There are many reasons I am so attracted to mountain biking, but at the top of the list is the fact that riding your bike provides you both freedom and adventure. On a bike, you can freely explore new terrain and seek out exciting adventures. Mountain bikers can go farther and faster in a shorter period of time, and this frees us up to see and experience things that many other non-cycling trail users will never see. When I am on my bike I am self-reliant, uninhibited and renewed with being at one with nature.
In life, we are passionate about a few very special things, and for us riders, the passion of spending a day on singletrack is what literally feeds our souls. I try to ride and train daily but this does not always work out due to real world responsibilities. We have to learn to work around our busy schedules and find time to escape – if for nothing else but your sanity.
Mountain biking fuels this with its adrenaline boost. It gets your heart racing and challenges you to push yourself to new and fun levels of pain and suffering. A tough climb, a rocky downhill singletrack that scares the crap out of you – being constantly challenged on every ride is very rewarding. But after a while the local trails begin to feel a little boring, maybe a little repetitive and much like the day-to-day life, your environment can become stale. This leaves me craving something different. They call it wanderlust – the desire to want to keep moving and experience new things and places.
Sometime it happens by choice, sometimes not, but moving gives you a fresh start; a new way of thinking and looking at life. Moving brings excitement back into your life and your riding. Not only have you changed your physical location, but your mental one as well. If you’re not excited by life then it begins to affect your riding and training. That is why a change of scenery is inspiring and often needed in order to avoid developing feelings of complacency.
Moving can renew your sense of discovery, adventure and freedom. I spent much my early years moving from state to state until I was nine; when my family finally settled in California. I spent the rest of my childhood in the same house and neighbourhood. Later, I started mountain biking in the hills behind my childhood house, and then in my twenties I moved to my own apartment. I went to college and lived in a few different places in the area, but never very far from my childhood home. I continued riding on the same trails for few more years until my husband and I had the opportunity to move to Colorado. I was unsure of the move because it would be big change from where I was currently living, but we went ahead. We decided it was worth the risk of moving to a place that we had never been to, and I had no idea if I would even like living there.
At the time I was not very confident about this move and why not…it was “over the hills and far away”! Further thought grounded me in the reality that Colorado is the mecca of mountain biking and I am a mountain biker – why shouldn’t I like it? There were positives and negatives about my Colorado move but in the end I learned a lot, made a few mistakes, felt the pain of adaptation, rode cool, new trails and saw places and things I never would have seen had I not taken the plunge.
Next was an opportunity to move to Arizona, which brought its unique take on living. What an amazing place! Two years later, I found myself once again back in California, about an hour from my childhood neighbourhood. This time it only took a couple of years before I found myself longing for new scenery. I was tired of my area, I was bored with the same old trails, and I was feeling restless for new adventures. I found that I was craving the thrill of a new place to live and ride; some place new where I can get an unsettling feeling in my stomach of getting lost on an unknown trail, have my heart race as I stare down an unfamiliar downhill, where I don’t know every line and may crash on the way down because of a huge rut I didn’t know was there. I realized now the nervousness and uncertainty I had felt when my making my decision about moving to Colorado was actually good for my soul and good for my riding.
Next time you are on a ride look long and hard at the trail that lies ahead and ask yourself does this trail make your pulse race, palms sweat, and put a stir in your soul? Even though this is your 523rd time down it? Be honest… it’s probably not giving you the same vibe it did so many seasons ago. So maybe you need to think about changing out the scenery, moving to the next level. Of course, moving just because you crave a new riding spot is neither practical nor feasible but in a sense the trail represents your life path: your job, your family, your sense of well-being.
The trail is only a part of your new life, where everything is shiny and fresh. Perhaps for many of us, becoming too comfortable, content or uninspired in our environment can be stifling. People crave new experiences, good or bad; we all want to fill our lives with exciting or challenging activities, which I think is why we are mountain bikers in the first place. We are adventure seekers who love to fly down dirt trails with nothing but a thin piece of rubber between us and the ground. We fight gravity to climb through pain and heat that would make most people cry, but we only think of the summit. We love to get dirty and love to push ourselves to the point of exhaustion. We crash, get hurt, heal and come back for more. We mountain bike because we don’t want to subscribe to the dull scripted life everyone else seems to live.
A few months ago, my husband and I were once again looking hard at the trail that lies ahead, and made the decision that it was time to move on to our new destination-sunny Southern California. The transition to our new location has been laborious (as moving and adapting always is) and subsequently there have many obstacles that we have had to deal with. Heavy competition for housing, dealing with movers not showing up, long drives back and forth from the San Francisco Bay area to Southern California almost every weekend, and adjusting to a new job. The move also put a crimp in my training but the beauty of moving is its new beginnings.
These are growing pains, leading to strength. As we are running around getting settled in, a glance up to the mountains around our new neighbourhood reveals ribbons of singletrack weaving through the yet unexplored hills. We cannot wait till we unpack the bikes and head off in their direction. If we are lucky, we will get lost enough on them to make it fun when we find our way again. Thinking about my new place and the endless and exciting mountain biking possibilities makes me feel renewed and energized. Sure, I left friends in my old city but I will make new friends, have new conversations with new neighbours, compete in new mountain bike races and find new bike shops to visit. New Strava segments await! My family still lives in the SF bay area so I will be going back for holidays, and I will bring my bike and hit a trail or two for old time sakes, but it will be a temporary flashback. In order to keep growing, you must keep moving.
Never be satisfied with the same old same old, it’s all about the journey. I will always continue to seek new places and new adventures because I have the wanderlust.
Michelle Lambert is a cycling obsessed resident of Southern California. She loves being outside, training, and exploring new trails. Michelle has been racing cross-country mountain bikes off and on, and five years ago she took up cyclocross as well.