Sometime in early August I was up in Winter Park attempting to pre-ride the course for a XC race. I was turned around somewhere between Winter Park and Fraser, having gotten my printed directions out for about the 7th or 8th time, and I had backtracked along a steep forest service road 2-3x already looking for the next turn onto singletrack. Suddenly, I was just…tired. I felt like I had spent so much of my summer like this. Lost in the Colorado backcountry on my bike in the middle of some 6-hour solo. Getting rained on or hoping not to get struck by lightning up at over 9,000 feet. Hiking up some loose rocky forest service road that I sucked too much to ride. Etc, etc. I more or less bailed on the next dirt road I saw after that and rode out the rest of my day feeling kind of defeated. The next weekend I rode our local trails from Boulder to Lyons and I was happy to ride these straightforward blue squares. For the time being, I was tired of struggling on my bike.
Yesterday was the first time in a few weeks that I did a longer ride in the high country since the Stinger. There was lots of rocks and lots of climbing, and not very much oxygen at 11,400 ft. I crashed hard and hit my head on a root once (thank God for helmets). There were impossibly tight switchbacks and some creek crossings I had to walk my bike over. There were a couple long grinds where my mind went numb. In short, it was like how I’d spent a lot of my summer.
And when I woke up this morning all I wanted to do was be back out there. To ride through dense aspen groves and grind away up lung-searing climbs while the valley opened up beneath me, making my jaw drop from the exertion and the beauty. To feel the satisfaction of either maneuvering my bike over some big rock or root or acknowledging that for now this was above my level, and getting off respectfully to walk it. To ride for five or six hours straight and never stop feeling at least a little bit lost. I thought of riding the smooth, buffed out trails around town and felt uninspired. They seemed safe, familiar, predictable.
I think I finally get that adage, “If you’re not hiking, you’re not mountain biking.” I guess anyone who spends enough time riding dirt eventually grows to fall in love with the struggle, and well they should. Because it just comes hand in hand with the adventure.