Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Gone mountainbiking

As those of you know who've gone cycling with me, I'm not the most adventurous or bold on the bike. Actually I'm afraid of almost everything: downhills, curves, other riders, dogs, kids, slippery road markings... you name it. Having said that, I guess it's not a surprise to anyone when I admit that mountainbiking hasn't exactly been one of my strengths either. Whenever I've had an encounter with a rock, a root or a left hand turn (don't ask) I tend to freeze completely.

Nevertheless, ever since I started cycling as a 16-year-old former cross country skier and runner, there's been something really fascinating about mountainbiking. But I went forward with road and track racing and never really learned even the basic skills for the mtb stuff. I managed to ride trough the Finlandia mtb alive and in one piece in 2009, but after the knee injury in 2010 I spent five years with no mountainbiking at all as I was so scared of getting injured again.

Riding up towards the Morteratsch Glacier. 
Being ridiculous having climbed up on to Corviglia (2486m), before I knew what I had ahead of me in the downhill.
Bike shopping.
A year ago I suddenly wanted to have a mountainbike again, so I went and bought one. The 27,5'' hardtail was meant to be my commute ride and I spent hours and hours on it on the local gravel roads and easy trails. My 1hr commute kept constantly turning into 2,3 or 4-hour commutes as it was a lot of fun to be on the mtb instead of just sitting bored in the saddle of the roadbike and as I got the stress fracture in my heel, I couldn't do much else than go cycling.

But what really got me hooked was the trip to Swiss alps in september. I had my roadie with me there but rode with it just once as I got to borrow a full suspension mtb and went to explore the mountain trails with it. I must say I preferred the climbing part, but with a couple of tears and biting my teeth together I even managed to ride down the Corviglia flow trail. I was pretty horrified for the first couple of minutes and nowhere near as smooth as the guys on the video clip below, but I think going down that 4km downhill (after climbing 1h15min just to get to ride it) was the moment when I knew I had to go bike shopping, again, as soon as I got back home.

So the second day after getting back home I was gazing at some full suspension bikes at a bike shop. I had been thinking I'd be too short for a 29er with my 171cm of height, but as I tried one with a small 16,5'' frame, it felt good and well.. that bike also went home with me. I've never really understood people who say they love their bikes, but if there's one bike I love, it must be this full suspension 29er. From the first ride together I noticed it was making up for all the lack of skills and took me anywhere I was daring enough to try to go.

During october and november I spent some really fun hours on the local single tracks trying to get better. I was nice to notice that every ride I learned something new and every ride I also got more and more bold to try new things or ride over a tricky (for me) section I hadn't been able to do earlier. Most of the rides I did with boys who were a lot more skilled than I was and also a lot stronger otherwise. That forced me to just go over some rocky paths I never thought I could handle, just to keep up with them.

In the winter months the Fuel was enjoying his hibernation as I was basically just out on my skis or doing some laps with the road bike on the indoor running track in the early mornings. The hibernation continued quite long as the Mallorca trip got me to like road cycling again and I kind of forgot how it fun it is to go mountainbiking. Until last week.

Fuel in the sun, pictured on one of my favorite single tracks in backyard forest.

Fuel in the muddy trails.
Best part of riding a bike? Getting to wear silly socks!
It was pure happiness again from the first pedal stroke and I was happy to see the small babysteps I took forward with my mtb skills last autumn where still there and I even managed to ride some single tracks I wasn't able to do before the hibernating period. Someone once said to me I'd have to let the bike do the work and try not to steer it too hard. It took me quite a few years to understand what it meant, but I think I now have a little hang of just sitting there and going with a nice flow over the rocks and roots.

And don't get me wrong, I still suck - big time - in mountainbiking, but maybe a little less than before. I've also noticed a big difference in the daring part. It's been a good training for the head, as I've again noticed I can ride very tricky looking sections if I just decide I'm going to make it. But if I start to hesitate and let the fear kick in, I fail. Every single time. The same "fearlessness" has also transferred to open roads and I've managed to wipe away some of the anxiety there has been since the 2010 injury. I've really enjoyed the rides this spring as I've not been so afraid of falling and getting hurt all the time. Or actually, I've only been afraid of falling and getting hurt once on the bike this spring and it was when I was coming down the Cura descent in the monster wind when I almost couldn't keep my bike on the road.

But it seems sun's out and it looks like the Fuel is eager to go out explore the trails again. So bye and have a nice day!


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