mountain biking taught me how to love
Mountain biking teaches confidence and that confidence allows me to be all of the versions of myself without worry of failure, for it’s inevitable.
The first time I tried mountain biking I hopped on my mom’s 1980’s Specialized Hardtail on jankily built Vermont single track and got gutted. Literally. A tree branch went into my shin and was sticking out of my leg, until my ski coach removed it and bandaged me up. Similarly, the first time I fell in love I got gutted. I fell so hard that when we broke up it felt like he put a wooden spear through my heart. The first time I went over the handlebars, I scraped off half of the skin on my face. The first time I fell head over heels for someone, I cried so hard that makeup was running down my face for days.
Learning to mountain bike is a lot like learning to love someone: the feeling is addicting, you often get caught off guard and you never really know what you like until you try it. At first, both love and mountain biking are really challenging and it often feels like you’re getting bucked off by any little bump. After a while you learn how to absorb the bumps and eventually how to use them to jump and feel weightless.
As the years progress, we all learn how to love in a way that suits us. We upgrade our bikes and our toolboxes. We learn to ride through the hard spots instead of getting thrown off the side into a heaping pile of defecating plant material. Some days I still feel like I’m on my mom’s old hardtail and working twice as hard as my partner. Other days I feel unbeatable and like I can take on the world. Love never stays constant: it’s fluid, because humans are fluid beings that change with the ebb and flow of the world circulating around us. Just because some days I forget to check my PSI before I leave the house doesn’t mean that I won’t be prepared another day. Just because some days I forget to put the yogurt back in the fridge doesn’t mean that I will the next day.
Syncing up a section on my bike without even thinking about what I’m doing feels like being synced up with my partner. The way I dance around the corners feels just like dancing around my living room: effortless, joyful and freeing. I’m still learning the intricacies of my bike and how all the pieces work, just as I’m learning the details of love and the way I like to love and be loved by people.
Mountain biking teaches confidence and that confidence allows me to be all of the versions of myself without worry of failure, for it’s inevitable. Sometimes the rock garden will get the best of me and sometimes the rocky patches will last longer than I initially thought they would, but just as with everything, I know I will find a way through it and the scars will serve as memories to what was in light of what is. Each day I learn a bit more about trusting my tires around loose corners and trusting my sense of right in muddy waters, but just as much as I love riding my bike, I love loving people. So as the dear Freddy Mercury would say, it’s time to get on our bikes and RIDE
Author: Julia Burnham