A Love Letter to Mountain Biking
By Jay Bartlett
While recently looking through past articles, I realized that this is, I believe, the thirtieth time I have written something for St. George Health & Wellness Magazine. It’s a milestone that got me thinking about all the miles that have passed under my tires during that time: the many hours spent with friends or alone exploring (or re-exploring) our little corner of the world; the whir of tires on hard-packed dirt grappling to keep traction; the buzz of freehubs relaxing on descents; the rhythm of breathing and the staccato of exertion; and the hoots and hollers of accomplishment.
I’ve ridden many miles since the first article—and improved my writing! I’ve pushed myself to exhaustion on some rides and on others, spent most of my time sitting quietly, enjoying the views. I’ve gone on rides when the sizzling summer temps kept most (sane) people in air-conditioned comfort. I’ve bundled up for winter jaunts when the reasonable thing to do would be to sip tea by a fire. (You definitely want to do that after a cold ride!) Of course, there are those perfect, warm days when the air is like a soft blanket, the dirt is tacky, and the legs are strong—days where there is just no other choice but to ride.
It’s a fantastic thing to find a recreation that so positively influences your life. I fall short of being the happiest person in the world, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that I’m almost always happy when I’m on my bike. The bike takes me to amazing places. The bike teaches me to endure, to try harder, and to get back on and try again. The bike helps me appreciate the world around me and often—especially when the riding is shared with friends—brings me joy and laughter.
Looking at mountain biking in its most basic form, it seems a bit silly—taking a two-wheeled machine (driven by a chain and pedaled by a human motor) and riding it up and down mountains (or more likely for us, across a desert). I mean, come on! Two wheels? Even if you know the physics, it’s still pretty impressive that a human being can adjust their mass over this machine into precise and constantly varying positions as to keep balance while riding across a log, pedaling up and over large rocks, or flying through a sweeping corner covered with rubble.
It goes beyond riding a simple machine around in the dirt. It can become a dance with gravity, a courtship with momentum, a flirtation with speed, a…Okay. I’m getting carried away. It’s time to wrap up this article, which is rapidly turning into a love letter to mountain biking.
In writing these pages, my hope is that you have been influenced to get out and explore some trails or to ride your bike even a little so you can feel some of the sensations that come with this amazing sport. Even if your preferred means of transport isn’t a mountain bike, keep in mind that every trail I’ve written about is open to hikers as well, so follow your nose to an adventure of your own.