Recently, I learned about McIntosh Run in Spryfield. It’s a multi-use trail system, built for mountain biking of various levels. What actually caught my interest was the story of McIntosh Run (a river) and how the McIntosh Run Watershed Society is working so hard to protect the river, the green space within the city and their focus on sustainability. This 7-minute video intrigued me, then I read all about their work, which led to me heading to the trails!
I spent an hour or so looking at trail maps trying to figure out how we could ride for 5 kms or so on an EASY mountain bike trail without hitting the MODERATE trails. As a first-timer, I was pretty sure “easy” would be enough. We decided to park at Norawarren Drive and give the Joe Cracker route a try. It connects to a couple of other trails and would be about 2 – 3 kms if we did all of the easy trails in the area. From there, we could decide if we wanted to try a moderate trail.
As a 40-something-year-old trying mountain biking for the first time, with a hybrid bike (not specifically a mountain bike), I might have been braver in my mind than in action. I was excited until I got there … then I was scared.
You start into the trail system with a (little) downhill on loose gravel, on a single track (narrow) that turns slightly to the left. Now, for anyone who ever mountain bikes, this tiny, wee, little downhill is nothing, but for me, it was a bit of a panic! I didn’t know if I could control my bike downhill, on a turn on loose gravel. None the less, I hopped on, put on the brakes and tentatively rolled down the hill. Much to my surprise, I didn’t biff it! Phew!
Once inside the trail system, the track was narrow, well maintained, but had a variety of rocks (big & small), roots, twists & turns, bridges and minor obstacles, as you would expect for mountain biking.
My first obstacle was getting up a tiny hill. Not ever having mountain biked before, I had my gear set too high when I got to the first hill and came to a halting stop when I couldn’t push the pedal any further. Good thing Paul wasn’t too close behind! haha
I had to waddle-walk a few steps up the hill. You know, that walk you do when you have a bike between your legs, but only need to move a few feet, and it isn’t worth swinging your leg over the bar to fully get off your bike. Yeah…. that! Once at the top of this barely-there hill, I popped back on the seat, pedalled and lowered my gear to continue on. Mistake #1, conquered! Did I mention this was only about 100 metres into the ride?
Slowly, tentatively, I bumped over the protruding rocks, narrowly missed knocking my knees off a few boulders, ducked a few trees and managed to stay on my bike … until I didn’t.
About ½ way around the first trail (which is less than a km, by the way), there was a little spot that had a boulder to the left that you had to navigate around quite sharply, with the tiniest of a downhill turn to the left, ending with a short wooden boardwalk across a muddy section. This all happens in the span of maybe 5 metres. It really should be nothing, but I stopped at the boulder and said “I don’t think I can do this.” I came upon the boulder at the wrong angle and just couldn’t see how I’d possibly turn my wheel and get around it, then straighten it out to not end up in the mud. So, I walked down this part. (You thought I biffed it, didn’t you?!)
Not long after, the track passes through a section where there is a large boulder on the left with uprooted tree roots all around it. I’d guess it’s about three feet high. In the same spot, there’s a large rock embedded in the track. It’s not that big, but clearly, big enough! I thought I was good until my pedal hit the rock on the track with my right foot, throwing me off balance and up against the uprooted tree attached to the boulder.
A ha! It caught me. I didn’t fall off! Just a few scrapes on my leg, a little extra adrenaline and no blood! After catching my breath and inspecting my superficial wound, we continued on.
Looking back, it was a lot to manoeuver in less than one kilometre! (Dare I say, kind of like a pandemic in the past year!)
There are some nice, straight, easy parts too!
When we got back to the start of the trail, do you know what I said?
“Let’s try it one more time!”
(Don’t worry, I won’t say that about the pandemic!)
And so we did. The second time around I was a little faster and more steady. I made it up the first hill without stopping, navigated the boulder with the turn and the boardwalk and didn’t tumble over onto the uprooted tree!
Two trips around one tiny, “easy” trail. 1.89 kilometres. A few laughs. No tears. No blood. Way more calories burned than a normal two kilometres. And some shaky arms and legs.
Maybe you cycle some. Maybe you cycle a lot. Maybe you haven’t been on a bike for many years. Maybe you don’t even own a bike yet. And, I’m guessing most of you don’t mountain bike.
I encourage you to get out and try something new. The pandemic has so many of us isolated, in a rut and less active than normal. It’s time to shake the dust off and challenge yourself.
For some of you, that means buying a bike. For others, it means hopping on the saddle after many years. And for those of you already cycling regularly maybe it means a new route, a new mountain or a new style of cycling. Whatever it is … trying something new can be challenging and exhilarating. Get out of our comfort zone and give something new a try. If you don’t like it, that’s ok! But, what if you do?