I remember the first time I saw someone riding their bike up a dirt trail, I thought they were crazy, “who would want to do that?”
A few years later, I was crazy because I wanted to do that! This year marks 25 years Mountain Biking in The Santa Monica Mountains!
The very first ride was on borrowed bikes. We didn’t know how to change a flat and we certainly didn’t have the tools to do it.
After 3 flats in one day and driving back and forth to the bike shop, we finally finished our first ride. It was Sycamore Canyon in Pt. Mugu State Park—a trail system that goes from the Pacific Ocean all the way to The Conejo Valley–a vast amount of space, deep with connector trails, singeltrack trails, and wide fire roads.
You can spend a whole day here!
I’ll never forget my first year of riding, I entered the California Mountain Bike Challenge. There were 7 races throughout the State and I just kept crashing! I was a good climber but I didn’t have any racing experience and I wasn’t real polished in my technical skills on the downhills. I have many scars to prove it!
I asked my competitor, “how do you stay on your bike, I keep crashing!” Her reply has been a theme for my life ever since. She said, “IT’S JUST TIME IN THE SADDLE.”
IT’S JUST TIME IN THE SADDLE!
Apparently, she had been riding for six years and was racing in the beginner category (not cool). She knew from experience that it’s not easy for anyone who takes on Mountain Biking as a sport.
I wanted to be great NOW and not have to go through the process of riding more to be great! Alas, everything in life is a process, time in the saddle. I learned to embrace the sentiment.
It was never an easy sport. There were days we would ride up Puerco Canyon in Malibu–it was steep! We would throw our bikes down sweating profusely, swearing!
It’s true, everything is a process. So going through it is a necessity in order to embrace it and maintain it.
I came in third overall in that California Mountain Bike Challenge (1995) and I realized that I am not a competitive racer girl! From then on, I vowed to ride for the JOY of it!
Yep, sure enough it did take some time in the saddle. Even for the JOY of it!
So many aspects of riding has evolved for me — I can now change a flat…anywhere, anytime.
I took the time to learn how to change a flat instead of waiting for some guy to cross my path and fix it for me!
That, alone, was a major challenge. A couple of the guys were just so insistent that they change my flat. I had to be really forceful and firm, “I learned how to change flats and now I have to practice. PLEASE, let me change my own flat!!!”
Years later, I was able to help two men on the side of Pacific Coast Highway who had a flat and were unprepared. Clearly, they were in the place I was all those years ago when I knew nothing and was not prepared to fix a flat on my own. It felt good to give back!
Today I rode on the same trail system where I rode frequently back in the day. A smile was pasted on my face!
There’s something about it, when you get up there and there is no one around, sounds of bees, birds and trees blowing in the wind. It is certainly a meditative, transformative experience. Being out in the day and feeling all the joys of life in nature!
My ego is no longer involved. I’m not out to prove anything. If I’m feeling unsure about descending a new trail, I easily step off my pedals and walk down the trail. On a good day though, I’m quite competent! I can fly down most trails and I can pedal up any trail.
Mountain biking is my friend but I had to take the time to nurture that friendship. I couldn’t just start out being competent, I had to earn it.
The same is true with any physical practice you take on. Yoga is my friend as well, it pulls me into the present moment, just like being out on the trail.
If you suffer from being in your head too much and most of your friends are busy or far away (like mine), take on an activity that fills you up with joy and a sense of empowerment.
I believe our bodies are our best friends. Sometimes we put them last in line but your body is your friend. Feed it with activities that nourish you.
My friends, when I do get to interact with them, feel like these physical forces. They are a force of validation and aliveness. I’ve never been the friend who has to have somebody with me for exercise, so glad because without my physical practices, I’d be very alone since most of them are far far away!
I am so grateful for my physical friends and that I’ve taken the time and YEARS to nurture the physical practices that make me feel ALIVE even without them. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!