Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bye, ol' MTB

I remember when I was little, watching Kevin Ginther ride down the hill to the railroad tracks and go airborne.

I remember watching Mark Nienhaus and Mark Kabbaz and other daredevils barrel down the very steep hill at McDonald Park, zoom across the road and then go blasting up the little uphill and grabbing big air (as it much later became known).

I remember watching other people do lots of crazy things on bikes when I was a kid.

Yup, I usually just watched. I'd sit at the top of the steep hills and watch.

Never had the stones to do the stupid stuff. And it didn't exactly encourage me to see Ginther come back to earth from his airborneness and land on the steel rail of the tracks, hard enough to break his leg and ram the busted end through his skin.

So it comes as some surprise to me that I'm bumming out tonight knowing I have to return a mountain bike I borrowed four weeks ago and have ridden pretty regularly ever since.

My favorite MTB move

I've done some stupid stuff on it. A lot of stuff that I consider stupid, in fact. I've ridden down a lot of hills that were a lot steeper than the ones at McDonald Park or those railroad tracks. I've run along ridges and steep hillsides that punish a mistake by sending you plummeting to probable injury and possible death. I've learned how to bunny-hop pretty well, and have done a complete endo and landed on my feet, upright.

I'm still a wuss, no question about it. And it's not hard to justify it. My family depends on me, and pain hurts a lot -- them's two good reasons.

But little by little, I kept advancing and doing things I never thought I'd try. Every time I trailed a skilled and experienced (and very patient or bored) MTB rider, I'd watch his technique and follow his line and nail something I'd never even attempt when riding alone. Then I'd go out riding alone ande take a few chances I wouldn't have taken before.

And every single time I rode the hidden-in-plain-view network of trails around the Shaker Lakes and Doan Brook -- mere blocks from my house -- I'd discover a new stretch of trail that had been right there all along, but undiscovered because just about nobody rides these gems.

It all grew on me. I'd lie in bed at night unable to fall asleep because I was reliving some thrilling on-bike success or imagining myself cleaning some log or some climb that I'd not yet mastered in real life. I snuck out of work early one day to try to ride the great singletrack mere blocks from my house. And when I couldn't ride, I'd actually get kind of pissy. (But probably not as pissy as I've gotten when I had to walk my bike up or down a crazy little hill 'cause I'm not good enough or brave enough to ride it.)

There's gonna be a good bit of pissiness in the near future, I'm guessing, because tomorrow I have to return my buddy Joe's bike and I may never have the means to buy one for myself. Maybe that's for the best, because it's inevitable that one of these rides will end with a busted collarbone, shattered elbow or broken neck.

I might not miss the wrecks and the pain. But I'm going to miss the riding.

- JN


Rick said...

single speed hardtail.....
that's what I'm talkin about.
it will make you better.

Ray Huang said...

YOu just saved me a whole mess of time typing. I could have easily written this verbatim in my blog about myself. Down to every last letter!!

Except I still have my bike of course.