Well to be honest there are times where I don’t have a clear answer, I throw my hands up and ask that very question. There are other times where I could give you a precise answer right on the spot. So to really get to the bottom of it I think we must first go back to the beginning.
Like most kids my days on the bike were spent riding to school, jumping off curbs, seeing how long you could make your skid mark, how many skid marks you could make and basically just exploring the neighborhoods. My first was a silver and black BMX style bike that had the braking system where you pushed backward on the pedals and that protective pad that went across the middle of the handlebars. I’m guessing that was put there so you didn’t knock your teeth out while launching yourself off the two foot high curbs. SO RAD!
Some of my fondest memories with this bike are the countless hours riding the dirt jumps that were behind the trailer park my dad and I lived in. Up and over up and over again and again.Then there was, what I affectionately call “The Path”. This little stretch of dirt road was located around the perimeter of school. It was lined with pine trees, had berms on the side and had killer jump at the end which you could launch yourself off of, out of the shade and into the dessert sun. The way it was laid out looked similar to how some of the streets in Europe are lined with trees on both sides making a canopy overhead. Then there were more hours spent riding outside the confines of the neighborhood and out into the dessert. Following walking paths up and down the rolling hills that surrounded. I remember going out there and just sitting in the dirt with the little yellow flowers that blanketed the desert floor, towering bushes and tumbleweeds. I don’t remember doing anything in particular, maybe I had some Hot Wheels or Legos to play with but I do remember just siting and immersing in the feeling of being alone out there with just my thoughts. Oh the joys of solitude. After I outgrew this bike I don’t remember riding again until high school. This is because, once junior high came around my life was all about rollerblades and roller hockey. I’m sure most of us remember this gem of a movie. SO RAD!
OK OK, moving on.
The next bike that came into my life was my first mountain bike. A powder blue GT Avalanche that my step dad purchased from the bike shop he worked at.
Here is a snippet of some of the memories with this bike:
- Numerous night rides up the Chutes
- Flipping over the handle bars for the first time
- Starting my path of bike racing
- Winning a state championship
- Hauling ass, numerous times, to get home and out of a lightning/rain storm
- Learning that low tire pressure is a good thing
- Learning that I can’t always force the bike where I want it and thus learning acceptance
While these are all great memories there is one that sticks out for me and I’m sure most can relate to in there own way. While I was taking music classes at the Conservatory and before I moved to California I met a girl.
See, now you can relate.
This relationship only lasted a few months but made a lasting impression on me. When it did end, like everyone in history, I was crushed and filled with heart ache. I remember going to work and just being mad and frustrated all day. Up to this point there hadn’t been any consistent riding. Just a few rides here and there. Then one day after work I decided to pull the trusty GT out of the garage and go for a ride. It was just the typical loop from my house, to the high school, up the side trails, over to The Chutes and up the always steep, tricky uphill to the parking lot which has a great over look of the city.
This overlook was always a great place for me to catch my breath and just take inventory of my life. Being able to look down on the city gives you the sense that you’re looking down on your life from above. Being able to spot all the little landmarks of special events in your life, good or bad, and just reflect. I would do this loop, consecutively for weeks after work until the time came for me to start packing up and head west.
During my time in California my focus was solely on music and the only riding that was done was when I returned home on vacation.
When the band I was in at the time parted ways I was left with a few months of just working before I moved back home. My step dad, a few months prior, had hunted down a road bike for me on Craigslist and genrously packed it up and sent it to me. He said that I should go out and explore the beauty of the central coast before I came home. That’s exactly what I did too.
When I got the bike via FedEx I was giddy like a little kid at christmas time. I ripped open the box and put the bike together immediately. A few days later I was out in the hot sun riding the back roads around Santa Maria and discovering, again, the excitement of exploring on two wheels.
Around the same time I received this bike, The Tour was going on, Lance Armstrong had retired for the first time and Alberto Contador was beginning his climb, literally, to fame. I’m not exactly sure why but watching the way Contador would dance on the pedals as he was climbing mesmerized me. I’ve been hooked on cycling ever since. This is when I first started thinking about racing as well.
For those who don’t know who I’m speaking of here is a clip for you to watch. Just as a heads up the music is pretty cheesy.
When I got situated back at home I was burnt out on music. I desperately wanted the spark and passion to be there but it just wasn’t. So the next best thing I could do to occupy my time was to find a way to compete again in whatever form. Getting back in touch with soccer and playing indoor was my first step. Then I looked into getting into triathlon for a hot minute but decided that since I was poor and hadn’t swam since I was little I should just move on from that idea. I then found Duathlons which was great because they are just a Run – Bike – Run format. I had a bike and I had running shoes….PERFECT. I found a local series that had 3 races over the course of the summer so I signed up and started training. I did pretty well at these races and competed in them for a couple of summers. I ultimately came to the conclusion that I liked the bike leg of these races more than I did running. If I was going to run I would prefer to run after a soccer ball rather than running for the sake of running.
At this point it’s 2009 and I’m off to Moab for a Thanksgiving trip. At the end of a long day navigating the famous Porcupine Rim Trail my friend was complimenting me on how well my GT and I were keeping up with him and his full suspension bike. He then asked
“Have you heard of the Winter Park mountain bike series?”
“No” I replied.
Up until this point I had only spent the winter months up at Winter Park.
He said that it was a well run race series with friendly staff challenging courses and that I should look into it. So later that night, after everyone had gone to their rooms, I got online and started looking into what this race series was all about. After reading through the course descriptions and photos from previous years I was sold and that summer I entered my first mountain bike race. Being out on the mountain that had been my home for skiing and snowboarding for so long was extremely more enjoyable during the summer. The lack of crowds and being able to ride on trails other than the main ski slopes was a big part of this joy. I spent the next 3 seasons racing this series and another called the Mountain States Cup series.
Sadly though, like most good things, my mountain bike racing has come to a pause. Thirteen plus years of abuse on the frame has caused something to come loose on the welds and there for made me unconfident in the safety of the bike. I’m not sure when i’ll have the funds to get a new bike but I look forward to that day with much anticipation.
This brings us to the present and the bike that I now ride.
I’ve spent many hours on this bike over the past 4 years training and focusing on road racing. My performance has been up and down and it’s feel like it’s taking FOR E VER to just get out of CAT 4. This frustrates me at times and brings back to the question at large
“WHY DO I RIDE?”
“IF YOURE NOT GOING TO MAKE A CAREER OUT OF IT WHY BOTHER PUTTING IN ALL THOSE HOURS AND MONEY?”
I’ll conclude with these thoughts:
I ride not for one specific reason. I ride because some days I want to be that kid who rides dirt jumps and makes skid marks across the pavement. Other days I want to run away from everyday life and spend 5 hours riding just so I can get some peace and clear my head. Then, somedays call for pushing myself to my limits just to see how far and how much I can take, mentally and physically.
I understand ,that to those looking in from the outside, it may seem ridiculous to spend so much time training only to compete in something that is so fleeting. For me, though, it provides a platform for self discovery.
- The hours spent training and breaking your body down.
- The nutrition and sleep to help you recover and let your body adapt to these stressors.
- The mental focus to do it day in day out.
- Balancing it out by adding in some social time with close friends and family.
- Then, you race, which brings it all together.
In the end the outcome of that race doesn’t matter. Its what you learned along the way to get to that start line and making note of what you can do better in the future to help you cross the finish line stronger, not just in your sport of choice but life in general. Because of this I will keep training and growing so I can get in touch with my greater self.
WHY DO YOU RIDE?