When I looked at my reflection in the mirror I half expected to see two scratches down the left side of my face: from my eyebrow, past my nose and straight through my lower lip. But there was nothing there, not even a hint that I might have fallen off my bike and landed on the spiky arms of a wild bramble on my third mountain biking getaway with the university.
We set off on a cold and misty autumn morning, the sky grey and the light dim. However, there is a big contrast in this setup. Further into Endcliffe Park the trees grow redder, warm-coloured leaves rain from the treetops as we ride past. The ground below us is yellow and orange and our chatter mixes up with the sound of tires crushing dead leaves as we ride by.
When we reach the top of Lady Canning’s, fog a step away from becoming rain surrounds us, attaching tiny pearls of water onto our clothes. We fall quiet, but conversation is not missing. We’re engulfed by nature and it is making me want to go deeper into the woods, mystery attracting.
We get back on our bikes, it’s time to go fast and let it all go – this is what we came for. Yunok is riding in front of me, he finds a rock and jumps, looking so good and adding a new truth to the path: I can jump on rocks instead of going around them. I’ll reach it in less than a second and my mind is set. I get to it, push down on the handlebar and pull with my body; and suddenly I’m not touching the ground anymore.
The only thing holding onto my bike right now is my left hand; my feet aren’t touching the pedals which isn’t ideal. But I managed to get both wheels off the ground and between the panic and the fear and my head telling me that I’ll smash my face in two fractions of a second because I don’t know how to land, I also find pleasure and an addictive thrill.
It was a terrible – and tiny – jump, so I land and continue riding down without making a scene. I’m amazed, this is the pure definition of happiness! Or at least it is to me right now. I’m grinning without noticing, shaking my head up and down uncontrollably. I jumped. I actually jumped! I didn’t pull off any kind of stunt or whatever, but you ought to start somewhere and this feels too good. A scream that was meant to sound like celebration escapes my mouth.
Faster, sending leaves flying up as I ride past them. Peace and thrill blend perfectly together in these moments. For a while I need nothing else but what I already have. My mind fills up with what lies ahead, completely taken away by my present actions; adrenaline rushes through my body. Yet riding as I am with my level of skill, I obviously take a fall. Nothing horrible except for the landing point: a wild bramble. I feel a burn on my face but apart from that all is well; I’m still smiling.
When I arrive back home I lie on the ground, exhausted. Without realising I fall asleep, my muscles aching and my body drained. When I wake up again I take a look in the mirror – there are no scars on my face but I can see my eyes shine.
It’s all about these little moments, these two-hour getaways, where my head is completely filled with bliss, when my heart beats fast and I feel most alive. To only be aware of what’s in front of you, to only concentrate on the trail ahead, to think about nothing else. To be alive.