I can’t seem to forget a damn thing. There’s the random item or two that I’ll lapse on at the grocery store sometimes, but really that’s it. If I tell you I forgot something, I might be lying. My mind is a trap filled with smells, faces and unfinished birthday texts to friends. It’s sometimes an exhausting burden that, even as I get older, I can’t seem to shake free from.
I can trace the origins of this back to middle school. I have probably always had this skill somewhere within me, but it became fully unlocked around the same time I found bike—and, more importantly, the places the bicycle took me. Each time I pedaled away from home was a new adventure that I never wanted to end. So when it did end—for suppertime, homework, lawn mowing or darkness—I would replay the day over and over in my young head. Usually I did this with my Walkman [look it up] blasting in my ears, acting as the soundtrack to the beloved rerun while I spaced out, staring at my bedroom ceiling or a blank math worksheet. I appreciated this ability. It allowed me to get lost in something I enjoyed when I couldn’t actually be outside. It was a pacifier until the next time. It made me hungry for more, since the feelings were fresh.
I had two close friends that I rode with every day back then. We had different interests and talents both on and off the bike. I was the long-distance rider. I enjoyed racing and spending all day on the bike. My friends enjoyed the same, but favored being in the air more than on the ground. Our bike builds matched our riding preference. My tastes leaned towards the high post, titanium frame, racer-type build, while they had flat pedals, fat tires and bash guards. But these diverse builds never stopped us from riding together.
To this day, I am still friends with those two middle-school guys that that helped me discover riding. I loved exploring on my bike but I’m not sure how far it would have gone without those two sharing those afternoons after school and weekends with me.
As time goes on, I am continually struck by how integral those early years were for me. It helped me appreciate all two-wheeled disciplines and never discriminate on the trail.
The post coffee pedal through parks and neighbourhood bike lanes took us to the maze of hobo trails in the Barton Greenbelt. Local knowledge told us that maps out here were useless, but the area is small enough to explore without real risk of getting lost in the wilderness. Tip: start at the Hill of Life.
Fast forward to present day: Personal distractions and responsibility have taken hold. Making the time to get out and enjoy my true love has become a special event—something I cherish and share with my closest friends. Similar to my riding companions, when I first started pedaling, my present-day riding partners are their own people with their own diverse outlooks and rich talents both on and off the bike. They tackle life and the trail in front of them differently.
There are no mountains here, but this is hill country and just outside Austin is Pace Bend Park where a multi use singletrack network cuts ribbons across the hilly terrain with punchy climbs and rocky descents.
My friend Ross is a traveler that graciously shares every place he goes with anyone willing to look and listen. His vision for storytelling is strong. For him, traveling doesn’t have to involve his bike. He’s just as content with spending weeks away from the bike as long as he’s exploring somewhere special. I feel like this makes him and his stories richer. This makes his time on the bike almost more for himself than it is for others. When Ross is on his bike he’s a master. He’s got every skill in the book on lock but he’d never say it. He is one of my favorite riders to spend a day with.
My friend Mary spends her days working outside, essentially taking care of people. She works for Western Spirit as a guide for week-long mountain bike trips. Mary is a coach and a leader, and I have looked up to her since first meeting her. She does a difficult job—one that is heavily romanticized. I know more than most about what her actual day-to-day working life is like. But when I dream of an escape from the burdens of my own reality, I think about following in her footsteps. You’d think that with all of that time outdoors and on the bike, a person would be content and there’d be no need to make time for yourself, or to find happiness, or your center. Not for Mary. She takes great care of herself. She squeezes every drop of life out of this world, and I’m constantly in awe of her drive and ability on and off the trail.
As you grow up, find a career and bring on mounting responsibility, you take those personal nuggets of freedom and adventure, and schedule it. You chase down that feeling of fun, and do everything in your power to fill the rest of your life with things you love and appreciate. This is my constant goal, and my friends give me the hope and drive to live life for me.
We’ve arrived here from different locations, backgrounds and responsibilities to celebrate this common bond—the ride. And just like each of our lives, the mutual enjoyment we share is complex. Different bikes, questionable line choices and individual airtime ability can separate and connect us all at once. This ability to express is what holds us to the trail. I try to never forget that.
Photos : Adrian Marcoux
Video : Mindspark Cinema
Words : Morgan Meredith