Oct. 6, 2010 12:00

Pushing limits

Mountain biking has become a recent activity in my life. At the behest and encouragement of a good friend, I started exploring the trails in northwest Greensboro. I have explored Bur-Mil Park, which has a number of exciting trails that meander between neighborhoods and Lake Brandt. I’ve found trail riding to be a

welcome change from my jogging routine, and a great way to both be outside and get a good exercise, even through the changing seasonal weather.

The workout involves a good amount of strength training and exciting runs up and down small hills through the woods. Branches woosh around my helmet. Legs become tired from climbs. There is a rewarding sense of accomplishment navigating through the trees while avoiding obstacles and other bikers. I feel a general enjoyment being outside among nature for a few hours each week — a short respite from busy life.

Downhills are exciting flights between trees and around corners. My aging, red Cannondale has knobby tires and suspension made to handle the bumps and jolts that come with hitting roots and rocks. My head is adorned with a white helmet, strapped tight. And my hands have riding gloves that help prevent callouses from gripping the handle bars. All of this gear only handles so much. Ultimately, it is up to my judgement and path to decide what I am competent to traverse.

Trail riding pushes my boundaries and helps me find my limits on two wheels.

The rides are a delicate balance between speed and control, release and recovery. Showing how much I am willing to risk for that rush of adrenaline, for that extra bit of speed around a corner or small amount of air on a jump. Once the bike gets going, momentum can take over quickly, which is when control is most important. As I’ve learned more about trail riding, I have been willing to attempt more complicated and quick techniques.

A few weeks ago, I started feeling particularly confident. A handful of rides under my belt, and in good shape, I was really getting into the feel of the trail and enjoying myself. I was quick and in control, so I decided to hit a jump off a rock in an overconfident moment. I miscalculated the height, and took a dive over the handlebars on the way down.

Stopped quickly in my tracks, the red mountain bike was twisted to the side, with my head planted firmly on the middle of the trail. My inexperience and poor judgement yielded some nasty bruises on my arm and leg. But ultimately, I was fine.

I brushed myself off and moved all of my limbs without major issues. The bleeding didn’t stop the ride, but my arm ached for about a week. At the end of the ride, my riding partner noticed a small dent in my helmet. My head apparently hit a buried rock during my fall.

I have always been a strong proponent of obligatory helmet use. My own potentially serious accident reinforced this belief. I could have been subject to a major head wound far away from any road or easy aid. I consider myself lucky I didn’t hurt myself seriously.

The accident has reminded me of the seriousness in pushing limits. I take calculated risks daily in my life, getting into a car, riding a bike and experiencing new things. Sometimes those risks lead to painful results.

Life itself is about growth, change and discovery.

Continuing to push things in positive and educated ways leads to a more enriched and exciting life. For myself, discovering the joy in trail riding as an adult has lead to a happier and more fulfilled life, even if in small ways.

My learning curve is rarely a completely smooth climb. Misjudging the risk of falling on that climb can hurt. Making educated and calculated judgments is key to being successful in any pursuit. And perhaps this is a key to adult life in general.

As I have gotten older, I understand and see more clearly potential pitfalls and accidents. The youthful rashness lone gone. The trick in being more aware isn’t becoming fearful, to not attempting anything risky. It is seeing the challenges clearly, and traversing the path with excitement and knowledge. A life lesson for more than just riding.


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