The first thing he told me was that I needed to learn the basic riding skills first. My bike riding coach, Coach Roach was the meanest of all the humans I have ever met. His cold stare could kill a flying ant that goes past his roving eyes.
I used to be very scared of him when I was younger. My friends called him the boogie man. However, he was one of the best bikers this side of the mountain I had ever seen. He was an awesome coach as well, now that he is too old to race.
I have been learning how to race with a bike on the mountain for a couple of months now. Cockroach, like the kids in the neighborhood, do call Coach Roach behind his back, would not allow me to attempt any jump. But I was winning all the test races, beating track times and setting test records.
All these feats made me follow his instructions the more and trust his judgment. Plus he knows how to make anyone feel proud of whatever one achieved, no matter how little they might appear to other people.
Back at school my friends since childhood do come with their bikes and try different types of jumps. They were already practicing these jumps on the mountains where we were raised. I envied them a lot. I beat them in all the test races, getting to the finish line before they did but I couldn’t do the jumps as they did. But whenever I felt downhearted like that, I would hear Cockroach’s voice saying to me that “being thorough doesn’t mean you are slow, it means you seek something close to perfection.”
I was thinking about this when Blake nudged me with his knuckle.
“Did you see that?” He said to galvanize me, “that was sick, man. Josh is really getting better at his jumping techniques.”
“Actually I did not see it. What did he do?
“Forget it, man, I’m not running commentary here,” Blake said. He left my side. He must have whispered something about me to Burke, another classmate because Burke looked up at me over Blake’s shoulder and said.
“Hey Chuck, why don’t show us what you got.”
They all knew I had not started jumping with the bike yet and they just invited me in order to humiliate me in front of everybody.
I stood up, carried my bike and left. But I didn’t go home straightaway like I used to do after school. Instead, I went to Coach Roach’s trailer at the entrance to the town. I always believed that if any disaster was coming to the town, Coach Roach would be the first to know, and probably be the first to be claimed.
He was not in his trailer when I arrived, so I went to the only other place he could be, which was the mountainside. But first I went home to pick my bike, and I rode as fast as my leg could pedal.
The moment Coach Roach saw me ride in, he began.
“I know there will be a day when you will come here this early, and you will see how beautiful this place really is when you have fewer people and no activity to distract you from really taking a look at the mountain as nature and not as an instrument to ride on. Then you will appreciate what is before, and when you appreciate it, you will realize there is much more to achieve with it than the fixed idea you have had before. That day I will teach you the real act of riding and becoming the best mountain bike jumper.” He moved from where I had joined him and went to a spot where he had laid a tarp. Then he sat down.
“But first,” he continued after sitting himself well, legs thrust into each other, in the monk’s style. “Come to sit down with me and enjoy this view of nature.”
I sat quietly with him. I must admit I had never seen this place as beautiful as I saw it that day. The radiant afternoon sun shining off the back of the mountain. The watery smoke that rises from the hot mountain. The curves and the slopes. I could almost see every sphere of the mountain, and how it was perfectly laid down. I could see where the next gallop began and where it ended. In my mind I could see myself making a jump at a certain point, pedaling and not pedaling at other points.
“It’s beautiful,” I simply said after a while of sitting beside him.
He ignored my comment and said instead, “Today we will start the small jumps. You will realize how gracefully you will proceed now that you appreciate what you do more.
He taught me the basic techniques of making small jumps that day, and in a few minutes of teaching me, I was making small jumps whenever I needed to.
The next day I went earlier than I did the previous day and we sat a bit.
He taught me the basic techniques of how to make the big jump. It was in one of these practices that I crashed into a tree.
I was making the run on a stopwatch, and I needed to make a number of jumps. I must have rested my weight too much on the back because I lost control of the front wheel the moment I landed and crashed into the tree. Although my bike was okay, I had a little crash.
He pointed my fault to me, and I never made a mistake again.
Before the end of the third day, I had learned more jumping techniques and made more jumps than my friends who had been jumping for a while.
My racing was even different. I respected and understood the earth more than I did before. And I continued to win when I started going for bike jumping competitions.