Book Excerpt: “The Sanctity of Dirt”

Photo: Doug McDonald.

We spend a lot of time here on Singletracks talking about gear, technique, and the amazing experiences we’ve all had on our bikes. But what about the spirit of biking? How does mountain biking connect to our soul?

Jeff Reeds has just released an interesting-looking ebook titled The Sanctity of Dirt, in which he “examines the relationship between mountain biking, nature, and the sometimes very real feeling we get while biking that we have connected to something larger,” according to Reeds.

Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:

“I could stand in the shower for twenty minutes, the water hot, great fountains of steam billowing around me. I could rub on and wash off copious amounts of soap. I think I could drink five glasses of water and piss it all out. But it wouldn’t help. I’m dirty.

The dirt comes from sitting on my duff all day behind a computer screen. I’ve got some kind of grit in the corners of my eyes that can only come from basking in front of a monitor. Impacted with what I suspect on a microscopic level is some green-yellow puke produced by phosphorescent lights, my pores feel like they’ll never be clear again. Plainly, I’m polluted with the hard pollen of my office building. My cubicle is a superfund site.

My body needs true dirt, the real loam, the mulched remains of pine needles, fern leaves and worm guts. I need to get on my bike and get muddy. Here in the Northwest, that isn’t all that hard to do. But even on a colorless, dry day like today, just a certain output of sweat will set me right.

Hard earned sweat and dirt purifies the soul. It wakes up to my pounding heart, raging lungs, and screaming muscles. It feels, once again, alive. And with that awakening so it seems, goes the world. The trees are taller, brighter. The air brings a variegated broth of smells. Ferns, rocks, flowers, moss, the spray from a bubbling creek all create a textured tapestry that makes my fingers dance on the handlebars. It is an organic bath. It is a solvent which washes away the cybernetic. There is no room on this trail for silicon.

And what about that? What is it about sweat and strain, mud and muscles working hard, that drives out the impurities of our modern existence? How do you get clean by getting dirty?

The whole idea goes against what Mom, with her bar of soap in hand, used to preach. Cleanliness is not next to godliness. Dirt is. Existentially speaking, the idea is that by truly feeling the corporeal, using your body in the way that it was meant to be used, you transcend the physical and gain some kind of epiphany about the spiritual. The truth behind this is made evident when you get to some stopping point in the trail. Your blood rushes through your arteries and you nod to the person riding with you. There is that recognition, that look in the eye that acknowledges the transcendent. And then, there is that slim smile that cracks the flecks of dried mud. The feeling is gone almost as soon as it comes, but its effects linger throughout the rest of the day.

The irony of all this, of course, is that I’m sitting at a computer writing this. But Sunday, there it is marked on my calendar – Mountain Biking. A day of worship, and the opportunity to work off the week’s radiation and fat, to feel my muscles, dormant through the long week, come alive, to understand the capacity of my lungs, the strength of my heart, the clarity of my mind. Sunday I will rush through the forest like a tiger chasing prey. Sunday, I’ll come clean.”

If you’re interested in reading further, you can purchase his book either on Amazon or on Nook. And for more information about Jeff, check out :

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