the most useful ride advice I ever heard


Unsolicited instruction is an inherent hazard of mountain biking, especially if you’re not very good at it and especially if you’re a girl. If I was the sort of learner who in fact improved every time a total stranger suggested, “just get your weight back/keep pedaling/lift your front wheel/get off your brakes/keep your eyes up/don’t think about it,” then … I don’t know; maybe I’d be like these chicks.

But yesterday in Auburn we were slogging up that first long pavement climb out of the gorge when we passed an older man in white kit. He began with the usual “look at you kids go!” and “oh, to be young and spry again”; he was loud and friendly and we all had a good laugh, and as we rode away he yelled after us:

“You guys have the best day of your life!”

Auburn State Recreation Area

—and I realize this is inane, but honestly, hours later I came around some corner, out from under an awning of cool madrone on a hillside buried in yellow swells of fallen leaves, out from under that quiet and into a stretch of sky lost to the white light of the long afternoon, every rock in relief, and my legs hurt and the bike squeaked and I saw only the backs of the boys’ bright helmets floating away in the rising dust and it occurred to me that actually—actually!—that’s a pretty good idea.