My name is Katherine, a.k.a. Mellow Velo, and I come in peace from San Antonio, Texas. Ten days ago, I settled in Golden with the Mr. and our five bicycles to realize a dream of living in a place that values outdoor play. You will be hearing from me - somewhat regularly - about the wide-eyed and wonderful experience of being a newcomer to this holy land of cycling. I plan to write about Golden cycling, adjusting to life above sea level, testing out local riding routes and trails, first-time bike commuting and probably a bit about how completely out of shape I am.
Speaking of being out of shape, I start at IMBA on Aug. 9 as the new Field Programs Coordinator overseeing the Trail Care Crews and National Mountain Bike Patrol (if you have experiences with either, I’d love to hear about them). I’ve never had a job that required physical training, but the office is staffed with seriously excellent MTB riders, and I fully expect to get my ass handed to me on the lunch rides.
I also write a column called “The Cat 5 Files” for She Pedals Magazine about my first years racing. I started with cyclocross last fall and fell in love. I raced a few criteriums this spring and did not exactly fall in love, so I’m sticking with long-distance road riding, cyclocross and mountain biking for now. I ride and represent for Team TOMS, a widespread national group that supports the shoe company’s philanthropic work. (IMBA probably won’t let me wear its jersey until I improve my MTB skills.)
I seek to entertain, inform and reap feedback. Please share thoughts, tips and your own personal experiences. And if you see me on the road in my Texas jersey or pedaling Chester, my bright-orange cyclocross/commuter bike with the curly mustache head-tube badge, please say hello!
A Texan on a mountain bike – first Colorado ride
While you poor, thick-skinned Coloradoans are complaining about the heat, I am basking in the sweet joy of sub-90-degree days that are as dry and complex as a fine Pinot Noir. The weather has drawn the Mr. and I away from unpacking to play outside every day of our first week in Golden, and on Sunday we finally headed out for our first Colorado mountain bike ride.
The trail we chose in Bear Creek Lake Park was fairly basic, but to me it was an exhilarating, humbling ride. Very little off-road riding was available where I used to live, and even less in between extremely technical and extremely simple. Needless to say, my skills are vastly eclipsed by my interest. I both fell in love with and struggled through the mix of single- and double-track, lengthy climbs and rapid descents over dirt and rocks, riding along ledges, ripping through hard dirt and grass, skidding through sand and gaping at the wide-open views.
Long, steep descents were the least familiar and at first terrified me. (There aren’t many mountains in south Texas.) I rolled down alternatively shouting “Whee!” and “Augh!” while keeping a death grip on the bars and grabbing a fistful of breaks at very inopportune moments. I know one must let the front wheel flow a little more freely on the way down (I’m still trying to unclench my fingers) but as one who has ridden a road bike much longer than a mountain bike, I still feel somewhat out of control on the bigger machine.
A road bike feels like an extension of my limbs and nerves. Like a sports car or small airplane, slight flicks of the wrist and minute reflexes are the only movements needed to make the machine respond. My hefty, low-end Gary Fisher, on the other hand, lumbers all over the trail like a MAC truck wheezing at low-oxygen high altitudes (actually, that would be me). Eventually I realized that speed is my friend, fear is only useful as an acquaintance and those rocks aren’t as big as they look. By the end of the trail – thanks in large part to the Mr.’s experience and unending patience – I was motoring down steep pitches I had feared only 45 minutes prior.
I am nowhere near proficient or strong enough, but I am hooked by the beauty and serenity of what it means to be a mountain biker in a mountain state, rather than an off-road cyclist in a flat city.
Please suggest your favorite “easy” trails in the Front Range!
Follow Katherine’s regular foibles at MellowVeloBlog.com
Contact Katherine at MellowVelo1@gmail.com