Sometimes it’s not about the bike at all. Sometimes, through circumstances outside of your control, you’re taking a ride outside your comfort zone. But regardless of the gear, the weather, or the crew we still love the ride and all the variables that shape it.
At one time I had my pick from a manufacturer’s demo fleet most only dream about. Prototypes, carbon fiber World Cup models, skunk works wheels, forks and brakes. Vendors begged me to ride their new hotness. I was “in the biz” and had all the perks that came with the long hours and low paychecks. My only regret was not being greedy; I could have bought one of these with my employee discount. When you’ve got access to the newest and best rigs out there, why choose one? You’re likely to pay for it with your hard earned dollars only to let it gather dust in the garage while sampling the cornucopia of exciting new gear that’s endlessly streaming though the office.
Unfortunately, 2010 brought with it an economy straight out of a 1930’s newsreel. Sales of bikes, especially the feature-rich trail weapons we all get hot and bothered for, dropped like a lead balloon. The company I worked for took the route of tightening belts and downsizing departments and suddenly I was out of a job. That meant sweatpants, internet job hunting, and a severe lack of my own bike – I had sold my mountain bike when I realized I had my pick of the best in the demo fleet. All that was left in my stable was a 1980s road bike with graphics straight out of Miami Vice, a single speed town bike for beer runs, and the tandem cruiser my wife and I rode at our wedding.
My good friend Jim was generous enough to lend me a bike in my time of need. With nothing but time on my hands this was the perfect opportunity to get in those day-long odysseys I used to dream of from my desk at the office. Jim’s bike had seen better days since he upgraded, so I took a day to install new cables and housings, made some adjustments and gave everything a clean and lube. It was a lesson in the timeline of technology: I had spent the last two years exclusively riding the newest, lightest, and best the bike industry had to offer. Now I was “making due” with a slightly porky rig that was top of the line in its day but would be considered outdated by current standards.
I packed up my borrowed bike, my gear, and a lunch and headed south to Newark, Delaware. My favorite trails of late were in White Clay Creek State Park. It has fast, flowy singletrack with an incredible network of looping, interlocking routes to choose from. There was even a BC-style board track skills course. Jim and I had been stringing together short- and medium-length rides whenever we could get a free weekend afternoon, but today was my day to put it all together.
What transpired that day was nothing short of transcendental. Freed from the clock, spinning at my own pace on a borrowed ride that was just right, I was able to leave behind concerns about my job search, what the traffic would be like on the way home, what’s in the fridge, what’s in the bank. I stopped when I saw a perfect spot for a picture; I doubled back on particularly tasty sections to try a different line; and I rode for the simple pleasure of being singularly focused on the immediate moment. It was a day without time. My own power, the help of a friend, and miles of great trails showed me that the race for the Next Big Thing can sometimes be shoved aside for that simple joy of a ride in the woods.
It’s time to ride.