over again or keep going. Time was running short so I opted to get back on my bike. I made it down the second switchback successfully, which impressed Travis. Yeah! I made it somewhat successfully down the third; we’ll say it was “fancy.” Dust Bowl is not my favorite trail to ride on in the snow. Roots were hiding under the snow and had both of us scrambling here and there. I’m guessing that my comfort of riding in the snow and accepting how it feels will come with more rides. Either way, we made it down successfully. I opted to not bother with the “Dirty Harry” corner yet…I will at some point, but not quite yet. Accepting what I feel comfortable with right now is also something I have to do.

Embracing the challenge and accepting the change. I say easier said than done, but it’s worth doing if it means I get to spend time outside and gain more strength. It’s not just physical strength, but mental and emotional as well. Mountain biking has brought out the best in me as well as the worst, and I must say, it’s been very impressive for the lessons in personal growth it brings to the table.

It was obvious by the tracks that I’m not the only one who slips, slides, and falls in the snow! In winter, you simply take what you get and make the most of it. Every day you get to ride outside is one less day you ride on the trainer. So take it for what it’s worth and just roll with it!

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