I went for a ride on one of my local trails today (a Sunday) and was most impressed with the number of new mountain bikers out there. You can spot them a long way away and you just know that they’re not even vaguely aware that you’re approaching from up ahead because they’re so busy concentrating on braking, shifting, steering, breathing, pedalling, trying to locate the hydration pack mouthpiece, locking out the fork…
In this case I anticipate approximately when they’ll spot me and I make it as easy as possible for them to continue riding on the singletrack by veering off it and carving my own little path through the rougher stuff.
I even do this while climbing because even though I know I have right of way as the ascending rider, I don’t think they’re quite prepared to have to veer off the trail and into the rough at speed. They’ve got enough to think about as it is.
And that’s just what makes mountain biking so damn cool. There’s so much emotional, mental and physical stimulation when you’re riding a mountain bike that it’s impossible to become bored or tired of it. All your senses are called to attention when you hit a trail and it’s a non-stop celebration of health and fitness from your first pedal stroke until your last.
I’m sure there are other forms of exercise that are very stimulating, but do they get you out in the warm sun, or soft summer rain? Do they let you feel the gentle breeze or gusty pre-storm wind blowing on your skin? Do they give you an enthusiastic, yet acceptably flawed symphonic birdlife soundtrack? Do they let you brush against, trees, flowers, shrubs and grass that form a jigsaw of contrasting smells and textures? Do they take you right up to wild animals – dangerous or not – where you feel more like a surprise visitor than a stranger? Do they take you to every single province in this country where you can sample the most amazing variety of terrain and interesting people? Do they make you feel like you’re not really exercising, but having fun? And do they make you feel like kid again?
This issue of TREAD is a celebration of spring and what it means to be a mountain biker in South Africa. A celebration of the bikes, gear, trails, industry, events and people that make up our community.
To all those new mountain bikers just starting out on your shaky way along our trails, gripping your handlebars too tightly, inflating your tyres too hard, taking a full hydration pack on a one-hour ride and nervously navigating your way over rocks and roots and through ruts and rivers. Welcome. Welcome to the ride of your life – literally, figuratively, honestly.
Originally published in TREAD Issue 3, 2009 – All rights reserved