I feel so fortunate that adventure lies within minutes of my back door on Decorah’s mountain bike trails. If you had told me about two years ago that I would become an avid mountain biker, I would’ve told you to get your head checked. I thought I wasn't skilled or graceful enough to tackle trails littered with rocks and roots.
Also, the worry of falling filled my head. I suppose after you have an accident involving pavement, you re-think the concept of falling on ground hurting more. (This isn’t to say you couldn’t get hurt-but I’ve hurt far less falling on dirt than the basketball court!)
I’m not anywhere near “professional” at this point, but the amount of growth I’ve had within a few short months truly amazes me. It’s a journey of growth in multiple forms: physical, mental, and emotional.
The reality is; if you want a less-challenging “beginner” trail, there are perhaps 3 or 4 you could put into that category. If you were to stick with those trails alone you would be limiting yourself greatly when it comes to improving your skills to tackle other trails. This year, Travis opted to introduce me to a trail called IPT, which he dubbed as a useful beginner trail. IPT really is a great trail for those wanting an introduction to mountain biking. You will find some easy-riding flat areas, several downhill/uphill sections, a couple rock garden spots, a small log, and even a cemented rock to ride over. You get introduced to a multitude of different sections and technical areas that you can learn, overcome, and take with you on the other trails.
IPT is in my top 3, hands down. It’s also my trail of choice to take others on when they want me to lead beginner rides. Walk sections you don’t want to ride, but you will gradually build up your confidence and session those spots and before you know it, you’re riding them! I had to session the cement rock several times before I could ride over it with confidence, however I’m still working on getting through the rock garden (on the newer side of IPT) 100% perfectly. The climbs that left me with little air in my lungs are no longer a problem and the downhill spots no longer give me anxiety.
This trail has truly been a confidence booster for me and is one that I will usually start or end my rides with. I feel my skills as a new mountain biker were built more quickly from learning on this trail vs. just starting up in the pines or on River Trail. It’s also a trail I’ll fall back to when I’ve challenged myself with other trails and need to ride something I know I can do dabless. It’s that reliable friend you can tell all your secrets to and look to for comfort and advice.
I was told once that learning on Decorah’s mountain bike trails will make riding in other areas (Iowa and elsewhere) easier and more successful. I’ve been able to take the fear of “Decorah’s challenging mountain bike trails” and put that to the test. Yes. I am pushed and there are areas I still am not proficient at. Yeah, there are some trails I might not fully ride or perhaps do completely dabless this year. However, I embrace the challenge! If there wasn’t a challenge to the trails, I would not have gained better bike handling skills nor achieved as many accomplishments as I have.
Don’t let the concepts of “hard” or "challenging" scare you from trying something new. Overcoming those thoughts can open doors and bring you something inspiring and completely unexpected. Fun!