When I first started riding my bicycle on the bike path for fitness, I thought mountain biking sounded scary. Then I tried it and I got hooked. But, I still knew that I had no business on some of those crazy obstacles and bridges. Then I tried them and realized how much fun they could be. However, I knew that downhill mountain biking was for morons with a death wish. Then I sped down the slopes and leaped off drops at Trestle Bike Park in Colorado and couldn’t stop thinking about going back.
Learning to mountain bike is an evolution. Some people evolve quickly and those people compete in the Red Bull Rampage. Others try to improve and get hurt and find another sport. Most mountain bikers reach a certain comfort level and stop trying new experiences because they are worried about getting hurt. They ride the same trails and hit the same log piles that they know they can hit safely.
I’ve definitely not been the quickest study of the bunch, but I’ve always looked to expand my horizons in little ways here and there. Sometimes it’s a new trail. At other times its a race or event that I’ve never been too. And occasionally it’s riding outside of my comfort zone on an obstacle that’s at the edge of my skill set.
I’ve ridden the P1 mountain bike trail at Alum Creek more than any other trail because it’s the closest to my house and I can ride there from my front door. It’s an intermediate-level trail, that’s probably best known for roots and the bumpy ride that they create. For the most part, this trail no longer challenges me technically. I’m usually just there for fitness. I could nearly ride it with my eyes closed, but there was one obstacle that I just never felt comfortable trying.
A ramp made of forest debris leads you up to a gap between two tree trunks and spits you out onto a steep drop of loose logs. The sharp apex of the ramp means that you are hitting the drop on the other side almost blind. The narrow gap between the trees barely gives you any room to squeeze through – especially with the wider bars that folks are sporting these days. It’s not the hardest obstacle on the planet, but it’s hard enough to question whether it’s worth taking a chance of hurting yourself.
One reason that I haven’t done it – it’s easy to skip. A well-worn, fast, straight section of trail carries you past it quickly. It’s off the trail to the right and you might not even notice it’s there if you aren’t looking for it. But after 8 years of riding right by it, I decided I had to go for it.
Why now? I’m not entirely sure. I was just looking for a new challenge. But it was probably inspired by my recent trip to Colorado. The XC riding at Buffalo Creek was much different than at Alum Creek. It had me riding downhill at speeds that were much faster than I am used to. It gave me a chance to look at some of my technical skills in a new light. I also went to a downhill mountain bike park in Winter Park, Colorado and by the end of the day I was dropping down slopes that would have given me pause in Ohio. My eyes were opened to new possibilities. I had new skills and new confidence.
It was time to take a chance on something new in Ohio…