Yesterday I hit the biggest drop I’ve ever hit in my life. I know that a lot of people tend to exaggerate the size of stuff they hit this was a legitimate 20 feet down with about a 12-15 foot gap and a slight hip to the right. Not exactly Red Bull Rampage size but pretty scary for a 33 year old dude who fancies himself as more of a trail rider than an extreme freerider.
As I climbed up to the top of the ridge to look at the move, which has been dubbed the Flying Fu, I was pretty nervous. While I’ve done plenty of drops before this one was definitely bigger than anything I’ve tried and it was hard not to let worst case scenarios creep into my head.
How hard would the impact be? Would I clear the gap? Would I hit the landing pointed in the right direction or would I fly off into the rocks and bushes at Mach 3?
After taking a couple practice runs into it (the run in is pretty sketch as well) and waiting for the wind to die down it was time to go for it. I dropped in, spotted my markers on the way down and dove into space…
I floated through the air for what seemed like a long time watching the earth come up at me, spotted my landing and relaxed as I prepared for impact. When I landed I absorbed the impact with my legs and got on the brakes. I rode it out with a huge grin on my face…I had conquered another move that I had previously told myself I’d never hit.
The reason I’m telling you this is because it brought up what I feel is one of the purest moments in mountain biking. It is that moment when you hit something new for the first time and you don’t know exactly what is going to happen. You put yourself into a different mindset that exists only in the face of fear and the unknown.
I call it the “Hell or High Water” moment. It is that moment when you’ve decided that you are going to go for it on your next run at something…come hell or high water. It doesn’t have to be a drop or a jump, anyone who has tried something sketchy on the trail that scares them knows the feeling.
It is just never the same feeling after that first go. Sure, you get an adrenaline rush but after you’ve done it once you know what to expect on some level. Muscle memory starts to take over more than pure instinct.
It is that moment of pure instinct where you have no frame of reference to draw from that is the drug I crave. Those moments happen on a regular basis when you first start riding – everything is new and it seems you can ride something else every time you hit the trail. However, as we gain more experience those moments become few and far between.
That is the reason I train to be able to ride new stuff. Progressing from year to year allows me to be able to seek out new things to ride and new levels to take my riding. It is easy to stagnate as a rider as we get older – it is easier to just keep riding the same trails you know and hit the same lines you’ve always hit.
It is easy to chalk it up to “getting older” but I have to disagree. I think that it is because we forget why we fell in love with mountain biking in the first place – that hell or high water moment that simply does not exist in a lot of other endurance sports. I mean, when was the last time you saw a runner or a roadie getting hyped up to hit something sketchy?
I also think that “getting older” simply means “deteriorating physical skills”. As we age we lose strength, power and mobility and this does start to affect how we feel on the trail. One day you just don’t feel like you can ride as well and then the worst thing happens – you start to walk or avoid stuff that you used to hit with no problem.
Strength and conditioning is the only way to avoid this. Sure, I’m biased but the evidence is there – athletes in other sports are competing at higher levels later into their career than ever before (can anyone say “Brett Favre”?) and strength training is one of the major reasons why. If you don’t want to lose those pure moments of hitting something new that scares the crap out of you then you have to fight back.
I tell people in my facility that one day you wake up and realize the advantages of youth are wasted on the young. At that point you have a choice to either accept it or to do something about it. MTB Strength Training Systems exists to help those riders that choose to do something about it and keep progressing as riders every year.