Okay, so my birthday isn't until the 27th. But my birthday came early this year. Last weekend, I went over to Blake's, only to find the most beautiful gift ever, waiting for me in the kitchen (see above). It's a Specialized Safire, full supsension, all carbon, with something called a "brain" that adjusts the shocks automatically depending on the terrain you're on. Bitchin'! Hmmm. My bike has a brain? Kinda scary. Wonder if it can help me with some of my physics lessons for teaching...Anyway, I named him "Montana" since I'm a 49'ers fan, and his colors are gold with some red.
I have been learning to mountain bike recently. The learning curve is pretty steep. I think the transition from road to trail is much harder than the other way around. Sure I have the endurance but I lack the technical skills. I have to accept that I will fall off the bike from time to time. And I lack the anaeorobic power bursts necessary to get up short, steep hills. But I've been bravely tackling my fears and doing it enough times that it was starting to get fun. However, I was riding an old Trek hardtail that I bought used for $200. Boy, did I get my money's worth on trusty ole' Rocky (that was her name).
Not knowing the difference, I thought feeling like you were atop a jackhammer on the downhills was normal. On the uphills, Rocky jerked, twisted, and bucked on every pebble like a frisky horse on a cool autumn day. We skidded all over the sand. Sometimes, we crashed. The back end was always swishing, sliding and slipping out from under me. Needless to say, not knowing if my bike was going to stay upright on some of the bumps was not good for my confidence.
I took Montana for a test ride. We rode a trail I had traversed earlier on Rocky. It included some of my infamous nemeses: rocky creekbeds, deep sand, water crossings, and downhill switchbacks. I had walked much of it last time, frustrated and nearly in tears. I winced as we careened down the switchbacks, sure that I was going to fall to my death. I carefully opened my eyes at the bottom. Not only was I still atop the bike, I hadn't even felt a bump. I was certain we had gone over some rocks.
Montana and I continued on. My eyes must have deceived me. Several largish rocks appeared in our path, yet they seemed to disappear under me as we rode through. I couldn't feel them at all. It was like riding a Cadillac. For the first time, I felt courageous on the trail. I trusted my bike. I started seeing how fast I could go down the trail, trying to see if I could catch up to Blake. I had never been able to do that before, always afraid Rocky would skid uncontrollably out from under me at top speeds. The faster we went, the smoother the ride. We blasted through water and soared through a dry creekbed, riddled with large boulders, piled atop each other like a 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. Somehow, amazingly, I didn't fall. Not even close. Montana just floated on top of them with something I discovered that had been sorely lacking before: momentum. What a concept.
On the way home, I finally got brave enough to jump a curb for the first time. I had never been able to muster up the courage to do it. I didn't let myself think about it for too long. I just pointed Montana at the curb, and pulled up the front wheel when we were close. And that was it. It was that simple. The rest of the bike followed easily.
This weekend, we're going to a mountain bike race in Baja. I'm just doing the "fun" ride (34 miles) but I'm super excited to get some one-on-one time with my new toy!