The sun bursts from beyond the horizon at about ten to five these mornings. Once I factor in the short commute from my home to the trail and the necessary stop for a cup of coffee it quickly becomes apparent that my alarm clock must ring around four AM at the latest if I'm to catch a sunrise on the singletrack. It feels awkward driving to a trail before the light has reached the sky, but imagining a world illuminated by a softer glow than I often see captured makes it a lot easier to drag myself out of bed at such ruthless hours. It doesn't take long before the world explodes into the never ending shades of gold that I'd been imagining. From that moment on the morning becomes a mad dash through tall green grass fueled by the desire to produce something unique. And a few short hours later the sky clouds back over and rain drops descend on the trail for what feels like the hundredth day in a row.
Kamloops has been a lot different this spring. It's been raining almost every day, the sun seems to only appear through those short morning pockets, and I've almost forgotten what dust is. I missed a big chunk of spring riding due to nagging injuries and as of lately, I've been spending more time shooting photos than actually pounding out laps. I suppose that technically speaking, spring has passed and it's summer now. But it never felt like spring and it certainly doesn't feel like summer at all. We're in the midst of a strange new soggy season. Mud puddles surprise me in turns and trails are overgrown with brilliant shades of vibrant green shrubbery. In seasons past I would have wildly celebrated shredding in rain storms but this year's circumstances have reached ridiculousness. Often times the trails feel sketchy and traction is scarce while navigating through pools of slop that very well may sink straight to the center of the earth.
I'm a big chicken when it comes to riding in the wet, slowing down to less than half my regular pace and riding with a level of caution that is non-existent in other more desirable conditions. Usually I don't find it the least bit enjoyable, but having already spent enough time off my bike this year, I can't let this seemingly endless downpour keep me off my bike any longer. So I've started going out riding regardless of the rain. Dropping a few pounds of pressure from my tires and sticking a couple tear-aways on my goggles in an effort to combat my fears of shiny roots and creek beds overflowing onto trails. At first these rides made me feel stupid, like a complete goofball incapable of handling my bicycle. But being a guy who just really loves riding a bike, I can usually find something enjoyable about every style of riding. That has certainly been the case in this recent singletrack slopfest.
I've got a fair few sloppy rides under my belt as of recently and I feel like I am starting to get the hang of it. I shouldn't say I'm killing it by any means, but I am having a lot of fun and starting to pull my tail back out from between my legs. I've stopped trying to tell my bike where to ride in the mud, and rather, I've been practicing letting my bike wonder around the puddles and trying to flow whichever path comes naturally. There is a rush to be enjoyed in letting go like this and the fact that it's a new idea to me makes it that much more desirable. Like a new trick I'm still trying to click. And goofing around at a slower pace feels key for keeping the ride exciting with unnecessarily dropping the inside foot in turns and reaching up to wipe my speckled view at awkward times. I feel as if I have discovered a new thrill in dodging the overwhelmingly green plantation that tunnels over the trail and a new rush in carelessly smashing to the bottom of rotor deep puddles, collecting mud freckles and laughing at myself all the way down the trail.
My growing affection for riding in the rain feels like a classic example of the age old adage, "If you can't beat them, join them." Missing spring rides and spending a little too much time feeling old and sore can stress me out, so if anything it has been a relief getting out for these silent and slippery laps through the dark, damp forest. After a hectic round of chasing the sunrise and preparing for upcoming travels it feels as though these sketchy rides have given me just the recharge I need for a busy summer on the road. It seems to be warming up now and I'll be excited coming home to usual dry and dusty Kamloops conditions, but I think I'll miss screeching down the trails in childish excitement, yelling at myself in mockery of Rob Warner's exclamations during Danny Hart's triumphant run last fall. "Stay on your bike, Dylan!"
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