Mud, Sweat, and Fears

Rebecca Takes on the Cross Course

Know how it feels when you get to the top of a roller coaster, and it stops for a second? Your stomach kind of rises into your throat and your heart drums out of your chest. And then you drop, and you’re still scared, but you give into it. And it’s awesome.

That’s kind of how my first experience on our cyclocross course felt. Man would I love to tell you I was cool as a cucumber. I’d love to be a fearless ambassador for the sport, like the hardest core woman in the business, but those of you who know me, know I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat. Unless we’re talking stunts on the trampoline. Then I’m like King Kong. But a mountain biking adventure a few years back with my “Mr.-Bike-Racer-Fancy-Pants” husband resulted in a pretty intense fall, and the onslaught of fear. So, I own my anxiety, and I understand my need to stare it in the face, and tell it to shut up.

And I absolutely needed to tell it to shut up. It didn’t feel right to own the only shop in the area with its very own cyclocross course, and never have ridden said course. So it was time. I grabbed one of our rental cx bikes, a lightweight aluminum 105 Fuji that fit me just right, and I grabbed Ben, and off I went.

*Quick aside – my choice of Ben was strategic. My husband, Mark, a former mid-Atlantic cx champion, would have taken me onto the course, zipped ahead of me, and immediately tried to coach me into trying everything and doing everything at full speed. Our shop manager, Rob, last year’s cat 4/5 state champion, would have ridden behind me and done wheelies over my back wheel. Neither of these options is acceptable. When attempting a new riding discipline, choosing the right riding partner is essential. Ben is a father of two grown daughters. He’s patient and calm. He’s perfect.

So off we went. The course starts off fluid and fun in the field, featuring a mix of twists and turns and quick dips and rises. Not scary at all. If this is your jam, the beginner’s loop stays in this zone. It rolls through the open field with a steep but short climb and even some barriers you can choose to bunny hop, run over, or simply ride around. Warm up here. Do this loop with your kiddos. I’m so excited to bring our boys, ages 10 and 6, here. It’s a great way to introduce newbies to mountain biking and cyclocross.

But I wasn’t going to let myself off the hook with just the beginners loop. Ben led us to the intermediate section, which gets more technical as it enters the wooded portion of the course. I’ll be honest, the mud was super slippery and I did dismount my bike a couple of times. I wasn’t sure if I could trust a cx bike to cross logs the way I could trust a mountain bike. I also didn’t feel like I had much control. But then I got to the top of a rise and I went for it. And that roller coaster feeling transformed fear to proud adrenaline in seconds. Sure, I was slipping and sliding, and it wasn’t pretty, but I was doing it. I was all ready to pat myself on the back…until we spun around again and Ben headed straight for the expert loop.

I feel like I need to tell you I’m not going to be the hero of this story. There were stone stairs. I took one look at those nasty jerks and I got right off my bike and ran up them. And I’m not even a tiny bit sorry. I also wussed out on a drop and rise that led to a sharp turn atop a rock garden. And you know what? I’m a-okay with that decision, too. I figure it gives me goals, room to grow, if you will. The point is, I went out there and experienced it and it was FUN. The beginner loop was zero-fear, all flow, all the kind of playful riding that makes you feel like a kid again…and, coincidentally, is the perfect place for kids. The intermediate loop was just challenging enough to make my heart race and my cheeks hurt from smiling so much. The expert loop? Well, it gives me something to work up to.

I had fun. So. Much. Fun. And it was an awesome workout, kind of like a Spartan Race for bikes, but what’s so cool is that it’s not just around for race day. Our course is in place for you to explore and train on, and someday, if you choose to, race on.

Cyclists who, like me, are virgins to the cross game, will love it. The cross bike is light and fast, but it’s also not going to dampen vibration like your full squish mountain bike, or even your hardtail. So be ready to be a bit jarred on those rock crossings.

I see many more days on the course in my future. If you wanna give it a whirl, join us for one our Sunday rides. We leave from the shop every Sunday at 11 am.