The Stoke is an occasional opinion series highlighting the things that get us stoked about mountain biking. 🤘 👍 👏 🙏
I don’t get to hang out at my local brewery nearly as often as I would like. Finding an hour or two to be present can be tough, plus I’m worthless for pretty much the rest of the day afterward. On the rare occasion when I can fully commit to hitting the brewery with friends it generally means I’ve cleared my schedule and don’t have any responsibilities until the following morning. Like I said, it’s a rare but welcome feeling.
Over the past year I’ve come to realize that mountain biking promises the same thing, and without the hangover. Psychologists likely categorize both drinking beer and mountain biking as forms of escapism, and while the former can lead to potential problems, the latter provides a healthy respite from the circumstances of our daily lives.
Sorry, I can’t take your call right now
Every once in a while during a group mountain bike ride someone will answer a work call on their phone. This might bother some in the group, but really I just feel sorry for the person who had to take the call. Sorry that they aren’t able to escape from their work. Sorry for what awaits them at the end of the ride. Sorry that the person on the other end of the line just can’t seem to escape either.
As far as forms of escape go, I can’t imagine anything better than biking, a figurative and literal escape. I suppose a boat could do just as well, but I’ll take two wheels for my getaway, quickly disappearing deep into the forest.
Of course every great escape requires solid planning. The best rides are those that happen when the chores are done and no one is counting on us for anything. Pro tip: if you think you need three hours for a ride, tell everyone you’ll be back in five. Feeling guilty about returning late brings all of our responsibilities crashing back in an instant.
Multi-day bikepacking trips take escapism and immersion to a whole other level. Aside from eating and sleeping, there’s literally nothing to do but ride your mountain bike all day. Sounds like pure bliss, right?
Over the years I’ve found myself gravitating toward evening rides, and especially night rides. As adults we covet our nights and evenings as a time for escape, and for many that means binging television shows, or again, drinking alcohol. But I’m here to tell you there’s nothing more liberating than going out for a ride after dinner and feeling free to ride to your legs’ and your heart’s content. Or at least, until sunrise when the real world comes creeping back to life.
Of course I almost never ride all night but that’s not the point. The point is to find open space and permission to ride until we’re satisfied, to explore every wild game trail to its end, to get far enough from our troubles that we start to forget them, even if it’s just temporarily.
In a way I think maybe we’ve got escapism backward. Perhaps it’s our true selves that we find and reconnect with out there on the trail. The more we can bring our best trail self back with us to our lives, the better the stoke just might be for everyone around us.
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