5 Life Lessons Learned from Mountain Biking

Technical climbs, tough obstacles, switchbacks—multitasking on a mountain bike builds up more than just riding skills

The first time I went mountain biking, I ended up on trails that far exceeded my skill level. Needless to say, I spent more time in the dirt than on the bike. Dusty and defeated, I made a quiet mental goal to—despite living in the not-so-mountainous city of New York—somehow, someway learn to ride a mountain bike.

When my scrapes and ego healed, I decided I would need some professional help, so I flew across the country on a refuse-to-fail quest to learn how to successfully shred at the Trek Dirt Series skills camp in Santa Cruz, CA.

Trek Dirt Series is an instructional mountain bike program and offers two-day female-specific and co-ed mountain bike camps throughout the U.S. and Canada. The camps are open to beginner, intermediate, and advanced riders—all of the skill sessions and rides are catered specifically to your level, and the focus is on developing the technical skills necessary to have as much fun as possible on your bike.

The passionate and dedicated coaches adequately equipped me with the basic skills needed to handle technical climbs, gnarly obstacles, and tight switchbacks. But what surprised me the most? How much I learned about life along the way. I never imagined that some of the key fundamentals of mountain biking would translate so easily to challenges off the bike as well.

I walked away from camp feeling way more confident on a mountain bike and, surprisingly, a little bit wiser as well, thanks to these five life lessons I picked up on the trail.

1. Learn the Dance, Not the Stance
One of the first things you’ll learn on a mountain bike is the “ready” position. Standing up on even pedals, your knees and elbows are slightly bent, index fingers resting on brake levers, and eyes scanning ahead. “This is an athletic, active position that lets you anticipate what’s coming and adapt to the terrain, moving the bike around underneath you and your body around over the bike,” explains Candace Shadley, Dirt Series founder, director, and coach. In this strong yet soft position, your body acts as “suspension” on the terrain, “dancing” over the bike—rather than remaining rigid—for maximum control.

When you’re riding, you don’t always end up on the line (mountain bike speak for the path in the trail that you aim to take) you want, but you need to be prepared to ride through it and be ready to take a new line. The same goes for life. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, young people who were able to adjust to new and changing situations were more likely to report greater life satisfaction and a greater sense of meaning and purpose in their lives. Things don’t always turn out the way you want or plan, but you have to be flexible. When the path gets rocky, assume a metaphorical “ready” position so you can shred through life.

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