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Opinion: Pedalling past your comfort zone

Now accepting any and all mountain bike tips you have to offer!
mountain biking in revelstoke bc by Jordan Siemens
After years of fighting it, this reporter has finally given in and committed to giving mountain biking a real try.

It’s pretty easy to get stuck in a routine as an adult. 

I generally use the term “adult” loosely when referring to myself, but that statement's still true. Even in a place like Whistler, where the amount of activities you can do in a day is only limited by your number of waking hours, and where you can meet someone new from a different part of the world on a seemingly daily basis. 

Your routine—or comfort zone, if you will—can include everything from the sports you moved to Whistler to pursue to the gondola you usually upload, your favourite trails to run, spots to grab lunch or bars to crawl through on a night out, but it’s still a routine, nonetheless. Considering that learning a new skill even at the ripe old age of 28 can be a fairly humbling experience, sometimes sticking to what you know is for the best. 

But where’s the fun in that? 

After developing my own set of routines and mapping out the borders of my current comfort zone over the last six years in Whistler, I’ve decided they need an update. This is the part where I publicly announce that, after years of resisting, I’ve finally caved and committed to giving mountain biking a real try this summer. Gotta hold myself accountable some way, right?

I’m sure more than a few people currently reading this might wonder why it would take someone exactly 72 months of living in one of the world’s top mountain biking destinations to arrive at that decision. Firstly, adrenaline usually isn't something I consider a motivating factor; secondly, I’ve heard Whistler Health Care Centre staff mention the words “bike park season” and “emergency room” in the same sentence too many times to count; and thirdly, the upfront costs associated with bikes and gear could easily be a deterrent for someone in my current tax bracket. You also need to understand just how steep the learning curve appeared to someone who, prior to 2016, had never heard of Crankworx and thought “real” mountain bikes could be purchased at Canadian Tire. 

But if we're thinking about this logically, all of the drivers heading up the Sea to Sky hauling bikes more expensive than the vehicles carrying them can’t be wrong, right? After all, I can always use another excuse to spend time sweating outdoors, and if the motivational poster in every elementary school classroom I've ever sat in was right, life begins at the end of your comfort zone. 

I’ve made some minor progress so far, most importantly replacing my old, too-small bike with a solid-looking used enduro that had all of the features I was told to look for and a price tag that didn’t drain my bank account. I’ve recently learned that there are various sizes of mountain bike wheels (apparently 1.5 inches make a big difference when you’re rolling over rocks and roots or cruising around a corner), and that when talking about full-suspension bikes, the word “travel” doesn’t have anything to do with how many kilometres you plan to ride.

I’ve also learned that full-face downhill helmets cost many more dollars than your standard ski helmet, that you should definitely be lubing your bike’s chain after rides, and that lululemon generally does not make great trail riding attire. (Just kidding, kind of. I already knew that last one.)

If you can’t tell by that list, I still have a lot to learn. 

It’s still a little intimidating, especially in a town with more than its fair share of experts. You never want to be the slow friend, the needy friend, or worse, the friend whose footage makes it onto Jerry of the Day’s Instagram feed. But the mountain-biking friends I’ve spoken with so far have met my many questions with nothing but encouragement; pointing me towards resources and offering up advice with a side of brutal honesty. It's the good kind of intimidating.

I’m not naive enough to think I’m not in store for a summer full of scrapes and bruises, or to believe I’ll be dropping into A-Line anytime soon. (Honestly, that might not be in the cards for me ever. #LeisureAthletes unite, am I right?) Really I’m just assuming—hoping?—the potential benefits of falling in love with a new sport will outweigh the fear of sucking and leaving my dignity somewhere on a blue trail.

Who knows, maybe I’ll be the rare Sea to Sky resident who doesn’t get the hype about mountain biking and realize after a summer or two that it’s just not my thing. But even if that ends up being the case, I still think the benefits of learning something new and challenging yourself to push past that comfort zone—whether with sports or anything else—will always be a worthwhile experience.

(P.S.: Consider this my plea for patience with any beginners you happen encounter on the trails, and for any hot mountain biking tips you have to share. We all know I need them.)