I’m all verklempt.
Well, here we are. The first blog post of the new year. Exciting! And whoa, what a shit show of a year 2016 ended up being. I mean, seriously! But I won’t get in to that right now…or ever, not here at least. This is a place to discuss bicycles…the thoughts, memories, people, gear and the things that revolve around these two wheeled, human powered freedom machines. So there’s that. FYI…this will never be a political platform for my personal opinions in that arena. Unless of course, it involves the bicycle and the places I am allowed to ride them…then it’s on like Donkey Kong. OK? OK.
Let’s get started.
I had a couple of really great things happen to me this past year. The biggest being that I switched careers and got back in to the bike business in April. That has been an awesome change that I knew would be both rewarding and challenging, but had no idea how stress free and liberating it would be for my soul. I know that seems a bit “over the top”…but it’s not. Trust me.
I also built up an amazing new bike in July. That was kind of a big deal as well. It was a big deal to me mostly because it meant a full commitment to an utterly different style of riding. This bike is now my only mountain bike. And let me tell you it’s a beast of a bike. It’s an awesome, exploratory, adventure machine….but a beast none-the-less.
Like I said, this new steed of mine has really changed the way I not only ride, but the way I anticipate the ride, the way I look forward to it with little to no anxiety. It’s changed how I look at trails that I have been engaging with for 20+ years. One big change is that I now look for climbs…I used to avoid them as much as I could. I’ve always looked at them as being a necessary evil of the sport. Not anymore! I love to climb now! 🙂
It’s helped change the way I behave on the trails as well. This last point is important, and here’s why: The first big change is that this new bike has slowed me down considerably on certain parts of the ride. The bike seems to give me “permission” to slow down and not ride like I am racing….something I never, until now, felt I could do. I would actually feel guilty for not riding as hard and as fast as I could on every single ride. It has been so liberating…what a monkey on my back I have been riding with all these years. And being that I am going slower, I find myself being much more friendly with fellow trail users. That has been pleasant.
And unbeknownst to me, when I started slowing down on rides, I started feeling like I had become an integral part of the ride…Ya know? I mean, not just “on” a ride, but “in” a ride, open to stop and drink some water, free to stop for a great photo opportunity, or actually see some wildlife.
So really, what I’m saying is that it has opened my mind to not only another discipline of cycling but a whole new way to enjoy the trails, their surroundings and the friends I am on the ride with.
Speaking of friends, most of my riding partners are on the same page as I am. They haven’t committed to a whole new bike or anything, that’s not really what I am taking about here. You see, you don’t need a different bike…you can just slow down on the bike you’ve got…but I will say the geometry does make it easier as you are more comfortable and upright. Any who, what I’m saying is that my riding friends have just been slowing down with me. And as a result, we have had some great rides lately. We are riding longer distances more comfortably, with more stopping, less stress and lots of fun and laughing. We are suffering when we choose to and on our own terms. We no longer are “dropping” slower riders…hell, I’m not getting dropped nearly a much! 🙂 We ride together more. A concept that was a struggle for me before…as I would “get in the zone” and ride away from the group, essentially riding alone. Not cool. I was kind of a dickhead.
Now that I don’t care how slow the ride is or how fast I can bomb a single-track, I purchased a BOB Yak Trailer to haul a bit more of my creature comforts on bikepacking trips. The trailer will also be used to unburden my wife’s bike on these trips. I’m going to use the BOB to help bring my friends stuff on nice slow bikepacking trips as well. That way they don’t have an excuse not to come. Or shit, I can use the BOB to just bring a 12 pack of Sierra Nevada on a slow climb for some rewards at the top. That’s the type of riding I am doing now.
I have bikepacking bags on my bike now too. All of my bags are from this little outfit out of Alaska by the name of Revelate Designs. They make bad ass bags that are all made in the USA. Their Mountain Feed Bag that’s on my handle bar and their Tangle Frame Bag hanging on my top tube stay on my bike 24/7. They allow me to carry things on my bike I never ever would’ve dreamed that I would carry on everyday rides. Like, for instance, my Trangia stove which allows me to heat the water for my coffee…yes, I said coffee. Coffee outside is one of my new favorite things to do on my bike rides lately.
You know what? I really never thought I would ride like this. It actually never entered my mind. I’ve always thought that I needed to have zero body fat, be all clad in Lycra, ride fast all of the time and have the lightest race proven components slung on my bicycle to be taken seriously as a cyclist. I am here to tell you, that this thought pattern is the farthest from the truth. It’s almost the opposite really….and I feel so free not following those guidelines. Free and liberated to be the cyclist I want to be.
It’s really amazing. You should really give it a try. I mean, you don’t have to put a Brooks B17 saddle on your bike, wear just a cotton t-shirt and regular walking shorts while riding. You don’t have to run flat pedals and ride with sandals. You don’t even have to ditch your plastic water bottles so you can use stainless steel Klean Kanteens and get to stop and take the time to unscrew them to get to your water. You don’t even have to leave that helmet at home so you can feel what it’s like to ride with that feeling of freedom and the wonderful wind in your hair again, like when you were a kid.
You don’t have to do any of these things. But you should. Seriously, try it. Open your mind and expand your riding experience. It’s awesome, I promise.
Go ride your bike, get lost.