Trying Something New

Getting older is something we all involuntarily have to do – but the attitude we do it with is completely up to us. My recent attitude toward aging is to make the most out of the time I have, both with my kids and with my personal goals. When my kids were really little, I lost some time due to depression and health issues. Now that I’m back in the driver’s seat, I’m investing in things that fulfill me rather than numb me. Less TV (sorry Netflix) less shopping (sorry Target) less junk food (sorry donuts) and more outdoor time. More play time. More trying new things.

Ask anyone that knows me and they’ll tell you I have a long list of things I want to learn (downhill skiing? Check!). Always learning, always exploring. Last summer I randomly decided I wanted to learn how to mountain bike. My husband was ecstatic- he’s been mountain biking for years- and couldn’t wait for me to join him.

I tried mountain biking at a summer camp just to be sure it was worth investing in a bike. After not dying my first time out, I decided I loved it. Hubby and I decided to get early Christmas gifts – mountain bikes in July. After that, there was no turning back. I watched Seth’s Bike Hacks on Youtube to get a clue about what I was doing, I joined local Facebook groups in the area to figure out where the trails were and learn proper trail etiquette. I started getting up at the crack of dawn to bike with my husband on Sunday mornings. Who was this new person?

The craziest thing that happened from all of this, though, was that our kids wanted to join us! (They had been watching Seth’s bike hacks with me…) So we found mountain bikes for them and asked around – where do kids learn how to ride in GR? Luton Park was the resounding answer. We started doing short rides with the kids and they loved it. It’s like hiking, but a lot more fun, they told me. 

The thing is, with mountain biking, it’s great for any level. If you can hike and ride a bike, you’d probably enjoy some type of mountain biking. You don’t have to do crazy tricks or difficult trails unless you want to. And you don’t start out doing those things. It’s a progression.

For example- because I was comfortable riding a mountain bike, I had no problem trying out Fat Tire biking at Crystal Mountain during our January visit. It was a great place to start because it was relatively flat and on wide, groomed trails.

Today, as I was out Fat Tire biking up and down huge inclines and around sharp corners – I freaked out. It was hard. It was scary. But I remembered that I had come so far… I was the same person that learned how to mountain bike and downhill ski and deadlift heavy weights. I could fat tire bike Glacial Hills in Bellaire, too.

Plus, amidst all of my pedaling, it occurred to me that there are a ton of things parents can take away from mountain biking / fat tire biking, too.

Things Parents can Learn from Mountain Biking

Have more than one gear and use it.

I’d never make it over hilly terrain with one gear, and my parenting would be terrible if I approached every situation with the same intensity. Learning to shift at the right time makes for smoother parenting and smoother biking. Take it from me, the girl who fell off her bike going uphill because she shifted into a harder gear….

Sometimes there is no lower gear. You just have to grind.

I also learned that sometimes there is no lower gear – you’re on a hard hill and the only thing you can do is to work it out. Just like those hair-pulling times when we’re parenting, right??!

To get better, you’ve got to ride with people who are better than you.

You are going to learn new techniques and approaches from people that have already been there and mastered these things. Hang with them, watch them, ask questions, and do your best. True for parenting and riding alike, I think. And be that mentor person for those that come behind you. It’s the right thing to do.

Everyone has to climb their own hills.

Even with the best mentors, you still have to ride your own ride. Own it, and make the best of it. No one can do this for you.

When you’re mad, exhausted, or afraid it’s helpful to remember past successes.

There were a few times while biking that I was freaked out- I might fall off that steep ledge or not make my turn – and it took reminding myself that I’ve done hard things before, that freaking out would not help at all, and that I needed focus and breath through it. Key lessons for a mom or dad navigating a tough parenting moment or season…

Celebrate the accomplishments along the way, stop and take pictures & enjoy the view.

That cool view you just passed will never look quite the same again. It’s ok to stop and take pictures and enjoy the view. Celebrate the successes – don’t let them get overshadowed by the hustle. Pace yourself and build breaks into biking and parenting. You won’t regret the memories.

Get the right equipment & take care it.

When we had our first child, I sold our VW Jetta and bought a Subaru Forester. Everyone that was a parent told me I should buy a van but I wasn’t going to be a dorky van owner. Five months later, I sold the Subaru and bought a van and have owned one ever since. It was just so practical I couldn’t help but have it. Same goes for biking. Don’t show up to the trail with a road bike- it just won’t work. Your equipment doesn’t have to be fancy, but it needs to be appropriate and you need to take care of it or you’ll break down along the way.

There are some things you just won’t understand until you try it for yourself.

No matter how many episodes of Seth’s Bike Hacks you watch, or how many parenting books you read, there are just some things you won’t understand until you get out there and try it yourself. There is no substitute for experience. Read the books, talk to other people, but when the time has come to ride, get up and ride!