It's funny, you always think about how lame you were in the past. How much of a loser you were way back when you were wearing JNCO pants and rocked a chain wallet. How silly you looked when you were wearing those Airwalks with the lace cover that Tony Hawk was sporting. Then you fast forward to the present time. You couldn't be more "with it". You're on the cutting edge of fashion and pop culture. You know all the dirt with celebrity gossip as well as what's going on in your close circle of friend. You're the epitome of the person you want to be...for the moment.
I've witnessed this same trend with my evolution into mountain biking. In the beginning of my knobby-tired endeavors, I was a strict cross country guy. Lycra, road helmet, steep and aggressive angles, and chose a 29er to ride for goodness sake! My most important goal was to get from point A to point B in the fastest time possible. Screw enjoying the scenery, I didn't even want to see the scenery-it should be only a blur as my 29 inch wheels whuuuur through the trail.
Then, because of health problems associated with my racing, it was time to take a step back and get off the "race or die" bandwagon. Soon the 29ers were gone, the Garmins no longer uploaded my workouts, and getting in those 6 hour Saturday and Sunday rides took a back seat. I began looking for different, bigger, and better things to ride. Soon grew a fascination with riding rocks, progressing my technical skills, and getting back to the roots of what I feel mountain biking is all about: being out in and enjoying the nature that is all around us.
The carbon frames, shoes, and components were replaced with burly, long travel bikes, bulkier shoes, and baggy attire. I began to shun the world of lap times, lycra, and anything associated with what now constituted structured training, or as I saw it, work. I sold all my technical equipment-Garmin, Power Tap, Heart Rate Monitors, etc. The objective from here on out was fun, and to have it, I needed to free myself from the confines of what was structure. I was a rebel.
The journey continued. I focused first on trail riding, then progressed to All Mountain-whatever that is. Mix in a little Downhill and the result is where I am now. The truth is there is not a definition for how or what I ride. The common denominator is enjoyment. If I see something I like, I ride it. Simple. There are no satellites involved, and nothing to upload when I get home. There is no stress, only a smile as I attempt to wipe the grin off my face from cleaning a section that seemed previously impassable. Gone are the days when I worry about power output and getting enough nutrition in. If I get hungry I eat. If I get thirsty I drink. There is no priority because I'm not worried to stop. Bonking is a prime excuse to stop and enjoy the woods. When people ask me how far I rode my answer is "I have no idea." When they ask me how long I rode for I answer the same. Truth is, I could care less. As long as I've got the right supplies and equipment with me, it doesn't matter how long I'm out for.
Riding a bike has become, to me, what it should be. I ride because it's fun. I ride because it's an escape from my stress. I ride because I'm good at it but I want to be better. I find enjoyment in leaving some of my blood and sweat on a tough rock section that eats me up, for I know there will be a time, sooner or later, where I come back and conquer it. In my riding lies a pure sense of what my intentions are, and where I want them to be. I'm not in the cloudy fish bowl of race numbers, performances, and disappointment. I've found my way through the murk, and am better and happier for it.
When did I get so cool? When I found out what makes me tick. Riding a mountain bike has done that for me. I don't proclaim the riding I do to be what's best for everyone, and I don't care if it's not. If I'm the only one that rides my way, and the only one who finds enjoyment in the things I do, so be it. I'm not doing this for a race t-shirt or a plastic trophy and a check that doesn't even begin to equal the amount of time and effort I put into getting it.
I'm not bashing the ones who find what they're looking for in Watts, Heart Rate, and Lycra. More power to you. I couldn't hack what you do, and it's more obvious to me now than ever. Continue on your path and I'll continue on mine, for in the end, we'll both wind up at the same place.