In this post, we introduce you to our second guest blogger and someone for whom mountain biking is much more than a fun activity; it's literally a lifeline.
My name is Kristin and I am originally from Massachusetts, but have roamed the country over the years, landing in places like Colorado Springs, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz (where I lived for 13 years and went to college), Minnesota and now Northern Colorado in the Loveland/Fort Collins area. When I'm not out riding my bike, I'm hiking! I run two websites about both of my passions, US-Parks.com for National Parks (soon to be including popular MTB destinations) and mtbtime.com (formerly Velohut.com) about mountain biking. Come say hi!
I started mountain biking at the age of 41. I was told by many that it might be tricker to pick up, primarily by fighting with nerves. Naturally, balancing and bike-specific skills that take a little extra confidence are nicer to learn when you're much younger, but that's not always how life works out.
I had actually tried mountain biking briefly some years back in Santa Cruz, CA, when I was in college, but it seemed everything was against me at the time. I'd sold my old Honda CBR600 motorcycle and turned that money into a Bontrager Privateer Comp mountain bike. It was a pretty slick bike and came highly recommended. I thought, "I'm set; let's do this!"
Unfortunately, I had a hard time finding anyone to go ride with. I was so skittish that I'd fall off a cliff and die that I really wanted someone to guide me. In trying to juggle college, studying and finding anyone to ride with, it just didn't seem to happen.
Now here I am and I've started again, 20-odd years later. Over the years, I carried a feeling deep down that I'd love mountain biking if I could just knuckle under and learn it. The perfect—but unfortunate—excuse came along in June 2014. I'd been fighting bone cancer for a while and my fight was becoming stagnant. My doctor and I discussed some options and decided to "up the ante" by me learning how to mountain bike. The full body workout was what he wanted for me, so it was time.
Learning mountain biking has turned out to be the best thing in the world for me. I've built up more physical and mental strength than I ever thought imaginable for myself in my situation. I have also picked up a tremendous amount of confidence along the way, which is a great added bonus. But learning didn't come without having to tackle some serious fears, much less some ugly stumbles. Stumbles suck. There's no other way to put it, but there's only one thing you can do when it happens: put it behind you. That or you quit, which was not an option for me. Not just because of my health, but because I was seriously enjoying the ride.
In the first three months, I had three falls: two over the handlebars and one that involved my old fear of tipping off the side of a cliff. I didn't exactly go down the cliff, but it sure made for a scary moment. That was actually my first fall, and it was 100 percent because I couldn't unclip fast enough to save myself. That's not to mean you won't but, for me, that was enough to toss the clipless and get myself some flat pedals and sticky-bottomed, bike-specific shoes. If you are considering flats, make sure to get a bike-specific pairing to improve your control and confidence. Since I got the hang of flats, my feet haven't come off the pedals.
The other two falls were simply frustrating. The first over-the-bars, and my worst overall crash, was due to my bike’s front tire “burping.” My tires were (and still are) set up as tubeless. Unfortunately, I'd listened to some poor advice and allowed my front tire pressure to get a little too low for the “tubeless-ready” (but not tubeless dedicated) wheels. Burping is when a tire is briefly pinched just enough for air to escape and then—BAM—no air. At a fast speed and slightly angled downhill, my tire suddenly and dramatically deflated and I flew over the bars. It was a tough crash that resulted in a couple of cracked bones and a concussion. It didn't stop me, though. The crash did make me rather paranoid and OCD about my tire setup and pressure, but it didn't stop me from getting back on the bike as soon as I healed.
The second over-the-handlebars crash was purely me not paying attention. Lesson learned. I just had a couple bruises, including one to my ego.
Normally, knowing me, just the fear of crashing would have stopped me from trying, and the actual crashing would have ended my mountain biking adventures. But neither have happened and those stumbles, in some ways, have helped me. They've changed my attitude about a lot of things, even my attitude on life. Things happen. Is it worth not trying something fun or giving up because something doesn't go right? To me, absolutely not.
I had those crashes and learned on a Specialized hardtail I named Donut. I leaned so much, fell so much in love with riding, that I'm now—already—on to a new Santa Cruz Tallboy full-suspension bike that I named Loki. Since I started mountain biking, I've had my highs and my lows but one thing is for sure, I haven’t changed my mind and there's no turning back for me now. I have the MTB bug and just want to keep learning: for fun, for skill, to help improve my safety. I just want to keep riding.
I'm glad I didn't listen to the suggestions that it might be harder for me to learn to ride a mountain bike at 41. It's playful, just like my attitude in life. Best thing, I'm cancer free since I started this adventure.
I'll be doing this for a long time.
I look forward to sharing my adventures with you. Hopefully most of them will be of me keeping the rubber side down!