Don’t Brake! A lesson in life… and cycling

I’m a scaredy cat…


This is not new information. I don’t like ‘dangerous’ things. Dangerous things being jumping off a wall or playing skipping rope with my 4 year old nephew. I could never understand thrill seekers. Adrenaline junkies. What’s wrong with you?! What’s wrong with being comfy and warm and SAFE!


Well I married an adrenaline junkie.


And now we share hobbies… But guess who won’t learn to crochet?!


So I’m on a mountain bike every so often and this is what I’ve learned about cycling and funnily enough about life.


Don’t brake too much. You spend all your time when mountain biking pedalling like fuck up some shitty incline and then bombing it back down at an unnatural speed. With twists and turns and bumps and branches and bog and wild boars coming at you! If you’re a scaredy cat like me that sounds like a lesson in torture. Let’s burn your legs getting to the top and make you cry like a baby to get back down. So what do I do? I brake. And what happens when I brake? Well many things actually.


My husband is getting away from me

What’s the point in mountain biking with my husband if I’m not anywhere near him? Seriously?! He’s gone! Like the wind Bullseye! How is it ever any fun if I am spending my whole time catching up? And how is it any fun for him if he’s spending his whole time waiting? And I felt this was true for life as well. What’s the point of being with him if I’m not with him. I need to keep moving forward with our lives, staying in the moment but always looking forward, not hanging back because I don’t know what to expect. Because I think I’ll fail. Life’s too short for such bullshit. Be there, with him. Always.


I risk skidding/falling/failing

You’d think that when you feel you’re going to fast you should hit the brakes. False. First time I hit the brakes mountain biking I went straight over the handle bars, landing face first into some mulch and cutting my lip. Second time I broke, I skidded hard, panicked and fell. I could go on but really all you need to know that braking in a panicked state usually leads to me being a pile of embarrassed and bruised bones. When I tried to ‘let go’ and stopped grappling for the brakes I noticed I was grand, a little watery-eyed from the wind but grand. Didn’t fall off, over, under, break myself and cry all the way home… I was shitting it but I was physically grand. I think this can be adopted for life. Don’t try and predict the unexpected by stopping before you even begin, embrace the wind in your eyes and the risk you could fail, because how else will you succeed!


I lose trust in my bike

I am convinced she is gonna fall apart the moment we hit a certain speed. (Yes of course my bike is a she!) She’s not gonna… I need to believe in that bike. I need to work with that bike. I need to trust the bikes and the people around me and work with what I’ve got in life!


I lose trust in myself

How can I ever succeed if I never even try. I am big one for backing away from tricky tasks for risk of failure or I am just too afraid of bad outcomes, mountain biking is no exception. Self belief in your worth and your abilities is so important and it’s something people really struggle with. If I can trust in myself and my abilities to control that bike, I won’t need to brake, you know until I actually need to brake. And if can do that, well that’s the first step in believing in myself in general. Surely…


I don’t truly reap the rewards

Like I said in the beginning, you spend so much time working really hard at mountain biking. Pushing up those hills, cursing your tired legs, feeling like your cycling through hummus. Why waste all that effort on being too afraid to really jump in when you’ve earned your reward? Why let fear stop you when you know it’s ok, why let fear stop even if you don’t. Even if I fall off and hurt myself, cycle into bogland and end up covered in brown, it’s an experience. One I can learn from, one I can live with. Not trying is worse.




That got deep! Sorry about that but you have a surprisingly a lot of time to think when you’re cycling.














The Day I Fell On My Face



I went mountain biking on Saturday. Mountain biking is lovely when it’s on the nice little Coillte-built roads through the forest. You’re cycling at a gentle speed, laughing with loved ones, breathing in the fresh mountain air, taking in those stunning views. Yes, it’s all quit lovely!


You know what’s not lovely? Mountain bike trails. Where they hand you a helmet and expect you not to die.


(Now before we go any further, I feel it needs to be stressed that I’m not telling ANYONE not to go mountain biking trailing. It’s an impressive sport and I admire anyone who can do it. It requires a lot of skill and looks awesome, it just wasn’t for me and that’s ok too.)


OK, so over the weekend we had a buddy visiting and the husband (Cormac for those who don’t know him) thought it would be a fine idea to bring him to a mountain bike park. He was eager for me to come too. I was skeptical, I had seen the bruises and cuts Cormac had come home with but at the same time he would be gushing about how amazing it was. So despite my better judgement I decided to tag along. I was already quite emotionally tender form a bust up I had with a crew mate (and bestie) that morning so in hindsight it might not have been the best day to try new things. But what’s done is done.


So, we got there and I got handed a bike which looked class and was in amazing nick. Only thing is I had no idea how to use it. I was only used to my old-as-Bejesus-Frankenstein’s-monster of road bike which had barely any brakes and almost no gears. I loved her. I did not love this bike. The brakes were sharp (which I know is technically a good thing) which I wasn’t used to and it was hella bouncy (again a good trait but felt super weird). I had managed to garner a bit of attention 9not the good kind) from just practicing on it. A lot of “oof’s” and “oh’s” and “no no no’s.” Cormac felt to get myself and our buddy ready for the trails ahead we would start on the practice technical loop, this had a bit of everything that could be expected on the trails and it was within screaming distance of the bike rental place. I was nervous already but they’re weren’t letting me off that easy.


I was on the trail 2 seconds when I thought “Wow! This. Is. Narrow. I can’t cycle on this!” Then we came to a bump and bend and I had to brake sharply. It was a close call. I couldn’t give up just yet. I could hear Cormac yelling “Look forward don’t look down!” but how could I not look down, there was so much to look at! So much to anticipate! It was like a game of chess where every time I made a wrong move and lost a piece I would get punched by my opponent. I was very wary. Over another bump, dodged a rock and down a hill. Another roar came from Cormac “Don’t use your front brake!” Which one is the front brake? Well, I learned that quickly as I came a round a pretty deep bend. Brake! Shit! Oof! Bleurgh.


Yep, I was on the ground… Face first into the ground. Lip swollen, legs (and ego) bruised I sort of just lay there for a moment. Willing myself not to cry. Cormac behind and our buddy in front were quickly by my side. Dusting me off and telling me that this happens all the time and was I ok, was I hurt, could I go on. I could, but now I was slower than ever, afraid of every bend and bump and rock that came my way. All I had in my head was that Friends episode where Rachel quit her job to “get the fear” and Chandler kept saying “I’m too afraid!” I was too afraid. You need some kahones for this sport and frankly I did not have that, not even close. There was reason I love rowing, it’s on a flat, wide surface and it’s mostly in a straight line. This was simply too much for me, or at least for my first time out there.


I swear my lip felt more swollen than it looked! You should see my legs!

I swear my lip felt more swollen than it looked! You should see my legs!


I completed the practice loop and vowed never to such a thing again. Cormac was kind but felt I couldn’t just give up so quickly. However, he was gracious enough to let me off easy, bringing my up the mountain on the nice Coillte-built roads and showing me the beautiful scenery, teaching my how to use the bike and putting up with my random bouts of tears when something was too hard (it really was not my day). I managed a bit of the easier trail (albeit with one foot mostly on the ground) but complained about how I couldn’t enjoy the scenery. The adrenalin rush was just not doing it for me. I preferred the slow and steady mountain biking. Before I was through he made me do the practice loop again, to test what I had learned. I didn’t fall and I gladly retired with that accomplishment under my belt.



If anyone is interested in giving Mountain Bike Trails a go then I have these tips:

  1. Go with someone who has done it before, learn from them. They’ll have all the tricks.
  2. Be prepared to fall. If you want to invest in extra padding then do.
  3. Do try and think of your next move. It’s a sport that is both mentally and physically challenging.
  4. Know how to fix a puncture, their will be no professionals out there to help.
  5. Bring extra gear. You will get wet and you will get cold.
  6. Most of all, try and enjoy it. Don’t be a scaredy cat like me!



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