Learning to mountain bike is a bit like dancing. Let’s go with the Electric Slide. Sometimes you step forward, sometimes you take a step back and sometimes you look awkward and spastic like Elaine on Seinfeld. I write this after experiencing a week of mostly moving backwards.
I have crashed more in the last two rides than I have in the last 6 months. What makes it most frustrating is that a few days before my string of crashes, I had my best run on the Downieville downhill course. The trails of the Sierra Buttes have become my MTB learning playground. Easy place to learn, right? I am thankful to have this area as my MTB stomping grounds, but it also chews you up and spits you right back out. For those unfamiliar with the area, you get a little bit of everything. Rocky, loose and steep as well as smooth and fast, while descending 15 miles of trail and dropping almost 5,000 ft in elevation. Can I clear everything on my best day? No. Don’t be ridiculous. I just started riding two years ago. That is one of the awesome things about the area. I am far from outgrowing it and relish the days I can clear that next obstacle.
Well two weeks ago, it was a beautiful run. It was my first run down the course for the year and I crushed it. I cleared about 5 separate rocky sections that I had walked all last year. I also topped my max speed down Third Divide trail hitting 40mph. Yes! It’s a new year. I am a whole new MTB shredding chick. Progress is happening. I was pumped. I drove away from Downieville so excited to continue to grow from this new found skill and confidence on the bike.
A few days later… over the handle bars. Thankfully I am quite talented at falling. I have perfected the art of “relax, tuck and roll.” It prevented anything more than some scrapes and bruises resulting from my crash. I shook it off. I told myself that it wasn’t a big deal and continued on with my ride, albeit a little slower. The following weekend I was back in my playground, excited to build on my previous performance. Well, I walked sections I had cleared the previous week, I crashed twice, and I rolled the rest of the way like it was one of my first MTB rides. All of the fear, hesitation, and self-doubt from when I first started riding came rushing back. What made it worse was knowing that I could do it because I had done it already. It sucked.
As I work my way out of my self-loathing funk, I am trying to give myself a break. I am doing awesome. I’ve only been on a MTB for a couple of years and am already accomplishing a lot. Sometimes you just have to remind yourself that on the trail to success, you will fail, and that’s okay. Enjoy the dance. Who cares if you take after Carleton shaking it to the jams of Tom Jones. Who cares really? No one, but you. What does it matter that I walked some sections last weekend. Let my newbie MTB freak flag fly! I will look like a dork sometimes and I need to accept it. I’m still learning. Long story short. Get your groove on! Do your thang. Who cares if you stumble a bit or sometimes take more steps back then forward? Make it your own dance. Have fun. Embrace your inner Elaine.