Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving and an Upcoming Giveaway

First, I want to wish all of you here in the U.S. a very happy Thanksgiving. I hope you spend it with those you love - be they friends, family, or both. The E.V.L Thanksgiving will be a simple one this year, but I am thankful to be spending it with those most important to me - both the two-legged and four-legged variety.
*Image found here
We have plans to go for a Thanksgiving day ride as well. Our weather is supposed to be pretty pleasant and I'm looking forward to spending a bit of time on two-wheels without thought of where I'm headed or how fast that ride may or may not be.

For most of my life, this time of year has brought about a season of falling into a retrospective that can leave me feeling drained, alone, and sometimes even a tad bitter. I don't like what this season can do to me because I want to be full of cheer and spend time with those I care about, but it seems that the more festivities I'm invited to share in, the more I withdraw and find excuses not to be around other people.

I am well aware that I am not the only person who falls prey to this season, but it's easy to believe I am the only one who just wants through the holidays. I do my best to put up bright lights and festive decorations, but it can become mentally difficult as the weather turns and it's easier to get caught up in my own head than doing the things I should be doing.

One of the few things that does bring me great joy (really at any point in the year, but specifically during this season) is to be able to give to others. Because I can already feel myself heading down the dark path, I want to get things off to a good start. We've had the opportunity to give a bit already this season to an organization that helps the homeless, and I know I'll be donating to our humane society, but I'd also like to have another go-around with a holiday blog giveaway.

This is where I ask for your input, dear readers. I have a couple of items to give away, but if you have specific bike-related items you'd like to see as part of a blog contest, please let me know in the comments section. In addition, if there's a specific type of contest you'd like to participate in, feel free to let me know that as well. At this point, I'm guessing it will be something similar to the past holiday giveaway, but I am definitely open to ideas.

For those newer to the blog, the last holiday contest was pretty simple (and as a side note, holy cow... has it really been three years since the last one?!). There was a question posted and anyone who chose to participate with an answer was entered into the random electronic drawing and the winner was announced following a certain time cut-off. The prizes generally aren't significant, but it's hopefully a way to bring a little smile into a few of your lives during the hustle and bustle of the season - and to those who don't win anything, hopefully you'll have fun participating in the contest regardless.

So, as you spend the day tomorrow giving thanks for all that we've been blessed with, I would like to thank you for being a reader and continuing to offer your thoughts in regard to my sometimes random or seemingly unintelligible ideas here. I'm looking forward to a fun December with a few bicycle-related giveaways and look forward to an interactive holiday season with you.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bicycle, Oh Bicycle

On Friday, I arrived home to the sight of a cardboard box measuring roughly 54" x 8" x 26". As someone who has bought and sold no less than a million bicycles (only a slight exaggeration), I knew exactly what was now sitting, waiting to be assembled, on our stoop. My beautiful (and hopefully much more ride-able) Rodriguez was just a few tape tears and staple pulls away from my anxiously awaiting hands.
I was a bit concerned about the long slash in the box, but it turned out to be a needless worry - purely superficial as the contents were well secured and safe.
It's tough not to act like a giddy four-year-old when a bicycle arrives, and because this one has felt so long in the making, it was even more exciting. Thankfully, no one but the dogs had to watch me behaving like an absolute imbecile - though I have to admit, I probably wouldn't have cared who was around at that moment. It took everything in me not to jump up and down like my younger brother used to do while watching The A-Team as a kid (man, he really loved that show).

This box was holding the contents of my seemingly squandered bicycle year. Oh sure, I have been on bikes, but this package is what I'd believed would arrive many months ago. It was the hope that there is a near-perfect road bike available for me out in the world. This freight that had arrived on such a perfectly beautiful autumn day was holding the answers, I hoped.

Not that I was putting any pressure on this bike at all.

Okay, really there was a huge burden being put on this bike and its maker, but I just couldn't seem to help myself. I kept reminding myself to slow down, take it easy and remember that it is after all just a bicycle.
As I drug the box into the house, I opened the top flap to view the contents inside. Anxiously, I snapped a photo and sent it to Twitter. Hey, I had to share my excitement with someone, and while I realize no one cares about the dark contents which were hardly distinguishable in the photo, it did help calm me down (though just a tad).
I went on a hunt for my pedals, saddle, bar tape and handlebars - only half of which I found. After my searches were only partially fulfilled, I started annoying poor Sam at work, wondering what had become of the rest of my stuff. He assured me he'd hunt it all down when he got home, but I wanted to have it all waiting and ready to go.
The Golden stands (well, lays actually) guard over the Rodriguez
Truthfully, I had planned to just put the remaining pieces on myself, but because I couldn't find what I needed, I decided to just wait until his return home.

It felt like a never-ending afternoon.

Eventually, he did make it home (I swear he took the long way just to torment me a few minutes longer) and assembly was fairly quick and painless as the bike had been shipped pretty much whole, with the exception of needing to put a few items together again. I must be the most impatient person on the planet though, as I hovered waiting for final assembly.

I share all of this primarily because as much as I am aware there are a few of you waiting for reports on the ride, I want you know to know that I share your excitement and anticipation - but this is not a post quite yet about the bicycle itself. Hopefully, knowing that my expectation is just as high as anyone else will help alleviate some of the waiting, and I appreciate patience as I give this bike a few trial runs (at least) before providing thoughts or impressions.

Instead, I am having a bit of a crisis when it comes to riding a bike in a more general sense.

In our household, we have had many conversations over the last several months regarding the ways riding a bike has changed our lives. For the most part, riding a bike has been extremely beneficial and the thought of suddenly not riding would likely be devastating to our overall well-being.

There is an exception to this, however. When it comes to using a GPS or tracking device, I seem to have lost my way in many respects, particularly in reference to distance rides. I have mentioned in the past that sometimes tracking my rides creates a weird situation in which I feel pressured to do things that I wouldn't normally. I find myself upset or struggling if speeds aren't what I thought they should have been or if the distance falls short of what I'd hoped to achieve.

The benefits of using a GPS device are many in my mind. I like to know how many miles are on my bikes for maintenance purposes. I also enjoy being able to see the distance covered (though I don't necessarily track every ride religiously) on a given bicycle or to see improvements in average speed. In addition, it's helpful to me to know feet climbed and other such information.

The problem with all of this information is that I can get too wrapped up in it and not just enjoy the ride. I accept that there are times when I simply want to push myself and other times when I just want to lollygag my way along a path, but the more I use a GPS, the fewer rides I take purely for enjoyment. In other words, finding the balance seems to have become quite a struggle.

Perhaps I am the only one who fights through this, but maybe someone has a suggestion as to how to find the balance once again? I find myself wanting to mentally return to my cruiser bicycle days and the enjoyment found when I had no idea how far I was going, nor how fast; but balancing that with the desire to improve myself, distances and climbing, I seem to be at odds with myself. While most people can probably easily find their way through this, I find that I tend to swing dramatically one way or the other instead of being able to enjoy both. If you've been able to strike a balance or have thoughts on how I might go about such a thing, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

In the meantime, I'm headed out on this windy day to get in a brief ride. Hopefully, I can stay upright long enough to make it at least a few miles.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Update: Random Tidbits

I am entirely distracted for the time being, and because of that, I thought that I would simply put up a quick update so that no one thinks I've disappeared off of the planet. Most of this has little to do with bicycles or riding, but there is one very exciting bit on bikes that I'm thrilled to share.

First and foremost, we are in the midst of house hunting once again. There's been a lot of discussion over the previous months as to whether or not we would be leaving Colorado. Often times, it feels as though we are being called elsewhere, but when we really sat down and talked about "home," we are fairly certain we are there. It's difficult to imagine living anywhere else. We may struggle through the colder, icier months, but the reality is that we have what we want here.

With that decision came the realization that we need to find a home once again. Our temporary rental has been (and continues to be) a great spot for us to wait for our next home, but we are anxiously (probably far too anxiously) awaiting our permanent (as permanent as anything can be) future home. The house hunt is nothing short of exhausting (mentally and physically), particularly being in a hot market locally, but we are hopeful that the right home for us is just around the corner. There have already been several offers and inspections, but nothing ultimately has been the right place for us. I am learning to practice a skill that, at times, is difficult for me: patience.
Last weeks' weather from 68F down to 17F in a couple of hours was a big switch!
*Image from Weather Underground
A week ago, I was outside, enjoying a brilliantly fabulous, warm fall day. Within two hours, clouds had rolled in and the temperatures had dropped well below freezing and snow began to fall. That day was followed by several more even colder and snowier days, so it's been interesting fighting my want to be outside with the reality that everything goes numb when doing so.

Today has been the first day that's warmed up to a remotely tolerable temperature, and the sun has come out which seems to have at least taken the mental challenges away with heading out. Sunshine is wonderful!
Photo credit: Rodriguez Bikes
In bicycle news, I was emailed a photo of my now-officially-finished Rodriguez bike. I am beyond excited to get this bike in my hands (which should happen at some point over the next week-ish time frame). If I can get the snow to melt a bit and temps to stay above 20F, I should be able to at least test it out soon.

The Rodriguez will have my pedals, a different saddle and handlebars, as well as different bar tape, but this is pretty much what it looks like with those minor changes to come on arrival. The fenders were a last minute decision based on the time of year, and I think it was a good one. I'm really looking forward to being able to ride this and hopefully provide some additional info soon.

Hopefully, life is treating all of you well and you're still enjoying a pleasant fall season! Happy riding.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Light Up the Night: Wheel Lights from MonkeyLectric

With daylight growing shorter here in the northern hemisphere, I am always trying to think of ways to be more visible when riding in the dark. I have occasion at least twice a week during which I ride in the dark. Several weeks ago, I noticed that my headlight had been flickering on and off as I was riding, and while I don't use it really to see what is in front of me (I'm generally riding on fairly well-lit streets), I do use it as a means for oncoming motorized traffic to see me in the dark a little easier.

I'm still fiddling with the headlight to try and determine what has caused it to suddenly short out (the batteries have only been used a handful of times for short distances, so I don't think that's the issue), but during the interim time I was sent a package from MonkeyLectric that included their M204 wheel light.  Perfect timing, I thought. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect with this lighting system. As you can see from the photo below, it looks pretty simple, but I wasn't sure how much illumination to expect with the set up, nor how difficult it would be to install (I'm not the handiest of people, as we all know).
Package contents for the wheel light
I will freely admit that I did not install the light on my bike, but that was simply because Sam offered to do it, and I'd rather not have the frustration. BUT, it really is easy to install, just as the diagram illustrates in the instructions. The switch piece (with the on/off button) attaches to the spokes and the other piece connects to the hub with zip ties (included in the package) and then they are connected together with a small plug. The only other step is to put batteries in (before its mounted makes life much easier), which also is not overly challenging - even for me. As an FYI, batteries aren't included in the package and requires 3 AA batteries.
*Image from MonkeyLectric
Here are the details specifically for this model from MonkeyLectric:
40 Lumen Brightness
4 Full color LEDs
Great visibility at all speeds
Waterproof for use in all weather
2 year warranty
For bikes and electric bikes
Fits 16″ and larger bicycle wheels (16, 18, 20, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 700c)
Durable solid rubber construction
Stainless steel anti-theft strap
Hub mounted battery keeps wheel balanced
Wide angle visibility
5 themes included
Straps to spokes with vibration proof mount
Up to 60 hours runtime
3 AA battery holder works with all standard and rechargeables

Right off the bat I was truly surprised by the brightness of these lights! Plus, I love that I can change the color and the brightness level as well (coordinating lights with the holidays is always fun - particularly this time of year).

As I took off on my first night ride, I realized just how visible I was. The very first intersection I reach often has traffic turning right in front of me as I head straight through the intersection, and there just so happened to be a car approaching as I was headed through that spot. The driver definitely caught sight of me before anything even remotely scary could happen (which is not always the case).

After several rounds of rides with these lights, Sam has pointed out that they are ridiculously bright (in a good way) and a headlight may not even be necessary (I had the lights on the brightest setting, so it is possible to dim them down a bit). Perhaps I could get away without a headlight, but I prefer to have one to allow me to see at least a small distance in front of me in the darkest portions of travel.
Power /color change switch
The power switch is pretty simple. The red button above indicates the on/off portion of the lights, and the black button labeled "color" allows easy changes to the color combinations possible.

I do have two small frustrations with this particular portion of the light system. The first is that my night rides take me to a dimly lit area to park my bike and it is often a little challenging to find the button in the semi-dark. Sometimes, I hit the color button by mistake instead of the power, but it has been a minor inconvenience. If a rider always parks in bright areas, I'm sure it wouldn't be an issue.

The second (again minor) issue is that it feels slightly inconvenient to have to bend down to the hub/spoke area of the wheel to turn the system on and off. Perhaps this feels like more of an issue than it really is to me because of the not-so-well-lit area I must park my bike. I think changing the location of the buttons would require more plugs, wires, etc, and I prefer to deal with bending or stooping than having more plugs to deal with. It is something to consider though for a rider looking to purchase these lights.

I really appreciate that the power button isn't a simple push-off, but instead requires the user to hold for a few seconds and then press again. I think this makes it easier to keep from accidentally turning off while riding.

My attempts to get a decent photo riding in the dark have gone undocumented to date, but I will come back and add one at a later time if I manage to figure out how to make that happen and not look like a strange alien blur streaking across the roads in the night.
I'm interested to see how long I can ride with the same set of batteries having the light on the brightest setting. Since my night rides are kept fairly short distance, but happen frequently, generally I can make it through an entire year before needing to replace batteries for bike lights. I don't think these will last quite that long, but boy, they really are so much fun to see (and to be seen). The chart above gives a rough idea of how long the battery should last, so if it's accurate, I should be able to make it through several months without issue.

Overall, I really enjoy these lights and have used them for every night ride since they've been installed. Beyond enjoying them as a colorful addition to my bike, I appreciate that they are making me very visible - particularly to motorized traffic. I'm definitely looking forward to them this time of year, as I enjoy normally lighting up my bike for the holiday season. There are other models available, and if you reside in the U.S., you can find them here on Amazon. For those in other parts of the world, you can find links to purchase by clicking here. Perhaps this could even make a great gift for the cyclist in your life, or just maybe Santa will bring you your very own with a few subtle (or not so subtle) hints.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Cycling Pause

Somewhat typical for this time of year, I have found myself not really participating in longer distance rides and instead opting only to really ride for transportation. Although the behavior is quite normal for me as we approach the end of the year, I can't help but feel as though I didn't make the best of the warmer months in regarding to cycling this past summer season.
Oddly, we have had an unseasonably pleasant autumn thus far, that came on the tail end of an unusually moderate summer, and I think my brain is having to do a bit of adjusting. The mornings are cool (well, cold actually), but the days have warmed often into the 70s F throughout October and November. This is quite rare. By mid-October, we can pretty well expect a storm or two to have rolled through and dumped some snow; however, this year we've had a bit of rain (highly unusual) and no real snow (we had a fake out one day several weeks ago that dropped just a smidge, but it didn't stick).

This, in short, has been the fall I've dreamed of since moving to Colorado over a decade ago. It's perfect for biking as it's never too warm and I don't worry about ice because despite the morning and evening temperatures reaching down below freezing, there hasn't been any significant moisture to cause the ground to have slick spots.
Unfortunately, I haven't been enjoying it on my bicycle very frequently, and it's hard not to feel as though I've wasted a beautiful season thus far. I have little doubt that this is partially due to the wait for the new bike, but I also know that normally such a thing wouldn't stop me from getting out and riding.

It's an odd sensation to want to get out and yet consciously be making the choice not to ride. I think my brain and body have just needed a break. As is typical for me as we approach the colder season here, I find myself enjoying the short transportation rides more than the thought of pushing myself into taking on longer rides. I have decided that it's a bit of a cycling pause and it happens at various points throughout the year and for different reasons, but I think in many ways the short breaks help me appreciate the longer distance rides even more, and also increases my awareness of the sensations I have while riding simply to get me where I need to go.

While I understand there is nothing profound about this kind of cyclical occurrence, it always takes me by surprise when I find myself slowly letting go of distance on a bike.

Do you find that you experience changes in your habits with riding a bike throughout the seasons, or perhaps other markers throughout the year? Are you able to keep the same amount of effort or momentum continually, or do you find the need to allow yourself a bit of a break?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Walk, Don't Ride: Dismounting Ordinances for Bicycles

In the state of Colorado, it is legal to ride a bicycle on sidewalks unless it's posted otherwise (or local law indicates something to the contrary). While I think many would agree that riding on sidewalks can be dangerous - both for pedestrians and cyclists - there are times when I find myself riding a sidewalk because it is the lesser of two evils. Sometimes, it truly is safer to ride slowly on a sidewalk than to attempt to fit on the road with speeding traffic and no space. While I cannot speak for others on a bike, when on a sidewalk, I try to be hyper-aware of those on foot so that I don't scare or potentially injure someone.

Our local downtown (Old Town) areas' main thoroughfare is also part of a highway that runs through many cities. Although the maximum speed slows significantly through this area to 25 mph, many motorists drive faster and there isn't a lot of room to ride on the road between a line of parallel parked cars and the two lanes traveling each direction.

Because I frequent this area, I find myself riding side streets until I have to cross over to Main Street and then I ride the sidewalk very, very slowly (ridiculously so, truth be told - as in, I could probably get off and walk faster, but I'm lazy and don't want to do that).
There are a few of these signs that appeared magically over the last few months.
A few months ago, I noticed suddenly that there were large circles that had been painted on the sidewalk just outside of a local restaurant like the one pictured above. It appears quite large and obvious in the photo, but when walking (or riding) down the sidewalk, it seems that it could very easily go unseen, as it did for me. The first time I realized the sign was there was actually on my return trip via the same path.
Find the dismount sign painted on the sidewalk.
The photo above shows how easily this sign could be overlooked (and often is, in my experience over the last few months), by those on bicycles. In case you were unable to locate the sign on the sidewalk, which does pretty well blend in with the surroundings when walking or sitting atop a bicycle, I'll point it out in the photo below.
The red arrow marks the spot on the pavement with the large, painted circle and its instructions.
It's not impossible to see, but if a rider isn't aware that this ordinance exists, is s/he even looking for it? The first time I spotted the circle I mentioned to Sam that I'd never noticed it before and that it must be new. I also added that it would be nice if there were signs placed up on the poles, more at eye level, to help reinforce this and so that all traveling through the area could see the signs. Little did I realize that these signs were already in place.
Lo and behold, signs WERE placed at eye level announcing the ordinance.
You see the sign in the photo above, right? Yes, neither did I until about two weeks after my initial spotting of the painted circle. As I was walking back through this area, I just so happened to spot one of the small blue signs (of which there are a few, but they're all just as [in]visible). The one in the photo above is on the first light pole, just to the right side of the photo.
This is what the signs look like up close, but they're not as easy to spot when a person is just rolling through, even at slow speeds. I'll point out this particular sign with a red arrow below.
I couldn't help but think this all seemed a bit crazy. Not that there was a pedestrian zone in this area of town (I understand why it would be a great thing), but I couldn't recall ever seeing any news about such a law being enacted, and certainly there hadn't been any chatter about it to my knowledge. So, I went on a hunt to see what I could find out.

It turns out that there was a news article released locally about a dismount zone in the summer of 2013! How could I have gone so long and never noticed these signs?! As it turned out, an ordinance was enacted to help prevent collisions or near-misses through several blocks of the downtown area of Main Street. Apparently, there are no fines for not following the ordinance, but there is hope that it will cause more people to dismount their bicycles (or skateboards) when traveling through these few blocks.

Because I travel through this area very frequently, I can say with certainty that I almost never see anyone walking their bicycles on the sidewalk (In fact, just while taking these few photos in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day, I spotted a handful of cyclists who just rolled right through). If I had the time, I'd actually stop all of the riders and ask if they are even aware of the ordinance because I suspect that the majority (like myself) are (or in my case, were) unaware that this exists. True, it just makes sense to walk a bike in this type of area, but because it's been used by cyclists, I think there needs to be a better way of getting the news out to those on two wheels because I am not convinced the signs are doing the trick.

On another city webpage, I noted that the ordinance is a "voluntary" action, which would explain why there are no fines currently in place for violating the rule. I am really interested to see what comes from all of this and if fines will eventually be imposed to those who choose to disregard the signs.

Are you permitted to ride on sidewalks in your community? If there are signs that ask cyclists to dismount, are they more visible/obvious than these signs are? Are there fines for disobeying the signs/ordinances/etc? I am very curious as to what others across the nation and abroad have in place for highly pedestrian areas.

In the meantime, I've done my best to walk my bike through these few blocks. It's not the end of the world to jump to my feet for a bit, but I do wish that the spread of information was a little more accessible. Learning about this ordinance almost a year and a half after the fact seems a little much.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Shortest Ride

Ah, mountain biking. When I think of the activity in a theoretical sense or when watching someone else ride the trails, it seems exquisite. I like the idea of working hard to get over a pass or maneuvering around, through or over obstacles. There's something about it that makes me smile, that causes me to believe that those who are able to get through the toughest of courses are truly remarkable human beings. Perhaps this is due, in part, to the giant, unrelenting cloud that hangs over me when it comes to mountain biking. Surely, only the smoothest, toughest and most athletic are able to achieve success on a mountain bike.
*Image found here
Or, perhaps it's merely that I've built mountain biking over the years into a task that seems to scare the bejeezus out of me.

But, let me first go back a bit.

I grew up riding mountain bikes. After my first tricycle and banana seat bike (with training wheels of course), I was on to mountain bikes. I don't think I owned a road bike until well into adulthood. Mountain bikes were simply the only option, unless a person was into BMX bikes, and I was not.

I rode my bicycle, like most pre-teens, to get around town when my parents weren't willing or weren't available to drag me to whatever location was of interest that day. I rode my mountain bike frequently over paved roads, dirt roads, and wherever I needed to travel.

I honestly don't ever remember being afraid to pedal anywhere I needed to go. In fact, I looked forward to going over obstacles and would often seek them out. Tree branches, rocks, giant puddles of mud/water - I loved it all.

Something happened between that care-free time in my youth and what I'll loosely refer to as today (which actually encompasses the last decade). What was once a fun, exciting, practical means of travel or fun became a thing of fear and dread. I wish I knew where it all turned or that I could point to a specific moment and know that it was where everything changed.

But, I can't. I don't know why or how the fear came about, but one day I simply became aware that mountain biking is scary. It became a daredevil activity in which I was no longer allowed to participate.

A few years ago, poor Sam attempted to get me started on it again, knowing full well that I am the biggest scaredy-cat when it comes to mountain bikes. That ride didn't go well. So unwell in fact that I didn't touch a mountain bike again for a very long time.

As Sam has participated in mountain bike races over the summer, it's caused me to take another look at mountain biking. Not because I want to do races, but because everyone I see actually seems to have a good time. They don't look scared out of their minds and they don't seem to be death-gripping the handlebars like yours truly. I wanted desperately to be able to find that joy and not be completely terrified of even the simplest of dirt trails.

Not to mention, I'd love to understand where the breakdown happens between riding paved roads and riding unpaved trails in my mind.
*Image from Santa Cruz
Several months ago, as Sam and I were wandering around a bike shop, I pointed to a Santa Cruz Nomad that stood brightly at the front of the store (If you follow that link, be prepared to gulp if you haven't priced above-base mountain bikes any time in the recent past). "If you buy me that bike, I'll go mountain biking with you," I snickered with far too much delight.

I knew full well that there was no way on this earth Sam was going to buy that bike. For starters, the bike as built was just shy of $7k. Really. It's an easy way to get out of something when you know there's no money for that sort of thing - particularly knowing that I may very well never touch the darn bike at all. He replied that if he could, he would, if it would get me out, which made me feel worse for suggesting it - even as a joke.

But, the more I wandered past mountain bikes in shops, the more I pondered the idea of actually using one for something other than riding up and down a paved road. The Bridgestone from the 90s I had was really too big to be used for such activities, so if I wanted to test things, I'd either need to ride Sam's bike (which is an option, but we set our bikes up very differently, and I'd hate to mess with his ride too much), or I'd have to get my own.

I looked, on occasion, through Craigslist and eBay, wondering if there was a good deal on something that would fit, but I couldn't justify spending even a few hundred dollars knowing that it could very well just end up gathering dust (and not from riding somewhere dirty).  I pretty much let the whole thing go, figuring that I get plenty of other types of riding in and I didn't feel like cluttering my head with such things for the time being.

Then one day, several weeks later, Sam arrived home from work with a mountain bike on the back of the car. Argh. Not sure if this was a good thing or not, Sam informed me that there was no need for panic as the bike was $50 from someone just trying to get rid of it, so he figured if nothing else, it would be worth testing out.

The tires were pumped up a bit and I stood over the bike in front of the house as though I was going to die if I started to pedal. As I stood there, I pondered actually taking off up the hill in front of me, but just couldn't get myself to move. I played with the brakes, pretending to test them, and a few minutes later threw my leg back over and started walking the bike back to the bike area.

Sam looked disappointed. I know he wanted me to ride the bike, but the fear running through me was more than I could handle. My insides were shaking and my heart felt like it was going to pound out of my chest. "I promise I'll ride it soon," I said, only half believing it myself. "I just need to take it slowly."

Slow definitely didn't begin to describe it. I pretty much ignored the bike entirely. Then, one day, without warning or much thought at all, I decided that I should at least take the mountain bike around the block to see if it even fit properly. I took it from its spot in the holding area and pedaled around the block. The saddle was low, so I raised it up. Then, I pedaled around some more. I rode about 6 miles that day just testing the bike on paved roads.

That didn't seem so bad, I thought to myself. Of course, I knew very well that the problem was not paved roads, but rather dirt, rock and other off-road type rides.

I ended up on a dirt path accidentally on a ride with the Hillborne one day several weeks ago, which seemed to provide my brain a bit of peace with the idea of using a mountain bike on a dirt trail. If I just start slow, it won't be a problem, I told myself. I really had been trying to work my way up to even getting on the bike anywhere that wasn't paved.

As crazy as it sounds, as soon as I get near an off-road path I immediately tense up and fear takes over. I can ride dirt roads on the Hillborne because I'm comfortable with how it handles and the way it rides, but beyond that, the thought just overwhelms me. The biggest problem is that there are limits to what I can handle with the Hillborne because it is so large.
And then one day, it happened. I woke up and thought that I needed to take the mountain bike to an easy trail and just ride. I tried not to think about it too much and as the day got started, I went about preparing as though everything was normal.

As I got closer to the trail head, my heart was pounding so loudly. I was fairly convinced at this point that I wasn't going to ride the trail at all. I did a quick riding loop around the parking lot and then seriously pondered turning around and going home.

But, I didn't. Instead, I opened the gate, drug the bike through, stood over the bike and took a deep breath.

I understand completely that this all sounds insane. For someone who rides her bikes a lot, it must seem so absurd that I'd have so much anxiety about a simple dirt trail, but as I stated close to the start, there are some demons I'm dealing with when it comes to any form of mountain biking - even a silly, technically very easy, dirt trail with little climbing.

I stood on the other side of the gate for a few minutes. My brain was saying, Go back, GO BACK! You don't need to do this. My body seemed to agree as my hands were noticeably shaking. My heart was pounding so loudly I thought it might actually come out of my chest. I fought every instinct in that moment and started to pedal forward.
I had a ridiculously tight grip on the handlebars and told myself to just breathe and relax. Easy for you to say. I can't help but have fights in my own head, at times.

I pedaled for what felt like an absolute eternity (which turned out to be only a mile), at which point I stopped and got off the bike. Ahead of me were two riders on horses and I had the option to keep going and figure out how to pass them on the trail, or turn around and head back. I decided in that moment that I hadn't fallen over yet, nothing bad had happened, and I needed to keep this first ride positive, so I turned around and headed back.

As I returned to the start of the trail, I heard someone behind me say with heavy breath, "On your left." I suddenly heard the pounding of running shoes on the ground and realized that a runner was passing me. How embarrassing! Seriously, I was pedaling so slow that a runner was able to easily stride past me. I couldn't help but laugh to myself at the ridiculousness of the situation.
I noticed on the short ride back though that I was far less cautious with my riding. I was starting to loosen the death grip on the bars, and I even purposefully went over a few areas that I would normally avoid or would get off the bike to walk over.

As short as the ride was (just over 2 miles of trail), I could feel that there was a bit of confidence gained in just that short distance. I'm not ready to set off on the rockiest of terrain nor am I prepared to say that I am entirely comfortable on a mountain bike trail - even an easy one like this, but I think with some repetition and increases in distance, I can overcome some of the fear that seems to have taken over this aspect of riding for me.

The bike Sam got for me is on the large side, which hasn't resolved some of the issues with having a bike that's too large (it's a bit long in reach and the standover is a tad scary, so sudden stops are a bit precarious - which I do realize probably isn't helping the fear factor), but it handles like a tank, which for me, is a wonderful quality because I don't worry as much about holes or smaller obstacles on a trail. I'm sure I'll regret that characteristic when climbing becomes more serious.

Ultimately, it's a great feeling to have gone out and at least tried to conquer something I fear so much - particularly doing it on my own. When I look at the photos of the trail, I have to wonder what it is I am so terrified of with off-road paths, but when actually riding them the fear comes and simply takes over. Being able to overcome a bit of it is definitely confidence-inspiring though, and I was reminded that while there are few things that scare me as much as mountain biking, it is important to face my fears and attempt to overcome them.

I find it hard to believe that a two-mile bicycle ride (can I even call that a ride?) could cause such a shift in my mind, but I do think it has helped to remind myself that I don't have to do anything I am uncomfortable with riding. Perhaps one day I'll feel confident enough to head to the actual mountains rather than the foothills, but for now, I'm happy to take things slow and see where it goes.

With cooler temperatures setting in and snow likely on the way, I don't know how frequently I'll be able to ride before trails become too intimidating for me. However, I look forward to trying again soon and I know that we have enough sunny days even in winter that I may just be able to get this demon conquered before spring hits again. Maybe.