Pondering Life, On A Mountain Bike

Watching this summer’s Olympic Games inspired me to revisit my mountain biking analogies. Mountain biking is a lot like life: you’re on a ride with many twists, turns and bumps.  If you’re not careful, you’ll go over the handlebars.  But even us Bionic Boomers are up to the challenge.

For clarity, here’s a definition according to Wikipedia :  Mountain biking is a sport which consists of riding bicycles off-road, often over rough terrain, using specially adapted mountain bikes.  There are several mountain biking categories, including cross-country, trail riding and dirt jumping.  I primarily ride on mountain bike trails and paved and unpaved country back roads.

I expect to fall.  Everybody falls.

As a Domestic Square Peg, I know I’m not a mountain bike expert by any means.  After 6 years I am still trying to get up steep hills without having to walk the bike.  I still struggle to negotiate rocks and tree roots and narrow paths.  I expect to fall.  Everybody falls.  It’s the riders who get back on the bike who reap the rewards.

The work required in mountain biking is worth the effort for many reasons. For a moment, ride with me.  (You’re probably already ahead of me, because I suck at this). You experience some of the most incredible natural beauty this planet has to offer.  The sense of freedom and strength as you power over challenging landscapes is exhilarating.  And this sport’s heart-pumping effort means it’s an excellent cardio workout.

At the end of most rides, you feel a sense of accomplishment and empowerment.  I say most rides because trail mishaps can be a humbling.  Here’s where life’s lessons come in.  If you are present and engaged throughout your ride, you’ll, finish a winner, at the top.  But if you’re not focused, you won’t be ready to handle the inevitable bumps and switchbacks along the way.  There’s lots of those hazards.  If you’re thinking about how to pay off your credit card or a fight with your partner during your ride, you’ll likely go sideways.

As in life, you go where you look, so don’t look where you don’t want to go

One rule of mountain biking is:  You go where you look, so if you don’t want to go over a cliff, don’t look down there.  This Domestic Square Peg know first hand how that works out.

My first mountain bike experience took place on what my husband thought was an “easy” trail.  Turned out to be anything but easy for me.  The path was a single-track trail, which means it’s only wide enough for one bike at a time, and in the mountains it often means the mountainside and a cliff border the trail.

As I painstakingly negotiated the skinny path, I looked over the edge at the vast drop-off and before I knew it- I was going over it!  Luckily, there were trees to break my fall, so I only went down a few yards.  I got up, scratched and dirty but alive, and dragged my bike and myself back up to the trail for more abuse.  I repeated this habit of looking over the edge and then following my gaze more than once.  When I finally caught up with my riding buddy, who was enjoying a power bar and the view, a young mom and her 9-year old daughter peddled effortlessly past us.  Now that was a humbling experience.

I am reminded regularly how life is like mountain biking.  The minute I take my eyes off the goal, I’m off track.  You can be going down so fast that when you hit a roadblock- tree root, rock, squirrel- you literally go over the handlebars.  A skilled mountain biker knows how to avoid or jump over obstacles.  I’ve yet to master those skills.

I’ll always be an aspiring mountain biker.  Most of us are Square Pegs when it comes to mountain biking.  I try riding in beautiful Sun Valley, Idaho.  Find fantastic trails at http://www.allsunvalley.com/summer_recreation/biking.php

There’s thousands of mountain bike trails all over the world.  Some of the best areas are within reach for everyone and all skill levels.  For more information on mountain biking in the U.S., check out Trails.com at http://www.trails.com/activities.aspx?area=10032

Happy Trails!

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