Over a Beer: Mountain Bike Rides Are No Complaining Zones

No complaints from Marcel, even though we were shouldering our bikes. "Quick, get a picture!" he said. "I think this is the first time I've legitimately had to carry my bike on my shoulders."
No complaints from Marcel, even though we were shouldering our bikes. “Quick, get a picture!” he said. “I think this is the first time ever I’ve really had to carry my bike on my shoulders.” Photo: Greg Heil

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.

If you ain't hikin', you ain't bikin'. Slogging it out in Switzerland. Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Beni Ott.
If you ain’t hikin’, you ain’t bikin’. Slogging it out in Switzerland. Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Beni Ott.

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.

Valid excuses?

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.

Post-ACL surgery, this January.
Post-ACL surgery, this January.

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.

Hanging out at the top of the Little Cochetopa hike-a-bike.
Hanging out at the top of the Little Cochetopa hike-a-bike.

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.