A Risk Worth Taking

 By Thora Brooks

‘Just do it!’ my friend said, ‘just try it.’Thora's story

I’ve never really considered myself to be all that outgoing and definitely not the sporty type.

But for whatever reason, I was intrigued by this group I came across called The Dirty Girlz Bike Club.

Maybe it was the name that made me think they were hard core, but I think it was mainly the group photo that grabbed me. I wanted to be a part of something like this; a group of independent women as tough, if not tougher, than the guys, having fun and being active outdoors. What’s not to love? I was looking for an excuse to be more active but I don’t think I had any clue what I had stumbled upon.

I showed up at the Hartland dump parking lot, 6 pm sharp.

I had borrowed my sister’s bike and helmet. I had seen a list of recommended items to bring so I gathered up what I could find, including my camel pack, a granola bar, spare tire tube, and some tools…just in case. I grabbed the waiver form and I threw the bike on my car rack for the first time. I was all ready to go, or at least as ready as I could be for my first ride.

Now I am not a biker of any kind really. I grew up on an island riding my bike 3 minutes each day down a dirt road to the small school ferry. I don’t ride a road bike, never have. I know the basics of basics, but I wanted to learn more, especially living in such a bike friendly city as Victoria.

I remember the first minute of my first ride, from the parking lot down to the notice board. I remember how the bike rolled over what seemed at the time to be huge rocks that I thought were going to catapult me forward off the bike. I remember the fear at the beginning, but also the pure joy and exhilaration as I reached the notice board with the rest of the group. I remember the smile I felt on my face, with eyes wide open. I had made it past my first hurdle. But that was just the beginning. I had no idea what I was in for.

When I heard the term ‘mountain biking’ I pictured the terrain to be dirt with some loose gravel, some steep slopes, a lot of up and down, around narrow corners, etc. I thought ‘groomed’ runs. Never did I think up and over tree roots, small rock cliffs, through cracks and over bridges, even in the dark! But man am I glad I was wrong.

My first ride however was not as successful as I had hoped. I made it up and over a few roots before being thrown off, or simply jolted me to halt. I kept pushing though. I did a lot of stop and go. I watched the other ladies confidently try it out and waited for my turn. Excited about the challenge, knowing I most likely would not make it all, but anxiously waiting my turn, I enjoyed every minute of it.

I had to tighten my seat a lot, so I was glad I brought my tool kit. The ride was only just beginning, so after 3 or 4 times of tightening my seat in a span of 5 minutes I was a little concerned. It just would not stay tight. I thought,” I’ll tough it out. I will try not to sit down”. But after a few more roots and rocks bumping me around, I heard a loud snap. I felt my weight drop. I had no seat! I had broken my seat!

I got off my bike to find that the screw had snapped in half! Now I am only a little 5 ft nothing girl, but man did I feel like going on a diet in that moment. As I soon discovered, the threads on the screws holding the seat had been worn down therefore they could not  stop the seat from moving, no matter how tight I made the screws.

So needless to say I could not continue on the ride. But I had had just enough of a taste to want to come back and even more so wanted to conquer my defeat on that first ride. I had to come back. I could not let Hartland win!

Since that first ride I have been back many times with the Dirty Girlz. I have even attempted several night rides, which have all been amazing and I plan to do much more of them.

I was so thrilled to find this sport but I did not expect to find such support and truly inspirational woman. I was welcomed and encouraged to try but the main focus was and is to always have fun! And I did.

What has really surprised me is my own personal growth. I’ve gained skills and confidence in myself that I never expected to find. I’ve conquered more at Hartland already then I ever thought I would. But with the great support of other riders I will continue to push myself.

I don’t consider myself a risk taker, but out on those trails I get in the zone and just go for it. Of course I take somewhat calculated risks. I use my head but I am fueled by adrenaline! Most of what I have learned so far is that 90% of what is holding you back is in your head, it is all mental. Once you do it you realize that you CAN do it. You feel a little silly just thinking about the fear and the hesitation holding you back from something you could have done all along. But you learn that your bike is able to roll over most obstacles.

With the amazing support of the Dirty Girlz I have learned to try things I would have never done on my own. I have learned new skills, found a way to stay active, challenge myself both physically and mentally and I have a new found confidence on and off the trails.

I am so happy I just went for it that day. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is looking for a new adventure. You’ll never imagine what you can conquer out on those trails!