ADVENTURE BY BIKE®
Riding my bike means many things to me. It’s freedom. It’s fitness. It’s a source of joy. It’s transportation. It’s suffering. It’s a means to self-exploration. It’s adventure. And in some cases, the bicycle is my teacher.
My focus this summer was on exploring the mountain range in my own backyard. The La Plata mountains stand as high sentries overlooking my hometown of Durango, Colorado. A fifteen minute car ride puts you in the heart of these craggy peaks. As written about in a previous post (see A Fat Tire Day in the Mountains), the range is steeped in mining history with miles and miles of old mining roads to explore. With the steep nature of the terrain and the rugged roads the miners of the past built to access the high basins, the vehicle of choice for exploration is either your own two feet or a fatbike. My Mukluk has opened up this mountain range to me—allowing me to quickly access the lofty high summits of the range or explore the remnants of once-bustling mining encampments.
The big boy at the entrance to an old mine...
On a recent Mukluk adventure I found myself at nearly 12,000’ peering down a steep, rocky, off-camber descent. The exposure to my left consisted of a steep, unconsolidated, rocky slope falling several hundred feet into the valley below. To my right the slope continued to rise steeply to an exposed ridge. The mining road was really just a rough trail dotted with large rocks and boulders - picking the wrong line or a simple miscalculation of a pedal stroke could easily have dire consequences. Fear was starting to creep in…
Peering down into Rush Basin...
Fear. Everyone has felt its presence. It can be a great motivator. It can be a vehicle for increased concentration and focus. It can also be debilitating and cause indecisiveness. In our daily lives fear can creep in whether it’s making a tough life decision; having a crucial conversation with a co-worker or a loved one; or simply by pursuing our dreams. Fear can paralyze us and hinder our abilities to reach our potential and realize our life’s goals.
For me, in the outdoor sports world in which I often find myself, fear is a very real and tangible thing. I feel the butterflies welling up and the palms becoming sweaty. When the consequences are high and the margin for error is small, fear will creep in and attempt to overtake me. During these times as I scout a rapid, peer down a steep icy couloir, or evaluate a safe line down technical singletrack, I try to recognize fear for what it is and adeptly face it. In my everyday life though, this doesn’t always happen. My fears sometimes get disguised as excuses and justifications. The words “I can’t” begin entering into my thoughts and my self-imposed limits take precedence. I take no action, and thus potentially miss an opportunity for growth or to experience something new.
The lasting remnants of an era gone by...
As I begin to descend the boulder-choked track my mind quickly assesses the risks versus the rewards of the line I have chosen. I recognize my fear for what it is…a very natural human response to risk…a means to avoid perceived danger and keep me in my comfort zone. With a heightened awareness and increased focus, I let the fat tires of the Mukluk do their job and roll over the loose talus and sliding scree. I commit myself fully to my line.
For me, it is so easy to recognize fear from the saddle of a bike or the cockpit of a kayak. I can also objectively make decisions on how to deal with it. I may crash (as we sometimes do), but to not try and thus let my fear dictate my choices, is to play it safe…to never venture from my comfort zone…to not experience life to its fullest. The human body’s autonomic fear response is not one to be ignored as it can and will potentially save us when life and death danger is present. But when fear creeps into our daily lives and is an underlying factor that goes unacknowledged or unrecognized in our decision making, we may just be missing out on a lot of amazing experiences and growth.
Mining structures withstanding the test of time...
At the bottom of the descent I stopped and looked back at what I just rode. Unbelievable. For some cyclists this descent would be routine, but for me it was anything but that. With a smile and a fist pump, I confidently began pedaling along the valley floor feeling proud and exhilarated from the moment and the accomplishment.
Another day in the saddle—another life lesson learned.
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I grew up in a military family where we moved 13 times before I left for college. Consequently, I have the continual urge to explore and travel having climbed, kayaked, and biked all over our amazing planet. My passion for the outdoors drives me to seek out adventures which often times combine multiple modes of travel or activities (i.e. biking to a wilderness area and then backpacking in to climb a high peak). "Keeping life simple" is a guiding motto of my life and for me, bike travel epitomizes simplicity.