Gravity feels real strange when it is tugging on your head instead of your feet. My left foot silhouetted in the sunlight that filtered through the trees above the dirt trail I had been riding just a few seconds before, back sinking in the soft sandy earth underneath my back, right foot hooked against a small tree to keep me from sliding further into the little ravine I had fallen into – I couldn’t keep from laughing. Oddly enough, I had started laughing as the rear tire of my mountain bike dug into the deep sand on the trail to throw me backwards off of the trail.
“I would ask if you are OK, but it doesn’t sound like you are hurt.” Robb reached down from the trail to help pull me up. As I shook the dirt off, he showed me the huge rut my wheel had made in the sand. “Good thing you were leading. I took the line around you.”
I like the energy my new found friend brought to me. From the moment I met Robb just a few days before, his natural enthusiasm had drawn me, our passion for bicycles a common denominator. Robb answered my Craigslist ad selling an old set of bicycle wheels I had in my garage, Spinergy Rev X carbon road wheels, old technology now but wheels still popular with those who know about them. I had taken the rear wheel apart a few years ago, hoping to rebuild them, but had left the wheel disassembled for years.
“Not a problem, Steve. For the price you are selling them, I can afford to find the parts to rebuild the wheel. If you find the parts, let me know.” Robb handed me the $80 asking price without haggling, suggested we meet for a mountain bike ride on Saturday even if I couldn’t find the missing parts. I had met Robb in a Home Depot parking lot on my way home from a mountain bike ride at my favorite park, so he was interested in riding with me.
“Sure, why not. That would be great.” I hesitated a little. I’m 52 years old. Robb looked to be mid-twenties and had the look of someone who lives a bicycle lifestyle, a muscled boy with long curly blonde hair. This kid would likely kick my butt.
The missing parts for the rear wheel were right where I had left them on my workbench a few years ago, in a green plastic cup nestled behind a cardboard box I keep old bike parts in. It was a good thing I found the parts. Robb emailed me to let me know that he was having a bit of a time finding all of the parts. We agreed to meet for a ride at 2 PM Saturday at Saw Wee Kee, my favorite place to ride off road. I would give him the missing parts then.
It was during the pre ride chat in the parking lot that I found out why Robb looked like a cyclist – he had raced for several years – mountain bike racing.
Oh crap. This kid was going to see what a chump I am on a mountain bike. If I had any hopes to teach the kid a few lessons, that revelation dashed them.
“Why don’t you lead in?” Robb asked as we began to roll to the trail that leads in to the park. “It’s been a while since I have rode here.”
Oh crap. I was going to have to perform. The ante had been raised.
Thing is, the kid talked all the way in, encouraged me as we zipped along the singletrack. I was taking chances, riding faster than I normally would.. and having the time of my life. A few minutes in, I was feeling the flow, everything working well, riding better than ever. Robb was following close but it was obvious I was doing well enough to make the ride worthwhile for him.
And so the little crash into the ravine meant nothing. Something that may have left me grumpy on some days, had me laughing instead. I took the lead again after the crash, found a trail loop that Robb had never seen, a twisty and fast technical section that is usually more difficult to be fun for me. This ride was different, though, and every little twist or dive felt effortless. Riding with this guy had really helped me find a groove, a flow, that necessary ingredient to riding off road. Any mental obstacles that had been there on previous rides disappeared as the extra motivation drove me to take chances that normally would slow me down.
I wonder what my life would be like if I could approach the obstacles I have with the same kind of abandon I had on those trails last Saturday. Would my life find the same “flow”? If my wife followed my lead the same way, encouraged and chose to accept the ride as it is, picked me up when I fall and take the front when needed – how different would our relationship be? Instead the gravity of the relationship often pulls me down, but not in a way that makes me laugh, not in a way that makes me want to climb back on and continue.
I need to get my wife on a mountain bike….