Our friend Lisa asked me the other night what I thought about when I was riding my mountain bike. She knows I ride a lot and wondered what I was thinking as I bounced over the rocks and roots in the woods. I flippantly answered,” Nothing!” This is somewhat true in that if I am riding with friends or a fast group, I usually only can think about what is ahead of me, the person ahead of me, and the person behind me. More concentration than thought. With faster groups, I am trying to keep up as the 58 year old kid so there is not much going on in the gray matter other than concentrating to stay upright and not getting dropped. Racing was kind of like that too in that you were trying to hold your position or move up as well as maneuvering through obstacles. You really don’t think about much you just concentrate on your line.
I usually ride with a group of guys on Saturday morning and we do think a little bit more in that we try to solve the world’s problems on our rides. We have some interesting conversations but when the pace picks up, the conversation ceases and we just ride. But during the week, I mostly ride alone. It is here that I do think a lot more. Riding in the woods by yourself can be an enjoyable time and not necessarily a strenuous workout. I like to hike and mountain biking is a lot like hiking in these situations only you can cover a lot more ground. Whether I am traveling with my bike and seeing new places or riding on my standard trails at North Park or Seven Springs, I try to take the time to see things that I would not ordinarily see if I were riding with a group. In the spring for instance, I can see the new growth in the woods- wildflowers, ferns, etc. You can spot fawns trying to make their way in the world. All kinds of wildlife is visible if you just take the time to look- like hiking, only seeing more trail. The summer is fun in that you can run into friends. Like tonight. I ran into my friend Art walking his dogs. I stopped and chatted and we caught up after his winter teaching skiing in Vail. The fall is really great in that the leaves are starting to turn and the woods come alive with color. The weather is a little cooler and it is really enjoyable to just take your time and enjoy the spectacle of seasonal change in the mountains or your local forest. This is also the time to start to take your lights out and put them on your bike for the winter. Usually in the fall, you have to use your lights to finish your weekly rides afer work and when the time change comes, you definitely need them. Again, if you take your time on these weekly rides and don’t kill yourself on each ride, you can really enjoy the trails as they are illuminated. Riding at night is different but it is very enjoyable and can be done at slightly higher speeds than hiking.
I use mountain biking as a viable form of aerobic exercise. It is also challenging with the rocks, roots, climbs and descents. After a long day at work, sometimes it is good to blow out the cobwebs and ride hard only thinking about how to execute that next turn. But on other nights or evenings, maybe slow it down a little bit and enjoy the fact that there are no cars to deal with, not a lot of people, if any, and the peace in the woods can be enjoyed. Stop for a minute and appreciate the silence. The workplace can be noisy, classic rock can be overbearing, and the general stress of everyday living can be alleviated by a hike or accelerated hiking (mountain biking.) An interesting statistic is that 90 percent of all mountain bikes are never taken off the road. They are comfortable to ride and most people don’t use them in the mountains or the woods. So if you venture out on to your local trails or if you ride on a trip on the available trails, congratulate yourself. You are in the minority in that you ventured out of your comfort zone and hit the trails with a bike. If you are a expert racer or a rider who pushes himself or herself all the time, SLOW DOWN ONCE IN A WHILE! Chances are you are not going to the World Cup or the Olympics so enjoy the trails, the mountain scenery, the wildlife. Life is too short to kill yourself looking at the guy’s shorts in front of you all the time. Do a little hiking- do a little accelerated hiking. You will be toally relaxed when you get home and the problems from the day just vanish. Try it you’ll like it. Thanks for reading