As a spring of uncertainty gave way to an unprecedented pandemic summer, I closed my laptop, picked up my paintbrush and shovel, and headed out to dig dirt jumps and paint the riding I wished I could be doing. This is the story of my season, mostly. Some of it happened, some of it will happen someday, and some of it is just what happens when my bike-addled brain wanders.
If you like this, there’s a whole lot more of it on my Instagram.
By April winter wears heavy and our ambitions turn to warmer pursuits. After all, we pay for the season's magic with the torture we inflict on our feet
And through it all, from the garage comes an insatiable song, bikes longing to be let free to feast on singletrack.
So it’s no surprise that we welcome the warmth of those first few sunny days, roll the bikes out, remember everything we meant to fix over the winter.
It’s too wet out to ride still, so we’re left thumbing through the same sacred texts, finding solace in old adventures.
We shovel snow out of the shady spots and clear trees
And encourage newcomers to invest back into the trails we love.
Slowly trails open back up, we shake the rust out of our limbs and remember lost skills, pushing harder, faster, smoother each ride.
These first few spring rides are rife with wildlife, the undergrowth is full of critters waking from a winter’s rest.
We’re glued to weather reports, waiting for other riding areas to open, ready to load up and road trip out as soon as trails dry.
We speculate as we drive, what’s the ultimate biking vehicle? A massive Sprinter loaded down with kitchen and bedding? An RV that chugs gas and has a more comfortable bed than the one at home? Or maybe some sort of built-out truck?
Soon I’m drowsing, imagining each curve of the freeway as a bike park berm waiting to be railed. Drop the outside foot, put in the clutch, countersteer, weight forward, and hang on.
We crank out lap after lap in the bike park, boosting each hit higher every time, laughing wildly as we skid out into the lift area.
We supplement dinner with some foraged fungi and fall asleep in the parking lot. Maybe it’s the mushrooms, maybe that cheese I added to my pizza was past its prime, maybe I’ve just hit my head too many times. Whatever the reason, my dreams are dark and troubled.
My nightmares are haunted by monsters stalking every ride. My legs are jelly, I can’t fight them, can't run, can't ride.
Some part of me knows I’m dreaming but can’t escape, instead, I just scream silently for some riding deity to save me.
I find her finally, my goddess, my savior. She’s serene in her temple, waiting patiently as I babble of the horrors threatening to engulf my bike.
She demands a tribute, of course, drivetrain parts from time to time, but I’ll do anything to find peace from these nightmares.
And when I’m granted that peace I float serene, time slows as I dream my way through each jump line, soaring above a tranquil earth.
I wake up sweaty. My bike is still in the rack, I’m still camping in the bike park parking lot. I head to the portajohn and my headlamp illuminates it with a supernatural glow.
In the morning we shuttle deep into the mountains, we drive until there’s no more road to follow. On the drive we share beers, wonder where our bikes came from, what stories they have to tell.
We pedal even higher, and at the top, I pause to take in the vista, my friends laugh at my too-big pack but it’s worth hauling if it helps me capture this view.
Then we plunge downhill, surrendering to gravity, exclaiming as each turn sucks us in harder than the last. We’re almost to the bottom when disaster strikes. A ping, a hiss, a torn sidewall, and broken spokes.
We limp out to the bottom and head off in search of a bike shop. It’s always a crapshoot entering a new shop. Will they take me seriously? Do they know what they’re talking about? The best wrenches are legends worthy of monuments, the worst are ignorant dicks.
We peruse posters for past events on the shop’s wall as the wrench digs through his spare parts. Soon we’ll be back on the trail, the trip is saved.
As soon as we’re home it’s off on another trip, bikepacking a couple of nights over the weekend
The leaves are changing and the nights are getting crisp, this might be the last trip of the year so we take our time, and soak in the experience.
We make up stories for every critter we see and swap tall tales as we share a beer at stream crossings. We dive deep, explaining the hypothetical history of an aspen grove.
Fireflies light the night as we relax by the fire, comfortable in the knowledge that the only thing we have to do tomorrow is to ride our bikes.
We’ll savor these last few rides of fall because soon enough the leaves will fall, the trails will fill with snow, and old man Winter will return again.
As I mentioned earlier, there's lots more where this came from on my Instagram