I don’t know about you, but when I commit to a mountain bike ride I consider it a sacred trust. If I can crawl out of bed, I am going to be at the trailhead, and usually on time. In my 31 years of mountain biking I have had a few biking buddies that also lived by this code of commitment. However, I also have had a slew of riding partners who are commitment challenged.
If you have been biking for any length of time I am sure that you have had someone bail on a ride. If not, consider yourself lucky. Some of my friends are so reliably unreliable that I am sure they have created their own excuse Rolodex like Jerry Seinfeld.
Of course, we have all heard the litany of excuses. It could be the elements: too hot, too cold, too wet. Maybe it is the trail conditions: too dusty, too muddy, too much snow. Maybe it is their condition: too tired, too hungover, too sore, boils, diarrhea, constipation, headache. Maybe they will blame someone else: “My spousal pass was revoked,” or “my girlfriend needs for me to go to the farmer’s market.” Sometimes they will blame their bike: “I have a flat tire and I haven’t had a chance to fix it.” Or they might blame a household appliance: “I didn’t hear the alarm.”
Blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada, the list goes on. Now and again, the excuses might have some validity, but more often than not they are weak.
Through three decades of riding I have had three riding buddies that have joined me for hundreds of rides with a perfect 100% attendance record. Never once have they let me down. I like to call them “Team No Excuses.” Team no excuses is made up of my current pups Poki and Tula and the late, great Simon the wonder dog. As the saying goes, dogs are man’s best friend, but I should add that dogs are also man’s and woman’s most reliable biking buddies.
My pups love to join me for a ride, and it brings me great joy to have them along. I especially enjoy seeing the excitement on their faces when they realize that they are invited to go along for a ride. This is pure, unbridled enthusiasm! Simon used to get out of control as soon as he saw me getting together any outdoor gear. To calm him down I would often put him in my truck even if it was an hour or more before I was to head out. Just knowing that he was going to be included in the ride made him calm down.
Poki and Tula are more subdued as I gear up. The big question on their minds as they watch me prepare for a ride is whether or not they will be invited along. They will follow me around the house with all eyes watching my every move. Once they get the signal that they are “in,” all is forgiven. Poki is all business as border collies are wont to do. She beelines right out the door. Tula hangs back while I lock the door and then pogoes three feet off the ground all the way to the truck.
I have to say that once we are at the trailhead I am somewhat embarrassed by their behavior. I don’t unleash the hounds until I am totally ready to go, but once they are released all hell breaks loose for the first 100 yards of the trail. Poki is yelping while running in front of my bike, spinning donuts over and over. Tula is by my side, also barking while doing her pogo routine. While this has me grinning from ear to ear, I look forward to hitting the point on the trail where we move from this over-excitement to trail focus.
Moving along on the trail is really a hoot. If you have never experienced riding at high speeds right on the heels of your pup, you are really missing out on an exhilarating experience! I also enjoy chill’n’ by the side of the trail while sharing snacks and enjoying the view with my best friends. While our trailside conversations tend to be one sided, my pups are great listeners.
While I thoroughly enjoy riding with my human friends, it is nice that I can totally rely on Team No Excuses. Come rain, sleet, or snow they are a go. Maybe the only downside to biking with pups is that they never chip in for gas. But when I think about it, my friends rarely do, either.