Girls Gotta Stick Together
Most Saturday mornings since buying the Rockhopper, I’ve beat it over to the nearby trails before the hikers put sneakers to dirt. Perhaps you think a woman alone in the woods is not a good idea, but I rarely find it scary. I don’t have time to worry. I’m too busy thinking about what I should be doing on the bike to consider risks posed by mountain lions, yetis, or murderers.
I always tackle the hardest trail first. It’s marked with red blazes on the trees–red for danger. It dances on the bluffs above the Kansas River, visible this season through bare branches standing like palisades on the rocky hills. I ride the red trail once, pushing the bike through the most technical parts. When my legs and lungs begin to ache from the exertion, I move on to the blue trail. As you might imagine from its name, it’s easier and more relaxed.
Nearly every ride, I successfully tackle an obstacle that had me howling in disbelief at the start of the year. For weeks I’d been ridiculously intimidated by a narrow gap in a fallen log. Then one day the Rockhopper slipped through it on the downhill, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d conquered the uphill approach, too. No one heard me whoop with joy when it finally happened.
Last Saturday I stopped to photograph my conquest when another female rider rolled up. She’d spied me through the trees and wondered who I might be because, as she explained, you don’t see many women mountain bikers around here. When I told her I was a roadie who’d only recently taken up the sport, she nodded and said, “Road riding builds your endurance. Mountain biking builds your strength.” She encouraged me to keep riding, and told me about an upcoming singletrack ride for beginning women. Then we shook hands and went our separate ways–she uphill, me downhill.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about her words: “Road riding builds endurance. Mountain biking builds strength.” I don’t exactly understand the last sentence yet, but am looking forward to learning all the ramifications of its meaning. And I’m thinking very seriously about going on that beginning women’s ride in a few weeks. Riding alone is fine, but riding with a companion is finer. We girls gotta stick together.