What Learning how to Ride Dirt-bikes Has Taught me about Life
I remember it was my 8th birthday. My old man pulled up and there it was in the back of his truck. A beautiful Honda 70. I had been begging for a dirt bike for months and there it was! We got it all unloaded, I got my helmet on, my dad helped me start it up, then proceeded to tell me everything about dirt bikes. Not just what I needed to know, but LITERALLY EVERYTHING. The history of bicycles, then about the genius who decided to strap a motor to one. Then he explained how a combustion engine worked, how wheels turned, all that stuff. Im exaggerating of coarse but it sure seemed like he was telling me all that stuff. Even if he did I wouldn’t know because I didn’t hear or pay attention to a single thing he said to me. I had my leg around my very first dirt bike. The engine was fired up and I was ready to ride!
Heck, I didn’t even know how to put the thing in gear! All I knew was that I wanted to ride. After my dad finished explaining what was no doubt ageless and priceless knowledge, he helped me pop it into first gear and I was off. I started down our dirt road and approached my first 90 degree turn. that’s when it all started to go downhill. To the left of our dirt road was a big pile of loose gravel. I saw it as I approached the turn and thought to myself; “It would sure be a bummer if I rode into that pile of gravel!” And of coarse that’s exactly what happened. Not even 50 feet into my first ride and I had already wrecked.
I learned several lessons from that first wreck. One was that the bike tends to go exactly where you’re looking. The second was that a dirt bike was a lot harder to turn than a normal pedal bike, and the next was that dirt bikes can be pretty dangerous and deserve a lot of respect if you plan to get along with one. All three of those were probably what my dad was trying to tell me while I sat excitedly on my bike for the first time, but I suppose there are just certain lessons you need to learn from experience.
Though that first little wreck scared me a bit, after my parents picked me up and dusted me off I hopped back on the ol’ steed and gave it another try. From that day on I was hooked. The last thing I learned from that first experience on a dirt bike also tought me that its alright to be scared, and its alright to fall down. The bike will still be there when you pick yourself up.
Another experience id like to share came a number of months after my fateful encounter with that pile of loose gravel. I had mastered zipping up and down the quarter mile dirt road outside our house by this time and my dad felt I was ready for a ride out in “the hills” is what we’d call the riding area. I had been out there a few times but my dad wanted to take me on some more difficult trails, so that’s what we did. As we got deeper into “the hills” we came across an obstacle that left a deep fear in my chest. I slammed on my brakes and came to a screeching halt right as the trail went down the biggest drop I had ever seen. My old man had already gone down it and was riding off into the sunset. “How could he have possibly made it down such a massive hill?” I thought to myself. Surely that was an impossible task. The hill seemed to stretch straight down for miles and miles. If I went down it surely my brakes would be of no use and id ride my beautiful CR70 down to certain death. Tears filled my eyes and I sat there staring down petrified with fear. Eventually my dad noticed I wasn’t behind him and rode right back effortlessly (We hadn’t even made it to any of the actual trails yet) to where I sat motionless, holding the front break with all my strength for fear of being sent over that hill. My old man rode up the traitorous hill, turned around somewhere behind me and pulled up next to me and shut off his bike.
“what’s the matter, son? Let’s get going!” (Its been so long I can’t remember exactly what he said to me at that time)
“This is just a really big Hill!” I replied in disbelief. How was he not terrified of it?
“Oh you’ll be alright! just keep your foot on the back break and go down nice and slow.” He made it seem like it was just a walk in the park. In my young mind this was a matter life and death. Eventually I whipped up enough courage to send myself down that hill. And you know what? I made it down safe and sound, without even a wobble. “That wasn’t all that bad! If I can do that I can do anything!” I thought to myself. I turned around proudly to look at my vanquished foe only to find a measly little hill. Probably not even 15 feet tall. Something deep down changed in me that day. Of coarse it wasn’t the last time I have been terrified on a dirt bike, but for whatever reason its near the top of my mind anytime I’m ripping full throttle up and down a sand dune that is hundreds of feet high, or riding a technical mountain trail with drops on either side of the trail big enough to kill anyone if you were tumble off the trail. The rest of that ride went great and I had a wonderful experience with my old man.
Over the years I learned many other countless lessons from the seat of a dirt bike that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. But the main one was to not only overcome fear, but to embrace fear. Fear heightens your senses. Fear pumps adrenaline through your body. Fear makes you feel alive. Fear brings the thrill of a challenge. That’s the main thing I love about riding. The longer you ride the less you fear high speeds, a steep hillclimb, or a technical trail. You learn to look forward to those very things that struck you with the deepest fear.
Though I’ve been able to conquer many fears I have faced from the seat of a dirt bike there are many other fears that leave me as petrified as I was that day on the top of that little hill. There are many things that have me sitting motionless, gripping that front brake with all my strength because I fear the path ahead. All I have to do is let go, and trust that everything will be okay, only to look back and see a measly little hill.
What’s your hill?
What is it that’s keeping your fingers on that break?
What’s it going to take for you to finally let go?
What is it that you fear now, but if embraced could lead to more joy, happiness, and satisfaction than you could every possibly imagine?