How to cry on your mountain bike
How one local found salvation and sanity in mountain biking
It wasn’t long ago that a commercial was circulating on Hulu that contained the storyline of an ordinary man who was on his “Hero’s Journey.” The ad was for oat milk or something, but the man’s personal agenda was to transform himself into a better person by waking up early every morning to go swim – and also drink oat milk. Near the end of the 30 second commercial, the music crescendoed in line with the man’s personal triumph. And just as he held up the beverage box in the swimming pool, I started to cry. Tears of pride and inspiration started dripping down my face while I sat on my couch eating popcorn and drinking wine.
It’s not that I’m overly sensitive, because I’m not. And that’s what I tell myself over and over when I’m tearing up over an internet video of a dog being reunited with its owner. Or when I see people in the streets marching for the betterment of the longstanding, poorly treated underdogs.
Nope, I’m super tough, strong, self-sufficient. I’m a rock. I’m steel, and I only let my emotions drip from my eyes when I’m in the safety of my own home with the blinds closed or hidden behind my sunglasses where no one can see me.
But then 2020 happened, and thus began the year of “f*** it.”
F*** it. Fine. I’m a big softie! Ok?!
F*** it, a podcast is going to make me cry while I walk my dog in public.
F*** it, I’m going to mountain bike to clear my mind which oftentimes requires a few sniffles.
It’s 2020 motherf***ers – the world’s a shitfest party, and I’ll cry if I want to.
So, without further ado, here is my guide to How to Cry While Mountain Biking:
Pro Tip #1: Unravel your thoughts. I’ve been mountain biking a lot lately because: 1) It’s super fun; 2) COVID has gifted me the time; and 3) It helps clear my mind when it otherwise feels like it’s exploding.
I’ve learned that I’m blessed in the latter and that not everyone can both bike daily through their emotions, nor climb hills while also sorting through the concept of world-wide vulnerability and our individual places within it. So I bike with gratitude and an understanding of my personal privilege.
Crying and riding, or “criding,” has allowed me the opportunity to unbottle all the things that I tend to bottle up – which is everything. And if I don’t ride, the spectacular rollercoaster of 2020 manifests itself in other ways. Like when I’m cooking dinner and Spotify plays a song with just the right amount of percussion, and I’m like, damn that’s powerful, and I cry into my sauteed squash and pasta.
Crying into your dinner is fine because sometimes that’s all that is available. But if given the option, I’d rather Marie Kondo my thoughts of murder, racism and disease on a trail in a beautiful meadow somewhere so I can be like, damn that’s a beautiful meadow. And not unintentionally salt my food and then eat all my feelings.
Criding Pro Tip #2: Do not cry riding uphill. Criding uphill is my jam because this is where I do most of my thinking. But, a funny thing happens when you start to cry that they don’t tell you in anatomy class and that I never really noticed until I started bike-a-crying: your throat closes up.
Like, your body decides that when water needs to come out your eyeballs, your throat can no longer pass air. Which is fine if you’re sitting snug in your home, or on a slow walk with your dog. But when you are exhaustively exerting yourself up a mountain on a bike, you need that airway to be-the-F open to breathe.
Gasping for air on a slight incline is really troublesome and unattractive so, wait until you’re stopped somewhere – such as a beautiful meadow – and then you can let it out. Bonus if you have snacks to also eat your feelings.
Criding Pro Tip #3: Do not start crying while going downhill either.
If you haven’t cried lately, trust me when I tell you not to do anything dangerous while crying because, much like a heavy sedative or trying to open your eyes in the shower, it stings and everything gets really blurry.
If you’re still curious or think it sounds fun, try splashing some water in your face then bombing down a mountain with your eyes closed because that is what criding downhill is. Good luck.
Criding Pro Tip #4: Pick the Right Trails. I’m not always suffering up steep uphills and bomber downhills when I try to clear my head. The trails I cride on only take enough of my concentration to keep my mind from going haywire with all my pre-existing anxiety, but not enough that I can’t still sort things out in a rational way.
I’ll ascend a trail while thinking about life –with a few technical spots along the way to keep me present and on my toes – and then descend to leave all those thoughts behind. Just leave them up at the top of the hill so you can focus on exactly what you’re doing in the moment.
The descent happens in a way that makes the world’s problems fade into the trail. The orange combover becomes a big drop on a sandy downhill. The images of George, Auhmad, Breonna, Elijah, Sandra, the protestors, the supremacists, the red hats, the reversal of environmental protections, the 150,000 deaths, are all contained within that monstrous rock crop. And instead of swimming in the depths of news stories and present reality that I’ll never be able to navigate on my own, it’s a rock in a trail that I can.
I can solve this problem with a few fumbles and a couple back and forth sessions until I figure it out – or I don’t – but then I move on and there is nothing nuanced or convoluted about it. It’s just a rock or a drop, and if I don’t clean it, I will try again. And when I finally ride it, I will cry because in a world where it feels like I can’t do or fix anything else, I can at least ride down the combover and up the rocks.
– Jennaye Derge