One other recent change has been my return to Mountain Biking. When I was younger, around 13 to 16, I rode quite a lot but as climbing came into my life, my blinkers came down and biking amongst other things was placed to one side. Now I have finally realised that I can’t climb every day (my body just aint built like that) and doing other sports is not a bad thing, quite the contrary in fact. Not only do new sports improve and develop your skill set, but they spread your focus just a little, making you less likely to grow stale from your main obsession.
With lots of ski lifts, and even more steep hills, Innsbruck seemed like the perfect place to re-kindle my puppy love of Freeride and DH. I got really lucky with a fantastic deal on a bike, and it was immediately clear that technology had moved on quite a bit since my last bike. With almost double my previous travel at the front and back, and a whole host of other fancy new things I felt like I would be able to ride off anything without a worry. These delusions of grandeur continued as I watched a host of the latest mountain biking films and found myself thinking the humungous drops, gaps and other gnarly terrain “didn’t look too bad!”
You see, one of my character traits (I refrain from using the word strength or weakness here) is my desire to be as good as I can, as fast as I can; in other words, my impatience to go through the learning process. If I see someone doing something, then I immediately imagine I should be able to do the same or similar if I just try hard enough. Even though I know deep down the amount of years it takes to achieve a moderate, let alone excellent performance level, in my minds eye I can still see myself there, and this can sometimes present a problem.
Generally I think that pushing yourself is a very productive and positive way to live your life. It certainly beats lazing it out, watching yourself grow old and fat; and the more people that push themselves towards excellence, the more excellent the human race will become as a whole, which is surely a good thing? However, real life is not always as simple as the hypothetical version, and more often than not, other necessary responsibilities prevent these sorts of actions.
My problem, if you can call it that, is that I am paid to climb; not to bike, not to ski, not to lecture on black-hole thermodynamics or to sell the latest in women’s frilly lingerie, but to climb rocks to the best of my ability. This relies heavily on having a working body, and I should always have this as one of my top priorities when practicing other potentially dangerous sports, which often leaves me in a bit of a pickle...
Standing at the top of a roll in I have the proverbial devil and angel on my shoulders. I know what I need to do and I can see the drop being ridden in my mind’s eye. I play it back over and over, trying to figure out all the possible points it could go wrong and what I can do to avoid them. I think I can probably stick it, but there is certainly a chance it could go wrong and maybe I’m not skilled enough to get out of any sticky situations that could occur. If I don’t try, how will I ever improve, but is that alone a good enough reason for stacking it hard? I would be proud of myself for succeeding, but what’s worse, a dent in my pride or in my body?
All I can do is weigh up the odds and make a calculated decision, or failing that listen for that little voice inside, hoping that he’s screaming loud enough for me to hear.
Tomorrow I am going to take my bike to the top of a big hill to ride the Nordketten Singletrail, which is described on their website as “one of Europe’s steepest, longest and
most difficult mountain bike descents”. The trail is 4.9 km long and from what I can gather it’s really steep; it pretty much follows the natural slope of the mountain, right underneath the gondola. Various sections of North Shore dot the way and I am pretty excited about these, having never ridden anything like it before. I just really hope the forecast rain doesn’t come as I imagine things could get a little slippery, making those all important odds even harder to predict