I was biking today. The weather perfect; the trails covered in riders. Experts, enthusiasts, and newcomers all dawned in gear and enjoying the greens and blues and black diamonds.
There is a really fun ramp on the southern loop. I came up on it, moving pretty quickly, and then braked to a sudden stop as I found Ryan, a kid of about 8 or 9 standing next to his bike at the base of the ramp, staring at the incline. As he considered the challenge, his head bobbed back and forth between the mildly intimidating ramp entry and the sign reading “EXPERT ONLY!”
His dad was on the other side cheering him on. “Ryan…it’s your call. But, if you do it, you will need some speed and keep your eyes ahead of you.”
I smiled and decided to join the party.
Hopping off my bike, I asked his dad if I could add an idea. “Sure, man.” Ryan smiled.
I asked if he knew what a “berm” was. “No,” he replied. I said, “Are you nervous about going over it”. He offered a little courageous scowl and said, “Just a little.”
“Well, you’re better than me. I didn’t go over this thing until my fifth time to it.” He looked surprised since I have a cool bike and all the stuff.
“What if there was dirt that went from the ground over there and built right up to the sides of the ramp? That’s what a berm is. Would that make it less scary?”
“Yeah, I guess,” he said. “Well, let’s pretend there is a whole bunch of dirt surrounding this ramp. Picture it. Your dad and I can get on each side and pretend we are the berm.” His dad chimed in, “Yeah…we are the dirt, buddy.” He jogged to the opposite side of me. We stood there with our arms outstretched. I kind of expected him to look at me like I was an idiot and to offer a kind of “Thanks anyway (dork).” He didn’t.
Without saying a word, Ryan got off his bike and jogged it back about thirty yards. He didn’t stop or contemplate or hesitate. He tightened his helmet, placed his feet firmly on the pedals of his Specialized 26er, and headed right at us. His dad didn’t say a word as Ryan raced to the ramp…determined…excited…eyes ahead…
“YEEEAAAAAHHHH!” Dad yelled as Ryan crested the ramp, sailed through the main flat and pulled on his back break for the descent. Ryan never looked back and headed like an X-Gamer to the next element. His dad yelled, “Later, friend,” as he jumped on his own bike and chased his young rider to the next stage.
I smiled and thought of how many things I have feared in this life. How many “ramps” were just too intimidating and prevented me from crossing the thrill and joy of the passage. For those times when the courage made its way to me, there was a berm. Usually someone, or many, who believed in me and stood at the side and cheered and ensured that the possible fall would be less hurtful because they were there.
I actually dig a bit of risk. I like the unknown. I gravitate to the trails less-traveled, even with some trepidation. There might be a reason why they are less-traveled. The idea of a berm…a friend, a love, a value, a belief, a wonder makes these risks seem safer. In some cases, inviting. I want to go to those places where discovery will lead to new wonder. I am finding them, little by little…day after curious day.