One of my favorite things to do is to load up my bike and take it to some trails. I mean, I really, really, really enjoy mountain biking. I’d like to tell you why, but it’s gonna take a little work because I’m not really sure why I like it so much. So, I’m going to take a few minutes to ponder it and write my thoughts.
Like most 50-something year-olds, I grew up riding my bike around the neighborhood. My friends and I would go everywhere on our bikes. We rode on trails, to the school, to the convenience stores on either end of our neighborhood. The feeling of freedom to be able to speed off wherever we wanted to go was so fun.
After college, I began to get a little heavy. I decided I’d better start exercising. This eventually led to me getting back on a bike. I ended up doing some triathlons. But, I developed some issues with my knee that hurt like crazy when I ran, but not when I biked. I quit triathlons and started riding my road bike all over. I raced and rode all through my late 20’s and 30’s. I also had a cool Specialized Stump Jumper Mountain Bike during this time and I rode it and raced it too. Ultimately, I sold the mountain bike in my 40’s as I was riding on the road most of the time. Finally, when I was in my later 40’s I had a horrific wreck that injured me pretty badly. My wife told me that she thought I should give up the road bike. I reluctantly agreed and began to search for a mountain bike.
Now you may thinking, “Can’t you get hurt just as badly riding a mountain bike?” Wise question. The long and short of it is injury is probably more common on a mountain bike for riders who really like to have fun, but there are higher odds of catastrophic injury (head injuries and death) on a road bike. You remove one risk factor and reduce another. Cars and speed. You shouldn’t see a car out in the woods. And, for the most part, speeds are curtailed quite a bit on the trails as compared to the road. Over the years I’ve had lots of bumps, bruises, scrapes, and cuts. However, shortly after I started back mountain biking, I had a whopper of a crash and sustained a concussion and a 3rd degree separation of my right shoulder. Downer. Undaunted, I got back out there, improved as a rider, and I do my best to avoid injury.
Enough of the history lesson. Why do I like it so much? To start with, when you are on your bike in the woods, you focus on what you are doing right then. Sure, thoughts about things going on in your life will pop in and out of your head. But, in keeping with the injury avoidance thing, you better be focused on what you are doing. There is also that same sense of freedom I felt as a kid…that I can go all over the place on my bike. Another thing, is that it is beautiful out in nature. I like riding with people. But, I really like riding alone too. Sometimes I’ll pack a devotional book in my hydration pack (basically a backpack for water). I can stop in the middle of nowhere and listen to the wind, read my devotional, pray, or just stop and be still. But, I can’t lie. I love the adrenaline too. I love hitting jumps and getting “air.” I love flying down what are known as “flow” trails. It’s like being on a rollercoaster in the middle of the forest. I like being able to take my bike to areas where I am traveling and seeing new trails and nature from my bike. I even like to ride at night. I have a light for my helmet and a light for the front of my bike. I’ve been out in the middle of literally nowhere on the Pinhoti trail in the North Georgia mountains when it was pitch dark. It is so quiet and you can see a million stars.
So, to answer my own question, why do I enjoy it so much. I think all the things I just listed are why. For a middle-aged guy who is legendary in the magnitude of my ADHD, there are few things that require so much intense focus, but that also let me see deer, squirrels, hawks, snakes, and that give me moments of stillness and quiet when I need it. And, we all need it. It may not be mountain biking, but whatever it is, if you haven’t found something that gives you the opportunity to have fun, to be still, and to marvel at God’s creation, I encourage you to do it. You will be better for it.
Each day we go into the world with the opportunity to make an impact. Each person whose paths cross ours matters. Lives intersect for a reason. I believe there is One who directs our steps to these sometimes seemingly random meetings. My goal for these encounters is that I make a difference. That is my desire for those who venture across my blog. I hope you are blessed and it makes a difference for you.