Admitting You Are Stuck In A Rut

It's not easy to write about how you had to admit that your significant other was right- "you are stuck in a rut." I've started and stopped on this post trying to figure out how I wanted to tell the story, but each time I came to a stalemate. I feel the message is important, and one that probably every rider comes to at some point and continues to re-visit at various times in their riding years.

I went out for a ride last week and decided to hit up the trails in Dunnings rather than my favorites over in Van Peenen. To start off at Dunnings from the get go, regardless of which trail you take, will result in a good bit of climbing before you get to the top. I opted to take the route of Luge to Lower Randy's, and by the time I was midway up Lower Randy's I realized that my legs were made of lead. This would be a challenging day.

To add more spice to the mix, this was also my first non-fatbike ride of the season, my Carbon Lush was the lucky bike to get some 60-degree sunshine on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon.

Riding a 27.5 after riding a fatbike for a few months was a completely different experience. Luckily, the trails had amazing traction, but I still had spots where I spun out due to skinnier tires. I had to remember how to ride with finesse. My arms appreciated the suspension instead of feeling like I was being bounced around all over the place. All in all, you could say that it balanced out.

I do not ride Dunnings as often as I should.
I somewhat avoid the trails over there.
They challenge me.
They have (what I feel) more substantial climbs that I find difficult to ride thru 100% of the time.
I get discouraged- I feel like I have little endurance when I ride the Dunnings trails.
Mother's Day (all three) have areas that make my stomach flutter.
So my solution? Well, it's not a solution at all. It is simply not riding them unless I "have to."

I had done my first set of usual trails and had to take a rest break.
Nothing sets the tone of wanting to see how well you maintained your fitness level over the winter with fatbiking, only to realize you're pushing yourself when you are most run down and there isn't much you can do about it. Thankfully this was a solo ride I didn't have to worry about keeping up with another rider or having them be a snail with me. (Fellas, be glad you don't have periods.)
So instead of using this ride as my "base" to compare the other rides on Dunnings, it would simply be "just ride."

As I sat on the log I realized that Travis had spoken truth. I was in a rut and I needed to push myself out of this sinkhole that I had fallen into. I rode the same trails all the time because I felt comfortable with them; I was doing nothing to improve my skill set.
I rode only what made me feel confident.
Most of the time I was looking to see how fast I could go on my "loop" rather than challenging myself to ride trails that I wasn't so adept with.
My desire is to be skilled rather than just "fast."

I knew the only thing to do was to make a commitment to myself to start riding the trails that pushed me outside my comfort zone. I want to be able to ride Dunnings as well and as smoothly as I do most of Van Peenen.

I made my way to Backside, letting my tires roll over the roots and my suspension cushion the impact. I was feeling pretty good, until my front tire hit a lump of roots...I think. Next thing I know, I'm falling sideways over the trail and landing into shrubbery. My bike was laying on its side, I was sitting on my butt- I assessed the damage to my legs: scraped left knee and a golf-ball width lump on the front of my right thigh.

I heard the unmistakable sound of a rider coming down the same trail, I looked up and internally I went "AW MAN!!!" Of course it was one of the most proficient and skilled riders of Decorah who saw me looking like a hot mess. He asked how I was and if I was taking a break or if I had crashed- we laughed and both agreed that the first ride on a non-fatbike is always different. You get solid reminders of what you can and can't do.

The only way to improve with mountain biking is to ride what you don't always love riding. Maybe I'm afraid I won't improve or perhaps I think (subconsciously) I'm already at my peak. Regardless of the reasons, I have re-committed to accepting the challenge of mountain biking. I will focus my time on the trails that make me nervous in order to grow as a rider. It's not always the easy choice, but it's the one that will make me stronger physically and mentally.

If you find yourself in a rut, take some time to think about why you're there. Is it because you are afraid of not accomplishing a goal? Do you feel your riding level is at a plateau? It's all too easy to focus our efforts on what we can do easily and push aside what we can't ride successfully or what we deem too hard.

If you've gotten to the point where you avoid riding the trails that are difficult, get out there and ride the crap out of them. Do not bring perfectionism into mountain biking- bring optimism and openness instead.

Challenge equals growth and growth equals confidence, and that is what makes mountain biking so special. Embrace it!


  1. Been reading your blog for quite a while and thought I would throw this out there. Do you ever just go out and urban ride? Back in the 80s and early 90s, my college years, we would just ride. Ride anywhere that is. Our campus was great, as was around town. Try to push your envelope on any weird urban obstacle, stairs, gaps, tiny curbs. Ride narrow curbs as far as you can. Try some trials type hopping on old stumps. Find a grassy park and practice wheelies! Even after riding for 30+ years I still find these types of hijinks a blast. If you are self conscious, do it at night. You will become a better rider. And stop for an Ale on the way home.

    1. Thank you for the comment and suggestions! It's been awhile since I've gone out and played around on the urban jungle. Travis and I did go out for a short stint of urban riding last year. It was the first time we had gone out since I biffed it badly in '13.

      I definitely need to practice manuals, grassy areas are quite coveted by me :) Thanks for reminding me of this aspect of riding- I think someone is going to have to do some night riding with me sometime soon once the weather is stable!

      *Yes, beer is a must.* :)


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