It’s fall, the air is finally becoming crisp, and loads of helmeted recreationists are taking to the mountains for an activity that makes no sense to me: Riding bicycles up steep, rocky hills, and then riding back down steep, rocky hills.
Don’t get me wrong, I like rocks. I like boulders. I like walking and climbing over them.
I do not look at rocks and think, “I know the best way to get over those: wheels.”
The thrill of other outdoor travel sports is mostly comprehensible to me. Skiing is exhilarating, whitewater paddling is a blast, and hiking is what my feet want to do. Either the physical feel of the motion is a rush, or it’s the only way to get to the place you want to explore.
Mountain biking — I don’t get it. It is hard for me to think of a more problematic way to move across rough terrain (except maybe those mountain scooters). This is borne out, at least anecdotally, by the frequency with which my mountain-biking friends seriously hurt themselves. I mean, if you want to ride bikes, you can always do it on not-rocks.
So, why …?
And yet the people who are into it are INTO it. They have fleets of bicycles. Special water bottles and packs. Special clothes. Special shoes. Special protective gear. There’s all the stuff. That’s not different from other gear-intensive, cost-prohibitive outdoor sports — but as I said, the appeal of those is intuitive to me.
From the outside, mountain biking looks like people made up something hard and dangerous to do in order to do something hard and dangerous. I try to imagine the visceral experience of it. The scenery might be nice if it were possible to take one’s eyes off the hazardous trail. The feel of moving downhill might be fun if there weren’t rocks and logs and loose gravel and sharp corners and nature, abrasive nature, waiting like a death trap.
Is there perhaps a sense of deftness and accomplishment in just not falling down?
I don’t understand it, but after all of these years I am willing to try it. Because adventure. Because health insurance. Because the … gnarl … uh … awaits my … ripping?
(Posted from the Mormon Pioneer Trail at 10:23 a.m.)