Fear v. Fun

Both my knee and the weather were pretty fair last week. I got out on the road three times, even setting a Strava PR. Not bad for two and a half months after surgery. It’s been good to ride outside, but I’m still months away from hitting the trails again, a fact that does not keep me from thinking about hitting the trails again.

I wonder what that’s going to be like.

It will be tentative at first as I feel out my limitations. Of course, starting on easier trails will be the play, but eventually I’ll come to some feature that’s at the edge of my technical ability (As opposed to my physical ability, which I think of as strength and wind). Those are the places that strike fear in me, and a lot of times when I’ve gotten into trouble, it’s when I’ve reacted to that fear with bravado instead of patience and caution.

Bravado isn’t good. It isn’t fun, even. Even when bravado leads me to success, I find I’m only a little less scared the next time because I didn’t necessarily understand how I did what I did.

Part of what drives me is impatience. At 58, physical decline is inevitable. It often seems that if I don’t ride something now, it’s not going to happen. That’s a consequence of coming into the sport late in life. My friends have been riding for 10 or 20 or 30 years. I’ve got 3 under my saddle. This year would be 4 if I hadn’t lost it to injury.

No more injuries. Well, okay, cuts and bruises and scrapes. Nothing more that requires an orthopedic doctor. And maybe that means there are things I’ll never ride. And that’s okay. I do this for fun, not to prove anything.

Which leads me to the question of what I find fun about mountain biking. There’s the obvious. Time in the woods. Time with friends. Schralping the turns on the red trail at Waldo. Making it up a tough hill. Cleaning a rock garden. A controlled descent.

Those things are fun. They do not inspire fear. And therein lies the answer, I think. Like the hippies said, “If it feels good, do it.” Engel’s corollary will be, “If it scares you, walk around it until it looks like it will feel good.”


About swampyankeecyclist

I'm Andy Engel, just a middle-aged, middle-class guy from Roxbury, Connecticut. I've been married to my best friend since 1988, and we have two grown sons. I like riding bikes, and my biggest accomplishment is the 180K D2R2. I own 5 bikes but my go-to rides are a 2016 GT Grade gravel and commuter bike and a 2016 Specialized 650b hardtail mountain bike. Additionally, I have a 2000-something carbon-fiber Orbea road bike, a 1990-something Specialized Sirrus that's my old dirt and commuter bike and which now serves as a spare and a trainer bike, and a 1985 Ross Mount Hood MTB. All but the 650b have Brooks saddles. I work from home now, but used to commute 32 miles round trip to work by bike year round. I was a carpenter and still love building things, but regular paychecks, insurance, and vacation time lured me into journalism. I've written a couple of books on carpentry, and I've been an editor at Fine Homebuilding, Fine Woodworking, and Professional Deck Builder magazines. Currently, I manage construction events at the JLC Live and Remodeling Show trade shows. Additionally, my wife and I run Transylvania Guest House, an Airbnb. Find us on Instagram. Come stay with us and I'll show you some great cycling.
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