There are many factors that can cause you to have a bad day out on the trail. For instance, forgetting to pack chamois when you are going to one of the most rugged, rooty, and technical trails in the area is a good one. Which is exactly what I did on this fine day of riding Fort Duffield in Kentucky. Another way to ruining a perfectly good ride through the woods is with ‘too many climbs’, which is another characteristic assigned to Duffield. I decided to convince myself that we would be walking uphill so much that not having padded chamois on wouldn’t even matter. Despite all this I was really, really excited to check out the infamous trails that rumored to have insane jumps, extreme downhill terrain, and an xc course with such steep climbs that the fastest, most insane ‘climber’ rider I know… has had to walk up them. So much fun, right?!
A majority of my excitement was simply at the thought of a new challenge. I thrive on technical terrain and pride myself on (being a girl who) takes on an obstacle at first sight, rather than hmm-ing ‘n’ haw-ing and calculating my approach. Granted there are still times that I stop to gather information about an obstacle, but I have learned that I have the skills to tackle just about anything I might come across (in the midwest) and if I ride into something with enough speed and confidence, my body will successfully guide my bike through it. This is my second favorite thing about MTBing, learning to ride through technical terrain. My favorite thing is to be able to fly through such tricky rocks and roots and shear drop-offs with precision and speed that makes my heart skip a beat with glee!
So this is what I came to Duffield for, well that and to learn the course for the Kentucky Points Series race coming up on June 22nd. I have to say all the rumors are true, and yet I found the course pretty enjoyable. Well, I use that term loosely, I enjoyed the challenge of the course. Many times where we’re just starting out with trail riding we come across obstacles that are so outside our ability level that we think “they’re just too hard” and really “too dangerous to be ridden” and my personal favorite, “there’s no way anyone can ride over that!” But they do, and now I do. It turns out that “dangerous” section, which has certainly hurt people, can be harnessed by the rider with the right approach, balance, and timing. And that’s what I quest for now. I watch other riders and I borrow from my own skill playbook, desperately convincing my ‘life- preserving conscious’ that I’ve ridden through terrain like this before. Successfully ‘clearing’ a technical obstacle is bittersweet however. The joy is eminent in conquering a log crossing, a rock garden, or a sustained climb, but once I conquer it, it slowly diminishes in its value as a challenge. Thus, new challenges must be discovered and worked on.
Duffield did not disappoint. I could have had a frustrating day on the bike; but I was pleasantly surprised how good I felt. Yes there are a few sections where I need to perfect my line, fine tune my pedal stroke, and a few climbs that currently feel impossible, but that’s what keeps me humble… and hungry! It was a tough day of tiptoeing between rocks, walking up hills, bushwhacking to find trails, suffocating on the hot air trapped in the dense forest, and bailing off the bike before splitting my face open on the downhill terrain (which really is impressive). But! Not having my padded chamois ended up being a non-issue and I look forward to the upcoming race.