Updated: Apr 3, 2019
A mountain biker since the mid-90s, I began to moto only two years ago. Learning to ride a dirt bike was much harder than I ever imagined. Someone (I can't recall who, but a fellow mountain biker to be sure) had me believing, "the motor does all the work."
Between the weight of the bike, roar of the engine, encasement of gear, speed required to navigate slope and obstacles — all along with a scary new world of hand and foot controls — I found myself unnerved, exhuasted, tossed, and bruised. Often.
I wrestled successfully (and more often, unsuccessfully) through attempts to stay firmly planted on foot-pegs, while desperately trying to hang on and find center on what felt like a mechanical bull welded to a jet engine. Over- and misuse of the front brake was a frequent rookie mistake, one that body-slams a person into the ground faster than Lawrence Taylor in a bad mood. My first two years learning to ride were spent exploring some of the most beautiful and remote spaces in Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California. They were also spent being scared and tired, physically and emotionally ... and within that mix, I learned a few things.
Most importantly, this:
When you find yourself in the middle of Beautiful Nowhere, instantaneously and unceremoniously pinned under a metal heap weighing more than you do, there is only one way forward:
Crawl out from under.
Get the rubber-side down, using whatever leverage you can muster.
Shake the sweat (and as necessary, tears) out of your goggles.
Wipe the dirt from your mouth.
And kick your glorious machine back into life ... again.
No matter how tired you are.
This sport is humbling, exhausting, sometimes terrifying; and one day ... liberating. After what can feel like an eternity instead of fearing the rut you start seeing (and swooping) the three-inch traction-ribbon that screams for you from the top of the bank (it was there all the time, Dorothy). Rather than riding the brakes you learn to let off the throttle and use terrain to shave off speed. After mastering what were once foreign tools you learn that subtle and intelligent finesse is strong and stable; and that over-controlling (anything) is not only exhausting, but counter-productive too.
The hardest lesson for me has been this: It is as you traverse the roughest and most intimidating terrain that it becomes imperative to stand up and stand tall (even if — even as) fear manhandles, demanding that you just sit yourself DOWN. This sport teaches you that during the most challenging moments? Fear is a liar, arresting progress and making confrontation of adversity much harder than it ever had to be.
Below is a photo of me earlier this summer at the bottom of a feature on 770 trail in Rampart Range. The move is tricky, tight, and very intimidating — to me.
I did not make this feature that day.
But I made that feature, yesterday.
The best sports are a lot like life, teaching us nothing good comes without discomfort, exhaustion, and self-doubt that pushes us to stand up — and through — f