All Geared Up

We geared up properly this weekend.

I feel slightly foolish because I’m a total newb and I feel like the outfit implies differently. But it also provides protection that everyday clothes and shoes don’t. For that, I am thankful.

Day 3 of learning to ride (for me) was good, rough in some ways, but good.

First off, the gear may look snazzy but it feels incredibly awkward and it’s just one more thing for me to adjust to. (Really? Do I have to?) The boots feel like bricks. I kept thinking, “How in the world is this thing supposed to fit between the pedal and the gear shift?” (I managed.) Then imagine wearing “coolmax” (cool my ass) boot socks, boots, and padded pants in 80 degree weather. Oh, and don’t forget the awesomely awkward goggles and gloves. Every inch of your body is covered by something and I was swimming in sweat. The price you pay to play I guess.

I had trouble enjoying myself at first. I was so overwhelmed with all the new sensations and the many things I’m still learning. Have you ever heard the phrase, “too much in your head?” This was my brain for perhaps the first 20-30 minutes. How am I supposed to move in all of this? OMG I’m so hot. Breathe. Flex fingers. Don’t death grip. Lighter touch. Breathe. I don’t think I’ve ever been this sweaty. Remember the clutch. Speed up. Shift up. Roots. Bump, bump. Relax. Breathe. Crap. Downhill. Slow down, shift down. Breathe. My goggles are not sitting right. HOW DO PEOPLE FUNCTION LIKE THIS? Eventually the gear felt more natural and I wasn’t so distracted by it which allowed me to focus more on handling the bike and enjoying myself.

Here we are taking a much-needed break.

That sign says *easiest* for trail rating. My ass. Maybe right there by the road.

Do not be deceived. This is NOT what most of the trail looks like.

We explored north of the camp this time. And thanks to poorly marked trails and maps we weren’t entirely sure we were going the direction we meant to be. Thankfully Don’s pretty good with a map.

Never fear, we found our way back eventually. I don’t think either of us anticipated being out for so long – 3 and 1/2 hours this time. We took a lot more stops along the way which gave me a chance to get some shots of the trails.

We even saw some wildlife! Two deer sprinted across our trail like lightning and surprised the heck out of us. I didn’t see the first one which crossed in front of Don but the second came between us like a shot. It was barely 6 feet in front me! It was pretty cool.

Another pit stop…

Here’s a closer look at the hill coming down toward where Don is standing.

Here’s another look at the path I took coming down this hill…into a tree.

Please excuse my sad stick figure skills.
It’s supposed to show you where my front tire and handlebars were.

I was trying to maneuver the decline with a little speed (probably all of 5-10) rather than just coasting and braking which was my method most of the time. It didn’t work out. There was more of that tricky loose sand here and I knew I was in trouble as I started to veer off the trail. I managed to slow down enough that I didn’t hit the tree with any force but I was resting against it when Don came back to investigate my absence which is why his bike is facing the opposite direction. My clutch cable came free as I was coming down the hill or when I hit the tree. It happened too fast to say but it was definitely disconnected once I was stopped. I couldn’t get it into gear to disentangle myself from the tree. I wasn’t sure what I did. LOL  But it was only a few minutes and Don had it re-connected and we were good to go. Back in the proper direction.

Before this little mishap I also had one full-on wipe-out and another incident with an incline that was just too technical for me. I promise I wasn’t hurt! Not even any bruises or scratches. The hill I just couldn’t make it up, too steep, too much loose dirt and gravel. I killed my engine going too slow. I didn’t even try to get up it. I just asked Don to do it for me. Too much, too soon for me.

My wipe-out was another loose sand issue; that shit is hard to ride in! My back tire shifted in the sand, I was losing my balance, and I think in my attempt to keep my balance I jerked on the throttle, which I’m sure you can imagine isn’t what you want to do when you’re already losing control. I sort of went down to my left but because I was throttling I didn’t just fall off or over, the bike wanted to keep going and was spinning out from under me while I sort of laid across it. My right leg was on the engine and exhaust and if it had not been for my new padded pants and head-shielded boots, I’m sure I would have been burned. As it as, my new pants did get singed a bit but I was not.

Those white marks are NOT part of the pattern of the pants.

So after feeling slightly foolish and encumbered by my sweltering new gear, I was thankful to be wearing it and I’m certain it paid for itself in one day of riding. The boots, while feeling clunky and stiff, were a blessing as well. I can’t count the number of times I planted a heel or foot to catch a fall that might very well have twisted an ankle if I’d been wearing simple shoes.

The moral of my story: wear the protective gear. Even if you think it’s silly.

Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions.  All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make the better.  What if they are a little course, and you may get your coat soiled or torn?  What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice.  Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble. 
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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