When I was nine years old I received a set of oil paints for Christmas. At the time, I thought I had a knack for drawing and painting (it turns out those were youthful delusions, but that's a different story...), and the set of paints and brushes, nicely packaged in a faux-leather case, seemed like the ticket to becoming a successful artist. Except for one thing. I barely touched the paints, and years later they were still sitting in that brown box, stuffed into the back corner of a closet as evidence of a dried-out dream.
Why didn't I use them? After all, I had plenty of free time, as most pre-teens do, and there was nothing preventing me from spending those hours to create whatever colorful creations I felt like. Well, almost nothing. In my mind, every time I used the paints they would be that much closer to running out, and for some reason I couldn't get over that mental hurdle. The idea of painting appealed to me, but taking that first step and accepting that someday that gift wouldn't be shiny and new was just too much for my little mind to grasp.
I saw the same scenario play out multiple times during the years I spent working in bike shops. Without fail, there were always a few customers who would bring their bikes in for yearly maintenance, despite the fact that it was obvious they hadn't left the garage since the last time they rolled it in.
These weren't inexpensive beach cruisers either – I'm talking about top-of-the-line, pro-level machines. Realistically, that type of customer is the dream for any shop – someone who buys a $10,000 bike and never rides it further than the end of their driveway is a pretty ideal scenario, but it still pained me to see how little use the bike had seen. The grips weren't worn in the slightest, and even the little rubber hairs were still intact on the tires.
Bikes are made to be ridden hard, not put on pedestals.
I'm sure they had a whole list of reasons for barely, if ever, venturing off road, but I have a feeling that the thought process that created that situation was similar to what I went through with that box of paints. After all, a bike will last a lot longer if you never use it, right? You bet, just like how if you don't go outside you won't get hit by a bus, or if you don't turn on the stove you won't get burned. Fear and anxiety are powerful emotions, but when it comes to mountain bikes, it's important to keep in mind that they're tools designed specifically to deliver enjoyment, functional toys that should be ridden hard, not babied and coddled for fear of a scratch, dent, or ding diminishing their value.
The latest film from the 50to01 crew is a prime example of refusing to let potential consequences to bike and body get in the way of a good time, and we could all learn something from that half hour of inspired anarchy. Those guys aren't worrying about their fancy carbon frames, or how many spacers they should run under their stem to achieve the ideal stack height. Nope, instead they're testing their limits, trying to escape gravity's pull whenever possible, and having a damn good time while doing it. Sure, some of us would probably end up spending more time in the hospital than on the trail if we tried to ride exactly like them, but stepping out of your comfort zone and trying that no f*cks given attitude on for size every once in a while isn't a bad idea.
Trade out cleaning your drivetrain with a toothbrush for spending more time goofing off on the trail, and rather than worrying about whether or not a 2.6” tire will improve your life, how about heading outside to see how long you can ride a wheelie for? A worn-out and well used bike is world's better than one that's never been crashed, and the stories and memories generated by all of that pedaling, skidding, hucking, and drifting are going to be a thousand times more valuable than an un-blemished paint job.