All I could taste was dust; unsure if my throat was raspy from the thirst or from the dust that seemed to now coat my mouth and oesophagus I pedaled on gripping to the handle bars tightly just hoping that I wouldn’t fall down the side of the hill. All I could hear was the instructor from behind me yelling encouragingly for me to ‘stand-up’ – but that would be the quickest way to fall off the bike, wouldn’t it?
I should have run the opposite direction as soon as they brought out the full-face helmet, or at least be worried when I was pulling on all the body pads, and not those fun ones you put on when learning to rollerblade. Instead the want to run didn’t come until I was flying down the first track, dirt hanging in the air from the riders before me, bouncing my way over tree roots and rocks, and praying to a deity to save me from this mad form of torture that people thought was ‘fun’.
The group I was with – a family, a mountain biking enthusiast, my travel partner and two kick-ass instructors – had all ridden before and I lagged behind the group, just in front of the tail instructor who must have been getting sick of me to “stand up!” as we bounced my way down the side of hills.
Winter Park Resort, one of Colorado’s top resorts, is a beautiful place – the ride up on the ski life proved that – but bumping my way down the side of a mountain which is covered in snow for 6-months a year on a way-too-springy-for-my-liking-bike was not my idea of the best way to see it!
My fear of falling off, my bike or over the side of the thin winding paths, was overcoming me and each time I caught up to the group, patiently waiting for me, my chest tightened and the padding I was in became claustrophobic I fumbled to unbuckle the helmet, ripping off the restrictive gloves, and peel back the body padding that was sticking to me care of the thin layer of sweat forming on my skin from a mixture of the physical exertion and also the panic that left me shaking. It wasn’t just the fear of falling though, it was the fear of failing.
I love a good adventure but, when reflecting on my adventures to date, they have all been adventures that I know I would succeed at. Hiking Kings Canyon? Easy. Camel riding? Could do it in my sleep. Running with the Bulls? Easy mate!
Whilst I’d grown up riding a bike around the flat cityscape of Adelaide, riding a mountain bike down the back paths of what is usually a ski run was the first thing that I wasn’t so confident in.
Scratch that, I was petrified.
Still the little voice inside me was controlled by the adrenaline that released each time my wheels skidded out from under me, or when I got air as I raced over a bump in the ground.
And then the girl who was riding in front of me skidded off the track.
Taking my feet off the pedals I skidded to a stop leaving a dust cloud in my wake, my worst fear was coming true but it wasn’t happening to me. She laid crumpled on the ground whilst her Dad hugged her, telling her everything was alright, whilst the rear riding instructor inspected at her grazed knee. When asked if she wanted to keep going though, despite the blood and the tears, she nodded and begun to strap her helmet on.
This girl had taken a tumble, into a tree no less, and was bleeding, and still she got back up to finish our ride. I wanted to give up because I was afraid of falling and in turn, failing.
I’d been watching Batman a lot and the situation reminded me of a quote from Batman Begins:
Alfred: Why do we fall, Sir? So we might learn to pick ourselves up.
I was bubble-wrapping myself. By being to afraid to fall I was toning down the experience with my overcautious nature, over thinking each move I took to take the path that would involve the least bruising and blood. The sensible path that instead of protecting me left me grasping onto the handle bar for dear life and hoping that the end of the run would show up.
It was time to fall and learn to pick myself up.
When our instructor said “up!” I, slowly, stood up on the pedals into a squat position. My thighs burned as I still bumped over the dirt track but I was doing it – I was mountain biking. A big whoop came from behind me as she cheered me on telling me to “stand strong” as my confidence waned in the corners or as we cycled over rock patches. It wasn’t long before I was smiling – genuinely smiling – and coming around to perhaps liking this new form of torture I had discovered.
I got bolder the longer we road – skidding out in a corner, getting little bits of air as I went over some of the smaller jumps in the track – despite still being cautious the thrill of the ride began to take over and I was able to speed up or stay standing longer, I was also able to
Seeing the asphalt road come into view inwardly I was breathing a sigh of relief, I’d escaped unharmed; but I was also a little sad to be coming to the end of my first mountain biking experience having finally gained some confidence in my abilities. Perhaps I’ll be back for more next summer, with 40 miles of bike tracks I don’t think I’d get bored quickly!
Have you ever been mountain biking?
Trestle Bike Park – Winter Park Resort
Where is: Winter Park Resort is 67 miles outside of Denver, Colorado (approx. 1.25hrs drive)
Cost: US$79 for Trestle 101: Downhill Biking Intro – 3.5hrs (inc. all hire, half day lift ticket, guide)
Mountain bike riding at Winter Park Resort was part of a press trip organised by
Winter-Park/Fraser Valley Tourism.
As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.