My history with cycling correlates closely to my dating life. In high school, my boyfriend never tried to earn a driver\u2019s license but opted instead to ride his bike everywhere. After we broke up, I threw my heartache into learning how to ride a bike, and that summer found me completing my first century. Fast forward a few years to college and a summer fling convinces me to sell my car and go car-free\u2014something that lasted the remaining three years I spent in Atlanta\u2014and which I still practice for my work commute.\r\n\r\nNow, many moons later, I found myself at the top of a trail staring down at the left banked turn 15 feet below. Riding uphill wasn\u2019t the hard part, going down was.\r\n\r\nBut how did I find myself at the first dip of the Songbird Trail at Carvin\u2019s Cove? A boyfriend, mostly, whose fear of sharing the road with cars was (somewhat) greater than mine of bears on a trail. This wasn\u2019t my first attempt at mountain biking\u2014in college I\u2019d completed a few cross country races\u2014but the steep, technical north Georgia trails weren\u2019t my cup of tea. I sold my Specialized Rockhopper shortly after Supermanning towards a thick white oak\u2019s trunk, flapping my arms in the air as if I were a bird who could alter my course, and hadn\u2019t looked back since.\r\n\r\nThis spring, though, I decided I need to try my legs at the sport again, and I\u2019ve learned a few things since those afternoons when I hopped on a mountain bike hoping I could snag a bike shop boy if I was hardcore enough to hang with them on the singletrack.\r\n\r\nFirst things first, I needed to ditch the gears. I\u2019m not advocating that everyone go singlespeed, but in college as a beginner on the trail, I found it hard to assess the trail for the three R\u2019s\u2014roots, rocks, and ruts\u2014and calculate which gear I needed to be in to make it to the top of a hill. On a road bike, most mountains I\u2019ve ridden are gradual\u2014I can slowly flip my way through the gears until I find a happy point and spin until I reach the top.\r\n\r\nMountain biking is more explosive. While there are plenty of 1000-foot climbs up the ridges here in southwest Virginia\u2014more often than not, it\u2019s a quick 15-20 feet pump up hill. And I\u2019m horrible at gauging what gear I need to be in. I\u2019ve never been as happy on a mountain bike as I have on my Redline Monocog 29er, throwing my legs into the climbs (and walking when I can\u2019t).\r\n\r\nSecondly, I just needed to take a few deep breaths and stop thinking about the trail so much, find the zen. Maybe some of that was simply growing up, but now, instead of hyperventilating or panicking as soon as my back wheel fishtails in the mud, I put a foot down (if need be), take a deep breath, and get back on the bike and pedal. Learning to scan the trail 10 feet in front of me and to not focus on the ground directly beneath my wheels also did wonders for learning how to ride tight curves.\r\n\r\nThe other key thing I\u2019ve learned this year is that I need to take the time to actually look around me. It\u2019s so easy to get caught up in the obstacles of the trail and forget that I\u2019m surrounded by mountains\u2014the reason I want to be on the trail in the first place\u2014the breathtaking wildness of the region.\r\n\r\nI\u2019m still riding with platform pedals, but soon I\u2019ll upgrade to clipless. I have found myself covered in mud after skidding out of a curve and hitting a pile of dried leaves. If there had been anyone around to watch, I\u2019m sure they would have found it just as hilarious as I did\u2014and that\u2019s the key, grinning like a maniac even if I look like a fool.\r\n\r\nLearning to ride a singlespeed has left me covered in mud, skidding out of curves and crashing into things. It has also made me less concerned about speed and more interested in the experience, less concerned about attainment and more interested in the journey.