My Ego Prob­lem

Words and pho­tos by Danielle Baker

Mountain Bike for Her - - Contents - Words and pho­tos by Danielle Baker

When I first learned that I had a spot on the 7-day Moun­tain Bik­ing BC Koote­nay Tour I was be­yond ex­cited, a minute later, I was ter­ri­fied. This is be­cause I have a se­cret – I am not a nat­u­ral ath­lete. And af­ter ten years rid­ing and six years work­ing in the bike in­dus­try, I am still not a great moun­tain biker. I can get by with the skills I have, but the idea of rid­ing with pros or strangers, or even on new trails leaves me feel­ing ex­posed and un­com­fort­able. It has be­come an em­bar­rass­ment I try to hide and writ­ing this un­der a pseu­do­nym did cross my mind – “who is Daniela Barker? And why can’t she ride a bike?”

My fam­ily has ac­cepted my lack of ath­letic prow­ess since the grade school pageant that had me en­thu­si­as­ti­cally skip­ping across the stage while my peers cartwheeled. At that time, I was too young to see this dif­fer­ence in our abil­i­ties as some­thing to be con­cerned about, I was happy to just be par­tic­i­pat­ing. By high school, how­ever, I was fak­ing men­strual cramps ev­ery fourth pe­riod to avoid dis­play­ing my awk­ward­ness in gym class.

When­ever I in­tro­duce a friend to moun­tain bik­ing and they sur­pass my level in a few short months, I smile sup­port­ively. I give the thumbs up and cheer for them, “way to go”, while I am ac­tu­ally think­ing, “you have got to be fuck­ing kid­ding me.” I have al­ways felt that I should be bet­ter, I should be able to keep up, I should be able to hit big­ger drops, I should be able to shot­gun a beer with­out get­ting it up my nose, I should – and the list goes on. It was with this knowl­edge of my short­com­ings that I

ner­vously an­tic­i­pated our Koote­nay trip.

We would spend a week in the re­gion, trav­el­ling and rid­ing in Ross­land, Kim­berly, Fernie, and Nel­son. Our core crew con­sisted of my­self and an­other me­dia per­son, Ben, Kelli and Dar­ren from End­less Bik­ing, Ja­son; who won the trip in a con­test, and Martin who or­ga­nized it all. In each lo­ca­tion lo­cal guides would show­case the best that their com­mu­ni­ties have to of­fer from trails to beers – and some­times, hand­made candy.

On our first morn­ing, I was the last to drop into the beau­ti­ful and flowy trails that Ross­land has to of­fer, but only af­ter ask­ing for the tenth time “ex­actly how much climb­ing is there to start?” Now this might be where you are ex­pect­ing to read about how I over­came my doubts, re­al­ized that I was in fact an amaz­ing rider who just had to be­lieve in her­self, and the rest of the trip was noth­ing but hot laps and high-fives, but that’s not what hap­pened. We had plenty of high-fives, but they were more of an en­cour­ag­ing na­ture than a cel­e­bra­tory one. In fact, by the end of our first day rid­ing it was clear that I was much slower than the rest of the group. Con­tin­gency plans were put in place for the rest of the week as we had an ag­gres­sive sched­ule to main­tain and I loath to be the per­son who ev­ery­one is wait­ing for. As needed, we split the group or I opted for ear­lier ex­its, usu­ally skip­ping that one last climb that would re­ally put hair on my chest.

In Kim­berly, I picked through the beau­ti­ful rocky ter­rain, in Fernie I peaced­out be­fore the last big climb (twice). In Nel­son, I strug­gled to the look­out, ar­riv­ing just af­ter sun­set. There were times that I pushed, times that I walked, and times that I took the al­ter­nate route. My in­ter­nal dia­logue used words that

would make Mr. Rogers blush, but laced through even some of my most neg­a­tive thoughts was ‘ holy crap, I’m do­ing this!’ I was fac­ing my worst fear, not of fall­ing off my bike or not clean­ing a climb, it was of fail­ing in gen­eral. Of be­ing found out for the av­er­age rider that I am.

The less I strug­gled against the en­tan­gle­ment of my ego, the more I en­joyed my ride. I be­gan to re­al­ize that my abil­ity to shred is only about what I can do, and has very lit­tle do to with who I am. My love for moun­tain bik­ing has never wa­vered, not even with the ebb and flow of my skills over the years. Im­prove­ment con­tin­ues to be my goal, but I am no longer afraid to, for lack of a bet­ter term, suck. Just like back in my days of en­thu­si­as­tic skip­ping, I am happy to just par­tic­i­pate – I am happy just to ride.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.