La Ventolera!

On Monday, January 4th, the Weekday Off Road Team (Althaf, Andrés, Ignacio, Robert and I) took an off road course in Santa Ana/Escazú.

We headed up from Salitral to La Ventolera. In my opinion, it would have been best to get some gravel riding tips BEFORE we went up this steep, curvy road that had lots of dry gravel. The two main ones being the most obvious: 1) Do NOT stop for any reason. Keep going until you find a safe spot to stop. And, 2) If you do have to stop, immediately let go of the clutch and hand brake. Instantly. This will engage the back tire to stop your backward slide.

Unfortunately, I myself (and others) did not apply these guidelines. But, I am glad that I learned them (once again) and will practice “hands off” stopping on a slippery incline when I can (with company).

The road up to Ventolera from Salitral is dry, loose gravel. I fell twice on this road, but know why. For some reason, on the first fall, I did not look up ahead to mark my route. I looked at the edge and headed straight there and lost it. Oh well. Hahaha!! Mind travel! Lesson relearned: Keep eyes ahead to where you want to go and keep giving it gas no matter what. Forward momentum is the key to staying up on these roads. My second fall was due to stopping on a curve where all my friends were stopped. I thought it was a teaching stop. True story! I stopped and immediately proceeded to roll backwards and fell. I hit my head on the embankment. Damn! This upset me because I had already hit my head a few weeks back and had had a constant headache for weeks, probably due to whiplash. The headache was so bad that I could not sleep after our trip to Mastatal, Río Seco, and up 301 to Acosta. Plus, my spine hurt a bit. But, no serious damage otherwise. Falling is part of riding, and usually no big deal.

Though it has rough gravel, this route has lovely views.

La Ventolera was foggy on the way up, but cleared up on our way down.

We did the off road course up at the top. Good spot for it.

I totally FAILED in every imaginable way. I do not know what happened to me, but I went into performance anxiety of the worst kind, which only got worse as the morning went on. I am not sure if it was the fall or what. I did fall two more times during the training. No big deal. I was not the only one! Hahaha! It’s just that, as my friend Althaf pointed out, I was not falling well. I fell on my hip one time. The second time I was able to land a bit more on my foot before landing. In any case, between the fall which hit my head and the fall on which I landed on my hip, I did not want to continue. I did not want to risk more hits to my body, since I was not fully recovered from my lower back injury weeks before. At my age, my body does not recover as it does with someone who is younger. So, I had fun watching my friends have fun!

I learned in this course that an aggressive teaching style does not work for me. Had our teacher been gentler with me, taken the time to kindly say, “Susana, you are not concentrating. Take your time. Catch your breath. Think about what you are going to do. Then do it.” Then, I might have been able to continue. But to just tell me that I am nervous and not concentrating, in the critical way he did, did not work for me. I am not blaming him, I am simply appreciating how a supportive teaching style may have been more encouraging when I was in this shaken, insecure mode. (And I am grateful to Althaf for his kindness and understanding and letting me know he too fell many times the first time around. This worked for me. Had my body and spirit been in better shape, I might have continued. However, I am OK with having not. I wanted to take care of my body. Though the shame I experienced was painful. To be watched while not being able to perform in the least way was excruciatingly shaming for me. Oh well. Best to lighten up, laugh at myself, learn all my lessons, appreciate the good time we had, and that is that!! And, of course, keep riding!!! Hahaha!)

Althaf, Andrés and I ended the day with lunch at a good Italian restaurant at a strip mall in Santa Ana. After this, I bought some GS off road boots from Althaf. They way about 7 pounds each, it seems. Hahaha! I am sure I will feel like Frankenstein walking in them for a while (as my friend Dave Mejía once said when he first bought similar boots). I hope I get used to them quickly. I look forward to more off road adventures with them.

I am glad I took this course and would ride up this challenging road once again, with Storm! again, remembering the basics. 🙂

Lessons learned for riding and for my life:

  • Concentrate. Focus on what you are doing. Be present, conscious, aware.
  • Always look way ahead. Mark your course. Keep your momentum.
  • On uphill, loose gravel, no matter what, don’t stop until you find the safe landing place. (Then, go back and help a friend if help may be needed.)
  • If you do stop, let go! Hands off.
  • It’s OK to ask for help, say, asking a more confident person to ride your bike up or down after a fall. Till you gather yourself together again.
  • Not everyone is the right teacher for us.
  • Keep taking courses. The more the better.
  • Practice, practice, practice the new until it becomes second nature.
  • Learn how to fall!! 🙂
  • When you are not in control of your bike (yourself, life) and have lost your sense of power, pause. Ground yourself. Make a decision to do what it takes to find your Mojo again. It need not be lost for long.
  • Forgive yourself when I fail. Move through the shame. Get up and go again! Life is too short to wallow in self criticism. Appreciate all that I DO attempt and do, and keep enjoying the ride!

On Friday, January 8, I buy new Motoz Tractionator Adventure tires for Sahara. How exciting!!! I will do easy gravel roads with her till I get to know how she handles, though so far so good. I have already taken her on some gnarly roads, and all was well.

I wan to continue going on somewhat “extreme” roads with my Tornado. I am a bit worried about my body because of my age, and the reality seems to be that one falls more on gravel. But hopefully this will not be the case. (Falling used to be a rare occasion for me. Hahaha!) BUT, It does not have to be so. I can improve my skills.. AND, generally, the falls don’t cause much harm. Fingers crossed that all this be so for me. I want to ride while I can. 🙂 (And if eventually I decide not to ride challenging roads, that is fine also. Me, I mostly want to have fun and to experience the joy I feel riding.)


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