How do you begin to capture all that a sport has brought to your world in just a few short phrases?
I thought about my first time. Fresh out of college and in between jobs, I stumbled upon an open slot in a four-day mountain bike camping trip in Utah. At the time, I had been “mountain biking” on paved trails all across Washington, D.C., on my green Gary Fischer Marlin. Twenty-three years young and the poster city girl, I had no idea I was embarking on a famous epic trail called the White Rim (nor had I ever even been camping).
As luck would have it, I fortuitously met my bike guide, Jane, whom I fondly remember. Jane spiritedly explained to me that shifting before a hill works much better than on a hill. Oh, and she also explained to me how to shift. Who knew what all those gears were for anyway? I didn’t learn that in college.
Upon arriving home from my adventure, I bought my first mountain bike, a Specialized Rockhopper. It had a front fork. I was elated. My friend, Sparky (yes, that’s his real nickname), talked me into clipless pedals, and I spent hours that summer pedaling myself dizzy in circles in my parents’ backyard. Clip in, clip out. Clip in, clip out. That was 1997.
Fast forward to 2012. I now am lucky enough to teach mountain biking to women. I want to share with these women everything I love about the sport. I tell them how mountain biking has brought me the best of friends. Friends who are awesome, funny, unique and inspiring. Friends who push you, spot you and laugh with (or at) you along the trail. Friends who simply love to ride.
I tell them how mountain biking has shown me the beauty of Mother Nature: fields of wildflowers, snow-capped peaks, giant forests blanketed with pine needles, desert cacti in full bloom and vicious thunderstorms at 10,000 feet.
I tell them how mountain biking has broken me down, then built me back up stronger than before. It allows me to push my limits and forces me out of my comfort zone to continue improving my skills. Positive self-talk allows me to feel fear momentarily and then conquer it. Talk about a confidence builder.
I thought about all the reasons why I ride. I ride to be free — free of responsibilities, free of titles, free from obligations and free from that inbox that keeps filling up. I ride to feel alive. I ride because on the trail, age does not matter. I ride to feel the breeze at my back. I ride to remind myself to be fully present in every moment. I ride to spend time with friends. I ride to grin and giggle like a schoolgirl. I ride because riding has no limits. I ride to eat chocolate along the trail. I ride because riding my bike makes me happy.
OK, but now I must come clean. When it came time for my intro, I fumbled and I stumbled over my words. I only remembered snippets of what I wanted to say to these impressionable women. But when I spoke, I shared my love of mountain biking and let them know I hoped to motivate, encourage and even inspire them along the way. While pedaling home, I thought of how far I’ve come since my first time with Jane. If Jane could see me now, how proud she’d be. Thank you, Jane!
Shannon Casson teaches physical education at Soda Creek Elementary and mountain biking at Colorado Mountain College. She also is the director of Routt County Riders and rides bicycles in her spare time.