By Ambassador Kyla Forsberg

You can’t really prepare yourself for a pandemic. Once it’s all around you, all you can do is adjust to the temporary way of life.  I’m able to work from home so my daily routine in that sense hasn’t changed. The biggest adjustment I’ve have to make was not riding my bike.

Everything changed for me when the trailheads closed.

I’ve lived with bipolar disorder for all my adult life. For those who aren’t familiar with it, bipolar disorder slams you with dramatic and extreme highs and lows. Without treatment the suicide rate is between 4% and 19% with an estimated 25%-60% of people attempting suicide at some point in their life. Years ago, I was one who attempted. There’s no cure, those who have it can only find ways to manage it.

Management for me includes medication, therapy and riding my bike. It’s my trifecta treatment. Having a routine also helps control my mood swings. For me, that routine includes hitting the trails on a regular basis.

When the stay at home order was placed I felt pretty optimistic. I tried to look at is as an opportunity to get things done around my house, hang out with my kids more, and practice wheelies in my driveway. And that did help, for a bit.

But inevitably the longing for the smell of the woods and the sound of my bike rolling over the roots started creeping in. I yearned for the taste of mud in my mouth and the excitement of sending it off drops. And the views, damn I missed the views.

I found myself growing more and more irritable, depressed and unmotivated. I’d try to tell myself to quit letting the fact that I can’t ride take over my whole life. But once you’re in that pit of despair its hard to climb out. I’d wake up, work for 8 hours, eat and lay on the couch. Everyday, like Groundhogs day.

When our Governor started reopening our state he started with opening the trails. I was at Tiger Mountain trailhead the day they opened at 7 AM to avoid the possible crowds. The climb was intense, and I could feel all the anxiety and depression that had built up slowly start melting away. And the rip down? I did not hold back. Bliss. I laughed, I yelled, and I had a few moments of holy sh*t. It was perfect.

The next day I did it all over again at Raging River Forest.

What did I learn about myself through the lockdown?

I learned that I need to ride just like I need food to eat, or air to breathe. Riding is a necessity and my bike is an extension of myself. I learned that the outdoors is not to be taken for granted. It’s a privilege that is given to us. I learned that without bikes, I crumble.

Above all I learned that bikes have saved, and continue to save my life on a daily basis.