Loving the Mountain Bike Life

It’s a funny thing, this mountain bike life. To choose to love a mountain biker is to choose to love this crazy life. It became very quickly apparent when I met Rivers that he has a passion for mountain biking that was completely missing in my life. And I was pretty sure that if I wanted to see much of him during summer months (oh, I was so naive) I should take an interest in this ‘hobby.’ But I had no idea that it’s so much more than a hobby – it’s a lifestyle. And, I reiterate, to love a mountain biker is to choose to love the mountain bike life.

 It started simply enough. A pair of ugly shorts I wouldn’t normally be caught dead in. Even uglier undershorts – a combination of lycra and padding that I can’t believe I spent good money on. A borrowed helmet and gloves, and off we’d go. Now and then. Me on Rivers’ hardtail number 2 bike. And then, sometime this spring, the progression. Rides a bit more frequently. My own helmet. A used backpack with hydration pouch. A spare pair of Rivers’ gloves, complete with funky mountain biker smell.

And finally. At long last and after a few negotiations, my very own bike. She may not be much to hardened mountain bikers, my Giant Trance from several models ago, but she’s a perfect steed for me. Oh, I guess a girl bike can’t be a steed … well … you know what I mean. She’s blue and fits me perfectly. And oh, that lady saddle – I do so love my lady saddle.

Suddenly, I’m looking at parts and gear. Handle grips. Better ugly shorts. Ugly shoes that will stick to my pedals better, probably with covered laces. My own gloves, sans funky smell. A month ago I said “but I don’t have a bike category in my budget.” That’s no longer true.

After one month of bike ownership, I already understand the “how many bikes does a mountain biker need? 1 more than they currently have” truth. I mean, clearly it doesn’t make sense to ride a full-suspension bike to commute to work. Surely I need a commuter bike for that. Something that looks cute with a skirt, preferably.

The buying is one thing, but I’m also learning that the gear can’t help a hopeless rider. I’ve not necessarily progressed skill and fitness-wise as quickly as I’d like. Mostly because it’s been winter and I’m a wuss. But I have progressed enough to see a few differences. To remember to hold my feet flat on downhills. To ‘almost’ remember to gear up BEFORE I lose momentum on a climb. But I’m not really talking here about the riding or the gear. I’m talking about the way mountain biking informs our life.

I LOVE that Rivers takes the time to teach me about the sport so that we can share it together. I also love his friends – the circle of guys who will drop anything to get up early on the weekend and hit the hills, then chill at the house after and re-visit each run over beers and BBQ. I love the way they constantly try to improve, and encourage each other to improve.

I love that we’re looking for a new home, and that along with the three bedrooms and two bathrooms we need space for bike storage and bike maintenance. And room for those post-ride beer and BBQ sessions.

It’s been a while – decades, perhaps – since I’ve gotten to play in the outdoors with the freedom and abandon that mountain biking affords me. But it’s sure strange to me at times.

Today I found myself standing beside the car. Completely exhausted, watching the water drip off my bike and the mud cake on my legs. Ugly shorts over uglier shorts. Bright yellow and grey jersey. Helmet & ponytail hair. This is not who I am 99% of the time.

I’m a pumps and pencil skirts girl. My perfect day involves the spa, white wine, chocolate and dinner out. I like tea in china cups. The happiest I thought I could be was in a corsetted, strapless, 14 petticoat ball gown and silver mary-jane dance shoes.

I rely on my mind for my vocation and my interests. I spend my money adventuring in foreign lands, and luxuriating close to home, not finding new ways to explore local hills. And I have no real plans to give any of those things up.

And yet, there I was. Dirty, exhausted, poorly dressed, and immeasurably happy. The distance between who I thought I was and who stood beside that car today is incredible. This sport really is becoming my life.

Did I mention that I (mostly) love it?

Note: this post was first blogged on a former site in March 2012 and reposted shortly after by the Mudd Bunnies female riding club in Vancouver. It has been moderately updated for use on The Mountain Bike Life. 

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