The Mountain Bike Life

Every single one of you will find, or perhaps have already found, yourself in a bit over your head on the trail. Maybe you find yourself ¾ of the way down a *much* too steep section of lava rock with no conceivable way to go other than sideways. Maybe you’ve decided that gravity riding is the discipline for you, only to immediately change your mind the instant your wheels leave the ground. Perhaps you’re just having a terrible first day in your new clipless pedals. Regardless of what the reason is, pretty close to everyone will wind up thinking to themselves, “oh shit I wish I hadn’t ridden this part!” Usually, that thought is followed by quite a few more colourful curses, then a large crash as you and your bike hit the ground. So, the question is, how do you keep yourself out of those situations?

This is about to hurt, real bad. See that step, right where the log points? I didn’t.

1: Look before you leap! One of the best signs I’ve seen on the trails is a huge, ugly, bright yellow monstrosity staked at the top of an in-construction downhill run. The trail builders have written “GO SLOW UNTIL YOU KNOW” on it, primarily because they’ve been changing the course and adding new jumps and obstacles. However, the sentiment is a good one, particularly when you’re in a wholly new area and riding on trails that you haven’t seen before. If you come blasting down a trail the first time you see it, chances are you’re not going to have time to stop when you finally come into a section you can’t/don’t want to ride. Slamming on the brakes as you go down a rock face, through a rock garden, or off of a jump is pretty close to the best way to get yourself damaged (second only to being the guy that files off his “Lawyer Tabs”, then forgets to tighten his front wheel. Yes, I’m talking about you Stan!).

2: Commit! Commit commit commit! It’s a scary word, I know, but if you aren’t 100% committed to riding the section, and you lose your nerve halfway through, you’ll be in a much, *much* worse position than you would have been. Really, this is just a continuation of step one. If you get off and walk the section before you ride it, then decide you still want to ride it, then do it! If you decide it’s too rough/steep/slick and you want to walk it, then do it! Just don’t decide halfway through that you want to be walking instead.

I looked, and I leapt, but there are some things you can’t deal with on a rigid frame. On the other hand, I have a cool scar/story to tell!

3: If you can’t commit, Get Off! Seriously, you’re about a thousand times more likely to fall over if you try to stop halfway through the section. If you’re in clipless, those spots are where your really embarrassing, really painful, glacially slow tip-overs will happen. Honestly, there’s no shame in walking! If you push yourself and try to ride the section but wind up eating it, then at least you have a good story to tell and you know what went wrong. If you try to quit halfway through, fall over, break your wrist and snap your derailleur cage off, everyone is going to laugh at you while you’re dying of boredom trying to pay your bike and hospital bills. If you walk it, either no one knows, or they say “hey good idea (wo)man, just hit it when you’re ready!” Just be careful you don’t step on ice and fall down while you’re walking a section – I’ve done that before, and it’s not pretty.

The take-away lesson here is to be decisive in your adventures. If you decide to ride it, you better not change your mind. If you decide to walk it, well, try it next time you’re out there! Consider even just walking through it a couple times and looking at the section (everything looks bigger from the uphill side), then riding it! Whatever you choose to do, though, stick with it. Don’t change your mind halfway through.

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