The ups and downs of a mountain biker.

I’ve been reading some interesting blog posts written by someone who has decided to follow my own blog. This person has obviously had some serious difficulties in their life and they are using blogging to help in resolving their problems. Mountain biking was probably too trivial to be mentioned in their posts!

I had the thought that the ups and downs of life might be like the ups and downs of mountain biking. But are there actually any parallels? I decided to go out for a ride and give it some thought. Mountain biking, or any other hard exercise, might not be a great medium for contemplation. I find that my memory for names is seriously diminished whilst riding and simple arithmetic is just about impossible. This could be a waste of time or cutting edge science.

It’s rained for the last 5 days and I’ve had a bit of a cold, so I haven’t ridden since Monday and now it’s Sunday. It’s sunny and reasonably warm. The trails would, however, be wet and muddy so my best option was to ride Healey Nab with it’s well surfaced trails with good drainage. The road climbs from the end of our street and undulates on a mixture of road and trail to the final climb to the 680 feet top of the hill. It gave me some time to think. One area where mountain biking is just like our normal lives is when something goes wrong with the bike. I’ve had to get back home many times with a bike which can’t be pedalled, often due to the gear mech having broken off due to the replaceable hanger breaking. Years ago, before disc brakes were common, rims used to wear. I once had the tyre explode as the side of the rim broke away. I stuffed the tyre with grass and stopped at a pub with friends on the way home. On another occasion I took the tyre off and rode on just the rim. It made a hell of a sound! Bikes are inanimate, cannot repent for their wrong doings and so can’t be forgiven, until the next ride, usually, when everything is back to perfect.

Riding around the red graded circuit on the Nab involves plenty of ups and downs. I entered the woodland part way up the biggest climb. You can’t do what would be the ideal thing and maintain a constant and even effort on an off road hill. The varying gradient, mud, rocks and roots mean that you’re constantly adjusting your effort. It needs concentration if you want to get up quickly and that old beast of psychology plays it’s part again. On my third circuit I allowed my effort to drop over a particularly tricky short, sharp slope with an exposed root at the top. The root stopped me so on my fourth and final lap I needed a strategy. I kept concentrating and really went for it. It was me or the root and I was determined to overcome it. I made it. This is definitely a similarity with life. Challenges often have to be approached with determination and a will to win. A big difference came to my mind. We enjoy the ups in life, but rarely the downs, even if we may learn valuable lessons. Most mountain bikers enjoy the riding down far more to the extent that I met quite a few other, younger riders today who rode down but not back up. Instead choosing to push their bikes up a direct route which has been made for this purpose. Personally I enjoy the climbs because you need to think about your strategy, conserve your energy and overcome technical challenges from gradients, rocks and roots which might beat you. I didn’t see anyone else riding the climbs today.

Some limited trail building was been done today by Scott and Gavin, who make all the trail building decision. After I rode the section they were working on first time around I stopped for a chat and to tell them that what they done is fantastic. A previously uninteresting segment has been transformed with 2 big jumps. I’d taken off from the first big bump and dropped a considerable distance into the dip before a table top, which is a long humped feature with a flat top. It felt a little risky and I talked about it to Scott and Gavin. They assured me that they were going to improve the feature. Next time round I rode it in the same way but didn’t stop this time. On my final 2 laps I’d given it some thought, approached quickly, staying off the brakes and standing up before the first jump. I then allowed the bike to rise up under me absorbing the jump and never actually leaving the ground. That way I was ready to take the table top and could apply some style if I wished. Maybe there’s a lesson for life there. We may sometimes need to absorb the challenges and not allow them to send us where we don’t want to go.

I had a good ride and could feel the effort in my legs afterwards. I still had Freddie, our dog, to walk as well. And the bike to wash.


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