My Clash with Mountain Biking
Blood, Sweat, Tears, and all that, yada yada yada
From the first ride to now
So, how does one happen upon mountain biking?... it's really not an interesting story, so I'll skip it and go to my first ride on a "real" mountain bike...
But first, some backstory....
I have been riding bikes since I was three. My first memorable experience resulted in myself waking up in a bed, not knowing how I got there or where I was, with a Charzard pouch and two dollars (it is really easy to bribe little kids/to influence them to forget bad experiences). Any who, I continued riding bikes throughout my life, traveling to and fro to meet friends, killing time with my brother while teaching ourselves new and extra cool tricks, until present day. So in other words, I am very comfortable on a bike.
My First "Ride"
My first mountain bike ride was at Coldwater in Alabama with Jay (founder of MTB51). Jay has experience leading newbs, so I somehow managed not to wreck (it is possible to not wreck on your first time... POSSIBLE...), but I did have several close calls where my foot SHOT out and saved my ass, both literally and figuratively. Riding the trails was different, was exhilarating, was exhausting, was an exemplary experience if i do say so myself dear Watson. I was using normal flat pedals, and I was going slower at first, but I did speed up as we rode on. Since I have always been a thrill-seeker, the downhill scary vibes were somewhat "less" for me compared to other beginners. Also, I am pretty athletic for not being an athlete; I grew up in the back hills and outside.
Things I noticed on that first ride:
- Going over raises in the ground at high speeds, so making a jump of sorts, launches you into the air, at which point the only thing attaching you to the bike at this point is your grip on the handle bars and possibly your grip on the seat with your hips (with normal pedals). This is very scary and fun and lovely, but can also be dangerous, obviously; a couple of times, my grip slipped a little... Also, the exhilaration of not being attached to something, may be too much for some to handle mentally; I almost forgot that I had to land a couple of times; I was so in the moment and alive that I almost forgot that another moment, the next moment, when I am hopefully safely landing, existed. In other words, you may be so overcome with focus on the current moment that you crash.
- Mountain biking is a LOT faster than you normally ride, at least for me.
- I have so many things to learn, so many, so very many...
- Almost all of your skills from riding normally will transfer and will help you, but they aren't enough. You have to learn new things quickly while also optimizing your normal skills for mountain biking.
- My favorite part of the "ride" is when you are coming around a switchback (a sharp curve) and you have to immediately go uphill. Something about the awaiting challenge stirs a primal instinct to kill, and kill I do. I absolutely shred those uphill sections.
- Clipless pedals (the ones you clip in...) enable you to maneuver in a... different way; I say different and not better because it really depends on the person riding. Clipless pedals keep you attached to your seat when you are flying through the air, which is comforting. Normal pedals allow you to extend your legs out so you have more options when balancing.
- If you are just beginning, make sure you cover your shoulders and wear a helmet because when you wipe out, which will probably happen, they can save your skin some scraping... mas importante, trust me!
- Building up your speed downhill is more of a mental game than physical. You have to allow yourself to believe that you can go faster and maintain control. (Warning: building up speed still takes time; don't go Gung Ho on your first couple of rides)
- Momentum will give you the edge you need to keep going. If you see an uphill portion coming right after a downhill portion, maybe don't slow down as much, and when you have that speed at the beginning of the uphill part, kick yourself into another gear (mentally). Before you know it, you'll look forward to uphill battles, knowing how easily you'll conquer the beasts.