Mountain biking brings a solitude on the trails that causes us to forget about our day-to-day problems and responsibilities. It demands we focus on the present moment. Maybe it is the speed, or perhaps it's the obstacles presented on single-track that forces one to be in the moment and starts the flow. Or it could be being out in the woods burning on the side of a mountain, barreling over rock gardens and zipping by shrubbery with no worries about the rocks you kick up behind you. In your head, no one is keeping up with you. It becomes just you and the trail. Something about it all makes mountain biking alone a cherished time well spent.
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It seems trivial, but the dirt matters. The first and last thing on the trail. Nothing brings about more joy than the soft compression and ripping of loamy soil or the rock spraying grit grinding crunch of dry dirt. The sound draws you into the ride, a hypnotic noise softly humming in the ear as your ride downhill, tires crushing pine needles and leaves releasing their smell. It's the first thing that draws you into the moment, and as the mood changes, from carriage road to trail, dry dust to moist loamy soil or chunky red earth, it's a sign that the adventure has just begun and nothing else matters.
The intensity really begins when you shift from the dirt to the trail and to finding the best line. Your focus becomes laser-tight while working over a root or through a rock garden where a simple distraction can mean going endo. Being solo means no one needs to stop and the transition can be smooth. Group rides with your peeps are awesome, but there are times you need to be with yourself and forget about everything else that's going on.
Sometimes it's going out and finding a new path and maybe getting lost for a few extra hours. Or other times it's ripping through familiar trails, opening the breaks, and listening to the dirt crunch as you wrap turns and recognize every root. Racing yourself on the trail, speeding through junctions… Or listening to music and jamming down the trail, lost in the familiar feeling of mountain biking. It's all valuable, useful, and sometimes a necessary relief to the daily grind.
With the hum of insects and wind blowing through the forest or over a sea of grass, a ride becomes zen; absorbed in the now, nothing else matters. A trail becomes a trail, whether single, double or carriage, miles of fire roads through forests and up mountains; we tune in to what is happening. And when the focus begins to fade, it becomes time to turn around.
Hitting the trails and getting lost on the ride becomes a moving meditation. All that matters is you, the bike and the trail. A sandwich and having the right gear makes the ride that much better and lasts that much longer.