Yes, I am pushing my bike in this photo; and, I have no shame about it. I’m a few weeks short of 50 years old and ON the mountain bike…..er… well, next to it in this case. But, I’m out there. And that’s my point.
While on the trail this weekend – in between moments of sheer exhilaration and sheer terror – it occurred to me how closely my experiences on the mountain bike parallel my life experiences. Not the least of which is how I’ve come to find particular joy “late in life.” I took up the sport at the age of 46. For those of you who are not familiar with mountain biking, it is a far cry from the Tour de France type of biking. The tires are fatter and there are dual suspension bikes and single-speeds, hard-tails, 29’ers, and a whole bunch of other mountain bike (MTB) lingo I just pretend to know. The main difference, in my experience, is that mountain biking takes places in the woods, along trails sometimes no wider than the width of your front tire, over rocks and roots, through streams and mud, over bridges (which took me two years to stop walking across) and around or over trees. You go up hill and down A LOT. Actually, there is a weird phenomenon in MTB that there always seems to be more uphill than down.
A bit like life, eh? So, too:
Coasting | There are times when the path seems easy, the hills have been replaced by a slight downhill and since you’ve worked so hard to get to this point, it seems only fitting that you give yourself a bit of a rest while you coast in neutral. Except, right around the corner is a hill, a steep one, and if you’d only kept your momentum up, it would have been a piece of cake, but instead you must grind it out, or worse … get off the bike and push.
Grinding | On the subject of grinding, let me just say, it sucks. It hurts; it physically hurts; you make animal noises, it hurts soooo bad. But when you make it over the obstacles and up the hill, well, then you … You. Rock. Star. You. Hard work probably did kill someone sometime, but mostly it just feels amazing than you did something you didn’t think you could possibly do.
Downhill | Or should I just say over the hill? Not much explanation needed here. The downhills in MTB are exhilarating – but also terrifying. What can I say? I get scared if I feel like the bike (or the world) is moving too fast. But I’m also learning that that terrifying feeling never goes away, and that’s maybe not such a bad thing. Keeps you on your toes.
Need for Speed | There is one of those whacky inverse proportion laws on the trail. The rockier, rootier, steeper it is, the faster you must go. Pedal harder. Slowing down when obstacles arise is a recipe for disaster, for only momentum and effort will carry you over the gnarliest of terrain. Applying your brakes when you have momentum just means a broken rib or broken ambition … ask me how I know (on both accounts).
Look at Where You Want to Go | You’re going downhill, the trail is steep and twisty, there is a tree ahead of you (many trees actually, but this one is really big and really in your way). Look at the tree, hit the tree. Look at the path you want to follow, the tree moves out of your way. I don’t know how this works, I just know it does.
Bruises | Life is full of them. If you don’t have any, I’m not sure if I would call you lucky. We get hurt when we open up our hearts. We get battered when we face the storms. We get beaten when we try to win. (If, however, your wounds are not metaphorical, get help. I mean it.)
To sum it up … I’m not that good at mountain biking and I don’t have the cute spandex bike outfits. I’m not that good at life either and I’m one PMS-binge away from elastic waist pants. But, I'm out there.