The Road Less Traveled

… or, there are too many others out on the damn trail.

Today I attended my first mountain biking skills clinic, run by our excellent friends at Cadence Cycles in the Manayunk section of the city. I was pretty nervous – being from Colorado means everyone thinks I mountain bike/ski/snowboard/trail run/uber-outdoor-athlete stuff … but the reality is, I took all that open space and facilities for granted. I only started riding my bike for fun (not just transportation) in May of 2011. So yeah – I have never mountain biked before. And I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself and fall – either in general or off the side of the trail.

Falling is fine – just not in front of 30 other people.

So my commuter friend and I rode in the 10 miles to the bike shop. We arrived a little early because we needed our clipless pedals transferred to the demo bikes and seats adjusted. I was able to demo the Fuji Belle, a full suspension bike. Not sure why I had a full when others had hardtails, but it was nice!  Note to self: try not to wreck the $2000 bike. There were many others who signed up – some cyclocross racers, some road racers, some newbies like me, and everything in between. Fortunately my skills were in the middle of the newbie range.

We rode about a half-mile or so to get to the trails, using this time to get used to the thumb shifters. Didn’t take long to get the hang of it but once we were out on the trails, I kept to the lower end of the gearing. Made it so much easier to get up the hills.

The first hour was spent just going up and down a hill with lots of roots, rocks, and turns. It was sharper but really honed in on the skills you need to successfully get up the tiny steep portions of a climb, over small obstacles, and getting back downhill.

The second hour was a short trail ride – this is why people love mountain biking! Being in the woods, pedaling and feeling like you are floating over the debris, finding your line and the thrill of successful execution. The leafy single track was just fun. I am not even sure I can adequately describe how exhilarating it is to crank up a steep, rocky incline – unsure you will make it over the top – and then trust your bike as you rip down the other side, rocks and roots and debris be damned.

Skills taught to more experienced riders included log-overs, stairs, and getting enough momentum on a short, steep downhill to get up the next hill. Maybe another time when I feel more confident and ready to take my off-road riding to the next level. Today was about trying it out.

Instead of riding out for lunch with my commuter friend to discuss our new-found skills, my husband picked me up and whisked us to our daughter’s swim lessons. Tomorrow we will get a lunch ride in.

All in all – excellent experience. I don’t have plans to go buy a mountain bike right this minute or anything – but I would like to include it in my goals next year. To get off the road a little more and into the woods. To feel more confident on the trails. To have MORE FUN on my bike.

Singletrack in the Wissahickon Valley
That is *not* me on the awesome single track in the Wissahickon Valley

See you on the road!

 

4 thoughts on “The Road Less Traveled

  1. I need to do something like this so bad! I just went mountain biking for the first time today and just posted about it…I had a slightly different (i.e., terrifying, thought I was going to die) experience! Official lessons are definitely in order for me.

    Glad you had a blast though! Once I gain skills and feel confident, I know I will too. It was amazing!!

    1. Definitely! The clinic and demo bike was free – which made it very easy to say “yes!” There isn’t a lot of one-on-one attention and you do have to deal with a lot of people clogging up the trail/skills area. But for the price, I can’t complain. 🙂

      They did have us go down a steep-and-a-little-technical hill into the BMX bowl … I’m sure if you are confident on your bike, it’s no big deal but for those of us who are cautious on downhills we ended up walking. Mostly because there were a lot of people at the bottom of the hill that I didn’t want to crash into. 🙂

      Yay for mountain biking!

    1. Karen, I couldn’t agree more. It was so low-stress and rejuvenating! I was so nervous about it but once I let go of my self, I was able to find happiness. So thankful for the triple crank too … made life SO MUCH EASIER.

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