Sure, Mountain Biking is Fun, but for me this Word Describes it Better
A friend of mine was asking about mountain biking. She knew how involved I was in the sport and seemed genuinely interested. I had a few well framed photos of mountain biking in Arizona and Colorado, so I showed her a few. I purposefully chose the photos with great scenic views and a few action shots. To me, these photos told the story of the sport, and they spoke for themselves.
But then she asks, incredulously, "Why do you do this?" An exclamation as much as a question. My immediate—almost knee-jerk without really thinking about it—reply was, "because it's fun." "Fun?" My friend could absolutely not compute the term. I was surprised by the question. Isn't it obvious? Apparently not. I guess it looked like too much work for her.
To be fair, I'm not sure that "fun" is the best answer anyway. I mean, sure it's fun, but "fun" doesn't cover the depth of my experiences mountain biking. I've been reflecting more on that question and my answer. So with the given, yes, "it's fun" being established, here's more of my thoughts.
Mountain biking is something that I love doing because it's challenging for me—challenging in a rewarding and inspiring kind of way. It's been a vehicle, an outlet, a focus for me to push myself to improve. Mountain biking has pushed me to accept new challenges and helped provide a sense of accomplishment and achievement as I've become a stronger, more confident rider.
I've never been the strongest rider, and I feel that I've had to work really hard at every step of the way on my mountain biking journey. When I first started biking more than 20 years ago, it took me forever to get out of the granny gear. My local trail then was pretty rocky and technical which did not help my confidence as a beginner. I thought for the longest that obviously I must be doing something wrong, since I was having to get off and walk so much. I also still have the rookie marks from early falls where the chain ring teeth dug into my leg. So, from the beginning, mountain biking was very challenging for me.
But it was a good, rewarding, kind of challenge. I learned to ride at my own pace and not sweat the fact that other riders were stronger than me. As I improved and wanted to ride new trails, even more challenging ones, I learned not to worry if I couldn't clear a section without getting off the bike. And if I needed to walk for a while, who cares? All the while I was getting better, stronger, faster. My bike skills did improve, and in time I was able to clear more difficult sections with ease.
I've been riding for over 20 years now, and I've ridden over 120 trails in 12 states and counting, including some of the most iconic—and challenging—trails in the world. I still push myself harder and harder to be able to ride with more confidence, but I still take breaks when I need to, and I still get off and walk sometimes, too. And sure, there's the occasional new scar as well.
I pause to take in the surroundings, to hear and appreciate what nature itself is saying to me. Mountain biking has taken me to experience some incredible and inspiring surroundings. From lush mountain forests, to rocky painted deserts, to high mountain vistas, to the clearest mountain lakes.
I experience a deep sense of connectedness when it's just me and my bike on the trail in the mountains. Even when I'm riding with friends, which is a lot of fun and how I prefer to ride, the ride is still very much a solo act. The physical challenge, the inspiration of the surroundings, the sense of achievement all often combine to form a sense of transcendence. In those moments I'm not just riding my bike. I am genuinely going somewhere. Somewhere deep inside me.
So, sure, mountain biking is fun. But maybe rewarding is the more complete word.