Jenni Hodzic

Perhaps my fondest memory on the trail was my first day on the trail, which was only 51 days ago. Yes my friends, I am what the world would call a mountain bike “newbie”.

When I first started riding with my friends on urban rides they would laugh at my “Wal-Mart excuse for a mountain bike”, so to spare myself the embarrassment, I had to purchase a new bike. As of today I have owned my mountain bike, (a.k.a. the love of my life, named Danno) for a total of 80 days. I purchased my 2009 Kona Five-O in January 2011 and it arrived on my door step is the biggest, most beautiful cardboard box you could ever imagine and my boyfriend and I wasted no time putting it together in his basement and named the bike Danno. (Appropriately named after the character Danno from the television show Hawaii Five-O because it is a Kona Five-O… get it? Book ‘em Danno).

Anyway, my first “real trail experience” came after learning how to ride my mountain bike at Ray’s MTB Park in Cleveland.  I may need to mention that my third trip to Ray’s MTB Park, I broke my finger and that made me reconsider my whole “wanting to be a biker”, because I am also a rock climber and you can’t climb rocks with broken fingers!

But, back to the story, it was the first warm day at the end of February in Pittsburgh, February 27th to be exact and my boyfriend Ed and I decided it was time to get “down and dirty with Danno” I believe is how he put it. So we took the bikes out to North Park, his favorite local place to ride for our first ride of the season. I was terrified because there was still snow on the ground, the trails were so muddy and my bike was so pretty. I didn’t want to get it dirty yet! What I remember most about my first day out on the trails was just being so nervous, not breathing, not looking ahead far enough, not taking turns wide enough and not going fast enough downhill. I would keep the breaks on the whole way down the hill.

I eventually learned to love the sweet, sweet downhill over roots and rocks. Danno has a Marzocchi 55 fork with 140 mm of travel on it; needless to say he loves the sweet, sweet downhill. The parts I hated the most were what I so eloquently named “the walk of shame” which I had to do walking up hills because I was not used to pedaling and switching gears. And I certainly was not used to going uphill over roots and rocks! Some of these paths would take me a minute to figure out how to walk, yet alone cruise over with my bike! But then I always hear my boyfriend’s voice in my head “Look at the size of your tires and look at the size of the rocks. Your tire is bigger and it will roll over them.” Yeah, that is not the first thing that comes to my mind as I’m freaking out just trying to stay on my bike with the pain of my broken finger so close in my mind still. But I figured I paid the price early to the “Gnar Gods”, what more could they want from me? I might was well let loose and have some fun.

So once the fear of getting dirty was conquered, and the fear of getting hurt was pushed aside all that was left to do was pedal and enjoy the ride. After the ride my boyfriend came over to me and said “Good job baby, that was some of the worst trail conditions you will ever encounter and you rode them like a pro.” Well that just sent me flying, and another girl mountain biker was born. My first ride was an amazing experience and was the perfect gauge to see what aspects of riding I need to improve on. There seemed to be many aspects that needed work in the beginning, but I did not let it overwhelm me because there is nothing better than the feeling of your first good ride on a bike to inspire you to keep learning. There was a romantic rush of excitement, nervousness and possibility that came over me that day. I can honestly say that mountain biking has changed my life.

I have been out riding many more times since February and I can say with confidence that mountain biking will always be a part of my life. The people I have met who ride and share this common bond of biking are very dear to me. I am starting to get involved and learn how to do trail maintenance, with the hopes of maybe being a trail steward one day. I often joke with my friends that the mountain biking “sickness” is growing in me, but it is not a sickness at all. It is a beautiful new beast that awoke in me and has changed the way I view just about every aspect in life. I recently competed in my first mountain duathlon in West Virginia. The race consisted of 2 miles running, 8 miles biking and 2 more miles of running. I had to walk up some of the hills in the bike portion but I came in first in my age range for the females. I felt incredibly proud of myself and I continue to work hard on every ride learning as much as I can, making sure to keep pushing myself, but most of all having fun, enjoying the ride.

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