I would like to say first that I didn't fall. I almost fell. A lot. But I stayed up.
I went to Quarry Ridge Park near Madison WI. If you click on the links you can find out more about them, but I'll give a quick overview. It has a main loop, which includes a beginner section, and then an intermediate section. This includes some berms, two wooden features, lots of turns, and some climbs. At one point, you can choose to either go back to the parking lot, take a trail along the lake, or take a sandy climb up the ridge. From the top of the ridge, you can take three downhill paths down the ridge. The singletrack loops around the top of the ridge then back down. A connecting trail allows only the beginner sections to be ridden.
What?I took the Military Ridge Bike Path to the park, so I had a 7 mile ride just to get there. I was there around 10:00 on a Wednesday, so I shared the park with just one guy walking his dog, which was nice to not embarrass myself, but meant I would take extra care. I did the beginner loop a few times, then moved on to the main loop. The first time around, I went real slow, and missed a lot of the fun stuff, like the wooded features. I had to walk my bike up the sandy climb because my gears were messed up and I couldn't down shift, and had little traction. I didn't really bother to learn many skills before I went, just the stance, so it probably serves me right. From then on, I took the shorter intermediate loop. It was a lot of fun. I probably never broke 15mph, but my skills improved a lot, and I can't wait to go again. Maybe try some downhill stuff.
What I learnedI learned a lot of techniques. Once I got home, I e-mailed a friend in CO who races and everything. He gave me a lot of practical advice.
While I was out, on a very basic level, I learned that braking on a downhill doesn't help much when you're on dirt. You just fishtail. So, I learned to let go of the brake and ride.
The most metaphysical thing I learned is "Trust your bike, trust yourself." When I went slow, trying to pick my way through every little bit, I had a lot more problems than if I just trusted my body to be able to compensate for any problems. I had to trust my bike too, to not fall apart under me and to compensate a little on its own. Trust has always been an issue with me, and I still trust no one really, but now at least I trust myself and my bike (a Specialized HardRock I got at an auction).
I will be doing more and more of these adventure reports as I complete more adventures. I'm still working out the format I want for them, so over time, you may see some changes and developments. Just ignore them or give me feedback (my email for this blog is jleopold.tri[at]gmail.com, the comments also work) and enjoy!
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