Improving confidence on the bike—alone.

I spent last summer foolishly trying to keep up with boys on mountain-biking dates. As a stubborn and independent woman in my first full year of riding singletrack, I was annoyed when I’d come up short on endurance or skill for whichever trail my date selected. More than once, huffing and puffing with quads on fire, I had to bail on a ride early. I would insist on returning to the trailhead alone, and that solo cruise back to the truck was often my favorite part of the day.

For the record, I was always careful to never misrepresent my ability, but this is Bozeman, and biking in Bozeman can be tough on a beginner. I’m sure it goes without saying that these frustration-filled dates failed to yield anything meaningful, and having no biking girlfriends, I had some choices to make.

Thanks to a private lesson in Whitefish and a clinic in Big Sky, I ended the season with loads of tips and tools, and even some confidence. Confidence, by the way, makes all the difference in mountain biking, because it frees you up for some actual fun. And wouldn’t you know it, as I headed into winter, I was in love—with my bike.

I’m still head over heels—and not just the kind that leaves your shoulder oozing blood and covered in dirt, feeling glad you invested in a better helmet.

In March, I found myself in Moab for the first time with an unexpected morning to kill. I was there to run my first trail race, but had brought my bike just in case. I checked in with a guide I had met during my clinic, seeking advice for something “friendly that will keep me fresh for the race.” She pointed me in a great direction, and I rode those trails. Then I rode some more. By the time I hit packet pick-up, I was pretty sure I had blown my race, but I barely cared.

That morning was all it took to sway me toward solo adventures in the saddle. I returned to Moab two months later, detoured through Fruita, and also tracked down some trails while in Joseph, Oregon. Between traveling, I’ve been getting to know Bozeman. Despite having lived here for nearly 17 years, there is much to learn about the trails (and “type 2 fun”) when it comes to me and my bike.

Stone Creek Biking

Like any relationship, there have been some rough patches—such as a sprained PCL from a tumble down the “Wall of Death” at Mystic Lake. That one left me needing to take a break, but only for a few weeks. I’m still head over heels—and not just the kind that leaves your shoulder oozing blood and covered in dirt, feeling glad you invested in a better helmet.

It’s true that being out there alone sometimes means abandoning your original long loop and settling for a shorter out-and-back in the name of safety. Sometimes you choose to hire a guide. Sometimes you have to tell your ego to quiet down and forget about Strava. When you take a tumble, there’s no one there to hug or rehash the chaos with. But for now, for me, the benefits outweigh the bummers. I probably could have held my own on biking dates this summer, but I like the freedom from removing comparison. I like picking my ride, stopping for as many wildflower photos as I want, and (almost) always feeling like a badass instead of a beginner.