Mountain biking is no ride in the country.
The sport is perilous at any level. The saying goes, “It’s not ‘if’ you’ll be injured but ‘when.’ ”
That’s why 30-year-old mountain-bike racer Nicole Cronkhite was almost relieved to sustain a radial head fracture to her right arm during a race this past April.
“I’d never broken a bone before,” she says. “So it was like, ‘OK, I know what that’s like now.’ I got that out of the way.”
She started riding mountain bikes about seven years ago at the encouragement of her then-boyfriend. On her second ride ever, they hit Oak Cliff Nature Preserve.
“I fell like five times. It was a disaster,” she says. “I swore I was never going back to OCNP.”
Now she frequently rides from home to that park to do a lap or two for an easy weekday workout. Her favorites are the more challenging courses at Boulder Park in Red Bird and Big Cedar in Cedar Hill.
Cronkhite’s racing career started a few years ago, when she began entering local endurance races. That’s where racers compete to finish the most laps of a course within a given timeframe, usually several hours or more. About two years ago she decided to take it more seriously, so she hired a coach with team Kodiak Tough.
She’s raced with Kodiak Tough about eight times this year, until the arm fracture, and she’s planning about eight more starting in September.
Enduro racing, where athletes compete for time on staged downhill courses, has become Cronkhite’s new obsession. It involves flying downhill through the woods as fast as possible, completing jumps and drops and other highly technical skills.
“I really love that feeling of flying,” she says.
The sport requires excellent fitness, and Cronkhite, who also is a yoga instructor, trains on her bike pretty much every day. Racing takes intense focus and requires a Zen-like presence of mind, she says.
The goal is to keep pushing her limits and see how far the sport can take her, and she’s constantly learning new things, she says.
“I can’t imagine not racing and not doing something new with that aspect of my life,” she says.