You Have No Idea What You're Getting Into
When I got to Duluth at the ripe ol’ age of 19, I had no interest in biking. I grew up on a fairly busy country road with no neighbors, so I never had the opportunity to ride to friends’ houses or school. On top of that, my mom always warned about getting too close to the road. I had owned a bike since I was about 8; an entry level BMX bike with cool red and black decals. I would ride it up and down our 1⁄4 mile driveway and jump over little dirt piles, but nothing more. Before moving to Duluth, I hadn’t touched that bike in five years.
Deciding to go to the University of Minnesota, Duluth to study business, I quickly sought out local ski shops for employment opportunities. Being an avid nordic ski racer, I figured this would be the most economical way to fund my ski addiction. Luckily, by the grace of God, I got a job working the sales floor at the Ski Hut on my very first day of college. I quickly realized that the Ski Hut is as much of a bike shop as it is a ski shop. Therefore, I needed to learn how to sell them.
A little over a year and a half went by and I still had no real interest in biking, although I was far more aware of it. It intrigued me, but I didn’t really pursue it. This applies to mountain biking in particular. It was cool to watch, but who in their right mind would rip 20 miles per hour through thick woods and over jagged boulders on two wheels? Not me, that was for sure. As COVID-19 became an issue, I started to realize that I needed to find another hobby to get me outside in the summer. So, I grabbed my dad’s old Cannondale mountain bike from 1995 and set out on the Duluth Traverse trail that everyone seemed to talk about.
The first few times were rough for many reasons. Two of the reasons being the physical state of the bike and the mental state of the rider. The front suspension did not work, and I was scared to death of falling off every bridge and rock I encountered. I was, by no means, confident on a bicycle; I hadn’t ridden one in over 7 years! All of this being said, however, I was having a blast. Feeling the wind rushing through my helmet while dodging roots and rocks gave me a rush of adrenaline that I had not felt before. A sense of freedom that this young rider had not experienced.
Fast forward to the present day and I ride at least three times a week when the trails are open. I have (significantly) ungraded my mountain bike and even bought a gravel bike to go with it. I still would not consider myself a “good” rider, but I am far more confident now than I was when I started. Biking brought out a side of me that I didn’t know existed. A side that craves speed, craves uphill pushes, craves the mildly uncontrolled descent down a rockface. I didn’t know what I was missing until I found it.
Is biking dangerous? It can be. Is it scary? A little. Would I recommend it to someone looking to get outdoors more often? Absolutely. My story is not uncommon. Still being an employee at the Ski Hut, I have heard customers come in with similar backgrounds to me. Those individuals have a special place in my heart. As I walk them through purchasing their first “real” bike, I inwardly smile and think to myself, you have no idea what you’re about to get into. You’re about to get into some of the greatest summer evenings of your life. You’re about to get into a community that takes anyone in and makes them feel welcome. You’re about to get into a
lifelong sport that you can pass on for generations to come. I get excited every single time someone walks out the door with a brand new bike.
Duluth, and Minnesota in general, is a mecca for mountain biking and gravel biking. Give it a shot. I did and found a hobby that I will take with me for the rest of my life. Stop by the Ski Hut today to find your next adventure.
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