My wife tells everyone that I was born with a bicycle between my legs. Well not quite but I have loved cycling for as long as I can remember. I was a dedicated road and track snob back in my youth and my first experience on a mountain bike was lets say humbling. It was a few years after my first mountain biking ride that I got my own and started to hit the trails The trails back then were nothing compared to the trails today. After a gap of more years that I care to think about I got back to mountain biking and the Pacific Northwest has some amazing trails. I started back dedicated to my hard tail but it took one ride on a full suspension bike to change my mind.
Crystal Mountain 2014
As my confidence grew I found myself tearing down trails and wondering why it took me so long to get back out in the woods. The more I rode the more I encountered the new style of riding and it filled me with a mixture of abject fear and excitement. Every fiber in my body wanted to hit those jumps but just looking at them made me go cold. For the longest time I stuck to traditional cross country. That is until Thanks Giving 2013 when a few friends and I rode Duthie Hill and pushed each other to do things we had avoided until then.
Duthie Hill 2013
Pandora's box was open and it felt good. From that day on, my confidence increased and I went looking for bigger jumps and higher drops. Each time finding that mixture of adrenaline, fear and excitement. For me it was like a drug but in the back of my mind was the nagging feeling that things could go horribly wrong. But each time I pushed that feeling to one side and pushed harder.
Nearly every ride I would come back with a new cut or bruise but I would tell myself "if you don't mess up you are not pushing hard enough". The harder I trained the bigger the crashes. On one ride I split my helmet endoing at the top of a crest after getting the take off wrong. Well the rest is history and it turns out that staying safe is a pretty sensible thing to do.
My advice to anyone getting into air and jumps is have fun but know the consequences. I lost it because I was afraid of the jump and that fear drove me to take on a jump I was not ready for. Ironically on another day in a parallel universe I approach it with a different mind set and crushed it. But I live in the universe and the outcome was well not good.. What I should have done is respected the fear and accepted enough was enough. There is always another trail and another challenge and just because you can do it does not mean you have to, or even should do it.
Remember when you are out there your state of mind is just as much a part of safe riding as having the skills. If you hit it, hit it with confidence and commit.
Happy trails and max life out - every day is a gift...