I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a novice mountain biker. I get nervous on technical terrain, and I won’t be going off big jumps any time soon. Yet, I’ve come to love this sport and the challenges it presents. With tough climbs or flowing descents, long days in the saddle or quick laps after class, solo rides or group treks – mountain biking is so versatile and offers the potential for many different rewarding experiences in the outdoors. It forces you to stay mentally engaged with your surroundings while simultaneously providing an immense sense of freedom. I firmly believe there is something in this sport for everyone.
In mountain biking, falling is inevitable. In fact, falling is the one big equalizer, the thing that both the pros and the newcomers have in common. As we try new things – whether that be sending a new trick on a jump, navigating a rock garden or even just riding up a hill where we usually get off and push – there’s a chance of failure. So we fall, and in the process, we learn. That’s the beauty of the sport. We accept our failures, discover something new about the terrain or our technique or our mentality, and enthusiastically get back on the bike to try again.
I, for one, certainly fall a lot. At this point, I’ve accumulated quite a variety of bruises, scrapes and scars, but I’m happy to accept them as reminders of a sport I love. The scars on my legs now represent a collection of lessons. I can point to my left knee and say, “This is where I learned that you should put your outside foot down when going around a turn so your back wheel doesn’t slide out!” Or I can tap on my right thigh and recall, “This is where I learned that if I stare right at an obstacle instead of past it, I will probably run straight into it and tip over!”
But there are so many more lessons you can’t see embodied on my legs. Through mountain biking, I’ve learned to be brave, to be curious and to try hard. I’ve learned to always look ahead, and that when the going gets tough, just keep pedaling. The empowerment I have found through this sport makes all the crashes worth it and keeps me coming back, no matter how many times I’ve tumbled. In both mountain biking and in life, I know I’ll continue to make mistakes, and I know that sometimes I will fall. But through my bike, I’ve learned to be okay with that, and that I’m better off just rolling with it.
For the gnarly riders who are out there crushing it – I’m stoked for you, and I thank you for giving me something to aspire to. I’m not there yet, and that’s okay. Riders of all abilities are all valid because we’re all embracing the challenge – whatever that looks like to us – and getting outside to be the best versions of ourselves. So I’ll keep riding, keep falling, keep learning and keep having fun. I encourage all my fellow mountain biking beginners to do the same.