For about 12 years I have been trying to love mountain biking. And simply liking it won’t do. I have been trying to love mountain biking just as much as I love hiking, dancing, running, climbing, camping, writing, reading.
But it has finally occurred to me that I just don’t love mountain biking. In fact, I don’t even really like it.
This breakthrough in my psyche happened a few weeks ago in Bryce Canyon National Park (remember when national parks were still open? Those were the days). I was biking the Thunder Mountain trail, which is utterly magnificent in its scenery and if you love mountain biking it is a trail you should not miss. Even if you don’t love mountain biking, you might want to hike a portion of it or grit your teeth and bike because the landscape is miraculous! But I digress.
Thunder Mountain is no easy trail. It is extremely technical single-track that gives no mercy. On the onset to biking this trail, I resisted the idea. I contemplated hiking by myself instead of going biking. But I went. And almost immediately felt ridiculously frustrated, annoyed, scared, like it was the end of the world.
A good part of my frustration was that I had run nine miles up a canyon the day before and didn’t eat enough to compensate for both running and an attempt at a rigorous bike trail. Word to the wise: Eat enough for your physical activities!!!!
My lack of calories (oh, and did I mention the allergies that were plugging up my nose? Note: I NEVER have allergies) combined with some pent-up frustrations with life resulted in a bike ride that was both horrific and enlightening. It’s interesting how frequently those two qualities go together.
As I was trying to climb steep hills while only breathing through my mouth; while I was trying to force my legs to keep going despite their insistence that I needed more food that wasn’t available; while I was momentarily hating life; I asked a question: Why do I always resist going on a bike ride and then mentally complain the whole time?
The answer was obvious and simple: I just don’t really like mountain biking.
When this seemingly innocuous answer struck me as I walked my bike down a stretch of trail I was too scared to attempt, I knew I had more thinking to do. Because an answer like that, while beneficial, just won’t do for an over-thinker like myself.
As I continued to make my way up and down this trail that was supposed to only be 14 miles (not that many in biking terms) but seemed to go on and on and on and on, I maintained an interior monologue asking myself what exactly I didn’t like about my current situation, and biking trails I had endured before it.
I came up with a mental list that includes things such as, I like to feel connected to Earth when I enjoy nature thus prefer my limbs to be firmly planted; if I really want to see and experience my surroundings I need to go slower than is possible on a bike; when I am trying to connect with Mother Earth I can’t be caught up by which gear is correct or avoiding boulders; bikes hurt my butt.
This list notwithstanding, my first reaction to the realization that I just don’t love mountain biking was one of shame and annoyance: how can I not like mountain biking? I am an outdoors aficionado. Give me outdoors else death is my lot for being inside all day is death’s equivalent!
But then I realized something very important: It’s okay that I don’t love mountain biking!!!
It really is. I don’t have to love mountain biking to lead a full outdoorsy life. I don’t have to make excuses to not go on a ride. I can just say, “Nah, I think I’ll just go hike and write instead.”
What a relief!
I don’t know where the pressure to like mountain biking came from, but it is nice to finally realize and admit I just don’t love it. That’s not to say I hate it, because I certainly don’t hate it. It’s just that 97 times out of 100 I’d rather go on a hike than a ride. But if you ask me if I want to do Klondike Bluffs in Moab, I’m so there.
Being the constant thinker that I am, I realize that my experience with mountain biking is relevant to more than just doing physical activities you like. How often do we find ourselves in situations we hate or simply find unfulfilling and ask, “how did I get here?” without having an adequate answer?
I once read an article about a woman who loved reading. She had a rule that she would finish every book she started–even if she didn’t love it. At some point she decided to change her rule, and if she wasn’t enjoying the book she was reading she would put it down and start a new book. The result was that she increased the number of books she read in a year and learned to love reading even more than she already did!
The point is, life is meant to be lived and created. Forcing yourself to continue mountain biking when you’re not that into it can at times be beneficial or even necessary. But much of the time, if that ride just isn’t working for you, put on the brakes, hop off, and go for a hike. It’s okay.
Robin Williams parting thought: