Imagine Northeast Iowa

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Lessons in Mountain Biking: The First Solo Ride
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Lessons in Mountain Biking: The First Solo Ride

Mountain biking is very much a form of riding that challenges me to the very core of my being. It’s a battle against me, my fears, anxieties, and overall worries of my ultimate success or failure. I find myself far more challenged and emotionally/mentally ripped open by the mountain bike trails than I did the paved. Mountain biking takes me out of my element and my core; it puts me into the very pit of my inner self.

I wasn’t sure what kind of riding I wanted to do for Memorial Day; I knew that many individuals would be out enjoying the splendid day. The paved trail was sure to be popular, so I decided that this would be the day that I would challenge myself with riding mountain bike trails solo. I decided to head out around lunch time in hopes that most people would be enjoying food while I went out to see what I could do. I had to do this, I had to go and ride the trails that I became familiar with…by myself.

I rode to the entrance of IPT and shifted my gears so I could easily climb, like I always do, and started my ride. It’s slightly different to go riding by yourself when you always have someone in front of you. Rather than looking ahead at the trail you are usually looking at the person riding in front. Watching, observing, and perhaps mimicking exactly what they do. When you are alone you see the trail ahead of you and start picking your lines, memorizing the twists, turns, roots, and the rocks in your path.

I stood up when I knew to stand, I sat back when I knew to sat back, however it wasn’t so much my telling myself as just allowing me to move. Learn to move and react naturally with the terrain and the bike.

Before I knew it I was out of IPT and on the fire road, I had successfully ridden my first mountain bike trial by myself without putting a foot down! I decided that I would try Gunnar as well for it was a trail that I was not 100% at, plus the height thing. When I rode with Travis I could look ahead at him, follow his lead, and not look over to the side. What would I do today?

I spun out on my uphill climb and had to try a second time to get up the hill. I rode the trail with nerves weaving up and around my gut; however I kept my eyes forward and looked out for the roots and climbs to come. I made it up and over the one spot that I was always worried I would miss and up and out into the pine-filled clearing. I was in shock! I had done it!

I did an easy ride through the pines, tears welling up which were a mixture of surprise, happiness, and awe. I rode back down Gunnar successfully, without putting a foot down and back through IPT without a foot down as well. Remembering what I friend told me at the Co-Op the other day, “We all start out the same.” This was my attempt to prove to myself that this is something doable for me. This was me opening myself up to actually trust what I’ve been taught and what I need to learn. I wanted to work on learning to trust myself, my handling skills, and my bike. To work to that defining “Ah Ha!” moment that all new mountain bikers experience-when you learn to move with the bike and go with the flow of the trail.

I’m not there yet, but I’m feeling more confident in myself than I did starting out. I rode the trails a few more times, mainly because I wanted to prove to myself I could ride Gunnar dabless, which I did. It felt great! I had sweat dripping from my brow and down my back; two things made me stop riding for the afternoon. 1. I didn’t want to tire myself out too much, if the weather held up and Travis and I could go out-I wanted to enjoy it! 2. I ran out of water.

Today I proved that I can do it all by myself and that I actually do have fun out on the trails!



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