It starts with a few pedals. Around and around the wheels go and soon you’re off on your bicycle. Sound easy? Trekking across a suburban landscape and being chased by dogs a bit boring? Try mountain biking. I love it. I swear, Arizona should be called the Happy Trails State. Once you get out of the city there are a zillion places to run, walk, hike or bike. I go mountain biking with my dad every Sunday at the crack of dawn and get back in time for church. I’ve been called crazy, but the thrill and absolute terror that mountain biking has instilled in me is something I will never forget.
For the first five minutes my legs burn, I feel like I’m crawling in mud and being boiled alive all at the same time. Then I reach the summit of the tiny hill and chastise myself for being such a weakling. I finally figure out that I was riding in high gear instead of shifting down to first. I allow myself a moment to catch my breath and speed down the hill, narrowly missing fellow bikers and hikers. The early-morning walkers smile in amusement at my wobbly “G-g-o-o-o-d M-mmorning” as I greet them going top speed over the rocky terrain.
Just when I’m feeling pretty confident, another, much larger, hill looms. This time, I remember to shift to first gear and keep pedaling. Large jagged stones stick up in the trail, making it more of an obstacle course. I wince when I see my dad up ahead riding his bike like he was taking a stroll in the park. I grit my teeth and think, Keep pedaling! Keep pedaling! Urging myself to keep going, I wonder why the heck I am doing this. I should be in bed, catching up on lost sleep. But mountain biking is my break, the intensity purges my system of toxins and the stress that builds up during the week.
My foot slips and I crash to the ground just a few feet from the top. I wearily drag my bike up and ponder whether I should cheat and walk or keep going. I decided I really needed to do penance for the way I had treated people lately.
A deep ditch just begs that I lunge off the edge and fly into space. And I do. For a split second, I feel myself flying as I reach the other end at top speed. Three feet later, I hit hard rock and wince as the seat stabs me. It’s not until several flying jumps later that my dad tells me I ought to stand on the pedals and sit further back on the seat when I’m airborne.
There’s one hill I absolutely hate to climb. There aren’t only loads of pebbly rocks on nicely paved trails for those with trouble hiking, but also slanting sheets of rock that must be scaled. Sweat drips into my eyes, blurring my vision. My legs feel fuzzy and it becomes difficult to pedal with the lactic acid building in my thighs. I can literally feel the burning creep up my legs, like fire eating at paper. Then I really start to wonder why I woke up in the first place. Finally I reach the top and see the valley below. Then the real fun begins.
It feels like an almost vertical drop, going back down the mountain. I give up counting how many people and dogs I barely miss at my breakneck speed. I hit a large rock and for a second my heart feels like it’s going to stop. At this speed, falling is painful and I don’t want to ruin my upcoming soccer and track season. My bike fishtails wildly and I narrowly miss a nice older lady hiking up with her buddy. She wasn’t too nice afterward.
Another ditch appears under my tires and again I find myself airborne. Half of me screams, I’m going to die. I’m going to die, I just know it! The other half, the verbal part, is whooping at the top of my lungs, “Yeeeehaaaaaw!” I eventually land and miss another couple and their dogs.
Reality finally hits when I return to the parking lot where my dad is waiting. No longer on an adrenaline rush, the remaining energy seeps from my body as I struggle to lift my bike and put it in the trunk. And then the cramps set in.
It feels like I had been kicked in the rear. My butt is so battered from the jolting ride that it is nearly impossible to sit. Pretty soon I feel desperate enough to ask for a butt massage from someone, even though that isn’t likely. But the thrill and excitement of being nearly disemboweled on a mountain-biking trip always outweighs the pain of biker’s butt.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.