Old men on bikes
When asked to list my hobbies, I always include writing and mountain biking. I include those activities because I don’t get paid enough to count writing as a profession, and I own a mountain bike. I write much better than I ride my mountain bike so, if you read this column regularly, that should tell you all you need to know about that.
I have always been an avid bicycle enthusiast. When I was a kid, I would ride my bike for hours because I loved the way it felt to go fast as I could then silently glide along … well that and because it was a way to quickly escape the other kids. It seems most of them wanted to hit me after I randomly kissed them on the playground … even the girls!
Unlike most kids, I never stopped riding my bike. When I rode a ten speed to high school I tried to convince people it was because I was just that cool but it was really because I couldn’t afford a car.
As a young adult I rode a fancy French touring bike all over San Diego. It was a great way to stay in shape, and there was a thriving bike racing community in San Diego, but I rode my bike because I had lost my car in a divorce.
In my 30s, I bought an even fancier European racing bike because I was stationed in Mississippi and I didn’t have the skill or patience for bass fishing. I couldn’t go surfing in Mississippi but I could ride my bike … so I just kept riding because if you’re wearing tight bike shorts in rural Mississippi, it’s best not to stop.
I discovered mountain biking in my 40s after I learned that I could no longer ride my road bike and stand upright. I could do one or the other but I could not do both. My friend and riding partner Blake suggested that we try mountain biking since it would be better for my back, and his bifocals worked better sitting upright — things that mattered to middle aged road warriors like us.
This was the beginning of an era that my son refers to as “old guys on bikes.” Blake and I immediately bought mountain bikes and, because we thought they had to be ridden on mountains, we headed for Mount Rose and a short 10-mile single track course.
The results were predictable; we both fell off cliffs, we rode into rocks, we collided with rocky cliff walls and often fell for no apparent reason. We each carried a single water bottle because on a road bike a 10-mile ride was just a warm up… two hours later as we sat parched, bleeding and lost in the mountains we determined that this was a whole new sport.
Since then we have each spent thousands of dollars upgrading our mountain bikes and close to that amount on medical bills and dental work. We’ve discovered desert riding, rock gardens and Jeep roads can be a lot of fun and have far fewer cliffs. Blake discovered the magic of GPS and so we usually know where we are these days.
A few years ago I moved to Florida and, for reasons that escape me now, I took my mountain bike with me. For the uninitiated, there are no mountains, desert roads or Jeep trails in Florida, so my bike sat in my basement and rusted for two years along with my riding skills.
Last year I moved back to Nevada and recently I tuned up my bike and hit the trails with Blake again. I told him I hadn’t ridden in two years so he said we’d start on an “easy” trail. Did I mention that Blake is a sadistic liar?
I fell for the fist time on the road leading to the trail; I was sucking wind and pushing my bike on the first hill as Blake sat waiting and laughing a half mile ahead. On that first day I fell on rocks, off a short cliff, hit a tree and was passed on the trail by an old lady with a basket on her bike.
I cut my elbow and skinned my knees but the only thing seriously bruised was my ego. We’ve been riding several times since and I remember now why I like writing so much … my ego gets bruised from time to time but there is far less bleeding involved.
Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at email@example.com.