Martin: My (unsuccessful) trek of The Trestle
I balanced my front bike tire on the edge of a trail at The Trestle downhill bike park, tightly tucked into a full-body armor suit and pondering what was awaiting me down the slope.
It was my first downhill mountain biking outing and I was feeling uncertain — and sweaty. My heart was pounding in my ears; my fingers already grasping at the rear brakes.
Typically I’m rather fearless when it comes to adventure. I’ll do anything at least once, even if it puts me in imminent danger. But thousands, maybe millions, of people attempt the same thing I was about to do every year so how dangerous could it be?
Very, it turns out. But, boy, was it fun.
I guess I should have known when I was being fitted into a suit of armor, elbow pads, chest and back pads, knee pads, and a thick helmet that there was a chance things could go south. But my friends — what I would consider mountain biking pros — attempt the intimidating Trestle throughout the summer months. Last weekend, after some soul searching, it was my turn.
Mountain biking was never something I had experienced before moving to Colorado. The prairies of North Dakota, the gentle slopes of southeast Lower Michigan — they didn’t provide the severe peaks that Colorado boasts. So when I was asked to go mountain biking, I thought it meant I could hop on my Schwinn and leisurely glide my way down.
That wasn’t the case at all.
Jumps, banked turns, rocks, tire-thin trails. Those were just some of the obstacles that I saw awaited me as I peered over my handlebars at the first trail I would maneuver. My friends started me on a blue-rated trail, which was a big step, in my opinion, above the introductory green-rated trail that seemed much more my speed. But I trusted them.
I pushed my shoulders forward, setting the tires onto the trail, and took off. My finger was still cautiously hovering over the brakes.
Speeding around the first banked curve and down I went.
Those snap-quick few seconds as I plummeted head-first off my bike turned me into a staunch advocate for wearing helmets.
I landed on my head. The rest of my body weight smashing into my neck. I probably could’ve died, but I was wearing protective gear (kudos to the professionals at the Trestle Bike Shop for talking me into it).
I could barely move my neck at first; it was incredibly sore and stiff.
That was my first crash and burn.
The second didn’t come until a while later.
With my friends way ahead of me on the trail and my husband, Nate, trailing far behind me — he didn’t particularly take well to downhill mountain biking, and likely won’t do it again — I shook off the pain I was feeling and pushed myself further along the trail. More rocks. More bumps. Steeper banked turns. Suddenly a big wooden bridge-like structure appeared before me that I’m pretty sure I was supposed to jump but was still too weary of actually breaking my neck to attempt it.
It wasn’t until I was pretty far down from the start of the trail that I realized no longer was anyone ahead of me. The trail started to turn mainly into rock; more jumps were ahead, with limited space for me to cautiously — more like cowardly – maneuver around.
My bike had picked up speed and my confidence, rather my embarrassment from falling almost instantly, spurred me to focus on hurrying down the course. In that time, I had disregarded signage and made my way onto a different trail. I would later find out it was a blue-black-rated trail, which is even more advanced.
I kept pushing. With sweat fogging up my goggles, my hands weakly trying to clasp the handlebars, my neck still aching, my body called out for me to stop.
The second fall occurred somewhere between my body asking me to give up and my ego screaming to keep going. I had something to prove, mainly to my friends and my husband, to say that, hey, I can do it — and I will survive.
I came across a relatively large cluster of rocks and hit the front tire in an awkward position. I flipped over the handlebars and landed clear on my back. Cue the sad trombone music.
It wasn’t as painful as the first crash. It was in that moment, however, between lying on the ground staring up at the summer sky and slowly standing back up just in time to pull the bike up the banked side of the trail to avoid a collision with other riders, that I realized my time on The Trestle was nearing completion.
My eyes, still struggling to see through the fogged-up goggles, looked up and suddenly spotted Nate further up the trail. He was walking his bike down to meet me on the trail. He, too, had ended his run. It just wasn’t for him, despite me being the one that fell, not him.
I called one of my friends that were presumably still riding the trails and explained the situation. She directed me to a nearby dirt road that would let us glide down the hill, unobstructed. It was a moment I selfishly relished. Relief spread across my body knowing that I would soon be at the base of the mountain, to enjoy a tall, cold beer and a stationery seat. And that’s what we did. Throughout the rest of the day I kept having the urge to try again, but my body wasn’t having it.
In the end, I feel I conquered the mountain. Though it would seem it conquered me. Still, not bad for my first time.
Next time — and there will be a next time — I’ll start with a green-rated trail and perhaps strap some bubble wrap around my body for extra protection.
The saying is true: The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Bryce Martin is the editor of Sky-Hi News.
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