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3 Life Lessons I Learned from Mountain Biking

Mountain biking can push riders beyond their limits and teach valuable life lessons.

By: Kendra Perkins + Save to a List

During my freshman year of high school, my dad started taking my family and me out mountain biking. I loved the challenges that I faced with every ride and being able to push myself. However, there have been more than just the health benefits of spending time in the mountains on my bike. I have learned many life lessons that have made me the person I am today, here are three of them.

1. Look where you want to go, not where you don't want to go. 

Now, this may sound simple, but it can be harder than it seems. One of the first times I went mountain biking with my dad, we were riding on a narrow trail and I kept running off the trail and into large rocks that were clearly in the middle of the trail. I was becoming so frustrated with myself, because I would see these obstacles and tell myself, 'Don't hit that rock' or 'Go to the left so you don't go hit into the side of the trail.' But every time I found myself making the same mistake. 

After I struggled for a good half of the ride, my dad turned around and told me, "Look where you want to go, not where you don't want to go. If you focus all of your energy on avoiding that rock, you are going to go straight for that rock. Focus on the part of the trail that you want to be on." I thought to myself that it couldn't really be that simple, but that I would give it a try. It was that simple. I found myself avoiding the obstacles with ease as I focused on where I wanted to ride. 

After some time, I realized that this simple tip was also useful in my everyday life. If I wanted to be happy and successful, I couldn't sit there thinking, 'Don't be sad' or 'don't fail' because just as surely as my bike went to that rock, I would find myself feeling down and making mistakes. However, as I focused on being happy and looking at who I wanted to be and where I wanted to go; I found it to be easier. 

Photo: Kendra Perkins

2. Sometimes you have to put yourself in your lowest gear and just keep peddling 

The steep winding switchbacks of a narrow trail are intimidating at best and the idea of shifting down into my lowest gear would often make me feel as though I weren't tough enough. If I were really tough, shouldn't I be able to handle this hill in a higher gear? But I quickly learned that not only do bikers bike faster when going uphill in a lower gear, but that it is better to make it up the entire hill in the lowest gear than to stop halfway and walk the rest. 

Sometimes when life hits you hard, you just have to get into your lowest gear and keep going. Keep pushing, because even if you are going slow, you are still moving forward. 

3. We conquer ourselves, not the mountain. 

Legs burning, lungs close to bursting, and every time you peddle your body screams for you to stop, but you keeping pushing until you reach the top. As you reach the peak, every breath feels like fire in your throat and lungs, your muscles shake, and you finally rest to look down at the valley below you. The colors and beauty of the Earth that lies before you, causes you to forget the pains it took to reach the top. 

Did pushing yourself to reach the top of the peak change the mountain? No. It changed you. As you challenge yourself and push past your limits, you become a better version of yourself. This is true not just on the mountain, but in any challenge that may come your way. As you work past your limitations, you conquer yourself and change for the better. 

Cover photo: Jake Young

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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