I’d never imagined myself arriving at that uncomfortable point in the road. Feeling stale, sort of over it, and stunned as to how things just weren‘t adding up. It felt so awkward; in fact, I was scared to admit it to myself or even say the words out loud. I didn’t want to feel that way, but as a cool breeze blew past my fire one mid-September night, I realized I’d grown bored with riding my bike.
On late nights spent staring into a glowing bed of hissing coals it's easy to fall beneath a wave of introspection. How had I misplaced my stoke for riding? There’s no way I could be done with the two wheeled wonderland I had made my world. I must simply crave a break after such a busy season. Or feel sick of roachy resort trails. Or maybe it was something serious? Maybe I was feeling the result of all those breaks and sprains and tears, all the creaks and cracks finally adding up and begging me to mellow out? Had my shelf of broken helmets become intimidating? I couldn’t sort myself out but I knew I was forgetting something simple.
I suppose the reality of the situation was that I’d rattled off a major list of events and accomplishments and had nothing more of the sort remaining in my sights for the season. It reads as ridiculous and I realize that now, but as summer came to a close I’d lost track of where my motivation came from. Despite tapping into multiple tried and true resources, I was experiencing difficulties in search of the inspiration
I required to keep my train chugging into fall.
Interestingly enough, the following afternoon I accepted an invitation for a bit of a bike date. I didn't really want to go riding but it seemed like a fun idea. This girl sounded excited and she was too cute to refuse regardless. I figured we’d shuttle a mellow fire road to keep it real simple. Then she arrived with her childhood bicycle and admitted she hadn’t pedaled a bike since those days of after school laps around the block. It was too small, rusty, and kitted with decals boasting its incredible five gears. This little bike ride suddenly looked a lot more like a chore.
As we made our way toward the trail she struggled to pedal and failed to grasp the concept of keeping her cranks flat while coasting. A poorly fitted ride and a decade lived in the absence of bicycles appeared equally at fault for the uncomfortable experience she was about to endure. But we motored along. Me in the saddle of my Operator, seat-bouncing off ruts in an effort to entertain myself on a fire road with two fists full of brake. Her in an awkward stance as she tried to develop the habits I continually mentioned to her. “Level your feet. Bend your elbows. Look where you want to go.”
A few minutes later, she was beginning to find her flow. She coasted a short distance over the last of the loose rocks with level feet and a look of accomplishment across her face before skidding to a stop and complimenting herself. I couldn’t imagine the arm pump she must have been suffering through on a rigid bike with plastic v-brake levers pulling straight to the bar. Then, with big brown eyes glowing in excitement and a smile from ear to ear she exclaimed, “This makes me feel like a little kid!”WOAH.
Whatever I’d been forgetting was suddenly remembered. That statement hit me like a sack of bricks, crushing my bones, shattering the entirety of my previous night’s worry and wonder. It was a major reminder of something so simple that I’d somehow forgotten. Somewhere along this summer’s highway drives and airplane rides, photo shoots and contests, I’d lost track of the simple things that motivate me to ride. Riding shouldn’t always be about the next big task on my to-do list. Sometimes it should be about the last little thing I accomplished. And that was all coming back to me now as we made our way back for retrieval.
Often times, that’s all there is to it. A ride is as simple as a celebration of the little kid inside. I can be carving turns in the concrete aboard my BMX , hopping over curbs and fighting with a sketchy brake to hold a manual for more than a few feet. I can be casually cruising at Kenna Cartwright on a Tuesday night XC ride. Upside-down in the dark with nothing but a headlamp to guide me through the night. Or smashing chairlift laps with a tight crew of chaps. Crushing my lungs on soggy climbs with December frost piercing my chest. Maybe sailing sideways past a sea of fans in France, or laughing at myself for falling over in a flat turn when no one is there to call me on my bullshit. There’s a simple and innocent pleasure to be found in riding a bike - any kind of bike, on any terrain, at any point in time - and I wanted to punch myself in the face for forgetting that.
With such simple insight so suddenly realized I was overcome with the desire to smash singletrack. So I pounced at her offer for a free second lap and I let the little kid loose on that ride. I bounced off of every bump in sight, laid a skid around each turn and popped wheelies over every root that passed beneath my tires. I pumped and pedaled as if there were lost rides to be made up for and carried on that way straight to the bottom of the trail.
Reaching the bottom I’d restored my stoke and resolved my worry. I don’t think there will ever be too many scars on my shins. Morning stretches adorned with creaks and cracks will always be worthwhile. I can’t picture myself accumulating enough broken bike parts to display in my living room to spark the stories of my triumphant victories and dismantling defeats. And chain lube and hex wrenches will always be welcome in the same drawer as my toothpaste. I understood why I started feeling stale and I'll never let it happen again.
Riding a bike is not something for me to worry about growing out of. It’s something I’ll grow with. I grew up on two wheels and I hope to grow old that way too. And so long as I remember to keep it simple, my bikes will always make me feel like a little kid.
Shortly after that solo lap in the last of summer's light everything fell back into place. I woke up excited to ride every morning, reinstated my daily shredding program and sort of tattooed that quotation against the inside of my forehead. And before every ride this fall, regardless of which bike I rode or whose company I’d enjoy the ride with, I said it out loud to myself. It was raining a lot and the trails were sticky. Snow fell early and the trails were stickier. I froze my fingers and toes and got sideways at every opportunity. I pushed down on my pedals, became weightless in this world and allowed my two wheels to take me on some of the greatest rides of my life.
The past few months I've ridden have been perhaps the greatest of autumns in my memory. And now that snowflakes line the singletrack I’m diving headfirst into the details of another fully pinned season. Daydreaming of the moments I’ll wish to photograph and the trails I hope to discover. Imagining all the people I‘ll meet and the beers and trail side tales we will share. There is so much to organize and so much to look forward to. But reaching far beyond the excitement of adventure, I have my sights set on that first spring ride when I’ll come skidding to a stop and remember what it feels like to be a little kid again.
Thanks to everyone who ripped laps, crushed beers, snapped photos and created laughter along my side this season.
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