by Elena Forchielli
Few things can cure a bad mood like a good bike ride. No matter how irritable I’m feeling, the battles I’m waging, or anxiety I’m shouldering, it all melts away as soon as I’m pedaling from the trailhead.
Bikes are freedom and my passport to the endless wonders of the backcountry. All of my problems seem a little less severe when I’m confronted with the incredible beauty of nature, and reminded of how small I really am in such a vast world—and aren’t my issues commensurate as well?
Every day I find myself drowning in a barrage of emails and documents and phone calls, requests, complaints… the litany is endless. But that perfect ride provides the breath of air I need to come back to earth and shores me up to keep charging towards my goals, no matter the obstacles. Riding erases the chatter, soothing my mind and in many ways reminding me of who I am. Self-doubt evaporates and calm confidence precipitates. Plus, if I can ride that, I can certainly tackle this project.
I know you know what I’m talking about, the feeling you get on that perfect ride; it’s the experience I seek every time I get on my bike, and something I frequently try to recreate. But when I start to examine the individual components that add up to a perfect ride, there’s one common thread that prominently pervades them all: the people.
I’ve traveled all over the world to mountain bike, and the rides that linger in my memory are the ones I’ve shared with best friends, eccentrics, or a cohort of racers. The collective vibe from a group of like-minded people always has the most powerful effect on me: I mean, let’s face it, I’m an emotional rider. Good friends make me happy, being happy makes me ride good, and riding good makes me more happy.
It’s a fortuitous cycle.
Much more frequently than not, the most rewarding riding experiences I’ve had were with other women. There’s just something about it, and I’ve struggled to define this effect precisely. Nevertheless, I will attempt to articulate this phenomenon again: simply, they ride like me, and I am better equipped to succeed when surrounded by peers. There is no pressure to perform at a level above my abilities, but most importantly, our motivations for getting on the bike are fundamentally different from men’s.
Overwhelmingly, we share similar experiences in our lives at large, and these unifying themes transcend our riding. They get me. They care very much about my personal experience on a ride and endeavor to make it positive by supporting me and pushing me to progress. Perhaps most importantly, they intuit when I need to be nudged, and when I need to be left.
Mountain biking with women at, above, and below my ability level has consistently produced the most beneficial effects on my riding. Conversely, I also learn and improve as a person through teaching and imparting my own knowledge. I am constantly inspired by these women, by their skills that I’ll never achieve or grit approaching a challenge I may have mastered before. I see myself in them, and if they can do it, so can I.
The riding is really a vessel for the emotional connection we crave with other humans. It’s a common bond that unites a type of people with common values and lifestyles: these are my people. The truth is that as mountain bikers, we’re all part of the same community already. Go anywhere in the world, and you will activate a network of people—and likely strangers—who understand you implicitly. You’ll find someone to show you the local trails, the best brewery, a friend.
Mountain biking is more than just a sport to Elena Forchielli; it represents a complete lifestyle that has brought her all around the world and introduced her to some of her best friends. For someone who grew up between different cultures, bikes have provided her with a sense of belonging and community she hasn’t found elsewhere. You'll often find her in the Gunnison Valley pedaling around with women from all over the world. As co-founder of VIDA MTB, it’s Elena’s goal to enhance other people’s lives by providing them the access and tools to achieve this empowerment.