A mountain biking addict reflects on freeing the adaptable, open-minded, swash-buckling superhero within

Photo by Bruce Dorman.

Photo by Bruce Dorman.

Routine. Habit. Standard Operating Procedure. Consistency.

On one level, we prefer not to be affiliated with any of these labels. They imply being boring, not full of adventure or impulse. In our heart of hearts, I suspect that deep down we want to be that person that’s up for anything.

The friend that says “Well hells yeah!” when that text comes through on Thursday: “Hey! I have an idea! After work tomorrow, lets just pack up and drive to Moab for the weekend! We can take Monday off of work, and go ride this sick new trail I just read about!!”

And for a split second, we think about actually doing it.

Almost all of us won’t. But it isn’t because we’re no fun. And it’s not because we don’t have a swashbuckling, free-spirit. Nope, it’s not for lack of WANTING to grab our bike, load a cooler full of beer, and panic pack all our cycling kit (and in our excitement probably forget an extra pair of civilian clothes and our toothbrush) … it’s just that we can’t. We have those responsibilities we can’t abandon; routines that are non-negotiable.

We are creatures of habit. And with enough repetition, we are pretty much able to go on auto-pilot for a lot of the day.

How does this apply to mountain biking? Well. Here’s what I’ve noticed about myself: I ride the same trail over and over. I ride the same loop, and take the same lines I’ve come to know as the fast lines; the most efficient way to get where I’m going in the fastest way possible. But the trail changes. It gets rutted out where it used to be a smooth and erodes in places we aren’t expecting. Jumps get put into a trail we remember as a straight shot into a berm. The roots become more exposed, the dirt dryer and more slippery, trees fall down in the middle of the trail, and log piles start to fall apart and become less roll-able.

And this is great.

Because here is when I get to become that open minded, free-thinking person. Not careless or reckless: just not on auto-pilot. If I know what’s good for me, I certainly shouldn’t be presumptions. This is the time and the place when I can find balance in our life; feed the adventure monkey, so to speak. I learn that the line I’ve been taking for years maybe isn’t the best line anymore. I learn to think fast, and change direction when I see a huge gap jump in front of me (I’m a chicken when it comes to gap jumps). I see the downed tree, and quickly determine that I can either get around it, or I can slam on my brakes to avoid a collision and a face full of branches.

I can learn to take each moment as it comes, and focus on the decision I have to make in only 30 seconds. I can focus on the “now.”

It’s a drastic contrast from my off-the bike, day to day routines. But in a sneaky way, it crosses over into the way I think when I’m off the bike and functioning as a responsible adult in the real world of work and routines. It makes me realize that how I’m doing my everyday things maybe isn’t necessarily the best way to do them. I become more open to changes and disruptions.

With the help of mountain biking we become a secret free-thinking superhero disguised in our professional work clothes. We learn that we can choose different lines, and make our lives easier and less stressful. We can find more free time.

And more free time means more time to ride our bikes and more time to play outside! So. A big thanks to mountain biking; you make us better at adaption. You make us better at life.


​Fat Tire Tuesday columnist Sarah Hansing has been slinging wrenches as a pro bike mechanic for 15 years (with the exception of a one year stint working for Trek Bicycles in Wisconsin.) Epicenter Cycling scooped her up as their lead mechanic and the shop’s crew plans to ​keep her forever. Sarah loves riding singlet​rack, wrenching on bikes, and hanging out with her jerk-face but adorable cat Harlan. (Who is a jerk.)