I hit the ground with a thud. I had ridden this trail many times before, never thinking twice about those roots. Maybe it had never been this wet. Maybe I had taken a different line. Maybe I had never gone this fast.
Leaving my bike behind, I took flight. I was in the air just long enough to utter, ‘OH SHIT!’ as I launched over my handlebars, miraculously unclipping my feet from my pedals.
The next thing I knew I was sitting in the middle of the trail, looking up at the roots that had so abruptly unseated me. A jumble of thoughts crowded my head: How did I get here? I think I hit my head. Wow, I’m glad I was wearing a helmet. I should get off the trail in case someone else comes down.
This was by far the hardest crash I had ever taken on my mountain bike. There had been quite a few slow motion falls, resulting in minor bumps and bruises (to both body and ego), but nothing at such a high speed. Nothing nearly as scary.
Thankfully the section of trail after the gnarl of roots my front tire had slipped out on was smooth, hard-packed dirt. Sure, a fluffy pile of pillows would have been nice, but considering the alternatives (roots, rocks, trees) I was relieved to land where I did.
My husband and friend, ahead of me on the trail, dropped their bikes and came sprinting to my side. I guess I must have yelled louder than I realized, or maybe the sound of the wind being knocked out of me carried further than I expected. It was nice not to be alone, but at the same time with their arrival came the tears.
After a few minutes the shock wore off and I picked myself up and walked over to my bike, performing a systems check on the way (Blood? No. Seeing double? No. Bike in one piece? Yes.). I hesitated only a moment before swinging my leg over and planting my butt back on the saddle. I took a deep breath, gave a nod to my husband and friend, and we continued on down the trail.
As we descended I avoided every root in sight, my fingers all too quick to squeeze the brakes. I crept along at a painfully slow pace until we found ourselves back at the car. My neck and shoulder were already stiffening up, a bit of whiplash setting in.
It was a week or more before I found myself back in the woods for another ride. The conditions were wet again and despite some time passing I still felt extremely hesitant whenever a root crossed my path. My confidence had taken a serious blow. I muddled through the ride, happy to be back on the bike, but realizing that I had some work to do before I was back to the level I was at before the crash.
A few more weeks passed before we went back to the network of trails where I had crashed. Nobody else gave it a second thought as we sat at the top of the infamous trail, but my mind was busy trying to remember exactly where it had happened, without success. Never being very good at remembering the details of trails, I assumed I would recognize it when I saw it.
Riding down I scanned the trail, attempting to make note of every root, big and small, but before I knew it we were at the bottom. I was surprised and elated that I had ridden over the gnarl without hesitation, and in fact without even realizing it. A great sense of accomplishment washed over me.
Time and time again I am confronted with life’s many lessons while riding my bike. I am constantly reminded that if I want to get better I need to dedicate more time to riding; it’s on my bike where I most regularly experience a state of flow, with life’s encumbrances melting away as I breathe and concentrate intently on the trail; I am routinely challenged to overcome obstacles and bounce back after a fall or a bad ride.
I know if I can approach life’s hardships and obstacles the same way I tackled the gnarl of roots, then I will be better equipped to continue pedaling down life’s path. After all as Albert Einstein so aptly put it, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
Erin Bruhns is an aspiring writer currently residing in Vancouver, BC where she and her husband routinely partake in weekend adventures. She loves lattes, likes to ride her bicycles, and wishes she could sit and be still more often.
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