I fell in love with mountain biking within the first 50 feet of riding (what I now know is called) single track. At that point, I was 48 years old and had, until a few years before, been 100 lbs overweight all of my adult life. Once I lost most of my excess weight and got active, I decided to get a bike but had no idea how it would change my life.
With the help of a great bike shop and a cyclist friend, I settled on an all-purpose Trek that was great for me at first. As soon as I got hooked up with local mountain bikers and rode more trails, my friend suggested I get a ‘real’ mountain bike. After doing a little research, I found the perfect bike to fit my very short (4’10”) self – the extra small Gary Fisher Piranha. It was love at first stand over – I didn’t even have to ride it to know it was perfect. Riding it solidified that fact so I was able concentrate on learning how to ride trails with a bike that felt like it was part of me.
A lot of things happened within the first few of weeks of getting that bike, including riding what’s now become my favorite trail for the first time. During that ride, I got a call that my brother in law had died from cancer. It wasn’t unexpected but I was upset and crying. He had been a good mountain biker and would have wanted me to finish – so I carried on with my first long ride.
It was going to be a few days before going to the funeral, so I did a mountain bike “fun” race (Ride for Reading’s Dirt Guts & Donuts) the following morning. I had been on that trail before, so wasn’t worried. Lack of sleep, led to fatigue, which led to a major judgment error, and I found myself in a lake after sailing off an embankment that seems to get higher every time I tell the story (really about 8-10 feet). I did have the presence of mind to stay calm, remind myself to get my head out of the water immediately and to let go of the bike. Amazingly enough I landed between 2 dead trees and in water deep enough over rocks that it broke my fall not my neck. I lost my contact lenses and couldn’t see to get out, so waited for a knight in shining armor to appear and overcome his fear of snakes, ticks and poison ivy enough to help me. We rescued the bike first (she was fine) and I eventually got out of the lake. It made for quite a bit of excitement at the inaugural race, but I was okay.
At the funeral a few days later in Connecticut, numerous large bruises revealed themselves in all kinds of beautiful shades. When asked about them, it was the first time I was so proud to say – I am a Mountain Biker. My family thought I was nuts but I couldn’t wait to get back on the trails – and this was the first time I recognized that I could be physically quite tough.
I already loved mountain biking but after that, it became my passion. I’m not good but that doesn’t keep me off the trails; I’m out every chance I get. More than that, I talk about mountain biking to any and everyone who is willing to listen with all the fire of a middle aged woman who has found love for the first time.
I helped a friend learn to ride a bike so that she could train for a triathlon. I have encouraged co-workers to ride; particularly when they see me bring my bike on my monthly trips to the Cincinnati office so that I can ride while there.
My sister, who used to mountain bike, knows she’s on my radar to get her back on the trails. Last spring, at a party while visiting her, I talked to a fellow for two hours about riding again after he gave it up in the years since his divorce – later I found out he did get back on the trail but he wondered why I didn’t stop talking about riding and pick up the on fact that he was interested in me.
One of the best times I’ve had was arranging a ride at my favorite trail (AEDC in Tullahoma, TN) with 20 riders, most of whom had never had ridden there before. It was a great turn out and wonderful day for riding.
I feel that I have made an impression on people with the fact that I love to ride a lot of trail miles – 40 is my record. It’s great to be recognized on local trails by people I don’t know because of being so vocal about my love of riding.
Trying to be an inspiration got me into trouble recently. The day I got a new Specialized Myka Expert 29, I went right out to the trail. I met a young man there who was just getting back into riding and didn’t know the trail well. I thought it would be fun to show him around, encourage him and to get to know my new ride. Riding too fast on a down hill turn, I wiped out hard and felt something wrong in my ribs immediately. I didn’t want to get off the bike but the pain was intense when breathing, so I had to be rescued again (ribs were just bruised).
I haven’t met any other female mountain bikers my age yet, but I know they are out there – although I don’t know of any that started riding as late and under the same circumstances as I did. If I get my way, though, mountain biking will become the rage for old ladies of all shapes and sizes.