We all know what an unfair winter we had, with nearly zero opportunity to ride as the trails were buried under snow.
But I’ve been reminded of it several times this spring as I’ve finally been able to throw a leg over the mountain bike.
Where did all that awesome skill go that I had last fall? I keep catching myself not looking far enough ahead. Or bobbling on some of the technical bits, or not railing the turns with the usual speed.
And then to add insult to injury: I had Hall Ranch all to myself yesterday, and when I descended from the very top point to the bottom without stopping (which was awesome!), I ended up with sewing-machine leg and cramps in my feet.
Where did my downhill endurance go? Sheesh! Hall Ranch isn’t that long.
At first I blamed myself, thinking my abilities as a mountain biker sure went down the toilet fast. But I mentioned the problem to a friend, and he said spring is always like that for people who don’t mtn bike all winter. I had to cast my memory back…..had it really been ALL WINTER?
Sure enough, I think I may have squeezed in one or two rides after Interbike, but then the snow arrived and basically never left. The thought blew my mind a little. I haven’t gone more than a month without mountain biking since I started ten years ago, barring periods of injury. You can almost always ride in the winter on the Front Range. Remember last winter and the one before? I never had to touch the skinny-tire bikes once ‘cross season was over.
But this winter I’ve put in a lot of road miles. Not because I particularly love it, although it’s way better than sitting on the couch. But reuniting with my mtb this spring has reminded me of why roadies always get ridiculed about their bike handling skills on the dirt. All that robotic pedaling in one position makes the mind fall asleep; forgetting how to speak body English.
So I spent my descent at Hall Ranch exaggerating the hell out of everything to remind my body what to do. Eyes ahead. Elbows up and out. Drive through the turn with the hips. Pump every little roller for free speed. Brake only where you have to. And best of all, seek out every little cool little bit of trail to jump, skim or pump. No more riding rigidly in a straight line. The whole trail is mine to paint like a canvas with my path down it.
Okay, so it’s going to take a few runs to feel normal again, but it’s sure as hell fun.