Matt Behrens: My First Ride with Summit

Mountain Biking is about so much more than racing and riding.  Since the beginning, Summit’s mission has been to cultivate the passion and community that surrounds the sport.  Summit Ambassador Matt Behrens has been with the Club for 7 years now.  He shares the story of his first group ride, and how the welcoming community sparked his lifelong love of cycling.

In early summer of 2012, I was getting hooked on mountain biking. I was 14 years old and loving the freedom that a bike was affording me. I had heard about this group that was doing group rides for kids my age from some close friends, and I wanted in. At the time, my family was in the process of moving back to Utah after a short stint in Australia. I was so excited to get out to ride with Summit Bike Club that I forced my parents to go buy a new mountain bike with me the first day we got back into the US. The following day, still jetlagged, not adapted to the altitude or having any clue how to ride my new bike, I was off for my first ride in Park City with the club.

I distinctly remember pulling into the parking lot of the Silver Lake lodge at Deer Valley and seeing a group of riders – parents and kids my age – playing around as they waited to get moving. I was ecstatic. But also, really nervous. This was all new territory for me, and I really wanted to fit in, but I had no idea what I was doing.

We all gathered in the meadow behind the lodge to snap this photo before splitting into groups and heading out for our ride. Somehow, and despite some refutation on my part, I ended up in the “fast group” which consisted entirely of the Palmer-Leger family and our coach Brendan. I knew I was out of my league when I had to start walking down sections of Deer Crest on our way down the mountain to start the ride. Somehow, I struggled my way down to lower Deer Valley and then realized that we had to ride back up. The Palmer-Legers seemed oblivious to the fact that this was what appeared to be (and probably was) the largest and longest climb I had ever done on a bike. Intimidated would be putting it nicely.

I was really struggling my way back up the famous Tour De Suds. I walked most of the corners and rocky bits, and I was working my sea-level adapted lungs to the max just to keep up. It was unequivocally the hardest outdoor experience I had ever had up to that point. It took excessive encouragement from Lisa and Sydney, and of course all of their snacks, just to get me back up to the top. I did not enjoy that ride even a little bit, and that reaffirmed that I was out of my league. As we finished up, I wasn’t planning on coming back for next week’s ride. I was frustrated. It was too hard.

Then I got to experience one of the hallmarks of mountain bike culture, and something I wouldn’t grow to fully appreciate until a long time after; the post-ride parking lot gathering. I specifically remember that this ride was on MJ’s (SBC mastermind) birthday. A cake somehow appeared and we all enjoyed the time to wind down on a deep summer night. Every cyclist has experienced the little phenomena where even after spending hours riding together, chatting, bonding and bantering, we still hesitate to hop back in our cars and go our separate ways. We spent hours and hours every summer messing around with friends, teammates and coaches after every ride. That was the key to getting me over my learning curve, and getting me hooked on mountain biking.

In retrospect, I think it was that organic, post-ride gathering that helped me forget about how hard and unpleasant my first ride back in Utah had been. I did show up the following Wednesday to do it all again, but that time it went better, and even better the next.

That was nearly 7 years ago, and I am thrilled to still be involved with Summit Bike Club as we set up the framework for other youth to have a similar experience to mine. It can be hard, and the learning curve is steep, but a little encouragement and community go a long way to making it a lifelong passion for everyone involved.

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