MY BEGINNER’S MOUNTAIN BIKING STORY

Ever looked around and wondered what you were doing some place because you KNOW you completely stood out? But you also KNOW you’re in the right place?

My social alarm immediately began ringing before I even stepped into the sky lift ticket line. I stood out in a sea of boys and men made even more intimidating by inches of body padding (everyone looked like body builders!) and helmets painted with fire and monsters.

Row of bikers

My biking experience doesn’t even qualify for “roadie” status. I love Love LOVE biking, but I use it for commuting and leisure travels. Mountain biking was a completely opposite activity only made familiar by the use of a bicycle and helmet. The bike rental folks assured me many times over I’d have a ton of fun on the beginner trail yet still get that feel of mountain biking.

The Sky RideThe plan was to take the sky chair up to the top of Snow Summit (This is summer! No snow) then wind all the way downhill from there. While waiting in line, I tried to look cool. Just blend in. Just blend in. All around me the guys were jostling each other and enthusiastically asking each other about whether they had “tried the new trail” or their thoughts on other ones. Seasoned dudes them all. Before long Milkshake and my bike got taken from us and hung from the chair as we took the next chair up.

What an awesome ride! I swear it took us 10 minutes to get to the end. But it was 10 minutes of slow flight above the trees, streams, and bumps to get to the top of Snow Summit. At the beginning of my Big Bear Lake trip, I hard mourned being unable to pay $99 to zip-line the mountains… this ski lift made up for it and more. It was like doing a slow, reverse zip-line—and I actually had time to enjoy the view! Meanwhile I stared in new respect at bikers going down the steeper sides of the mountain—skinny paths between low cliffs, jumping off rocks, taking hair-pin turns with a gruff grace… my stomach was doing a freak-out at wondering how insane the beginner’s trail might be.

Milkshake and me

The first minutes of the trail weren’t intimidating. Suddenly the paths became skinnier and rocks strewn into and around the dirt created a bum-bum-bumbumbumbumpy ride. Does a fast speed keep you upright? Would I have better balance if I kept my butt off the chair? I didn’t know! A few times I felt myself lose balance and my instincts kicked in to just halt and place my foot on the ground. A few times I crept along at a pre-K cycler’s pace because my body just did a freak-out and couldn’t balance. Was I supposed to use the brakes to skim along that much?

Some who's not us
That’s NOT US! But we’re checking out that guy biking over a rock as we fly along the ski lift

Ah—but the view. Several times Milkshake and I stopped to just stare over the tree tops at California’s nature .

For almost two hours we barely saw anyone else on the trail. Towards the wider and car-friendly Town Trail we met other bikers—most going the opposite direction to ride UP the mountain.

At the finish line, I noticed many bikers had those POV Go-Pro cameras strapped to their helmets. Well—I attempted the same effects (for hundreds dollars less using my regular camera and an $18 Pedco Ultrapod II strapped to Milkshake’s bike’s handlebars.)

I came out of this with a new respect for mountain bikers—it’s more difficult than it looks. (especially if you’re a flat Florida lover) But I would definitely do that again—and be a little more daring (maybe I’ll actually bound off some of the shorter rocks instead of go around them!). And Milkshake came out of this with a poofy sprained ankle (UPDATE: One month later she walks like normal but doesn’t have 100% range of motion yet)

Click on any of my pictures to see our view from Big Bear Lake’s Snow Summit

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