As I’m writing this it’s pretty clear that fall riding season is over. I can hear ice plinking off the roof, and if the forecast is even close to accurate, that ice will be turning to snow in the next few hours, and by the time I publish this post it will be officially w-i-n-t-e-r. Hooray?
I have a complicated relationship with fall and more specifically mountain biking in fall. Autumn has always been my favorite season, because duh. Beautiful colors, sweater weather, crisp air and all the other cliches (minus pumpkin spice lattes, which are basically an insult to coffee — I can say this without ever trying one because as far as I’m concerned all flavored coffee is an abomination). Anyway, fall is the BEST and riding bikes in the fall is the best because there is literally nothing on earth better than riding the Heaven on Earth section of South Boundary on a bluebird 60 degree day in October when the ground is coated with yellow aspen leaves. It is, quite literally, the yellow brick road of mountain biking and if it possible to have a more sublime experience on a mountain bike, I haven’t had it.
But here’s the thing with fall riding — I’m not sure it’s good for me. Last year, I was faced with a decision in early September. Stop riding my bike for a few months (and effectively miss ALL the fall riding), or get out the shovel and keep digging myself deeper into a hole of exhaustion and burnout. Neither of these optins was all that appealing, but as you know if you’ve been following this blog, I chose the former and it paid off. It is, I think, a great irony of mountain bike racing — you finish your season and you desperately need rest at exactly the moment when the riding is the best. Judging by Instagram, other people have managed to balance this better than I have, but the reality is that fall has really been a struggle for me the past few years. I want to ride but I also really don’t want to ride.
And this year, I was afraid I had missed fall entirely. Two weeks ago we were in Europe, eating copious amounts of gelato, sweating buckets into our full face helmets, and soaking in the lukewarm Mediterranean. Then we came back to the New Mexican rockies, where it was cold and uncharacteristically wet. Fall was over, or so it appeared. I instantly got a minor cold, in case I needed any secondary signs from the universe that, hey, time to take a break.
But I was still kind of cut up about it. Because, um, South Boundary. Yellow Aspens. FOMO. Etc.
And then the weather cleared and even with snow on the forecast, we got a 24 hour window of that classic fall weather. 24 hours to squeeze in all my fall riding desires. It was not nearly enough, and yet also completely perfect. One day of fall weather laps at Angel Fire. One day of aspen lined single track. One day of “light jacket is perfect no need to bust out the thermal tights” kind of riding. One absolutely beautiful day. And yet, I struggled to not want more.
I want to ride South Boundary. I haven’t done a single full SBT ride this year, and that seems like a tragedy right now. I want to ride alllll the gnarly trails at Angel Fire that I never got a chance to ride earlier this year because I was too busy pre-riding race courses. I want to hit all the jumps that were goals for me this year, and that I never got around to doing because I guess I thought I would have more time. Where did this summer go? There are so many things I still want to do — things that do not involve the icy-snow-slush that is currently falling out of the sky.
Yet, on the other hand, something about this seems absolutely perfect. I got one day of fall riding — one day that, for the record, did not look likely a week ago. One day is a lot. One day is enough. One day is a gift.
And now I get what I need more than anything: guilt free rest. (Because literally no one should feel guilty about not riding when it’s 34 degrees and pouring in October.) Sometimes, I think, it’s good to leave some goals on the table and maybe some desires are better left unfulfilled. I didn’t get my fill of fall riding, but I got one day, and I enjoyed the hell out of it.