In the past, I'd avoided the Official Sport of Bend (aka mountain biking), mainly because I didn't have time in my schedule for yet another activity... or room in my garage for yet another bike.
Having lived in Bend for a year by last summer, I was used to fielding questions about whether I mountain biked. The reaction I got when I said "no, never have," was clear: sheer disbelief. After all, what ELSE is there to do in the summer besides mountain biking? I mean, when you're not SUPping, canoeing, hiking, or triathlon-ing? (Not to mention working and parenting....)
I was happy with my little triathlon bubble, and convinced that any time away from the three sacred sports took me farther away from a possible podium bid (ha!). However, I was shocked to discover that many of my triathlete and runner friends were also mountain bikers, and integrated it into their training. It was not uncommon for me to see local pro triathletes and runners posting pics from Phil's Trail on Instagram.
I showed up to my first-ever mountain bike ride in my only pair of loose, non-spandex bike shorts, a road helmet sans visor, no-show socks, and running shoes. I was a total noob, and looked the part.
However, any image concerns were quickly dashed when I started riding. Pine Mountain provided free demos of high-end, full-suspension bikes, and I was blown away by how SQUISHY the ride was. I could ride off curbs and barely feel a thing. I could comfortably sit upright. I was hooked, and I hadn't even left the pavement.
From the time I hit the trail to the end of the ride after sunset, I was reliving my childhood rides through the woods with "whoops" and "eeks" and lots and lots of laughter. Outside of surfing during my stint in Hawaii, I hadn't experienced such sheer exhilaration in my adult life.
After that first ride, I quickly advanced to the intermediate (blue) group, which is the group I ride with now. While the makeup of the groups vary from week to week, the intermediate group tends to make fewer stops and ride a bit faster. We also practice some technical stuff, like switchback descents over rocks, and the occasional narrow, elevated bridge.
I still consider myself a beginner, but I learn something new from the Dirt Divas leaders every week. I'm becoming more comfortable on the bike, and hope to try out the "technical" ride group one day.
The next step is to buy a mountain bike, a prospect I am struggling with, as I already have two bikes (not including our kid-hauling cargo bike). I also desperately need a new pair of skis. However, I have been "demoing" Pine Mountain's bikes for two seasons now, and I don't want to take advantage now that I can't call myself a newbie anymore.
Also, I think mountain biking could become a very important, very FUN part of my training. It allows me to spend more time in the saddle, while taking away the "serious workout" aspect of it. When I am on the trail, I don't have to monitor my heart rate or worry about cadence. I don't even have to track my miles, though I do, because I am neurotic like that.
And bonus: I can't ignore the fact that I now have the skills to do an Xterra race! Win!
For more information on Dirt Divas, click here.
PS. Have I mentioned how much I love Bend?