I get nervous going downhill fast and riding on loose surfaces or between objects. So facing a gravel gradient steep as a slippery dip and stretching a good 150m down, I squeezed the brakes.
I’m not so dumb as to squeeze the front brake, I know where that ends. But squeezing the back brake wasn’t all that helpful either. This hill is so steep that little things like gravity, momentum and various related laws of physics dictate that one descend at a certain speed. And if one’s rear wheel is incapable of keeping up with such speed due to overzealous brake application, one will skid and skitter and fly down the hill with or without the bicycle.
I stopped, once, near the top. And started again at a more sedate pace, which naturally picked up, and as I gently squeezed the brake again and felt the tire slide, and squeezed and slid and sped, my friend Octavius reached the bottom of the slope. I sped and squeezed and slid and knew I should let go and ride it out. And so I squeezed and slid and tumbled my way into a soft pile of leaves and some sort of burrow in the ditch.
I don’t recall how I reached the bottom of the hill, though it was probably on foot. I do recall that Octavius was riding back up the hill towards me like a kid ready for another go on the Big Dipper.
I would like to ride up that hill. I know I’ll need to oil the chain, fix the derailleur, lose some weight, and gain some fitness.
I would like to learn to ride down that hill. I’m not afraid of flying, I’m just afraid of dying. And that is what I need to let go.