Mountain biking isn’t an activity made easier by deep thought. That’s one of the reasons people love it: Singletrack clears our minds of all the crap that’s usually so hard to escape. It’s almost meditative in the way it focuses our vision and forces us to live in the moment. Excessive thought is rarely rewarded. Instinct and muscle memory usually are.
Many of us think far too much while riding our bikes. I do it all the time. The eyes see an obstacle, and the mind registers signals of pain and doubt. Next thing I know, I’ve gone all chickenshit and I’m walking over a log or rock that I should have ridden.
That’s why I drove home happy Wednesday night after my first seriously rooty trail ride of the season. Somehow, I had managed to turn off part of my brain and let my body take over. I was riding with a group, most of whom I’d never met before, so when I found myself at the front, I felt a self-imposed pressure to hold the pace and keep the flow going. Call it ego, male pride or the threat of swarming mosquitoes. Whatever.
I rode over root balls that normally would have sent doubt through my mind, and a foot toward the ground. I easily cleaned four or five technical features on Brown Bear that I’d never been able to ride before. I was hooting and hollering in spots where I normally grumble profanities. Not all my moves were pretty, but they kept me upright and pedaling.
Years ago, I read an interview with some downhill racers talking about danger and speed. One of them said something along the lines of, “Some days you just leave your brain at home and have a really good run.”
I’ve got to capture the magic that visited me Wednesday night, and try to hold onto it all summer. My brain can be a shitty riding partner. I need to leave it at home more often.