A Summer Without Mountain Bikes
SAY IT ISN’T SO!
It isn’t so. But it feels this way to me. I wanted to do a few mountain bike races this year. Like 3 or 4. I might, might get one this year. One! No better than last year (Putney Cider Classic when I flatted on the second lap and ran the bike the rest of the race–that sucked). The year before that was Domnarski Farm, where I won! That didn’t suck at all. (Hasn’t happened before or since). That’s the one I hope to return to this June.
I really enjoy mountain biking and I want more time to do it. I really like the zen flow, the quick decision making. I like picking good lines and having the strength to push the bike up, over and around a variety of natural objects and landscapes. Racing just means doing it with a bunch of other like-minded people. I don’t think I’ve raced enough mountain bikes to feel like I’m any good at it. I’m always surprised how few women I see mountain biking too–and certainly not a ton of women over 40.
This entire blog was started in part, to find more people to ride bikes with, after a crash I had mountain biking at Bachelor Street in the Holyoke Range. I was riding alone. I was going through a divorce, had a toddler in daycare, and a day off. I needed a good shred on the bike. On a trail I knew well, I crashed and got the wind knocked out of me. I had a moment of terror when I was dazed and sacred, unable to breath, thrown completely from my bike, with my knee impaled on a tree branch. A million thoughts ran through my head of how hurt I might be, how I was going to get out of the woods, and how I needed to get to my baby boy. After a systems check I realized was in fact going to be ok. But immediately after I thought – I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be out here by myself if I’m going to be a single mom.
Breathe Karen. Breathe.
That crash was 10 years ago. Of course, the panic subsided and I got back into the woods. Most of the time, alone. 98% of my mountain bike rides are solo.
Since then, mountain biking has been the strongest symbol for maintaining autonomy and balance in my life. It might seem counterintuitive, but I find a lot of peace and harmony in the woods, moving through difficult terrain, hard sharp rocks, slippery roots, mud and leaves and all manner of surfaces. I love the elemental quality it brings. I love the difficulty. I love the forest. When I’ve had a hard day at work, mountain biking. When it’s raining outside, mountain biking. When I’m confused about things in my personal life, mountain biking. When I have a itch that needs scratching, mountain biking.
When I am feeling out of balance, I start thinking mountain biking. Each summer feels like a negotiation of varying obligation. Work presses at me, even when I have scheduled time off. I still want to connect with others in the sport and I am happy I have a small handful of friends to ride with. I’m very psyched about my upcoming bikepacking adventure with Laura, with a possible guest appearance from my cycling buddy Gail. I need this trip on many, many levels.
I know a mountain bike race isn’t going to complete me. A simple ride will do. Or several simple rides strung together for the rest of my life. Starting with this summer.