Today marks my long anticipated return to the sport of mountain biking, after a semester in Paris, France. Despite my best efforts while abroad, I rarely even found the chance to ride a bike on the street, let alone some trails. It was the longest I’ve ever gone without riding a bike for any reason, and it was seriously challenging. I got my sweat on and ran quite a bit in the past four months, but living in a big city for the first time in my life presented me with this unique feeling of being caged; I couldn’t mountain bike, hike, or even walk through the woods. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up with incredibly accessible outdoor activities year-round, and being away from that made me a bit stir-crazy. I was beyond relieved to return to my New Jersey-an farm land, and of course get back on the bike.
I hopped on my old road bike a few times as soon as I got home, and was shocked at the openness immediately surrounding my town–something I had grown up with, and never fully grasped until I lived so far away from it. After I got over the jet-lag and had a few family parties, I sat in the garage cleaning my bikes and replacing the front tube on my mountain bike. I waited for a sunny day, and set out on the drive in my Jeep I had been daydreaming about since January.
Halfway through the drive to the 6-Mile Run trail network in Somerset, NJ, I look into my rearview mirror and find a strange absence on the bike rack. Cue expletives. After going back home to grab my bike and helmet–the two most essential items for going on a bike ride–I was (re)ready to hit the trails. Unfortunately, between my busy schedule and the whole forgetting the bike fiasco, I had left myself with only an hour to ride.
Once I arrived, I wasted no time and went as fast as I could for a half hour, only stopping to take photos. Having only spent a half hour on the trails, turning around was the last thing I wanted to do; I knew most of the trails in there, and I knew exactly what I was missing out on. I had hardly scratched the surface, yet I was turning around. I wish I could weave this into some kind of metaphor about leaving myself with something new to explore on my next adventure, but that would be a load of crap. If I had all day, I would have ridden all day. Damnit.
It was surreal to get on the bike again, I really can’t explain it. The day before, when I was cleaning it up, I took it around the driveway, and just feeling the bike beneath me was such a comfortable presence. I was riding in the driveway slamming on the front brake and pulling endos in my flip flops and pajamas on a rainy Tuesday morning. The following day was the same surreal feeling, just with a Camelpak, Vans sneakers, and some really awesome trails.
Never take for granted that feeling of pressing down on a disc brake, or the studs on the pedals beneath your feet, or hopping up and down on your suspension in the parking lot before you ride the trails, your body tense with potential energy, flexed and ready to take a beating. Never take for granted that god-awful soreness you feel all day, but do take some Advil.