I love coming home and seeing the maturation and personal growth of friends from college. Everyone is settling into careers, gaining new and varied interests, and generally becoming functioning members of society. Thinking back to our college days, this was never a guarantee. I know that I have changed immensely since college, and only seeing friends once or twice a year, the changes can seem drastic. I was stoked to find out that friends were getting into fitness, getting in shape and losing weight, and a few are into mountain biking. Sweet! It’s awesome to be able to share my passion with friends and family and see them get excited and enjoying being out in the woods, riding bikes as well. Something about it turns everyone into kids, even my Dad (who many would argue is just a large kid).
A good friend from college, Sinclair just got an old school single speed bike, complete with 26″ wheels, rim brakes, and narrow handlebars. If you listen to the bike industry, it’s a combination of totally obsolete technology that is nothing more than a guaranteed death trap. But he has been getting out, ripping trails and having a great time, not worried about the latest and greatest, enjoying the bike that he has. It is refreshing to see, and a reminder that the bike doesn’t really matter, it’s more important to be content with your equipment and simply have fun. That’s what it’s all about anyway.
I’m lucky in that my father is still in good enough shape and bold enough to come riding with me (especially when he gets to ride my cushy full suspension). it usually goes something like this: “Maybe I’ll go riding with you guys”
“Okay, cool. We will probably be riding pretty fast, and some technical stuff, just so you know.”
“That’s fine, I’ll just hang for a while.”
Then, as we approach the trail, Mark gets pretty quiet, and you can tell the nerves are setting in. I’m sure the cursing has already started, just internally. “F*ck, what am I getting myself into? I’m hosed…” is what I imagine it sounds like. I will ask what bike he wants to ride, where he wants to go, and the answer is always the same, “Oh, I don’t care.” The mind is too occupied by the fact that he somehow talked himself into joining me on a ride to process anything else. This has been the modus operandi for years. Dad invited himself to join Beebo (Craig) and I on the Appalachian Trail. We knew he would flake out, so we bought him a backpack and a bunch of nice gear for his birthday so he would have no excuses. And show up he did, with 3 rolls of toilet paper, with the same bewildered look on his face that he wears to this day. But he gets out and does it, and that is awesome.
Today, we went and rode a new trail, Matson Hill, outside Defiance. It starts with a fairly steep gravel climb. I waited with Sinclair for Mark, who came up with his signature Ric Flair, “Woooooo that’s tough!” Yep, this is what you signed up for, dude. Then the normal cadence resumed. I ride ahead and stop at trail junctions to wait and make sure he hasn’t killed himself yet. Mark has always had a penchant for falling, it’s one of his greatest skills, outside of skipping out of work. The trail was hilly and semi technical, but he was killing it, as was Sinclair. Then, the inevitable happened.
Sinclair and I were chatting, waiting for Mark, when we could hear the expletives wafting through the crisp fall air. “Mother f*cker. God d*mn!” We saw Mark approaching, in one piece, riding well. He was smiling, having fun, and as he approached, started yelling, excitedly, “I hit a tree, and almost just crashed!” As he came to a stop, unclipping his right foot, I laughed, and turned around, when I heard yelling behind me. I turned around, just in time to see him go down, in a move now christened “Titanic-ing”, as he tumbled down the hill, executing two barrel rolls before coming to a stop a solid ten feet off the trail. He lay there, groaning, as I was laughing and got my camera to get a picture before helping him up.
Sinclair has a conspiracy theory that if the Titanic just plowed through icebergs, it would have survived anything, or something. So, in mountain biking parlance, this means just plow over anything in your path and hope for the best. Mark and Sinclair are two of the best in the business at Titanic-ing. Unfortunately, like most conspiracy theories, there is no truth to it. So, rather than successfully riding over obstacles, they spent much of the ride going over handlebars, hitting trees, and crashing through the woods. Not the best practice in general, but potato tomatoe or whatever the saying is.
No major injuries, just a small amount of blood on the ankle, a blow to the ego, and some moistened Huggies. We had a good laugh, and rode the rest of the trail out. It was a good bit of climbing, and some solidly rocky sections. Definitely not easy for people that don’t ride nearly every day. I went back to find Mark and ride the rest of the way out with him. He ran out of heart and lungs, but pushed through to ride the last bit of uphill before getting to rip some sweet downhill.
We pulled into the parking lot, laughing, smiling and telling war stories about the ride, the fun and excitement evident on everyone’s face. Definitely not the longest or hardest ride for me, but one of the most rewarding, seeing loved ones get out and push themselves and enjoy the riding. Here’s to many more rides over the years to come, hopefully with less crashing and less pissing.
Thanks for reading, get out and enjoy the trails.