From my place, I can hear the mountain bikers zooming down a green piste in summer. But have I ever tried mountain biking? No. I almost hired a bike a few months ago, but I would have been out with two very experienced, competitive boys, so I chickened out and let them go off without me holding them up.
You see, even on the ‘summer luge’ (a couple of metal toboggan tracks on a hill), I used my brakes constantly and watched three of my friends go past me in the faster track next to me. I am cautious. I don’t like hurting myself. I am a wimp.
So, I was very pleased when a girl I met recently asked me if I’d like to go mountain biking with her. She had been a couple of times, but felt like she was holding up the boys she’d ridden with, and preferred to go with someone, well, wimpy, like me.
Yesterday was the big day. We got driven to the top of a green piste, then, after one small incline, it was a gentle decline. At least, on a snowboard or skis, it’s a gentle decline. On a mountain bike, it felt more like an out-of-control roller coaster that just got faster and lower. I hadn’t ridden a bike down a hill since I was a kid, and yesterday I felt that gravity and age were both against me. We skidded over slippery, wet tree trunks, small and large stones, and piles of autumn leaves that sheltered hidden traps such as holes, creeks, and more stones. I did see one stone jutting out loosely on the piste and tried my hardest to miss it, but of course, no matter how hard I aimed away from it, my bike was drawn to it and I was grateful I didn’t fall. I was going at around the same pace as a power walker and the stone was maybe 15cm high, so it’s hardly surprising that I wasn’t catapulted into the air. But at the time, the rock was ten feet tall and I was going faster than an English car on a French toll road. For wimpy me, it was a moment.
Good news for the girl I went mountain biking with: I think my constant braking and howling has given her much more confidence and proved that there is, indeed, someone much slower than her.