Post written by Kristie Sandquist
I hate mountain biking. At least, I thought I did. I had never done it before but I was sure I wouldn’t like it. I knew I would fall off my bike, injure myself, and look stupid doing it. There was no way it could become something that would help me build my self confidence and make me feel stronger…..could it?
My first attempt at riding a bike off the paved path was in Jasper, Alberta when I was 25. I managed to get about 50 feet before getting so nervous I had a mini emotional breakdown.
“Why would anyone ride a bike on a rocky trail where you could get hurt?!” I was shocked people would attempt anything other than smooth, safe, concrete. Clearly they were mad.
I chained my bike to a tree and finished the trail on foot. Not my finest moment.
Fast forward nearly ten years to a road trip to Nelson, BC and some famous last words from my boyfriend.
“Let’s rent you a bike and go mountain biking. You’ll love it!”
All I could think about was the meltdown so many years ago, but his enthusiasm was infectious so I agreed to try it.
Everyone at the bike shop was incredibly friendly and clearly loved the sport. They knew I was a newbie but didn’t treat me like an idiot. Everybody took the time to explain things to me and I felt a little better.
The lady at the counter gave us advice on which trails to ride. She used words like “singletrack” (what the hell is that?), “rock slab” (oh my God, there’s rocks big enough to be called slabs?), and “full suspension” (wait, wait, so I’m going on trails that require a bike to have bounce in the front AND the back?). I felt like I was in way over my head.
The ascent up the dusty, dirty gravel road to get to the trailhead didn’t do much to calm my nerves. I would spin out on the rocks, hit my shins on the pedals of my bike, and curse at how stupid this was. But, I had made it this far. I was determined to find out if the descent was worth the effort.
We came across a trail marked “Goosebumps” that wasn’t on the map but we decided to try it. My boyfriend comforted me by saying that anything I didn’t want to ride I could walk my bike over. I like walking.
At first I was nervous, but once I realized I had more control than I thought
over my bike (my brakes really did slow me down, the bike does go in the direction you steer it), I relaxed and discovered I had a huge smile across my face. I felt so free whizzing down that trail in the middle of the forest surrounded by nature. My soul felt happy and I was hooked.
I came home, bought a bike, and signed up for lessons. Best decision I ever made. The lessons taught me all the things I didn’t know (so basically everything), and put me in touch with women who were there for the same reasons as me. Every time I ride I can feel my self-confidence growing and I look forward to every moment on my bike.
I love to ride with people who are faster than me because it makes me push my boundaries. I also love to ride with people who are new to the sport and discovering riding off the paved path for the first time because I know what it feels like. I know that fear of the unknown and the thoughts of thinking you can’t do it. Guess what? If I can go from temper tantrum in the woods,
to riding over logs and rock slabs then so can you. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get hooked like I did. Maybe it will make your soul happy. You never know until you try.
Have you got a story about your first time biking? I would love to hear it! Was it exciting? Was it life changing? Or did you swear you would never get on another bike? Send your stories and share the love.