Several months ago, in the midst of the coronavirus shutdown, I read an article posted by the New York Times titled “The Mountain Bike Cure: Exercise, Fresh Air and Fellowship.” The author is woman who spoke on her experience with depression in an environment of isolation due to the pandemic. The mental health of people across communities became a very real concern during this time.
I am the mother of three small children, who desperately missed and needed socialization. I found myself feeling disconnected, even though I had daily video calls with work colleagues, a loving husband by my side, and in-laws that remained in our “bubble”. There was something profoundly different about being in lock down that made me feel closed in and blocked off from the world. Technology was bridging the gap, but not filling the gorge.
After I read that New York Times article, describing the freeing experience of mountain biking, I was inspired to try something new in self-care. I wanted to feel the physical challenge, join an engaging community of people as the author described, and get myself outside to connect with the world again. I bought my first mountain bike and convinced my husband to hit a local trail network in Sycamore Canyon with me. I chose it because of its proximity to us and its listing of beginner trails on several mountain biking blogs.
The first day out on our bikes was rough! Sycamore Canyon might have trail segments appropriate for beginners, but I am certain we found ourselves on trails with much higher difficulty ratings. We were still figuring out how to manage the controls on our new bikes, and were not yet familiar with techniques to navigate changing terrain.
We stopped and stared down quite a few daunting hills, walked a fare share of them, and collided with boulders when we braved the decent but didn’t quite execute successfully.
The challenging moments of that first ride were surprisingly fun. As we scraped our elbows, we laughed. As we toppled over from insufficient momentum, we became braver. But it remains one of the best experiences I have. My husband and I shared a unique experience together that was challenging, a bit scary, but exciting and we walked away proud of ourselves for doing it.
Since then, we have made riding dates a regular thing. We’ve made new friends, which are every bit as warm and welcoming as the article author described. The mountain biking community is diverse and totally down to earth. Where I thought I might feel intimidated, I was invited to join new group rides and offered tips and tricks from folks that had more experience than me. It’s something I wish I had found sooner, but I am so grateful that I found it when I did.