Auni and Wendy love mountain biking. Spending even a few minutes with either of them, the conversation usually turns to plans, routes, weather, outfits all in pursuit of the perfect ride. When I got my first invitation to ride six months after meeting Auni – I was thrilled and terrified. I mean, how hard could it be really? I know how to ride a bike, hadn’t been on one in years but that was beside the point. And then again, trees don’t exactly move when you run into them
I got on the bike and pedaled around the parking lot for a few minutes. I contemplated what the next 90 minutes might bring. And then set my intention for a safe and fun ride. Ego aside, these women bike often and they bike hard. So this ride would be a piece of cake for them and a minor miracle for me. Wendy rode ahead, setting the pace and the route, Auni rode behind me with instructions on the mechanics of the bike – shifting gears, steering, and oh yes, encouragement.
Off we went. I laughed, I screamed, I wanted to cry. And then I sweated, cursed, hugged a tree, peed in the bushes and ate French fries. It went in that order and I learned a few things along the way.
Ride with the Masters
All of my learning was fast forwarded by what Wendy and Auni already knew, about the bikes, the trail, their bodies and the weather. It was easy to love the experience because they were so committed and generous about sharing their knowledge. That’s why coaches, mentors, teachers and friends are worth their weight in diamonds. Love and support are essential to new ventures or seeing old territory differently.
It’s not a Spin Class
Rocks, roots and wind are game changers. I had to contend with that. Spin Class was a great way to condition my muscles, and getting on a bike outside provided context. Just like reading a book like Pema Chodron’s The Wisdom of No Escape is one way to learn technique, actually being in a situation that requires a deep conscious breath requires a different level of awareness. Will I remember to breathe? Will I understand that it’s time to inhale and then exhale? Perhaps. The practice reveals itself step by step and only when I am ready.
Feet Side by Side.
Balance is an elusive experience. At top downhill speed, balance on the bike is a practical safety concern. To avoid hitting rocks, I had to keep my feet parallel to each other. To enjoy the speed I had to feel safe. To be safe I had to be present in the moment. Checking out was not an option.
Boobs to the Bar
Uphill is a totally different experience of momentum. The best way is to strategically shift gears, apply force and lean into it chest first. It works. My friend, Sahil used to say “Dil Lag Liya” – put your heart into it.
Pedal Pedal Pedal
Auni says from behind me “Keep your feet moving no matters what. Your eyes will take you exactly where you look. Focus far ahead, not at the rocks and roots! And remember, you can run over everything and trust the bike will carry you safely. “
Aah trust. It always comes down to trust.
By the way, Trees actually do move when you need them too. More on that next time.