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Hooked on mountain biking

By on March 29, 2018 in Outdoor Fun with 0 Comments

Approaching a saddle in the Sage Hills trail system, Molly Steere is ready to take a break and enjoy the expansive view of the Wenatchee Valley.

By Molly Steere

I barrel down the trail, pedaling frantically between obstacles, holding my breath over drops, avoiding jagged rocks that look like teeth ready to tear up my legs, and desperately hoping I make the corner this time.

I’m covered in bruises and scabs from the previous outings and I’m determined to finish this trail without a major crash.

While riding, I can think only of making it through the next section of the trail without calamity.

This is how I got hooked on mountain biking. I was in my late 20s and looking for a way to relieve stress.

My brain would redline, continuously grinding away at perceived or invented problems, but when I was on the trail, the physical and mental challenge was all-consuming and required my absolute focus. I wasn’t capable of worrying about anything other than staying upright.

It was exhilarating and cheaper than therapy!

Mountain biking has been a consistent thread throughout my adult life.

I met my husband-to-be through mountain biking when I was 30 and starting a new engineering job where I didn’t know a soul. I asked around looking to meet mountain bikers who could show me new trails where I could continue to hone my skills.

I met Toby and he quickly became my steadfast riding partner. Much more skilled than I and immensely patient in teaching me how to anticipate upcoming obstacles instead of reacting in a flailing panic, we would ride at least once a week regardless of the weather.

Gradually, I improved and my love for the sport grew.

When Toby and I moved to the Wenatchee area 10 years ago, we lucked out and were quickly connected with a group of riders who met weekly for local rides.

Although the group has since dissolved, we became familiar with the many trails in the area through it and I’m grateful to call several previous members my good friends.

Often it’s hard to move to a small town, meet people, and feel at home. Biking opened the door for us and immediately made us feel welcomed into the community.

Now, we have a son who loves to mountain bike as much as we do. It took some adjusting when he was younger — we started out towing him in a bike trailer, graduated him to a strider bike, and eventually figured out a way to tow him up hills using a spare tube between the bikes so he could go on any trail with us.

At age eight, he’s now an adrenaline junky who can keep up with us on any terrain.

Mountain biking is no longer always about the mental escape for me. It’s now a way to spend intentional time with my family and explore new places while getting our dose of fresh air and exercise.

One of the many reasons we love the Wenatchee Valley area so much is that we are able to bike from early spring through the fall. The area is rife with amazing trails and several well-developed skill parks.

When I’m in the mood for a legendary ride, Devil’s Gulch, outside of Cashmere, is one of my favorites and considered one of the premier rides in Washington.

It starts with an 11-mile climb up a forest service road from the parking lot — that’s what we get for living in a valley, the trails always start with a devil of a climb.

However, once you get on the single track, it’s pure heaven. Usually dry and hard-packed, the trail combines long sweeping turns through old growth timber and scenic meadows, sharp switchbacks on exposed, rocky side hills, and multiple crossings of Mission Creek. It’s fast, flowy, and full of adventure.

In the spring, I love to ride the Sage Hills trails. They’re close to town, convenient, and spectacularly gorgeous in wildflower season. There are many trails to choose from and almost all of them provide expansive views of the Columbia River and endless rolling fields of yellow arrowleaf balsamroot and purple lupine in the spring.

Stevens Pass Bike Park, which is currently the only lift-accessed downhill mountain biking in Washington, is the best place to get an adrenaline hit. You load your bikes on a specially equipped chairlift and hitch a ride to the top for a gravity-fed, thrilling descent.

Prior to the bike park opening, we would have to drive up to Whistler B.C. for a similar experience. Now, in less than an hour, I can be chasing my husband down a series of jumps on their freeride trails.

I love the prickling fear in the pit of my stomach as I reach the lip of a jump, the moment of serene silence as I’m airborne, and then the unholy rattling of my bike as I touchdown and the chaos resumes.

In the last few years, the valley has seen the development of several more skill parks. Pump tracks and skill parks help build bike handling skills, are a fantastic workout, are for all ability levels, and most importantly are just plain fun for all ages.

The Leavenworth Pump Track is perfection. It’s a continuous loop of berms and rollers that bikers ride by “pumping” or shifting their weight in conjunction with the contours of the course, with the ultimate goal of not having to pedal. Trust me, it’s a workout.

As a family, we love challenging ourselves to see how many circuits we can make in a row without pedaling. That number is laughably low at the beginning of the season.

Squilchuck State Park also has an excellent skill park that includes gap jumps, drops, balance beams, and slalom practice features.

Practicing skills is the perfect cap to a family evening of riding on the adjacent trails. We’re fortunate to be surrounded by such varied (and ridiculously awesome) biking options.

I’m partial to mountain biking because it can be as aggressive or as mellow as I want.

Some days I want to huck myself off a jump and pray that I land wheels down, and other days I’m perfectly content riding my mountain bike on meandering flat trails or even paved paths.

Either way, it’s a great workout and far more fun than spinning away on a stationary bike with the gym crowd.

When I was in my 20s and in constant search of adrenaline, I thought mountain biking was a young person’s sport. Now that I’m in my 40s and looking for activities that are easy on my joints, I consider it a middle-aged sport.

When I’m in my 60s and beyond, I hope to continue to view it as my sport because it’s fun at any age or skill level. I plan to spend my life on wheels.

Molly Steere is a local freelance writer and social media consultant. She considers the local bike trails her office.

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