The last couple of posts have been about me finding things very very difficult: enduro is hard, trials is hard. Put bluntly like that, it seems kind of obvious. What did I think I was going to do, waltz on into some new disciplines and just be good at them? Maybe I did. Maybe this is part of the pathology of the gifted child: when excellence becomes expected as the bare minimum, then struggle is not rewarded but instead seen as failure.
I used to like to ride alone because it gave me the headspace to love it and to be in the moment. Like the old cliche, dance like no-one is watching you – well I used to ride like no-one was watching me, because literally they weren’t. It was perfect, and it was what I needed for, oh I don’t know, the first 100,000km? But now it’s time for a change – I’m ready to learn something new, and I’m even prepared to fail publicly in order to do it.
I also want to ride around the world like a damn mountain goat. Have you seen the Karakorums, the Himalayas, have you seen those mountains which beckon me? I’ve got some work to do.
After my first foray into the jungle on the trials bike, I came back with tense muscles and shaking hands, horribly conscious of how unbalanced I felt. And balance is the foundation of all the other skills. Once you’re balanced, you can hop and pivot and wheelie and reposition as much as you like – slowly, safely, in control – without a problem.
Balance is key. I decided that I would simply have to unlock it with stubbornness.
Instead of riding around being kind of crap at all the skills, I would lay the foundations properly. Thus began my long journey of tiny increments: every day, sometimes several times a day, I would go out to the trials bike – engine off, completely still – and attempt to balance on the pegs.
At first, it seemed hopeless: I couldn’t even compensate for the rebound as I loaded the suspension with my weight. I wasn’t getting my balance, let along keeping it. And my thighs were burning. So I started making videos, to keep myself accountable. Each week, I would compile a summary of my progress or lack thereof.
You might argue that this sounds like the most boring series of videos ever, and you might be right; but you know what, I like to clog the internet with content that isn’t perfect. If you just looked at the internet you would think everyone was just great at everything already, and good looking to boot. Well, I’m not like that: I’m often sweaty and frustrated and covered in dirt, and not good at stuff – yet. In other words, I’m a normal person.
I want to challenge myself to build this skill, but I also want to make the point that you don’t have to be naturaly talented to acquire the skills to go dirt biking and have a damn good time. One of my biggest bugbears is barriers to entry to motorcycling, particularly for women. I think women, in particular, often feel intimidated and judged: oh of course you’re no good at it, you’re just a woman. I want to reframe that: of course I’m no good at it YET, because I haven’t learnt it YET.
So in aid of this, you can go onto YouTube and watch me try, fail, and occasionally succeed every single week until I master these damn skills. Maybe you’ll be bored, maybe you’ll be entertained, maybe you can even offer some good advice. I’m starting from square one again, but the important thing is not where you are now, it’s where you’re going.