[Note 01-23-2013: Hey Folks! I noticed a lot of traffic coming from facebook, and with some digging around I realized that Airbone posted a link to this review on their facebook. Thanks, Airbone!!! =D (I don’t have a facebook, otherwise I would have realized this by being one of their fans). Anyway…welcome! I haven’t ridden my Airborne Skyhawk much yet, but so far I love the bike and the company. I talk about naming my Skyhawk here, and my positive experience with Airborne here). Happy browsing!! And if you like what you see, please follow my blog! I’m always up to all kinds of bike shenanigans!]
Once we heard that the weekend was going to be relatively nice (high 50’s), we knew that we had to go mountain biking. After all, we just purchased new bikes and were worried we wouldn’t really be able to test them until Spring. So we jumped at the chance to try them out. Today was a roller coaster of emotions. I felt joy, happiness, panic, terror, regret, sadness, anxiety, and fear. All in one day.
Hey Jason, I have a great idea!
Yes. We’ve never been mountain biking before. And yes, I’ve only ridden my new MTB once on a paved bike path and you haven’t even had a chance to ride yours at all. I know that! These are all very logical argument…but I don’t wanna just go on a rail-trail path. Boooo to that crushed limestone! I want it to be exciting! I want to be adventurous.
I am, after all, quite fearless!
Let’s go on a REAL mountain bike trail! Let’s go to Ionia Recreational Park!
Never heard of a “fee pipe” before, so I guess it’s a good thing we have the recreational pass for Michigan. Carry on to the parking lot to get ready!
As I mentioned in a comment on All Seasons Cyclist’s blog [If you don’t know about his blog, then this must be the very first blog post you’ve ever read! Be sure to go check him out!], once it gets to about 50 degrees, I start using those chemical warmers. So I wanted to be prepared. I made sure to layer up.
Make sure to check out the surroundings and become familiar with the area.
And we are ready. to. go!
The Trail. Option: Easy
We had to take an equestrian path for about a mile until we got to the beginning of the official MTB trail. The trail was thick grass with patches of sand. I was bumping around so much, I could barely see straight! But it was FUN. About 5 minutes later, we arrive at the MTB trail. We saw absolutely no one–the trail was ours.
And so we began. Jason first, me second. Full of excitement. Adrenaline pumping. Forest ahead. This is going to kick so much ass! We make a couple of turns, nice and easy, and then I look ahead.
Jason’s on the ground.
Oh, sh*t! We’re f*cked.
Jason fell because right after the turn, there was a rock garden. He panicked, squeezed the brakes, and promptly fell over. Well, at least the first crash was outta the way, right? Carry on! (We walked our bikes over the rock garden). Before long, the trail took us to some pretty terrifying climbs and downhills. Without warning, all of a sudden we had to lug our bikes through rocks and roots, and do sharp turns, and then swoop downhill over more rocks and roots and drops! I was terrified.
We have a dog, an Australian Cattle Dog. He’s a 63-lb sack of potatoes who thinks he’s a 20-lb agile cat. He likes to climb things that he cannot climb. Like, the backs of couches. Or, stationary exercise bikes. Or, humans. Whenever he attempts such climbs, he begins with a face of determination and confidence–“I can DO this!”, his face says before beginning his challenging journey through the obstacles. But it always ends the same. Halfway through he gets stuck, starts flailing, and we have to come rescue him. While waiting, his expression quickly changes to, “Where am I? What’s happening? What is my body DOING?”
Yea… That’s exactly how I felt.
A while back, a blogger suggested that the first time I go mountain biking I should hire a professional to teach me. Good advice, I thought, as I was barreling down a hill screaming, “I’m going to die!!!!!”
The words, “I’m fearless!” echoed in my head while I was screaming nonsensical words through a switchback.
“REALLY?!” I shouted angrily as I was expected to squeeze through a couple of trees placed close together on each side of the track.
“$%&* $@#&^$%” I yelled as I couldn’t clip back in with my left foot, slammed into a thick hill, and just about crushed my lady parts. I may or may not have hit it so hard that I peed myself a little…
And worst of all, I thought that I couldn’t brake while going downhill because it would make me crash, so I was doing all of this without braking. Let me remind you…first time mountain biking ever.
Why did I think this? Because on the way to the trail Jason was telling me about this post from bikerumor, where Tyler’s disc brakes failed while going down a mountain. He crashed and got injured. Well, I clearly didn’t want that to happen to me, so I translated that into: braking while going downhill = injury.
Luckily, we stopped after about 20 minutes of terror to catch our breath and take some photos. I shared my theory with him and he quickly said, “No, no! It’s okay to brake!” and explained that we aren’t going very fast, and it’s only short periods of time, so it’s okay. He gave me a few more tips that he learned from watching videos and racing cyclocross and we continued.
Now I felt more in control and, therefore, more confident.
Now things started to get fun.
We rode for a long time after that (we were gone for a total of about 2.5 hours!). Through the trees, on the edge of a creek, up and down some hills–big and small. I hate climbing in a road bike, but I was surprised by how much I loved going uphill while mountain biking! I even caught up to Jason a couple times because I was going so fast. I still unclipped and walked a lot of sections. Usually uphill, but some tricky-looking switchbacks and downhills, too. Again, not only was this my first time mountain biking ever…I also haven’t been able to do any serious riding for well over a month now. I could not handle anything too difficult. But it was amazing. Riding inside the trees, seeing the wildlife (I also saw a huge rabbit!), hearing the water. It was spectacular, and I soaked it all in. Riding on a trail made me mindful of the present moment. I could not let my mind wander, because then I’d get in big trouble. It happened every now and then, but it didn’t last long before I had to maneuver over a rock garden or go uphill.
I learned to talk to myself while riding. “You got this!” became my mantra, and helped calm me down and get me through the tricky spots. Later, Jason told me he started doing the same thing. Neat! And not surprisingly, I start to get too hot. I had to unzip my jacket and removed my gloves for a little while. Unfortunately, I must not have zipped up my side pockets enough because by the time we were done, we were one glove short.
While I had a blast during some parts, I started to become overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. My mantra stopped working, and I started to get shaky and even start to tear up a little bit. I knew it was time to end. Jason was done, too, so we decided to call it a day and rode back to our cars.
Speaking of the giant sack of potatoes (cyardin, I’m thinking about you!)…he apparently did not like that we left for such a long period of time. When we returned, he did not look very happy with us.
But, he had to inspect the bikes. Lots of good smells, I’m sure!
Top 10 Lessons Learned From My FIRST Mountain Bike Ride
- Mountain biking can kill you.
- Okay, the first lesson may be an exaggeration…
- Get some training first! Learn from a professional!
- You can brake while going downhill.
- Don’t overdo it on the dress–you’re going to sweat a lot. My hands became especially sweaty.
- Talk to yourself, or find out what keeps you calm. For me, it was telling myself nice things repeatedly. Humming your favorite tune could work. Or shouting. Shouting worked for me sometimes, too.
- The term “easy trail” is pretty relative, and doesn’t necessarily mean easy.
- Know when it’s time to stop for the day.
- But do it again. Don’t give up if the first time is scary!
- Make sure you can laugh at yourself–don’t take it too seriously.