I think the beauty of the bicycle lies in the versatility. As someone who should probably be diagnosed with Adult Onset ADHD, I find it nothing short of miraculous that after a decade of riding my bike nearly every day, I still continue to ride my bike nearly every day, scheduling work and other parts of life to optimize the amount of time I can spend pedaling around in amazing places.
As a bit of an introduction, the evolution to my current state went something like this: I was a high school swimmer who pretty much wasn’t very fast (I made one state qualifying time in my illustrious career), then decide that since I used to like riding bikes ten years prior, there was a cute boy involved, and could occasionally run without hobbling myself, I should try a triathlon. So for a high school graduation present, I conned my parents into buying me a road bike. I promptly gave up swimming and decided running really wasn’t for me. The bike, however, stuck like glue.
From there, it didn’t take much to get into racing on the road through the University of Colorado cycling team, after which I got convinced to race at Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals in Angel Fire, New Mexico with the promise that I’d be allowed to walk my bike on all the downhill sections of trail as long as I finished the race. Then I raced some ‘cross, because, well, there was another cute boy involved.
Mountain biking stuck as I raced cross country for a few years before I lost interest, then graduated to 100-mile and 24-hour races, and then discovered the world of multiday ultra-endurance racing. Two Colorado Trail Races, a Tour Divide, a Stagecoach 400, a Dixie 200, an Iditarod 350, and an Arizona 300 later, over the course of three years, my body finally stood up in protest. While I was nowhere ready to move on from the multi-day world, the protest took the form of an injured knee at first, and then a complete body shutdown later this past summer.
It put the kibosh on riding anything longer than three hours, which is a tall order for a gal who likes to go on long rides. My form of adventuring involved going to new places and riding as many miles of new trail as I could…but now I couldn’t.
But this is where the beauty of riding bikes comes in. While many other sports would have forced a full stepping away from the activity, I simply had to adjust my focus and expectations on the bike. I had to make myself a beginner again and throw myself at a whole new discipline of riding: Riding rocks.
You get good at what you practice, and while in the past I’ve had some pretty decent technical skills, fitness and endurance have always been my primary focus. That’s because really, when you’re on mile 423 of the Colorado Trail Race and can’t see straight because you really haven’t slept a whole lot in the past four days, you’re not even going to try to clear the rocky uphill section because a) you have no power left in your legs, b) it carries a relatively higher risk of injury given the slower reflexes associated with sleep deprivation, and most importantly c) you really just don’t care. Ultra-endurance racing is all about efficiency, and when it comes down to it, hopping off the bike and walking a rocky section doesn’t lose you much time over bobbling through it ungracefully on a loaded bike.
So needless to say, my technical skills had slowly been sliding over the past three years, and with the new hold on long rides I was excited at prospect of working on skills instead.
I put a short stem on the Spearfish. Swapped out the flat bars for a pair of risers, put some 2.3” tires on, and headed for the desert of Tucson where the riding would either kill me or make me better.
I think that that’s another beauty of bikes: You can take a fast and efficient race machine like the Spearfish and turn it into a play-bike that shines on all sorts of rocks.
While I’d love to say that this transition to rock-monkey has been smooth and seamless, that would be a lie. There has been a lot of walking. There have been some temper tantrums. There have been some tears. The rocks in Tucson are like nothing I’ve ever experienced before in Colorado. They’re big, awkward, and really hurt when you fall over on them. I’ve never stood before a pile of rocks and ridden them over and over until I could do it smoothly instead of saying, ‘Meh, let’s keep moving, there’s plenty of trail to ride before the sun goes down.’
I spent my first few weeks here bobbling over everything, wondering how anyone could get over the giant step-ups and step-downs, how people rode steep rock faces fearlessly. But I have to say, after a month, I’m starting to realize the bike is a capable partner for whatever I throw at it. As long as I don’t do anything excessively stupid, it’ll take care of me, even when I do something less than graceful.
There’s a bit of instant gratification when it comes to technical riding that I’ve never experienced with racing ultra-endurance events. While it is possible to see incremental increases in power or efficiency after months of training, throwing oneself at a rock over and over until you clear it gives an entirely different type of gratification. It’s no longer about going slightly faster over a long distance. It’s a different kind of adventure by bike.
That being said, I’m pretty excited to get back to my normal mode of riding this winter and come into next summer with a whole new set of skills under my belt.
Photos courtesy of Scott Morris
Share this post: Tweet
When Eszter Horanyi was in second grade, living in Tucson, Ariz., her dad bought the entire family Schwinn mountain bikes; she’s been riding ever since, dabbling in racing disciplines from road, to cross, to track and mountain biking. Most recently she’s loving adventurous long rides, bikepacking and exploring the world from two wheels. zenondirt.wordpress.com