I am a terrible descender.
Well, maybe not terrible. But I certainly would not call it a strong point in my repertoire of mountain bike throwing stars and nun-chucks. I do not know how many times I have eked out a lead over a competitor while climbing, only to have that lead squandered away when the trail goes downward. It’s vexing. Terribly vexing.
I know the sources of the problem. In fact, they are manifold, but can primarily be attributed to two things: Skill and Gonads.
Yes, I just used the word gonads. And yes, the main reason I stink at riding down a mountain on a bicycle is that I am an enormous pansie. I have often joked that my down hill tendencies, like my politics, are too conservative. I ought to let up on the front brake more often, use my body weight better, and trust the bike a whole heck of a lot more. But I just can’t seem to let it go…
However, I’ve made some improvements in technique and handling, despite what you may think after riding behind me for more than 30 seconds on any substantial stretch of negative sloped singletrack. I can practice those types of things. But, and this is the million dollar question, how do I unbecome a timid, trepid, brake grabbing, noodle-spined, ninny?
I often justify my approach by telling myself that “you don’t want to crash out of this race, take it easy on the down”, or “use this descent to rest up for the next round of climbing”. Meanwhile I am being left behind or caught, or just generally mocked and laughed at. Did I mention how vexing a problem this is?
I have a few ideas how I can fix this:
I was considering removing the brakes from my mountain bike, and simply learning how to use the land and the trail and my own force of will to slow and steer, and eventually stop. And if that doesn’t work, well, I can always just fling myself into the bushes and watch the bike ghost-ride itself down the trail. It would probably the first time a bike I owned was ridden so well, and so unfettered.
Another solution is to simply get faster on the uphill. If I can climb better, then my incompetence on the down will be less obvious. And in fact, this method would build and distribute a sense of false hope among my competitors, as they would see me there in front of them at the bottom of the hill, only to have me ride away into the sunset as we climbed back up it. Unless of course, the race has a downhill finish.
There is but one more solution. It is a more short sighted one, but will nevertheless put the problem to bed, at least until next year. And that would be to forget about my inability to ‘let ’em roll’ and focus instead on the upcoming season of deep powder and dawn patrols. For who has time to worry about the details and intricacies of switchbacks and off cambered turns when the mountains are filled with pillowy, creamy goodness? And though right now that goodness is still swirling about in some sky-bound factory, awaiting its unleashment on the Wasatch Front, shifting my focus from the one track to the skin track just might be the salve to my wounded pride and festering lack of gumption and skill on the bike.
Not that I am a much better skier than I am a descender. But at least skiing poorly in chest deep powder looks pretty damn good.