My Old Friend|
Thursday, July 10, 2003
Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs personality test? Yeah? Funneling humans into a category, a type, is a dangerous thing to do. Take it from me. You do that and you’ll enter a barren landscape of lost dreams, faded hopes. But keep an open mind, accept people as they are—especially yourself—and you’ll find yourself in the fraternity of the living. It’s a big house. Parties all the time.
What, for the love of Pete (you may be asking) does this have to do with mountain biking? Talk about the bikes, you freak. Alright, alright. To make a long story short, I haven’t been on my bike in over two years. When my middle chain ring gave up the ghost so did I. The final nail had landed in the coffin. I was done. I had cracked one too many ribs, broken one too many blisters, slashed open one too many knees, and I had spent far too many dollars on the sport of mountain biking. With that broken chain ring, I stuffed the sport into some old mental shoe box and shoved it under the bed. Labeled it, "Done."
My friends continued on, going for rides every weekend. Troy continued operating this here site and racing, Dave finally found a bike to fit his tall frame, Deb joined the cycling crowd, preferring long rides on the pavement. And there were others, each continuing to find the joys of riding. That left Damon. What was his excuse for not riding? Marriage and a kid. Okay, he has a good excuse. But Damon and I, we were the riding kings. Back in the day, we’d take off and be gone from sun up (well, noon-ish) until it was dark. We’d churn through mile after mile, always exploring new roads or trails. It wasn’t about trying this trail or that trail. It wasn’t about bagging peaks to use the mountaineering parlance. It was simply about being out for a ride and letting the road or trail take us wherever it may. Thinking about it, our rides were a sort of Zen thing—a chance to slow down and start up a conversation with our souls. That concept, that feeling, had completely left me on my last dozen or so rides. It all seemed like muck and tedium.
Anyway. I didn’t think other mountain bikers understood the Zen way of mountain biking. all I saw was the lycra shirts with fake beer logos. The general attitude of bikers, I felt, was some sort of Jackassian let’s see what kind of stupid shit we can do on our bikes. And the whole trail list thing: Have you ridden the Preston? Yeah. What about Pilchuck? Yeah. Taneum Creek? Yeah. Okay, Sadie Creek? Yep. The sport smelled of commerce and competition. I couldn’t get the stink off of me. Yeah, I was feeling like the nefarious Agent Smith. Clearly, I had had a falling out with my first love, my longest love—the bicycle. I had lumped cyclists into a type. In my mind they were "That Group." The deadly us vs. them view of the world had descended over me. And now it was all in a box and I had joined the hiking set. Ironically, this happened even as I was the Cycling Editor at REI. Talk about your Jungian dissonance. I was split right down the middle.
For awhile this was fine. I mean, people grow and I wanted to get back to hiking and backpacking. Nothing wrong with that. But day after day, I’d pass my bicycle leaning against the wall, gathering dust. Finally, one day, I gave my front tire a spin to see if the cyclometer still worked. It was stone dead. I felt a little part of me die. I used to put up more than a thousand miles a year—granted, not a lot by some people’s standards, but plenty for me.
I patted the seat. Poor old bike. I crouched and looked down at the chain ring—the middle one. Yep, thrashed. Then I noticed all three rings had broken teeth. When did that happen? The brakes? Still good. Air in the tires, but I could probably stand to get new tubes. Ahh, and those old Judy XLs. Definitely time for some new shocks… And there I was again, taking care of my bike so that it would take care of me. Something had to be done.
I wrote Troy an email and asked him if he wouldn’t mind running some new articles if I wrote them. I figured if I’m writing a column about mountain biking, at the very least I’ll have to get my chain ring fixed and go for a ride. Right? Troy said he wouldn’t mind running my articles at all. They had done pretty well the last time. The only thing he wanted from me was a serious commitment.
So I took a day and thought about it. Writing a monthly column on mountain biking means going out for a ride two or three times a month to produce the monthly column. You gotta have material, after all, grist for the mill. I wrote him back. You got me for three months, I said. We’ll see how the column does and if it does well, we’ll talk about longer term. So here you are. The first article of what will be many, I hope. You read ‘em, I’ll write ‘em. And, as I’m an I/ENFP on the old Myers-Briggs Personality Test, it’s in my nature to ride and search and perhaps find that old flame, rekindle the romance. And you’ll be here to see it happen. Or not happen. That could very well be the case. But, perhaps if your own fires have become nothing more than smoldering coals, you’ll find something here that will reignite your passion.
This column, though, won’t be about bagging trails, It won’t prattle on about big name riders—except for maybe Ned Overend—and it won’t talk too much about gear and clothes and fixing things—that’s all in another column I’ll be writing. This column is about the spirit of mountain biking, the experience, the joy, the love. Can you feel it? I knew that you could.
My bike? I’m getting it fixed and I’m going to ride it. Look at it leaning there against the wall. There you are, my old friend, with your chipped and faded paint. I know, I’ve been away too long. It’s about time we take off, have a few laughs, see some new sights.
Check in next month and I’ll tell you how that first ride went.