Mountain biking was the latest adventure of the week: Straining uphill and skidding downhill under spare February trees with glimpses of hazy mountains and bright valleys was possibly the most fun I’ve had so far in Outdoor Pursuits.
The rest of the group started out with great apprehension, as a girl had ended up with stitches on her face the previous day, and many of them weren’t experienced riders. I’m comfortable on a bike, and I figure avoiding injuries is a mixture of luck, skill, and caution. I had confidence in my ability to mountain bike. I was able to show some of the others how to switch gears and fix a slipped gear chain. All the basic stuff (getting on a moving bike, braking, gear change, attack position) was easy, but when we started learning track stand and front wheel lift, I saw how much I needed to practice. When I get home this summer, I’m gonna master those moves! (With Dad’s help, of course)
All the way out past Betws-y-coed, we drove to the Gwydyr forest in the heart of Snowdonia. There was plenty of rocky, narrow single track for me to learn how to get control of my bike. That took a while! I dislike feeling out of control, and barring riding the brakes like a teen driver, that’s what downhills feel like. Once I figured out how to convince my legs to do what they were supposed to and stand up flat on the pedals, not only did I get way less bruises, but I had some form of control, thump thump thump all the way down steplike rocks.
I was proudest of my perseverance on the uphill sections. Long and steep, every muscle burning, lungs straining, wheels rolling so slowly they seemed to strain against the stopping of time, people around me giving up and walking– and I kept chugging along, reaching the top out of breath and grinning broadly.
Luckily the weather held out, and parts of the day even saw soft ribbons of sun floating through the Douglas fir trees and falling on deep green valleys.
All in all, although I am really not a great mountain biker, I had a blast. We raced in twos to see who could coast the farthest, and all those afternoons biking with my brothers came in handy as I soared around the bend. The views at the end were spectacular, and though unfortunately one girl hurt her wrist and had to be dropped off at the hospital on the way back, the rest of us came out with nothing worse than bruises. On the way back, we passed a quintessentially Welsh farmhouse, complete with rolling green fields, rock walls, and a roofless abandoned stone building.
The best part of the day was flying down a long patch of road, wildly drinking in the air and the freedom, and the incredible chorus of a dozen mountains half-surrounding me in fading blues, ordinary browns, snowy tips, and hovering clouds.
Because this is North Wales, even the ride back was beautiful: