A few weeks ago, I got on a bike for the first time in a long time. To keep with my single-mindedness, it was solely to approach the Fellowship on Ross Peak. “It’s easier to bike in,” people remarked a weeks prior, noting that the bike, while not in the typical quiver for most climbers, lets one move quickly and efficiently on the way down. Always looking for the easy way out, I took it as a great idea. Not walking downhill for miles on end, I thought, what could be better? I then realized that my bike – a janky old, less than five hundred dollars, bike – was with my sister down in Grand Junction. And then I heard it had been stolen. No problem, it’s not like I rode the thing anyways. Plus, I’d just take my dad’s.
My friend Payson and I had arrived at the trailhead to Ross. Time to bike. Except I couldn’t figure out how to get the bike off the car. Or how to get my tire on. Payson, who predominantly falls under the title “mountain biker” more than “climber” was kind and considerate with the pace. Keeping it to a slow crawl, I doubt his heart rate was much over 50. He’s a freak when it comes to biking. I, on the other hand, was pedaling for my life. What a horrible concept: biking uphill with backpacks on. It boiled down to me pushing this 50-pound behemoth on wheels up a rocky trail while trying to keep the sweat from stinging my eyes. Recently, I had succumbed to the lazy sport climber lifestyle – one with short approaches, limited amounts of effort, and mainly just sitting around outside looking at rocks. My aerobic fitness was, to put it lightly, lacking. I was trying so hard and wasn’t even on the bike. If this was how the day was going to go, I was not looking forward to it.
After the climb, which went more or less flawlessly, being back in my element and all, it was time to mount the metal machines of death. Payson, with his superior mountain biking skills, scoffed at me as I put on my climbing helmet. “That, for bikers, is what putting climbing shoes on the outside of your backpack is for climbers,” he remarked. I dismissed it, mumbling something about how we didn’t die climbing so I wasn’t going to start shunting safety now. He took off, and I followed, scared. The descent was, I admit, a little fun given that I didn’t have to walk. However, the thought of falling off my bike and tumbling down rocks, trees and shrubs was not welcoming.
And here lies everything that is wrong with biking. Going up, it sucks. It continues to suck – legs burning, lungs burning. Once it’s time to go down, it’s fun, but totally terrifying. Unlike falling climbing or skiing, where there’s fluffy powder or nice, stretchy ropes to catch your fall, mountain biking throws you through all the things that winter hides. Gravity leaves you aching and bleeding for days to come. Add in the cost of a good bike, this does not lean in to being more beneficial than detrimental to one’s body and mind. My friend Mac, a recent crossover from the wonderful realm of climbing to the hell that is mountain biking, said: “Yeah, it hurts when you fall. I definitely wake up aching a lot more than I used to. And my quads are now so big they can’t fit into a climbing harness.” Another one down the drain, wasted away to an aerobic sufferfest of fear and pain. No thanks. I’ll take my long hiking over those death machines any day.