There’s racing, and then there’s suicide. I began to suspect that the mountain bike race at Tyler State Park just southeast of Dallas was in the suicide category when I returned to my campsite one afternoon to find a young man lying in the road, his bike beside him. Shit, I thought, envisioning blood and broken bones. But the kid jumped to his feet and scrambled out of the way of my car.
“Did you wipe out?” I asked.
He was embarrassed. “No, it’s just that I don’t have good shocks on my bike, and the trail is so rutted that my back is killing me. I was just lying on the road.”
He was drenched in sweat.
“Do you have water?” I asked.
“No. Well, a little.”
I filled his bladder (That bag thing bikers wear?) and couldn’t resist one morsel of Momma advice:
“Look, winning this race isn’t worth killing yourself.”
“Good point,” he said, but I knew he was just humoring me.
So, the next day I hiked the trail myself, and it was awful. Hairpin turns between trees, eight-inch drops over roots and rocks, precipitous ups and downs. Not only that, I got lost twice even with two maps—and I was walking, not hurtling along in a testosterone-fueled mania.
On my way back, I encountered Ginny.
Tiny of stature, Ginny is one Amazon biker woman. She has the lycra; she has shoes that crank to tighten; she has special powders she puts in her bladder-thing. She must have had some amazing bike because Chago and Tiger amble over in a deferential kind
“So…you’re going to ride that trail?” I ask.
Ginny sized me up. I am a head taller, but I feel myself shrinking.
“But…why do you do this?”
“Because I like it.”
“Don’t you get hurt?”
“Sure. If you’re going to race, you’re going to get hurt. That’s just part of the sport.”
Ginny ought to know. She’s been competing in road and mountain bike races for 15 years and averages about 200 races per year, and she looks darned good in lycra. This girl has about 2 percent body fat. She also works in sales at Richardson’s Bike Mart, a major bike shop in Dallas.
Chago and Tiger are immediately impressed. “So, if we take you out to lunch, maybe you could…”
“Won’t be the first time I’ve gotten THAT offer,” she says.
So, the boys start talking about tires. Apparently, Tiger’s are “too aggressive.”
“We just thought the most nubby ones would look cool,” Tiger says.
The boy have only been racing for about six months, but Tiger’s helmet already has an impressive number of stickers—white circles for wipe-outs; green palms for tree encounters.
After more shop talk, the boys take off to hit Bodacious Bar-B-Que near the Interstate, and Ginny hits the trail. The next time I see the three of them, they had attempted the trail once more, but Tiger’s chain had broken halfway through; Chago is looking sweaty and tired; and Ginny has hardly broken a sweat but is disgruntled with the trail conditions. “It isn’t well-marked. It just doesn’t flow. I’m not feeling it,” she says.