A Bit o’ Winter

We rode Rockhouse yesterday, a cold and gray day. The trails were icy, but it was grippy; snow textured into ice by the passage of mountain bikes. It took a solid 15 minutes for the fingers I’ve mangled in power tools over the years to stop aching from the cold. Sometimes they hurt so badly I’m not sure if I could have told the difference between normal cold and frostbite.

But my fingers warmed up, and so did I. My companions probably couldn’t tell I had warmed up, since they’re all a lot faster than me and were largely out of sight. Maybe I need to find some older, less-skilled pals to ride with. I hate being the guy who’s waited for.

Nevertheless, riding the icy trails at Rockhouse was a benchmark. The slight pressure to keep up I allowed myself to feel spurred me to ride harder, to take chances. That’s not the right phrase though. Nothing I did yesterday was outside of my ability. Some of it was outside my comfort zone, but not my ability. That comfort zone is a mental artifact of my torn ACL. Getting entirely rid of that artifact while retaining an accurate image of my ability is the goal.

One of the first rides I took when my knee first allowed was there, back 7 months ago. I walked all the bridges then. Yesterday, I was able simply to focus my mind on looking where I wanted to go and not where I didn’t want to go. Mountain biking 101. Yesterday, I rode all but one of the bridges despite them being covered in ice. Yesterday, I relaxed my shoulders. I rolled some rollers and popped over some logs I’d been riding around. Slowing almost to a stop, I threaded between boulders where I’d have once put down a foot. Each time I ride these things it is less an act of determination and more an expression of being the rider I want to be.

Sure, there were moments I felt nervous. But 7 months ago, in perfect conditions, the entire ride was an exercise in nervousness. Yesterday was an excellent opportunity to compare.

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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