As I tiptoe into this world I am finding that there is this special group of people. I see them every where and seemingly in greater abundance. They do tours of the parking lot with their sparking new Santa Cruz cycles hanging off the back. They saunter over to my riding partners truck to discuss the merits of a Yeti versus any other bike and turn their noses skywards at my entry level Giant.
Last week I ran into an old acquaintance who has spent the last 20 years on the saddle. I thought he only rode street bikes but I found out that he did a lot of off road racing too. He asked what I rode and when I said “A Liv” he looked at me with a puzzled expression, so I further clarified that it was a Giant and he scoffed as he was not a “Giant” fan and went on to describe the multitude of bikes that adorn his garage walls from a coveted 4 year old Santa Cruz to his son’s latest downhill bike. I felt myself feel smaller as the list grew. To change the subject I started to talk about trails then was steamrolled over with a list of black diamond trails conquered on a single speed hard-tail. I felt increasingly uncomfortable and embarrassed I had even picked up a bike. As I licked my wounded pride I listened to the years of weekends spent with the kids doing all these trails for breakfast. I understood his pride and envied a life spent riding.
I have done 600 km on mountain trails since July 23rd 2016. Since that date I have overheard fellow spandexed MTB athletes compare Strava times, discuss bike brands and the most recent news in geometry or upcoming racing events. Absorbing the abundance of “things to know” I find myself drowning in training recommendations, bike specifications, races and events, trail etiquette, bike articles, “how to” videos and so forth. Out on the trail when I am not struggling with the technical aspects of the sport I am struggling mentally to keep my mind straight. I all out quit riding 2 weeks ago. It snowed, it was cold, and my last 2 rides I hit some awful greasy wet roots that sent me flying off the track and with some hard landings. I was beyond frustrated. It took everything I had not to hurl my bike into the parking lot in a rage at biking.
I forgot entirely what it was like to ride and have fun. Back on my solo Fernie trip I was having a lot of fun riding, even back in September riding new trails I was bombing down into the parking lot with a big smile on my face and wanting to ride more. However somewhere in my training I got caught up like a lot of people do, on my ride times, on my skill level, caught up in numbers.
I forgot entirely why people ride.
Ride for fun.
That is it.
We all started because we discovered it was fun and challenging. Our enthusiasm as we wanted our family, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, near and far acquaintances in saddles and hammering up forest trails with us. The smell of the air on a crisp autumn morning, the elation after mastering a skill, the alone time outside, the vast space of being.
I had forgotten this.
The very core of riding.
I packed up my bike again. Glared at it intermittently in the back of my car as I made my way out to the trails. I did not to turn on my endomundo nor my fitbit. I decided just to ride and throw time out the window. We made it up the climb in record time and on the way down I put on my best Canadian Commentator persona and narrated the entire ride back to the parking lot, making brap sounds, cracking jokes and whoooping up the trails. At one point someone behind me had to pull off the trail from laughing so hard at my antics. We had one of the best rides ever.
On the final decent I was still up to my shenanigans when I heard my riding partner sneer “yeah whatever buddy. Who cares” Turns out the person behind us was upset we weren’t going death speed on the last few meters and we had slowed him down slightly. I’m sure we messed up his strava time, I received the dagger filled stare from the other side of the parking lot after he checked his phone for ride stats. I understood his frustration, mostly from having to haul myself off the trail for someone else to pass as my speed or skill was slowing them up, or one of those times where I had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting hikers or dogs with no recall, and other riders biking up the wrong way on the trail.
I get it dude, but don’t you remember having fun? How did we get here?
Let’s just go do what we started doing when we got our first bike. Just ride.Forget the numbers, the schwank gear, the computers, the phones, that technical skill that needs a little work and everything else. Go find that favorite trail, ride, and hopefully feel your lips curl into a smile and maybe just sing some horrendous versions of some 80’s classics.
Let’s leave the hero cookies and gold stars for another day. Quite frankly, I’m all out.