One day before my first race. I woke up nervous and scared. I wasn’t on my own. I was with several much more experienced riders. The day called for rain, so the plan was for a little warm-up for the next day.
By the time we reached the trail-head it was an overcast drizzle. For readers not tracking my lighting conditions, this is not too bad. A drizzle in BC can result in tackier dirt and less dust. Most dirt is also darker, hence, more contrast and contrast is good. Over the last couple of weeks, the grass has gotten greener too, meaning there is also more contrast between the single track and the grass.
Overcast also means fewer harsh sunny-to-shade transitions, but this comes at the cost of less contrast on roots and rocks which can ‘pop’ more in strong sunlight. There is no perfect light, but i’m getting better and identifying to pros and cons of different conditions.
I’ve learned to be extra cautious during the first 10-20 minutes of biking as I transition from looking at things from a static walking pace, to a faster riding pace where things become more of a fuzzy blur. Most of the crashes I’ve experienced have happened early in the ride.
I had a few guides during the ride, and up until now guides have mostly pointed out hazards, difficult drops, roots or rocks. One guide stood out. She narrated trail conditions as she rode ahead, ‘easy left’, ‘slight dip’, ‘soft left’. It was sort of like when you watch rally racers with their co-drivers. My first instinct was that my presence would be a nuisance for this guide, having to call all these things out, but surprisingly, hearing all this information made it easier to allocate my limited visual resources. If I know it’s a slight left bend, I don’t need to look at direction so much, I can scan a bit further up the trail. The constant feedback is pretty helpful when your better-vision is down to a couple degrees in one eye, (thanks Steph, you’re an awesome guide).
This makes riding a bit faster easier, and riding a bit faster generally makes things smoother and easier. Though the ride started off with my being nervous, near the end I felt like my bike had so much more capability than what I was using, it felt really smooth and like I was barely scratching the surface of what it was designed for. Big thanks to my brother too for noticing that letting more air out of my tires would give me more grip climbing, descending, andbasically everywhere on the trails. All of this made me wish I could really hammer down some descents and corners harder. Someday?
The day started with me wondering what the hell I was doing there that weekend, a day before a race. Ten kilometres later, I was enjoying my time on some blue trails, still leary of black trails, but more confidant in the quality of my bike and more confidant for the next day’s race. I was no longer completely petrified, just really scared.