“I rode a mountain bike for the first time last night…it was amazing! I had so much fun!”
I have heard this statement from three women in the past month. I love hearing this for many reasons, but mainly because it reminds me of when I first started riding a mountain bike four years ago in Whitehorse, YT; a place where I fell in love with many things, and a place I just went back to visit.
My second mountain bike ride EVER, I was clipped into a bike that was a bit too small for me, riding off-camber rooty trails around the Hidden Lakes just outside of the city of Whitehorse—it was not my favourite ride. However, I was sent on this ride by my now hubby, and I was determined to come back with a smile on my face; for him and for me. The smile was as crooked as the trail, but the fleeting moments of success had me hooked. I was soon borrowing bikes whenever possible—on flat pedals—and within three months I owned my first bike; a Marin Mount Vision, (which I have just sold to one of the new riders that inspired this article, allowing me to buy a shiny new Norco Sight! Hooray!)
While learning to ride the singletrack in Whitehorse, the adrenaline and the beauty of the trails mixed together into a blissful meditation. I was also falling a lot but the feeling of picking myself up and carrying on down the trail far outweighed the pain of the tumbles.
Kate White, a great mentor for me, teaches biking and rides with the biggest smile you can imagine. She is also an inspirational NDP MLA in Whitehorse, YT. When I was learning, Kate would hold my bike steady for me while I stood in ‘ready’ position. She shook the bike from side to side, my knees bent and elbows out, prompting me to stay centred. Realizing that I could maneuver my bike and stay stable, I ventured onto the trails with renewed confidence.
Suddenly, the berms were mini rollercoasters—not squeaky, jerky, awkward corners. These moments, these ‘awakenings’ on the trail, are what keep me excited about biking. Mastering a bit more trail every ride was—and still is—so rewarding. I would make it over a root—although the roots in Whitehorse are pretty small—or ride over the ‘rollable rocks’ instead of walking around them. I would look a few feet ahead instead of at the ground under my front wheel and finally, I would feel the flow of a trail.
I have been living on Vancouver Island for three years now, but this past month I was lucky enough to have a short period of time in Whitehorse and go for a ride with Kate. One trail we rode on Mount Mac is named “Collective”. My boyfriend actually started the trail, then it was worked on by some friends when we left, and finally the Whitehorse City Trail Crew, who are actually paid by the city of Whitehorse, finished it off with connecting trails and beautiful bridges. It was great to merrily roll along, grinning because I was having such a great ride, and then realize that these are the trails that caused me so much grief as a beginner. Sometimes we forget how far we have come.
“Lead with your belly button,” said Kate. The berms that I learned on four years ago —that are on a super fun trail called “Can Can”— became smoother with more instruction. Again, I progress forward, feeling the joy of knowledge and just a little bit more freedom on my bike.
Some physical set backs this month (raise your hand if you’re over 40 and have a bad back!), have forced me to ride shorter trails with less climbs. Today, as I cruised through the cool forest at 6am to avoid the heat, I played a game with myself. I started off in my hardest gear and then I made myself look ahead at least 15 feet. Every time I did that for a count of ten, I could go to an easier gear. Every time I looked down at the trail in front of me, I dropped to a harder gear. It made my ‘easy’ ride feel like a very important lesson and it also helped me remember how fun it is to try and master this two-wheeled addiction.
I am a lucky gal who has a boyfriend who is the most passionate mountain biker I have ever met; a bike mechanic/coach; and the most understanding patient person on the planet. Now, four years into our personal and biking relationship, I have let the door to instruction fly open. I am ready to listen. From being sent out onto the off-camber rooty trails of the hidden lakes, to finding love on two wheels and off, I thank the Whitehorse Collective for a great four years, and I look forward to many more.
So now, when I hear the words, “I rode a mountain bike for the first time last night!” I want to inspire you to ride with a big smile on your face. Even if the smile comes after a few tumbles, there’s no better place to smile than on a bike. And if you want to roll over a rock and a slippery root, you will. But if you just want to count to ten in the beautiful woods on a cool crisp morning, then be there and enjoy that. That is what it is all about. Get on your bikes and ride, there’s always something good out there for you.