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  • Beth Paul

A Bike Ride in The Desert

Updated: May 25, 2021

My mind is unusually quiet. The air is warm but not hot. In a few months the high desert will be scorching by this time of day. Today, early in May, a cool breeze makes it perfectly pleasant. As I pedal my mind is busy ensuring that my bike is smoothly sailing over the rocks and maintaining a clean line. Scan, look just in front, look up, where am I going and how do I need to get there?

Pedaling along the trail I feel strong and confident. I used to be terrified of mountain biking. Heck, I used to be terrified of biking in general.

As a child, anxiety was a frequent companion of mine and biking was no exception. Eventually, I learned to ride but I never developed a love of the activity. By the time I started high school biking had become a thing of the past.

Then, I met a boy. And this boy, loved biking. He really, really loved biking. His enthusiasm for cycling intrigued me and prompted me to buy a used bike.

As I pedaled around a parking lot I discovered I still I knew how to ride a bike. I was not, however, a smooth rider. My skill deficit from not riding much as a child made riding as an adult difficult.

I ended up married to the boy who loved bikes. With his encouragement I continued to ride off and on, even completing a 35 mile down hill road ride termed "The Glide". No matter how often I rode my nerves played tricks on my mind.

I resisted riding, because the thought of being in traffic made me ill. Usually, I rode because my husband cajoled, begged or bargained. Traffic terrified me, hill climbs revealed how ridiculously out of shape I was and my balance left much to be desired. Whenever we returned from a ride, however, I was glad I had pushed through.

Walking, with my feet firmly planted on the ground was more to more to my liking. And, hiking, hiking was magical. The time I spent in the woods made me happy and calm and those were feelings that for me, like many who suffer from ADHD can be fleeting and hard to maintain. My brain, which typically stayed busy envisioning worst case scenarios or chastising me for unkept commitments settles into quiet obedience in the woods. My thoughts would slow and flutter along more like a gentle creek along side the trail.

My husband, while he enjoyed hiking missed his bicycle. He needed to be back on two wheels. He introduced me to mountain biking. We rented a bike and with the kids headed off to a beginner/ intermediate trail not far from the one that I found myself on today.

The first ride was not fun.

I could not identify what my bike could successfully ride over, turning was challenging, going downhill was scary and uphill, well it was not a good experience. A few months later I tried again. Mountain biking was still not fun. I felt out of control and spent the entire time thinking I was going to fall over and die at any moment. To clarify, I was in no real danger. It is extremely hard to die on a bike when you are riding a dirt trail at six miles per hour and wearing a helmet.

Unfortunately for me, mountain biking was a hit with the kids. I felt stuck. In desperation I turned to Google for salvation. I landed on a blog post by a woman about learning to ride a mountain bike.

Wait? Perhaps, that is how you ended up here? Reading this blog? Before you check the resources and read her article for yourself let me share my most important take away.

Take a class.

Really ... the advice is that simple. If you want to learn to mountain bike don’t let your husband teach you. Go and take a class or a private lesson. It will be the best money you have ever spent on a sport.

I enrolled in a class through REI and I learned the basics of moutain biking. With skill my anxiety decreased and pretty soon parts of each ride became enjoyable. Little by little my skill increased.

At the beginning of the next season my husband surprised me with a private lesson. That lesson increased my confidence and skills even more.

The next day we did a guided ride with the same instructor. Trusting her assessment of my riding ability I found myself relaxing and riding downhill at speeds that felt much quicker and more exhilarating than they appeared. Finally, I understood why the boy loved bikes. I started to love them too. Not as much as the boy, but a little more every day.

And that is how I found myself today, a year after learning to love my bike. riding along a trail in the high desert. Alone and at peace and exactly where I want to be.

If you want to give Mountain Biking a spin here are a few resources:

The blog that convinced me to take a lesson:

An amazing website (and YouTube channel ) for all things mountain bikes - If these guys don’t make you want to ride - no one will.

REI - A great option for affordable classes on all things outdoors (and if you are not familiar with REI ... you should be ... so check them out)

Cog Wild - our source for guided rides and private lessons. If you are near Bend, Oregon call these guys.

(This is not a sponsored post. The businesses mentioned did not pay to be mentioned in this post)

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