Sometimes you gotta leave shit behind.
I am currently writing to you from my new place in Denver. It’s been a long journey to get here; we’ve been talking about it for years, so my wife and I finally pulled up stakes and moved. I left my job at the bike shop in Colorado Springs, and I got me a nice new fancy job (still in the bike industry, but no longer wrenching. Fucking victory). We’re in the big city. Traffic. Loud neighbors. Lots of restaurants. Lots of bars. Lots of everything. It’s like merging your bike in front of a tractor trailer. Rattles the nerves, but once you do it and realize you’ve survived, it’s alright.
First order of business: get the fuck out of the city and ride my mountain bike. I took off from Denver Saturday morning with Andy and Graham, and we headed to Buffalo Creek. This post won’t have any pictures of sick singletrack because I was too busy riding it. First time in a long time I’ve ridden without part of my brain thinking I had to document it for Drunkcyclist. Normally I’m all about hawking the DRUNKCYCLIST POSTER or some new product a vendor was kind enough to send our way for review, but this time was all about the rolling wheels. Nothing else. No bullshit.
It was cold up there in the mountains. Even snowed on our ride. I was pushing the singlespeed, which I’m still not used to after a full season of riding it. That shit is hard. I have new respect for singlespeeders. Push…push more. Sometimes you can dump gears and spin, get that brief respite. But no. Not with singlespeed. I remember a guy I used to ride with in Maine used to call himself a singlespeeder because, “I just don’t shift out of 32-18.” Trust me, just knowing you COULD shift is a big advantage (look for a moment beyond the idiocy of his comment to begin with). No gears, no options. You’re pushing, and you better learn to love pushing.
By the end of the four hour ride, I was walking the Niner up the steeper hills. Just had no legs left. If there’s a better feeling in this world than having completely used up legs, I don’t know what it is. Full potential. The top of the universe. The last bus stop. I got there and it was good.
About halfway through the ride, I started thinking what I always start thinking when I’m doing a long ride: what the fuck are we going to eat after the ride? We were riding in Buffalo Creek, Colorado, which is about an hour outside Denver. Not much happening out there but trees growin’ and snow fallin’. Luckily, Andy knew of a tiny hole in the wall known as the Bucksnort Saloon. By the glory of the interwebs, this hole in the wall even has a webpage. Check it HERE. Try the burrito. Perfect post-ride annihilation. The Bucksnort is up a windy, narrow road, and if you’re not looking for it, you’ll miss it. Everything about it is everything the Colorado resorts are not: genuine, gritty, unpretentious. Go out of your way for it, because the Bucksnort’s got no intention of going out of its way for you.
It was a good respite from the Denver traffic. If you want to know what’s wrong with humanity, sit in traffic. I’ve been doing that a lot lately because I was finishing up my job in Colorado Springs (3.5 hour traffic jam? Sweet!), and it gives you an opportunity to reflect. People cut off. People curse. People don’t signal their intentions. People crash, burn, take others with them. It’s a shitshow, and in the end, I’m part of it. Can’t think of a better reason to get out into the woods and push pedals.
Back to the singletrack: there was a huge group of riders at Buffalo Creek who were crawling their way up the singletrack ahead of us. We made a plan to pass them at the T in the trail, but goddamn if I didn’t need a break when I got there. You pull up to a group like that and the natural instinct to blow past the motherfuckers kicks in hard. Who wants to wait for a bunch of middle-aged fucks with expensive bikes and weekend-warrior legs to crawl down “TOTALLY GNARLY” singletrack? Not me.
Problem is, when you’re stuck in traffic, and you take the time to look around, you notice everyone’s just like you. The best thing about riding on the trails is you can actually talk to everyone else around you. That’s the problem with car traffic: everyone’s suffering in their own bubble, in plain view of everyone else only a few feet away. On the trail, we suffer together; we wear our suffering like a badge, and we swap stories with a smile, not a middle finger salute. The group turned out to be from Colorado Springs. Even ran into a friend of mine. We got ahead of the group, but I no longer felt the urgency to rush ahead. Maybe it’d be okay to run into everyone again. Maybe…
In the car, you’re told when to stop and go.
On the trail, you stop and go when you need to.
We stopped for a sandwich.
It had gotten cold toward the tail end of our ride, and we still had a good ways to go. I was tired, and as Graham put it, I was tired enough that my body had stopped producing body heat. Only thing to do was move, but we stopped. Munched on food. Talked about the trail behind, and the trail ahead. No signs to tell us how far to the next exit. Just trees and dirt to count. A certain peace comes in not knowing. That’s maybe the problem about driving: we know too much. We see signs, we expect traffic, we stop and go, we gawk at the car on the side of the road (no one ever stops to offer a spare tube or a tire lever, do they?). Everything’s planned, expected. Even the man on the radio knows it. Warns you about it.
On the road, a man is not a man unless he has a ton of steel around him. He becomes nothing if he has no more than twenty-five pounds and a helmet. He is not your doctor, or your neighbor, or the man who serves you food at the Thai restaurant. He has no steel. Man must have steel.
On the trail, too much steel gets you nowhere. It is push and pull, it is breath and balls that moves you forward. Effort is not burden. The man with the ton of steel would have you think so, but it’s not. Effort is freeing. It is real. It is left on the trail when you eat your burrito. The dust is in your eyes and in your throat because that dust is yours, you earned it. You took it on. You rode your small steel and got farther, moved on more quickly.
This is a ride.by