Newbies. We have all seen them. We have all been them at one time or another. They can be easy to spot.
Often the helmet is a dead give away.
They can be easy to spot in a group.
They are excited, they are fired up, they are stoked...even if they are a bit off course every so often. Yeah, there is the guy that walks into the pro shop and slaps down the Visa, rolling out looking like team Joe Fast, etc. But that illusion only lasts until the newbie begins to pedal...heck maybe even begins to talk. Bubble burst, the truth is out.
There is a local mustering spot for rides by my house and on any given weekend or after work time, there will be cyclists gathering to ride mountain bikes in the nearby hills. Usually they are folks I know, but lately the popularity of the area is getting out and more and more new groups are showing up to test the waters.
There is one group that I have seen that began as two guys and now are six or so. None of them look very experienced. Some are wearing gym sweats and gym shoes, no helmets. The helmets that are worn are kinda crooked and the bikes are low to mid level bike shop or dept. store models. I think one guy looks like he is the veteran of the group and is riding pretty well, even sporting clipless pedals. But regardless of pecking order, they are out there getting it done, having the time of their lives.
There are some great things about newbies. Newbies will always return a wave or a "Good Morning" call. Try and get that from a speedy racer type on Sunday morning....he would have waved but it would have affected his Power Tap hub reading and we can't have THAT!
Being a newbie mtn biker is HARD! I remember my learning curve. I bought what I could afford then, a $250.00 Nishiki with Suntour 6 speed non-indexed shifting. I actually was a pretty good technical rider at the outset, but fitness was another thing altogether. I was in my late 20s, thin and healthy looking. I figured I could do this. Wow. Wrong!
Even stuff that now would be a minor bump on the singlespeed was getting me completely wasted...destroyed...knackered...schooled. Hills were my enemy. Lord it was hard. I would watch my friends disappear over the mountain as my world narrowed down to a tunnel vision, pinpoint of light, basted in sweat and set to a soundtrack of heavy breathing and choice %&#@++* words. Still, I wanted it bad enough to hang in there. Most don't and the newbie rider hangs the bike in the garage where is rusts in peace.
A year or so ago I got an email from a rider that was in my area. He was brand new to mtb stuff and wanted to find out where to ride that was not too hard. I volunteered to show him some local, easy rides and we set a time to meet. I love showing newbies the ropes. I enjoy teaching and helping someone get better at cycling as it can be a huge positive in someone's life as it has been to me.
At the parking lot, I met the guy, a very, very nice young man, married, maybe in his late 20s and very out of shape. Overweight and soft around the edges, he was riding a bike that was made for jumping down flights of stairs or something...urban mtb for sure. It was a burly hardtail thing, maybe 35 lbs of indestructibility with not enough gears and a 50mm stem.
We headed out on a flat paved road to a flattish fireroad. Maybe 3 miles in, he was torched. We flipped around and headed back to the car before ever really getting into the trails. I figured he was another newbie in the process of 'biting the dust' as far as becoming a mtn biker.
I was wrong.
A year later I was at the same parking lot. I saw a guy with a pretty decent bike, loading up after a ride. he looked kinda familiar so I rode over. Turned out to be the same guy that had nearly died out there a year ago. He must have been 30-40 pounds lighter. He had muscles where pudgie-ness had been. He had a very nice bike and decent clothes. He had graduated. He was a mtn biker, by gawd.
He remembered our ride and thanked me for the day we had met, got in his car and drove away. He made it this far and I know it was not easy. Congrats dude.
One less newbie, one more mountain biker. Welcome aboard. Now for those other six guys....