The accidental biker
“Want to demo a bike?” Willy, the Kona rep, asks. I shrug shyly. “Thought you did,” he says, smiling.And thus I find myself on a singletrack at Winter Park, and behind me Mike is shouting, “This is the perfect place for you!” and I cannot answer because my face is frozen in a gaping rictus.I careen toward roots, smooth with tire wear, and split rocks, all shiny with rain. A slick wooden bridge approaches.Mike and I are here this weekend because our two young sons are on Willy’s mountain-bike racing team. They are to “demo,” and ride with a celebrated Robby Borden. “Free accommodations!” they’d parroted excitedly when invited.We said we’d take them, but it’s a busy time of year, and once, when irked, I said that I was doing the trip just out of duty.Roy’s face stiffened with shock. “I thought you wanted to ride,” he said. “I thought you wanted to meet Robbie Borden.”Now I rattle around cantaloupe-sized rocks, trying to remember which digits switch which gears.Mike shouts, “I can’t believe how smooth this is!”I am just out of place in this sport.”Where’d you get those shorts?” Mike had asked that morning.”Mom, do you have anything that’s not Spandex?” Teddy had asked delicately.My history with mountain-biking is complicated, though sparse. The first time I went, on a borrowed $100 steed to Crested Butte, not only did my group have to wait for me constantly, I launched over the handlebars. Twice.I was once asked to work as a sports model for a Nike catalogue. My experience lay in other sports, but one shoot, for the cover, was mountain-biking. Spray-tanned, made up, and dressed in clothes lifted out from between tissues, I tried three times to ride a ridge near Santa Fe with my two cohorts, but could not help falling incongruously behind. Finally asked to remove myself, I dragged my borrowed bike dejectedly away, and hid behind a rock. As I crouched there in my tangerine garments, someone shouted my name.”What?” I called eagerly.”You’re showing. Can you get down lower?”Then one friend lacerated her liver on a remote bike trail – the rescue took seven hours – and another filleted her leg landing sideways on a stick. Last year, on one of my two or three days’ riding, I was tooling around on Moab slickrock behind a friend, just thinking that yes, I could do this, when she went over, whapped her chin, and earned 12 stitches. A month later, I accompanied my boys to Mushroom Rock, but made the mistake of following them down the Roller Coaster trail.They and Mike were waiting, expressionless, when I finally caught up.”What happened?” Mike asked.”I hit two trees.””That’s what brakes are for, Mom,” said Teddy calmly, and rode on. That was the only time I had been on singletrack before, and I hadn’t ridden since.Two trees loom ahead. “Look at the space between them, not the trees,” Mike says. But even his handlebars nearly touch the trees.”I can’t believe how buffed out this trail is!” he shouts back. I am busy trying not to fall sideways off the thin path down a hill.We stop to check the map, and two passing guys ask for a look. When they ask where we’ve been, Mike cites Blue Sky, Ice Hill, and something about Vasquez.”Hey, that’s a ‘difficult!'” I shout, pointing at the icon for Ice Hill.”I don’t think we did that one,” he mumbles.”Yes, we did. I just heard you tell those guys.”Then we get lost, and the ride takes three hours. But the next day we ride again, for an hour, and the same trails, now dry, feel kinder, feasible. I even ride – slowly – through the two tight trees.I might even go again. This time next year.Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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