Eti­quette: We Could All Use More Friends

Mountain Bike for Her - - Contents - Words by Michelle Lam­bert Pho­tos by Rick Lam­bert


bik­ers and other trail users have been known to have con­flicts with each other, and I have had my own share of trail in­ci­dents. It seems like it may not oc­cur to some trail users that from time-to-time we may need to rely on each other to get out of a sticky sit­u­a­tion; and we may be sur­prised at how gen­uinely nice and help­ful other trail users can be when a sit­u­a­tion may arise. A few days ago, I was plan­ning my week­day moun­tain bike ride and I noted that it was go­ing to be one of the hottest days of the year, so far. Tem­per­a­tures were ex­pected to be in the 90’s, fairly high hu­mid­ity, and very lit­tle wind. Yes, this was Los An­ge­les. I left my house around 10:00 am and cruised up the road that lead to the trails, a 20-minute trek. It starts quite flat and I was mak­ing good time, my legs felt fresh, and it was fairly warm al­ready but not un­com­fort­able. The last 1o min­utes of the road sec­tion is an up­hill and since I felt speedy I de­cided to push it up the climb. I picked up the pace, crested the top of the road climb, and hopped onto the sin­gle­track trail to where the real fun be­gins. I ped­alled half way down the trail when I sud­denly no­ticed it was much warmer, but I thought it must be the white dirt re­flect­ing the sun back at me. I kept up my pace; stead­fastly climb­ing up the first rocky sec­tion of the trail I was on. I cranked it to the top, but it’s hard not to be­cause it is quite rocky and steep. I steadily made my way across the park, not­ing the rise in tem­per­a­ture as I neared the ac­cess gate that leads to the next trail­head. Sweat was drip­ping down into my eyes, sting­ing them, as I took a swig of warm wa­ter from my bot­tle. I made my way to the main trail, which is a long, fire road climb with very lit­tle shade, and pro­ceeded to spin up the first part of the climb. I have done this trail nu­mer­ous times, but to­day it felt more te­dious than usual, and my legs felt heavy right from the start. I slowed down my pace but con­tin­ued up the trail, still feel­ing not quite right. At this point I was think­ing I should turn around, but I was on a ride and YES, it was blis­ter­ing hot, but DAM­MIT I was go­ing to have an awe­some time. I was not go­ing to let the bak­ing, hot con­di­tions ruin my ride. I slowly made my way through the most ar­du­ous part of the climb, which con­sists of bumpy, hard­ened clay, a su­per steep grade in full sun. An ex­ceed­ingly tir­ing part of the trail, it can quickly sap your strength and un­der th­ese con­di­tions, it was even more of a bitch. I fi­nally made it to the down­hill sec­tion, which was partly shaded, and found a wel­com­ing cool breeze hit­ting me in the face, re­fresh­ing me mo­men­tar­ily. I zigzagged my way down to a right-hand cor­ner at the bot­tom of the hill and shifted into an eas­ier gear to nav­i­gate around the nar­row­est part of the trail, but when I started ped­alling I got a re­ally painful cramp in my left calf mus­cle. I shook it off and ped­alled up the sec­ond part of the climb with the pain of the cramp still lin­ger­ing. I took an­other swig of tepid wa­ter. It was around 15 miles into my ride when I felt like I was start­ing to be­come af­fected by the heat. It felt sti­fling hot and with no breeze it was re­ally stuffy. I should have turned around, but I told my­self that I was al­most to the next trail junc­tion, just keep go­ing. I slowed my pace down sig­nif­i­cantly and man­aged to teeter my way to the end of a climb, feel­ing even worse than I had a few min­utes ear­lier. When I fi­nally reached the junc­tion, I de­cided to turn around and head for home rather than con­tinue any fur­ther. Mak­ing my way back down the trail I started to feel light­headed and dizzy so I tried to pick up the pace some, be­ing care­ful not to crash. I knew I was go­ing to have dif­fi­cul­ties with the next cou­ple of sec­tions of the trail; there were two steep climbs I would have to do be­fore I would reach the fi­nal flat sec­tion that lead to a long down­hill. The two hill sec­tions were more than I could han­dle. The first hill was at the bot­tom of a ravine, the lack of mov­ing air caused a hot, stag­nant feel­ing. It was here that I be­gan to feel nau­seous, and my leg mus­cles were burning. I shifted into my low­est gear and tried pow­er­ing up the climb, but I just couldn’t make it so I got off my bike and started walk­ing up the trail.

A cou­ple of min­utes af­ter I got off my bike I heard the sound of horse hooves clip-clop­ping up the trail, and the chat­ter of two women com­ing up be­hind me. My first thought was that I needed to pick up the pace so that I could beat them to the top of the climb. I walked a lit­tle quicker, but I felt weak and hot. I did man­age to make it up the sec­ond hill be­fore the horses reached me and that is where I stopped again to catch my breath. Boy, did I feel crappy. I leaned my head down to try and get rid of the dizzy feel­ing I was experiencing, but I then felt nau­seous and thought about puk­ing right there on the trail. The horse­back rid­ers cruised to­ward me and I waved them to go ahead be­cause I wanted to rest and cool down be­fore con­tin­u­ing my trek back home. One of the women started ask­ing me ques­tions about the trails, but they could tell by my re­sponses that some­thing was wrong. I ex­plained to them that I felt light­headed and dizzy, so they told me I should go lay down in the shade and they would wait with me un­til I felt bet­ter. Turns out one of them was a nurse and she also had some very cold wa­ter in a bot­tle that she poured over my head and neck and, need­less to say, the cold wa­ter felt so good run­ning down my head and the back of my neck. I felt bad about keep­ing them from their own ride, but they in­sisted that they weren’t go­ing to leave un­til I was cooled off and safely back down the moun­tain. I rode one of their horses--which I hadn’t done since I was 8-years-old--while one of the horse­back rid­ers rode my bike back down to the trail­head. She said she had a blast be­ing on a moun­tain bike! In ad­di­tion, they gave me a lift back to my house be­cause I wasn’t able to cool down enough to ride my bike home. With the tem­per­a­ture now peak­ing into the mid 90’s, and 10 more miles to go, the nurse was very adamant about me not con­tin­u­ing my ride. I was com­pletely blown away by their kind­ness and gen­eros­ity in help­ing out a moun­tain biker in a weak­ened state. Two very nice women on horses were there when I needed help, and they didn’t hes­i­tate about cut­ting their ride short. I was very ap­pre­cia­tive!

This ride taught me sev­eral lessons: First off, al­ways re­spect the heat. If it feels too hot to ride, it prob­a­bly is. Also, I did not leave early enough, I was not prop­erly hy­drated, and I went way too hard at the start which caused me over­heat even faster. I was not pre­pared for how hot it was go­ing to ac­tu­ally be once I found my­self way out on the trails, and I did not re­al­ize how quickly the heat can over­take you with lit­tle warn­ing. From now on I will try to be bet­ter pre­pared to deal with hot days and will not be so jaded about over-do­ing it in th­ese con­di­tions. I truly would have had a hard time mak­ing my way back, and thanks to the horse­back rid­ers, I was able to cool-off and re­cover with­out turn­ing this day turn into an even more se­ri­ous sit­u­a­tion. I can tell you right now, when you are way out on the trails, be­com­ing over­whelmed by heat, it is not a good feel­ing; and when you know that you are miles from your house, you start to panic. This in­ci­dent also opened my eyes to how im­por­tant it is for all trail users to be cour­te­ous, friendly, and to re­spect each other be­cause you never know when you may need to rely on an­other trail user to help you out of a bad sit­u­a­tion. Be­cause of this day, two horse­back rid­ers and a moun­tain biker are now friends. Next time you are out on a ride and see a hiker or horse­back rider com­ing, wave and say “hi” be­cause we could all use more friends.

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