About five years ago, before I started riding, mountain biking had never really crossed my mind. My husband and I participated in other extreme sports (whitewater kayaking, rock climbing, snowboarding, etc.) and a friend of ours who had been mountain biking for several years suggested we try it. So we went out, bought bikes, and embarked on a journey I never imagined was possible.
Mountain biking has impacted my life in so many ways. It has become a big part of who I am and what I do on a regular basis.
Many of what I consider my greatest accomplishments have come from my feats on the bike: getting all the way up a steep local hill without stopping, getting down my first gnarly downhill in one piece, getting used to clipless pedals and then going back to using platform pedals again, participating in my first race at Over the Hump, having several awesome companies support me this season (Fly Racing, Industry Nine, Petal Power, and Intense Cycles) and racing as a sponsored rider, and getting onto my first podium as a professional enduro racer at Mountain Bike Nationals in Mammoth this year.
Conversely, many of the lowest points in my life were also dealt to me by mountain biking: having my bikes stolen (twice), bonking on a ride, breaking my ankle and the subsequent recovery from that injury, trying to coach a high school team and realizing how much I still have to learn about the sport, numerous falls resulting in various injuries, trying to make the transition to racing on the professional level this year, and having a rough time keeping up with the other fast ladies I was racing against.
Mountain biking has taken me to many awesome places (mountains, deserts, forests, coastal areas), each with their own unique challenges, and introduced me to so many awesome people (fellow racers, awesome bike shop employees, random mountain bikers we encountered on the trails, and so many others). It has also brought my husband and I closer to each other while improving our biking skills together, getting through tough rides together, and getting away from the rat race of life by going out in God’s creation together.
In addition to these general accomplishments and challenges, mountain biking has also taught me 7 specific lessons about life:
1. Learn from your mistakes and failures.
Now why did I just fall trying to get over that obstacle? Why did I do so badly in that race? Think about things just enough to figure out why they happened and find a way to improve and do better next time. Don’t dwell on your mistakes too long, learn to laugh at yourself, and don’t take things too seriously.
2. Never underestimate yourself.
You won’t know where your limits are until you push yourself or find yourself being pushed to go further than you thought possible. Take that leap of faith and you may be surprised where you find yourself! Do those extra miles! Shift your weight back and take that drop!
3. Know your limits.
Sometimes you have to know when to say “no”. When you have that gut feeling that’s telling you not to go through with something, there is usually a reason for it. Something is telling you not to take that jump; skip it and try it again later with a friend who can coach you through it. You have an especially bad feeling about that long ride you are supposed to go on in a remote area? Your Camelbak is leaking and you feel like crap? Maybe it’s a sign you need to save the ride for another day and just take it easy for now (and go get a new Camelbak bladder).
4. Be the best “you” that you can possibly be.
There will always be someone faster, more knowledgeable, etc. Don’t let that stop you from using your unique abilities to be the best that you can be. No one else has the distinctive combination of gifts and talents that you have. There is only one you, and you are awesome!
5. Always be willing to lend a hand.
Remember those unique talents you have? You have those for a reason: it’s to help others! Show someone the best line through that rocky section or how to change that flat tire.
6. Be willing to ask for help.
I know it can be hard, but sometimes you can’t do it all on your own. We all want to be self-sufficient, but if we could do it all ourselves, there’d be no need for community. Let others use their talents to help you! Give them a chance to shine: they may teach you something awesome!
7. Have fun!
Isn’t that what mountain biking is all about? If it’s not fun, why do it? No matter how crazy the competition gets or how hard that climb is, you have to remember to have fun! Get to know those people you are racing with, and go for a fun ride together sometime. And that climb? Well, you gotta go up to go down! You are doing something awesome that not many people are able to do. Rock on! Put a squeaky horn on your handlebars that will make you smile when you look at it. Put those Shwings on your shoes, put your Team Sparkle skirt on (well, maybe not the dudes out there, but hey, if that’s your thing…), and show everyone how to have fun!
Your Turn: What have you learned about life from mountain biking?