I had been wanting to try it for nearly a year, but since I had not particularly cared for mountain biking at Royalview in the fall, I had been told I probably wouldn't like Ray's. I have never been one to make a judgment without at least trying something two times (except running 100 miles), so I resolved to one day hit Ray's and try mountain biking at least one more time before throwing in the towel.
About one month ago my sponsors, The Bicycle Hub and some friends were going to Ray's. I knew they loved down hilling and were probably amazing, but they offered to give me some pointers and I agreed. I brought my own helmet and gloves and bought the 1st timer deal (admission, bike rental and pads for $28ish). I asked for a jump bike per my friends recommendation and began to adjust the seat like I would for a road bike. The guys behind the counter came over and explained that a jump bike wasn't normally set to one's seat height. It stayed flush with the down tube so it was out of the way when "jumping." The guy recommended I start with a XC bike if I wanted more comfort and to have the seat a little higher, so I immediately switched.
|I had to laugh at the name of this Gary Fisher|
All padded up, I went over to the yellow novice section.
|Note the "yellow novice section" I refer to is green on this map|
I had a BMX as a kid (until I was 12), and I now ride a crotch rocket, so I was hoping some bike handling skills would be similar. I practiced pumping over the whoop-de-doos and cornering on the berms. I also worked on the table top jumps and riding the tracks. It felt really tight and awkward -- this should have been so easy, but it wasn't. The adult in me constantly thought of all the "what could go wrongs" with each task instead of the Cru Jones (from the movien "Rad") attitude I had as a kid that "I can't do that with my bike." I quickly learned I would only be sitting when I would be going from room to room, controlling the bike standing up was way easier. It wasn't long before I caught on and we moved from the novice area to the beginner section where everything was the same just bigger, longer and steeper.
Here is where I took my first of 2 spills that night, both were off the tracks. I started to get bold and on one loop took a path back that I hadn't planned on and had to ride over a track about 2-3 feet off the ground that included a log as part of the bridge. My back tire slipped off and down I went. My left hip stung like a mother, but I was okay. My pride was more damaged, I think. I jumped right back up and told the guys I was okay, but from that point on I was a little hesitant for the night and thought "maybe this isn't for me."
|It's still sensitive over 1 month later in that spot|
My confidence had been restored. I rode around the rest of the night in that section, working on my skills and trying to get faster. I was definitely coming back.
|All smiles, after a successful first time at Ray's MTB|
Fast forward over a month later and one nose surgery. I had just received clearance to run and swim on a Monday and thought that must mean I can hit up Ray's too. It was the "unofficial women's Monday night ride" so me and a few of my girlfriends hit up the park (a few of the guys I knew came too, which was great because they gave us some free and sound instruction). RP, the owner of The Bicycle Hub couldn't come, so when I told him I was definitely getting a jump bike this time (they are lighter and more nimble - sketchier handling, but way more fun) he offered up his super awesome Deity! I was so excited.
I picked up everything really quick this time and when we went in the rhythm room, where I (wo)manned up and made one run. I almost peed my pants and when I dropped in the speed picked up so fast when I pulled up to hit the first table top I manual-ed across it (unknowingly until SD asked me if it felt weird the first jump and when I said yes, he proceeded to fill me in), I made it out to the half way point, stopped and then dropped back in for the return trip. E-speed video taped it and it looks really slow, but nevertheless -- I did it!!
After that, I worked on jumping the table tops a lot more, trying to get my back wheel off the ground. Time flew by and before I knew, it was 10pm and closing time. I put the bike away and returned my pads, already excited for next Monday.
Here I sit now 2 days later and muscles I didn't even know I had ache from all the great fun of Ray's, but sore muscles never stopped me before and they sure wont now.