The B-Side: Death and Tacos

Apr 24, 2014
by Danielle Baker  
The B Side Header

I spent much of last year with my head deep in bikes. I rode bikes, photographed races, organized the BC Bike Race, and wrote a column for Bike Mag; it was an amazing year where a biblical Crankworx and an Apocalypse Now-esque Red Bull Rampage, on behalf of Pinkbike, were just two of the many highlights. Over the years, my social circle has become very two-wheel oriented; when I was not out riding with friends, I was making plans to go, or meeting new people with the same passion. Mountain biking has slowly infiltrated every part of my life, even to the extent that my work and personal time blend together around events, parties and contracts. But then suddenly, it was all gone.

It would be three months before I finally pulled my bike out of storage and started to think about my new column with Pinkbike again; now 90 days overdue. The only problem? I would not know if I liked riding bikes anymore.

Your dad is sick.” This message, sent from my mom in Mexico, changed my whole world in less than 24 hours. It, not only took biking out of my life; it also abruptly removed me from my community – not unlike a toy being plucked up by the claw in a vending machine, only to be dropped into a completely different reality.

Zebras and more black and whites.
  Transplanted to a hospital in Mexico, or the worst resort ever, my only escape was a short-lived visit to the zoo across the street.

Everything stopped for me when I moved into the hospital with my Dad, I felt frozen in time while I watched the world go on around me via social media. After two weeks of hospitalization in Mexico and another three back in Canada, my dad passed away. My daily routine, that had once included bikes in one form or another, had barely included fresh air in that time.

I expected that life would return to normal - I would finally move back home, sleep in my own bed, reintroduce myself to my roommate (who was probably wondering where I had gone) and maybe even get out for a ride. But life was not normal and riding did not happen. I was more tired than I had ever felt in my life, and I was busy - death comes with much paper work and many hoops through which to jump.

It was another two months still before I would find myself looking at my unwashed and hastily stored bike and realize that I could not even remember why I used to ride.

Danielle and Father
  Dad and I, 34 years of adventures together.

The feelings of freedom, joy, accomplishment and happiness that riding had once evoked in me were so buried that everything about the process felt foreign. Instead, I tried to write, I dug into the stack of articles that were now months behind, but I found that I had nothing interesting to say. I actually had nothing to say at all. My experiences were so far removed from anything related to the riding community that everything I wrote started with hesitation and ended with a whimper.

Finally, without any further paperwork to complete, memorials to think about or commitments to keep with family, I realized that I had to face my bike. It was more than the act of riding that I was missing, it was also my work, my community, my life.

I set out to ride. I went to Squamish, Bellingham and finally home to North Vancouver.

As my lungs burned on the climbs, my hospital-vending-machine-induced-muffin-top jiggled over the bumps, and my lady parts became intimately re-acquainted with the brutality that is my bike seat, I finally started to smile. The dread of discovering that I did not want to ride bikes anymore began to vanish as I crested each climb hacking and coughing like an old man. Encouraged by smiling friends, laughter, hi-fives, glimpses of flowy greatness, and grace-less crashes, I began to feel normal again.

Collage of friends.
  The B-Side - these are the rides, full of friends, mud, and laughter, that rekindled my love for bikes, and for life.

These have not been hot laps, nor training rides, and they certainly have not been ego building. They are imperfect, filled with rain, flats, sore bits and getting lost. We have stopped too long for photos and abandoned third laps in favour of an egg benny brunch. These adventures are the B-side of mountain biking; the unexpected successes. They are more than the act of riding, they are living.

Welcome to the B-side.


42 Comments

  • + 27
 It's always hard losing a parent. It happened to me at a young age and it is an experience that is both devastating and hard to comunicate to other people. I am glad biking has helped you feel normal again. I love your attitude towards riding. Riding is about friends, fun and having a good time and as you say it is often the "imperfect" rides that leave the best memories.
  • + 22
 Thanks for such a great piece. Riding can be many things, one of my favorite is the ability to pause the rest of your life for awhile.
  • + 17
 "As my lungs burned on the climbs, my hospital-vending-machine-induced-muffin-top jiggled over the bumps, and my lady parts became intimately re-acquainted with the brutality that is my bike seat, I finally started to smile." Brilliant, Danielle. You legend.
  • + 8
 Thanks for sharing and communicating so well one of life's struggles that everyone must endure. I too have been brought back to life by riding with friends. It can be everything; friendship, exercise, adventure, tinkering and adrenaline all wrapped up in one. While completely meaningless, it has brought meaning to my life.
  • + 11
 Your father loved you. He will live in you and your memories. Thanks for writing
  • + 9
 Yay!! Have missed your writing and musings on life so much! We the Tippies love Danielle Baker! Great riding with you today xo
  • + 8
 Thanks for sharing your story. You are an inspiration to many! Looking forward to many more b-side adventures. ~ks
  • + 5
 Good to see you here, Danielle! I always enjoyed your fresh, brutally honest, humorous columns in Bike. I'm estranged from my dad, and you reminded me here that I need to get out on a challenging distance ride and think long and hard about that... Pinkbike, you made a fine choice of columnist.
  • + 5
 Oh gosh, this sounds exactly like my experience. I lost my Mom on Dec. 31st after her unexpected two week stint in the ICU. Following her death its been a struggle to balance work, the estate settlement process and life in general. It took a bit for me to have the emotional strength to get back into snowboarding again but it finally happened. Now I look forward to a summer of biking to clear my head and finally a well needed revisit to Whistler. I send you good juju, from a fellow woman and someone who is going through what you are. My best to you!!!
  • + 5
 Danielle, I'm sorry for your loss. There are no words for losing a loved one. I grew up riding bikes with my dad too and we lost lost him in 2007 while he was on holidays with my mom in Mexico. It just plain sucks. My dad used to say that, "the wheels of the living roll over the bones of the dead." We must go on and live life to the fullest...it's what our papa's would want. I' m glad you're writing for Pinkbike and I look forward to reading your quirky, unique, hilarious thoughts. Your writing makes me happy. I"ll ride with you anytime bud. RIP Mr. Baker and glad to have you back, Danielle, on the bike and the keyboard. Love live the B-side!
  • + 1
 That is a fantastic quote!
  • + 5
 it's the dub mix. messy. fuc*ed up. out of sync. distorted. buried under other more pressing layers of life-sound. but still there, waiting for us to rediscover it. not always pure, but present
  • + 3
 I went through a very similar experience last summer with my mom passing away. It was a difficult time in my life but a move to BC and now exploring trails in Squamish and the Shore have helped. Thanks for sharing your story, I'm glad you found your way back on two wheels.
  • + 5
 I also lost my Dad this year. Your story of pain, disappearance and reentry to the world on a bike is so near and close. Thanks for sharing it.
  • + 1
 The b side . . . So aptly named and yet so hard 2 make urself ride these rides at a time in ur life when u dont even know if u want 2 do anything . . Far less go up a mountain 2 do something that usually places a huge grin on your face when you'v forgotten what it feels like 2 smile a small smile . . Let alone a huge grin take it easy man
  • + 1
 I, too, am glad to see your name again. I cannot begin to fathom your loss, or the path you have been walking to reach today; thank you for sharing. After a long winter in Maine I did my first trail ride this morning; that at least is part of your story which I identify strongly. Welcome back. To the trails, to the people, to the perspective that we get as riders.
  • + 3
 Sorry to hear about your loss, Danielle. But very happy to have you back. And please don't ever leave Bike Mag, you're their best columnist.
  • + 1
 Danielle, remember that vending machine claw almost always drops the toy back where it came from. The removal to the alternate reality is the time spent in the air in the grasp of the claw. Welcome back to the pile of toys!
  • + 1
 I lost a close friend to cancer a few months back. He taught me how to free ride. He was sort of like a father/brother.
He would want me to keep riding. To feel alive.
You cant prepare your self for the death of some one you love. Sharing a ride with friends is part of the healing process.
  • + 1
 This is beautiful. Very sorry for your loss. It is new life, rather than death, that has removed me from my bike and sent me down a similar path of losing touch with the elements that always drew me to the woods. The birth of my son found two unprepared parents with no family support as our folks all live so far away. Diapers piling up as fast as the dust on my frame sent me into a state of depression. My boy is growing now and becoming more independent, yet I still haven't put my feet to the pedals for anything more than my commute. Reading your story is a great reminder that at some point, there isn't anything left but my own excuses. If I just get started, if I just get on the damn bike- I know the rest will follow and the joy will return. You might just have given me the juice I need to get back out there. Thanks.
  • + 1
 I also lost my dad at early age and it still is with me today. You think about it everday. But you realize you cant stay in a closet forever and hide. You gotta get back out into life and make your loved one proud.
  • + 4
 You're amazing, thanks. Reading this was just....amazing.
  • + 2
 Condolences Danielle. Thanks for sharing. Dont forget that your family, blood or not, is behind you through the tough times.
  • + 2
 My condolence and peace to you and your family. Nice article and welcome back man. Go slow and be easy on yourself.
  • + 3
 Sorry for your loss. Glad to have you riding bikes again.
  • + 2
 Way to stay positive Danielle! Sorry this had to happen to you and your family. Happy trails!
  • + 2
 Way to go, Danielle! Love the last few words... Unexpected successes. Looking forward to the new column.
  • + 2
 Yay!! So happy to be part of your B-Side!! Smile
  • + 2
 Whatever happens, you know you'll always come back. Biking is life.
  • + 1
 I hope your writing is as healing and motivating to you as it is to us! Thank you.
  • + 1
 Beautiful Tribute. #foralltheDADS
  • + 1
 This is an awesome very well written article! Keep it up!!!
  • + 2
 My life is a B-side
  • + 1
 well written. keep riding!
  • + 1
 Beautifully written piece and thanks for sharing.
  • + 1
 Great article. Thank you for sharing. Very inspiring.
  • + 1
 My condolences for your loss... Great article though! Where's the tacos?!
  • + 1
 B-side stands for Best side, yes?? Great writing!
  • + 1
 I'm part of this. My last name's baker too.
  • + 1
 well said!
  • + 1
 thank you for sharing!
  • + 1
 well put.

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