I reject your version of “real life,” and replace it with riding bikes.

Real life takes place behind bars.

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.

Freddie Mercury of Queen put it best in the opening lines of Bohemian Rhapsody:

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality.

Open your eyes,
Look up to the skies and see.

How many times have you heard this language used when talking about mountain biking?

  • “Mountain biking is my escape.”
  • “I need to ride my bike to cope with real life.”
  • “Let’s go play bikes in the woods.”
  • “That guy has Peter Pan syndrome–all he does is ride his bike.”
  • At the end of a ride: “Alright, I guess it’s back to real life.”

Based on this logic, what does the “real life” entail? Sitting in traffic on our way to work, clocking in, sitting in our cubicles staring at a screen all day with artificial light beating down on our heads, and earning this thing we call “money.” We then use that money to pay the mortgages on our houses and put food in our mouths. Oh, and don’t forget paying for the car to get to the job to earn the money to buy the house–the house that you’re never at because you’re working all the time.

What about social life? Don’t forget that. We’ve gotta remember the time spent bellied up to the bar dropping 12 bucks a drink, plus tip. Don’t get me started on the cost of dates. (What a great way to keep you returning to your cubicle.)

After we wrap up the drinking binge and catch a cab home, leaving that expensive car sitting on the side of the road (that’ll be a parking ticket), we plop down in front of the TV for a couple of hours–as if the 8-10 hours spent in a cubicle staring at a screen earlier in the day wasn’t bad enough.


Trail: Levis Mounds, WI. Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Dean G.

If that’s real life, what, then, does that make all of the time that we spend out in the woods on our bicycles? What does that make the time spent spinning wrenches in the shop truing wheels, or reading about MTB adventures around the world? Is all such time spent riding mountain bikes, working on mountain bikes, or thinking about mountain bikes then a “fake life?”

Because that’s where the subconscious logic displayed by this language leads us.

If mountain biking is only considered to be a coping mechanism for “real life,” a form of escapism, or even a mental and physical training grounds for the rest of life, then by definition it isn’t real life itself.

I reject that.

I reject this view that “real life” is the endless drudgery of staring at screens instead of trees, paying bills, making small talk, and worrying about what our neighbors think of us.

I reject that version of so-called real life, and instead replace it with riding bikes.

See, the thing is, there are few things in life that make me feel as alive, as real, as connected to the planet around me as pedaling a bike through the forest. The wind in my face, the exertion of grinding up a long climb, the consequences of missing a turn and flying off the mountainside–when you’re in that moment and are vibrantly engaged in what’s taking place, I don’t think there’s any question of “is this real?” or “am I escaping my problems?” Rather, there’s only that moment, only that experience–and that experience is GOOD!

Put another way, have you ever been on a mountain bike ride and thought to yourself, “man, I wish I was working on that spreadsheet at the office right now”? If you answered “no” to that question, then why would work and the house and the bills be real life?

You weren’t born to just pay bills and die.


I do think that there’s at least one aspect that is vitally important to real life: real relationships with other people that pass the conversational level of “so, what do you do for a living?” that you might have at the bar mentioned above. (Which, again, cements the idea that our occupations are the most important things about us.)

So grab your bike, grab a few friends, and embrace reality by going for a mountain bike ride!

Leave that fake life at the office.

Riding bikes with people you care about? It really doesn’t get any better than that. Rider: Dean G. Photo: Greg Heil