An advantage of living in the blue ridge mountains: the opportunity to mountain bike. I’ve always been a fan of cycling, the feeling of being free and the freedom of motion both exhilarate me to quite an extent, an escape of sorts even. I consider myself a pro at ‘aimless’ biking, which is a term I use to define biking with the sole purpose of getting lost. All other kinds of biking fall under ‘commute’, which isn’t half as fun, unless you manage to get lost on your way to work of course.
The wheels naturally turn towards lesser crowded roads, out of the city and to more calmer surroundings. The suburbs and regions outside in Bangalore were almost ideal for cycling around. Enough and more lakes, some rail tracks, small roads with trees lined on both sides and the occasional expanse of an army land.. vast and totally cut-off from the city were all appreciated and well trodden (riden?) when I lived there. Blacksburg however, is a different tune altogether. Biking on the roads is no fun because of the traffic (which is at a much faster pace than in India) and there isn’t as much freedom. Here I resort to my Indian-ness; there are much stricter rules and not as many casual roads per se, unless you’re on a biking trail. No complaints though, there are enough and more biking trails that branch off inconspicuously from these busy roads and lead you to open farms, barns, fallow meadows and over a fair amount of creeks. The onset of summer is awaited for this one reason, so that I can get on that bike and take off to some pleasant meadow where Thoreau may have watched the sunset from.
The mountains that surround these meadows and our town of Blacksburg, however had been off reach until very recently when an enthusiastic friend of mine invited me to go mountain biking with him. What was a ‘recovery ride’ of 6 miles for him nearly killed me. But it was an experience unlike any! I am forced to add another kind of biking to my list now.. ‘survival’ biking. There is only one way to go down a steep slope that turns at the end and has large rocks strewn around. You just go. There isn’t enough time to turn handles and stop and chose a path, you have to let your speed just take you down and pretty much pray you don’t crash into one of the tall trees. If I had known how risky the road was, I never would’ve gone. But having done it once now, I can’t wait to get back there again. Dense trees, denser shrubs, an occasional stream to ride over, some startled deer and the smattering of forest sounds as you whizz past on your two wheels. Another mention I have to make is of fellow mountain bikers. I have not known more friendly people. It’s as though the mere presence of you on a bike in a forest brands you as one of them, that they smile and let you ride past or politely inquire of your fortitude or even urge you on to clear that uphill slope. Maybe they smile knowing what they do, the mountains have claimed one more :D.
If you ever need to jolt your senses and face some of the more basic facets of life (a.k.a staying alive) try mountain biking. If you want to lose yourself among shrubs, tree canopies and dry streams, try mountain biking. You are warned reasonably however, it ain’t easy. The scratches on the knee notwithstanding, I did end up sleeping for 14 hours straight the minute I got home. I am still alive to recount the experience though.
So, whatever your reasons, riding on a mountain once must definitely be on your list.