In DC, I rode clipped in, wearing a mini skirt, in rush hour traffic. After knee surgery, 30, 40, 60 miles at a time on skinny tires across rolling hills and rural pavement. My brace left me with tan lines running like tiger strips down my left quad and calf. To school, to work, carrying bags, skis and other bikes. On loaned-too-big cruiser bikes, cross bikes and 14-pound carbon fiber frames, I can make it happen. But I can’t mountain bike to save my life. It scares the beejeezus out of me. Perhaps because of that, I can’t seem to let it go.

Last year, under the tree, Santa stuffed knee pads with a red ribbon tied around their mesh bag. This year, Mastering Mountain Bike Skills: 2nd Edition, came wrapped in snowmen and red Christmas paper. Neither of us are giving up. Stubborn.

Tonight, I spent 20 minutes riding laps around the front yard in the pouring rain by the glow of a headlamp and a 50 watt porch light. Maybe, if it would snow, I’d stop. I’d go back to doing things I’m good at rather than falling off my pedals and into my handlebars. But maybe not.

I’m aiming for basic mountain biking competency by spring, and I’m accepting that to get there I’m going to have to suck for a while. That’s hard for me. I think it’s probably hard for a lot of us. Harder, though, would be to stop dreaming of the lines I want to ride, but can’t yet handle. Harder still would be to stop trying, to come in from the dark and admit that this isn’t my sport, that I’ll never ride those lines. By comparison, in the rain, 20 minutes at a time, is a cakewalk.

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