Over a Beer: Riding to Live

Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Marcel Slootheer
Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Marcel Slootheer

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.

Over the past three years I’ve been battling a series of seemingly never-ending injuries. Some of them have been more debilitating than others, but all have affected my ability to ride a bike to some degree. I’ve known this for a long time, but my injuries only continue to drive this point home: I need to ride and run and ski to live. I need to be active and on the move to be emotionally stable. In a very real way, physical motion begets emotional stability.

When I sit still, my temperament experiences a fundamental change. The anger begins to well up inside me from deep recesses that are scary to look down into. I get grumpy and frustrated with the people and the circumstances surrounding me. Motivation dwindles, my entire outlook on life takes a nose dive, and the parasitic tendrils of depression attach their ever-hungry maws on my brain, leaching out any happiness that attempts to make an appearance.

The less activity I have the time or ability to do, the more that deadly parasite digs deeper into my being. The darker my outlook on life becomes. The less I care about anything and everything around me.

Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Marcel Slootheer
Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Marcel Slootheer

But after I’ve completed a successful, liberating ride, the contentment seems to radiate off of me with the waves of heat from the physical exertion. The endorphins are coursing through my system, the brain’s own happy juice, giving my a high that no number of IPAs can match.

Sometimes it needs to be a good, long, hard effort to generate this feeling, and other times, a short romp on the pedals is enough–just getting outside in the open air and putting my body in motion is sufficient to break through the ho-hum doldrums of life: sitting behind a desk, doing dishes, folding laundry, paying bills.

For some of us, riding is a fun pastime, a great way to spend a Saturday.

For others of us, it’s not just a nice luxury. We don’t have the option of not riding and not being active.

Without the time to get out in the woods and pedal to our hearts content, life is dull, life is pale. And as we know from our time spent on the trails, what many people consider to be “real life” is a pallid substitute for the true life, the good life, the singletrack life.

And so, we ride to live.

We ride to put life in our days. We ride to experience happiness on a daily basis, to center our emotional lives and kill the parasite of depression, attacking it at the root. No matter what life may throw at us, whatever negativity we experience at work, at home, in life in general… when we can turn off the cell phone, fill the water bottles, and roll out and pedal for hours on end, life is suddenly a bright, happy place yet again!

We ride because we must, because we have no choice in the matter.

And we love every minute of it!