Editor’s Note: “Over a Beer” is a regular column written by Greg Heil. While Greg is the Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com, any opinions expressed in this column are his alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.
“This hill is too steep.”
“This trail is too rocky.”
“My feet are cold.”
“I don’t have the right tires for these conditions.”
“If only I had 160mm of travel, I could ride that drop.”
“Work has been SO BUSY, I haven’t been able to ride enough–that’s the only reason you beat me to the top of the climb.”
“I’m 35 now, and have a kid to look after–can’t risk crashing on the descent. That’s the only reason you dropped me!”
“Oh man, the elevation is KILLING ME! I only live at 5,000 feet–there’s no way I can ride at 12,000 feet!”
“I tore my ACL and am recovering from surgery. Gotta take it easy so I don’t crash.”
If you’ve been on so much as one group ride, you’ve probably heard no end of excuses related to mountain biking. Excuses for why your friend is late, why they can’t ride as well as you, why they can’t ride at all–the excuses never end. And you know, I’m guilty too–I think we all have been guilty of making pointless excuses at one point or another.
I ride mountain bikes for many different reasons, and I’ve talked about several of them in this column before. But one of the primary reasons, one of the main goals, is to get away from the bitching and moaning found seemingly everywhere on the internet.
Yeah, the irony isn’t lost on me that I make my living writing articles on the internet, with the assumption that people will comment on them. It’s also not lost on me that this column could be considered bitching and moaning by some. Hey, nobody’s perfect!
But that’s the point, isn’t it? When I’m out on a mountain bike ride, I want to get away from that crap. I want to put myself and my body through physically-demanding challenges that strip away all the drivel and contrived excuses. To put myself through self-inflicted challenges that refine my mental and physical toughness–the will to endure these challenges and hardships. While getting away from the endless virtual back-and-forth isn’t the only reason I ride, it’s one very major and very important reason.
Mountain biking is excellent for this purpose because even if you’re spouting excuses to your friends, the mountains don’t care. The mountains can’t be bothered that you don’t have a 12-speed Eagle drivetrain and so are “forced” to hike up the climb instead of pedal.
And the excuses, the bitching and moaning, the whining and sniveling on the internet being piped in from our Facebook feeds, constantly barraging our synapses? That’s all removed, too. No cell service means no Donald Trump complaining that the election is rigged.
Hey, maybe your excuse or your friend’s excuse is valid. Maybe he actually did have knee surgery and is still recovering. Maybe he crashed hard and broke his arm. And honestly, maybe it’s good to know that your buddy has a physical condition of some sort, so if he goes down on the trail you can watch out for him.
But after you’ve said, “hey, I broke my derailleur–guess I’m going to be singlespeeding the rest of the ride,” that’s enough. I don’t need to hear about your broken derailleur, your bum back, your lack of time to train, every single time we stop and wait for you. Just man (or woman) up, put the power down, swallow your ego, and own your slowness. If you legitimately just had surgery, let us know, but then realize that hey, you’re going to be going slower than the rest of the group. And that’s ok.
Because nobody really cares. Hey, if we wanted to ride with you in the first place, hopefully we’re out there sharing the trail on a group ride for more reasons than simply wanting to get a workout in, because \ we could do that on our own. In theory, the reason you go on a group ride is, yes, to get pushed a little bit physically, but primarily for the camaraderie of the experience, the companionship, and building friendships with other riders.
Enough Is Enough
The thing is, while maybe your excuse is valid and maybe even I want to be out on the trail enjoying the singletrack experience with you, if you keep dropping excuses for why you’re riding like crap, why you can’t do this or can’t do that, why you can’t even get out and go for a ride period, it gets old after a while. And as I mentioned above, one of the main reasons I mountain bike is to escape the constant whining, complaining, and general BS that we get bombarded with during the every day moments of our lives. So if you bring that shit with you to the mountain bike trails, don’t be surprised if we don’t ride together again after that.
When I look at the few dudes that I ride with on a regular basis, one of the main things they have in common is that they are mentally tough, that they shelve the whining and complaining, and simply HTFU and deal with what the mountain has to offer. Heck, maybe I am the complainer on those rides! (But hopefully not.)
I choose to surround myself with mentally-tough riders who in turn choose to embrace positivity, who can dig deep within themselves even in hard situations. Who can persevere even when the trail turns out to be much more difficult and take twice as long as expected.
Those are the kinds of people that I choose to surround myself with, because my mountain bike rides are no complaining zones.
Thought I coined HTFU. Always enjoy Over a Beer. My morning ritual is to check out the photo of the day & plow through the articles, videos or podcasts. Keep it up Greg.
Thanks for the kind words Hondo!!
As one who constantly seeks out new trails, often taking chances on the unknown, I often end up on trail which are harder/steeper than expected, unrideable for long stretches, or worse, too easy, wide, turning out to be doubletrack or service roads rather than singletrack, etc.
But no matter what, I’m in the woods (or desert) turning cranks, so I’m smiling.
I hate doubletracks. The scourge of the mountains is what they are.
We need to ride. I’m always tracing out some new route on a map and trying it out. Often we’re hiking through a seeping wet hillside, carrying bikes up a pass, or pushing through a 1/4 mile of overgrown trail. It has happened so often that friends have taken to calling them “another f*#king Wayne ride” 😉
Greg, well said … … once again. Excuses come from self-centeredness, plain and simple.
The way I look at it is that somebody will be the slowest, and it will probably be me. LOL. Who cares. We’re all on the mountain and doing what we love. What’s there to complain about? Everyday I am on my bike in the mountains, I am thankful. And if someone doesn’t like how slow I am, they can drop me and ride on without me. I’m good with that. I can take care of myself in the backcountry and have done so for years. And I genuine want the other person to have their best experience … however they define that. So I don’t want to hinder their experience in any way. Furthermore, the truth is, some people really do have some physical problems, but I agree with Greg, those should never be used as an excuse. I have a broken arch, bad lower back and a bad neck. There is not a single ride that I do not have pain from a chronic condition, but I won’t complain about it. And I’m certainly not going to let those injuries stop me from riding or exploring the next trail in Mongolia. Mongolia is way too cool to do that. But then again, I have learned that my body (back and neck) does so much better on long rides if I just stop every mile or so and get off the saddle for about 20 or 30 seconds, especially on continuous flats and climbs. I’ll do my thing and what’s best for me to have a great ride and others should do the same. No complaining allowed.
Truth, you have spoken. The force will be with you…
Thanks for reading my long-winded truth. =)
Greg, you have hit home on this one. “I choose to surround myself with mentally-tough riders who in turn choose to embrace positivity, who can dig deep within themselves even in hard situations. Who can persevere even when the trail turns out to be much more difficult and take twice as long as expected. Those are the kinds of people that I choose to surround myself with, because my mountain bike rides are no complaining zones.” I may print that and hang it on my wall. I HATE complaining! I actually have never ridden with another person (expect for a few times with my Dad), so I have never experienced this problem. But man, would it drive me crazy!
Actually Greg, I think the only reason you are faster than me is because my $7000 original MSRP 2012 Mojo HD XTR doesn’t have 27.5″+ tires on it. =)
Well, no plus tires over here either, so I guess we’ll both just be slow! 😉
And I ride a $500 dollar hardtail whose chian keeps falling off on downhills! And you’re complaining?
Thanks for writing this article! I always look at time on my bike as moments where I can either let go of whatever is bothering me, or on solo climbs, process through some stuff so my mind can be clear for the downhill. I’m rarely the first rider up the hill, but I like to push it going down. I think another thing to keep in mind is to be patient with the riders in your group. Making someone feel like they are holding you up seems to bring out the excuses or make them feel like they have to explain why they aren’t as fast as you. Complement your riding friends on their improvements and try not to push less experienced riders into trails that are above their heads. Sharing the stoke is the best way to eliminate whining! Leave the “i gotta make it down in X number of minutes!” rides to solo outings where you are trying to push yourself or with your hard-charging buddies!
Amen brother…My thoughts exactly
Fair point, but also another:
If you don’t want to hear any complaints or excuses….DON’T ASK for any!
If you are giving your riding buddies shit about being slower, or having to wait up on them, then you just gave permission to open the floodgate.
Honestly though, its incredibly rare I hear excuses about anything from anybody. Is this even relatively common?
Unless you are getting paid to race or ride mountain bikes who cares how fast or tough you are. This is a sport to have fun with, take you away from the daily grind and get some exercise too.
You see what happens to those who try to get the best strava times (many get hurt and many don’t have regard for walkers or hikers using the same trails). With electric bikes using some trails now strava times don’t matter much other than for setting personal goals.
I have 2 children and I am always coaching them that when they are in any group situation to do their best to be joy and a pleasure to be with. I also coach them to be forgiving of others. Don’t complain. Don’t make excuses. But also don’t have excessive expectations or make excessive demands. Usually when I ride with others I am familiar with their riding abilities and I ride with them to be social first. If I hear any complaints or excuses, I let them go in one ear and out the other. Mountain biking takes a backseat to being social. I try to set my pace to the slowest rider in the group or I stop frequently to let everyone regroup. If I am the slowest person in the group, I do my best to have a good attitude. If I want to hammer tough long rides, I ride by myself or I ride with others who have the similar skills and attitude. When it comes to excuses, your enemies don’t believe you and your friends don’t care because they will hang with you anyway.
Love the “no complaint” zone. In my experience, it’s typically not a problem in MTB, any more than it is in tennis, golf, or any other competitive sport. Now, if we could apply that concept to other facets of life outside of MTB, then we’d really be making progress!
I will echo, Hondo’s words as I have the same routine: I always enjoy Over a Beer. My morning ritual is to check out the photo of the day & plow through the articles, videos or podcasts. Keep it up Greg.
After a 13 year hiatus, I started back into biking. Two years later at the age of 65 I bought my first full suspension bike (wow, what a difference). I am always looking for new adventures and usually find people or rides that are a bit above my ability – so if I’m not careful I can easily lapse into, “I’m not in good enough shape”; “My left arm can’t take this beating (It’s mostly metal inside from the wrist to just below the shoulder)”, or a myriad of other excuses – some valid and some not. Fortunately, I get to ride with my 32 year old son and 5 year old grandson neither of which will put up with my whining!!
So, I hear you! I go out to enjoy myself and try to catch the excuses before they happen and remind myself I’m out here to enjoy it, not set records or worry about what I might not be able to do. Just ride, make mistakes and try again!!!
So thanks again, for the great reminder!