Many people send us photos of them wearing their gear on incredible rides. We finally stopped salivating over the pictures long enough to ask some of them to tell us about those rides in more detail. We thought we’d share and start a guest blogger series. For our first installment, Phaedra - a wizard of words and a local cyclist in Richmond, Virginia, shares a formative experience of hers on the James River Trail system. Enjoy.
I’ve been a roadie for a long while. And even though I still love road rides as much as ever, let’s face it, it can get a little boring. Staring at someone’s rear end – uh wheels – for so long can make you crazy. On one of those 45-milers two years ago I decided it was finally time to try mountain biking. Trails! Nature! Loose comfortable clothing! Technical challenges! I was tired of looking at asphalt and my friends’ spandex-clad butts. It was time for something new, something with a little more style.
I got myself a full-suspension Giant Lust and some comfy baggy shorts and starting throwing myself at the James River Trail system. I’m sure you know what’s next. Pretty much every mountain biker I have ever known has broken some bone somewhere at some point, and I was no exception. A year into it, I broke my arm on a shifty rock drop on the Buttermilk trail.
Honestly, I had no business being on Buttermilk that early in the game. The James River Park system is a gorgeous network of several trails that offers everything I had dreamed of on those monotonous road rides – nature, trees, flowing water (and no cars!). I started off riding Belle Isle, a family-friendly loop with a few optional log piles and tree roots to play with. Then I moved up to Forest Hill Park, which added more obstacles and some steep climbs. After that I struggled onto North Bank – an intermediate strip of trail along the James River with a ridiculous amount of rocks.
I wasn’t yet ready for Buttermilk, the oldest trail in the park system and by far the gnarliest. But a friend suggested we ride it, and I didn’t even see the steep s-foot drop by Reedy Creek until I was right on top of it. I braked, flipped and the landing ate my left elbow.
Last week, after many months of healing, it was time to go back.
I enlisted a few trusted friends as spotters and off we went. I tackled the first part of the trail just fine, and then up came My Rock. We stopped, looked at it, talked about what line to take, and I watched a few of my pals roll down it. Then it was my turn.
I felt like I was going to barf, but I feel like that with any new cycling challenge – my first Gran Fondo, my first century, even my first time clipping in with new pedals. What if I failed? What if I looked stupid? What if I came in last? What if my friends laughed?
Screw all that. I glared down the trail and took off, headed for the drop. Eyes forward, butt back, arms bent, crouched low over the seat, here it came…..and I sailed right over it. Slam dunk, baby! New skill mastered, fear conquered.
Broken bones or not, I will never give up mountain biking. I love it for the same reasons I took up cycling in the first place. It challenges me, there is always something new to learn, it makes me feel strong, and of course, beers after the ride. Plus, I look a hell of a lot better in a mountain bike kit than spandex.
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